Get to know the work visa options

A migrant must hold a visa that allows them to work when they begin their employment with you. The most common visas that let migrants work are explained here.

Video — Visa basics for employers(2:22)

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As an employer, it’s up to you to make sure your staff have the right to work in New Zealand.

Before a migrant can work in New Zealand, they need a valid visa.

Generally speaking, migrants in higher skilled and higher paid roles will usually have access to more visa options, with fewer restrictions.
Visa processing times do vary, so it pays to check our website and use this information to plan your recruitment. There are two main types of visa available to people wanting to live and work in New Zealand: Temporary and Resident visas.

Temporary visas can be either Open or Employer supported. An Open visa allows the holder to work for any employer.

Examples of Open work visas are working holiday visas, study or post-study visas, and  partner of a worker work visas.

The most common employer supported temporary visa is Essential Skills.

To be eligible for this visa, the role needs to be for 30 hours or more.

The duration of the visa depends on the skill level and salary of the job.

A Labour Market Test is usually required to prove that you have been unsuccessful in finding New Zealanders able to do the job
If the role is listed on one of Immigration New Zealand’s Skill Shortage lists a Labour Market Test may not be required.

Another type of employer supported visa is Work to Residence.

It starts as a temporary visa, but it provides a resident pathway after two years, making it attractive to candidates wanting to make a long-term move to New Zealand.

Employers who have become accredited with Immigration New Zealand may be able to use one of these pathway visas.
The final main types of visa are Resident Visas.

A common resident visa it the Skilled Migrant Category.

It uses a points-based system that takes into account factors such as job offer, salary, academic qualifications, age and job location.
Many people come to New Zealand on an Essential Skills visa, then transfer to a Skilled Migrant visa later.

If you want to take a more detailed look at the types of visas available, and the differences between them, take a look at our website.


Your responsibilities

As an employer, you do have responsibilities- such as making sure your employees can legally work for you, and making sure the rules around migrant staff visas are followed.

Your responsibilities and obligations

Skill shortages

Before you can employ a migrant, you might have to show that there is no one locally who can fill the role. There are some occupations where MBIE has already agreed that there are shortages. Check to see if the workers you need are in an occupation where there is a shortage.

Skill Shortage list checker

Temporary and resident visas

There are two main types of visa for migrants who want to live or work in New Zealand — temporary and resident. A temporary visa is a visa that is for a set period of time, usually less than 5 years. A resident visa lets a migrant to stay in New Zealand indefinitely.

Temporary visas

Temporary visas can be open or supported by an employer. An open work visa means the migrant already has a visa that lets them work for you. An employer-supported visa means you need to offer them a job before they can apply for a visa to work.

Open work visas

Most people who have an open work visa have one of the following types.

Working Holiday Visa

New Zealand has working holiday scheme agreements with 45 countries so young people can come here to work and travel. You can hire someone on one of these visas, but not for a permanent role. How long their visa is for, and the rules of the visa vary depending on where they are from.

Student visa

Some students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours each week and may be able to work full-time during breaks.

Partnership visas

Partners of visa holders with work rights, may be allowed to work for the same length as their partner's visa.

Post-study work visa

This visa lets someone who has studied in New Zealand as an international student work for any employer for 1, 2 or 3 years, depending on the level of their qualification and where they studied.

Employer-supported work visas

Employer-supported visas are tied to specific jobs and the employee is contracted for a set time period. Most people who have an employer-supported visa have one of the following types.

Essential Skills Work Visa

This is the most common work visa. You must provide evidence that you have tried to hire New Zealanders first. It has different durations and restrictions based on the skill level and salary of the job. To be eligible, the role must be for 30 hours or more per week.

Support a candidate's visa application – Essential Skills Work Visa

Attempts to recruit New Zealanders

Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa

This visa lets an employee work for you for 30 months. After 24 months they can apply for residence.

Support a candidate’s visa application – Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa

Talent (Accredited Employers) Work Visa

Only accredited employers can offer this visa. The visa starts as a temporary visa for 30 months but it provides a residency pathway after 24 months.

Support a candidate's visa application – Talent (Accredited Employers) Work Visa

How to become an accredited employer

Recognised Seasonal Employer Limited Visa

This visa is for horticulture or viticulture employers who need to find workers for seasonal work. You need to apply to us for Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) status first.

Support a candidate's visa application – Recognised Seasonal Employer Limited Visa

Apply for Recognised Seasonal Employer status

Specific Purpose Work Visa

This visa is used to bring someone to New Zealand for a specific purpose or event. Some examples are:

  • specialist installer or service technician
  • sports player
  • professional coach, or
  • a secondment.

Support a candidate's application – Specific Purpose Work Visa

Post Study Work Visa (employer-assisted)

From the end of November 2018 we no longer offer this visa. If you are supporting an employee who applied before 26 November 2018, they can apply to us to have the job, employer and location removed from their visa.

Changing a Post Study Work Visa

Residence visas

Residence visa holders are able to work for any New Zealand employer. Most people who have a residence visa have one of the following types.

Skilled Migrant Category

To get this visa, migrants must prove that they have work experience and qualifications that are of benefit to New Zealand. Other factors, such as their age, and if they have been offered are also taken into account.

Support a candidate's application – Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa

Pacific Quota categories

Citizens from a variety of Pacific nations who have entered a ballot system may be eligible for residency through the Pacific Quota.

Pacific Quotas Programme