How long you can stay on an Essential Skills Work Visa

The time you can spend in New Zealand on an Essential Skills Work Visa will depend on your circumstances.

The length of your visa will depend on:

  • how long you’ve been offered employment
  • the skill-band of your employment
  • whether your employer is an accredited labour hire company.

Employment skill bands

Check the table for the circumstances that apply to you. The times listed in the table are the maximum you can stay on each Essential Skills Work Visa. If your employment contract is for less than the time indicated below, your visa will be granted for the length of your employment contract. 

If you want to extend your stay in New Zealand, you can apply for another Essential Skills Work Visa. There's normally no limit to the number of Essential Skills Work Visas you can apply for, or the total time you can spend in New Zealand on Essential Skills Work Visas. The only exceptions are those who have lower-skilled employment or are subject to a 12 month stand-down period. 

Each time you apply for a new Essential Skills Work Visa you'll need to show us you meet all the requirements for us to grant you a visa - this will include your employer re-testing the New Zealand labour market before offering you a job.

Stand-down period for lower-skilled workers

Once you have spent 3 years working in New Zealand in lower-skilled employment, you will be required to spend 12 consecutive months outside New Zealand before you can be granted another Essential Skills Work Visa for lower-skilled employment (subject to a ‘stand-down period’).

If you are subject to a stand-down period, you cannot be granted a further Essential Skills Work Visa for lower-skilled work. You may still be eligible for a different type of visa, or for an Essential Skills Work Visa to do mid- or higher-skilled work.

The only way to satisfy the stand-down requirement is to spend 12 consecutive months outside of New Zealand.

Visas applied for before 28 August 2017 are not considered when calculating the time spent working in lower-skilled employment.

Skill band ANZSCO skill level Remuneration Maximum duration of visa
Higher-skilled Any

$35.25 per hour or higher

5 years
Mid-skilled 1, 2, or 3

$19.97 - $35-24 per hour

3 years
Lower-skilled 4 or 5

$35.24 per hour or below

12 months (maximum total stay of 36 months)
Lower-skilled Any

$19.96 per hour or below

12 months (maximum total stay of 36 months)