Offering a job to a migrant

You can legally offer a job to an overseas candidate before they have a work or resident visa.

If you find a candidate who requires a visa to be able to start working for you, they will need a little more time for this to happen and they will also need some assistance from you. The first step is to provide them with an offer of employment, which includes a clause saying something like “Subject to immigration criteria being met”.

Your migrant candidate can then use this offer of employment to support their visa application.

Check if a migrant can work for you

As an employer, you have an obligation under the Immigration Act 2009 to check if a potential employee has the legal right to work for you in New Zealand before they commence employment. The Immigration Act is clear that employers must not hire migrants who are not entitled to work for them. The onus and obligation is placed on the employer.

Candidates do not need a valid visa to be to be offered a job – but they must have one that allows them to work in New Zealand by the time they begin working for you, sign an employment agreement, and start their employment. 

It is easy to check whether your prospective employee is allowed to work for you. But it is important for applicants to give their authority for you to use their information for the purpose of confirming work entitlement and identity. 

Check a candidate's visa status

Penalties for hiring an illegal worker

There are penalties for hiring a person who is not entitled to work for you. It is important to check and keep records to show you that you completed a check.

The maximum penalty under the Immigration Act 2009 for employing a foreign national who is not entitled to work in New Zealand is a fine of NZD $10,000.

I didn’t know they didn’t have a valid visa to work in New Zealand

The maximum penalty for allowing or continuing to allow a foreign national to work while knowing that person is not entitled to is a fine of NZD $50,000.

The maximum penalty for exploiting a foreign national who the employer has allowed to work while knowing that person was not entitled to work, is imprisonment for seven years or a fine of NZD $100,000, or both.

Employers cannot:

  • Say “I didn’t know they didn’t have a valid visa to work in New Zealand” – it is legally your responsibility to check all your staff can legally work in New Zealand – use Visa View
  • Give immigration advice to a candidate unless you are a Licenced Immigration Adviser, or exempt from being licenced ( e.g. Citizens Advice Bureau, lawyers.) You can direct them to the Immigration New Zealand website for information and details or phone our Immigration Contact Centre.
  • Hire a migrant with a temporary visa to provide commercial sexual services.
  • Hire migrants and pay them less or offer them conditions below New Zealand’s workplace minimums - they have the same rights as New Zealand citizens and residents.