Professional visas in New Zealand

Work visas for New Zealand
Updated 2023-02-18 18:48

New Zealand is famous for its work-life balance and often tops lists of the most desirable countries to emigrate to. However, if you want to stay in New Zealand for more than a few months, then you will need to apply for a visa. This can be a daunting process; there are many work visa options in New Zealand, and you must determine which visa best suits your skills, as well as the purpose and duration of your stay.  

Previously, one of the more popular ways to emigrate permanently to New Zealand to live and work was using the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa, although this application process is in line to be overhauled. In 2022, New Zealand announced the new Straight to Residence Visa, the Work to Residence Visa, and introduced the Green List system, which we will unpack below.

The Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa

The Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa is an indefinite visa allowing for residency, work, and study. It is available for those 55 years of age and younger who have skills that will contribute to the national economy. Partners and children of those granted the visa can also emigrate to New Zealand. Eligibility is assessed on a points-based system, with only those scoring higher than 180 points being allowed to apply as of November 2022. Your fluency in English is also taken into account. This visa is intended for those who will be employees in New Zealand. Self-employed people, or those who wish to start businesses, can apply for an Entrepreneur Resident Visa instead.

Though there is no rule stipulating you must have a job offer for this visa, having a job offer will definitely increase how many points you score in the system described below and make it more likely you will get the visa.

Applying for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa is a four-step process:

  1. Submit an Expression of Interest (EOI)

An EOI is a preliminary application that helps Immigration New Zealand assess your skills, qualifications, and general ability to relocate to New Zealand using a points system. Before you bother to fill out an EOI, it is worth checking how you score using the points indicator to see if you might be eligible for the visa. If you have 100 points or more, you can submit an EOI. At the moment, anyone with fewer than 180 points will not make it into the selection pool, but this amount changes according to economic and immigration needs within the country. There is no cost for submitting an EOI, and the process is unlikely to take more than a couple of hours. You can submit an EOI online after creating an online account with Immigration New Zealand.

  1. Invitation to Apply

Following a pause on new EOIs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Immigration New Zealand re-opened its EOI system in November 2022. As a large number of EOIs are expected during this intake, it is likely to take longer than usual for applications to be processed and applicants contacted. Immigration will assess the accuracy of your points claim, and if you meet the criteria, you will then be invited to apply for the visa.

  1. Submit an application

You will be sent an Application for Residence under the Skilled Migrant Category form. Complete and send this form to New Zealand immigration. Fees will apply and supporting documents will be required. You may also need to take an English proficiency test if you are not a native speaker.

Documents required include:

  • Photo of the applicant(s)
  • A copy of the applicants' passports
  • Police certificates for any family member 17 years or older

Additional materials may be required, such as:

  • Employment documents
  • Transcripts/evidence of qualifications
  • Documentation of work experience documentation for you and your partner
  • Evidence of your relationship with your partner
  • Evidence of your English language background or English language test results.
  1. Application decision

Immigration New Zealand will make the final decision as to whether you meet all of the criteria. This includes identity, character, health, language, age, and skills. Their final decision may take up to six months, although this is subject to change.

Good to know:

At the moment, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment is consulting on proposed changes to the Skilled Migrant Category, and this visa category may be overhauled in the near future.

Straight to Residence and Work to Residence Visas

Immigration New Zealand has developed a Green List, which allows expatriates to determine if their specialty falls under a “Tier 1 Straight to Residence” or “Tier 2 Work to Residence” visa category. Using the Green List, you can determine the required qualifications, registration or experience you need for your particular industry or role. This system is designed to streamline the immigration process for skilled applicants who work in fields where New Zealand has identified labor shortages.

To fall under the Tier 1 category, you must work for an accredited employer or have a job offer from one and meet the requirements the Green List sets out for your role. You may already be in New Zealand on a work visa and apply for the Straight to Residence Visa while in the country, or you can apply from outside New Zealand. As with the Skilled Migrant category, applicants must be under 55 years old, meet the English language requirements, and may include dependents and spouses in their application.
Similar to the Tier 1 category, Tier 2 allows those who have worked for at least two years in a Green List Tier 2 occupation (and meet all requirements on the list for the occupation) to apply for residence under the Work to Residence category from September 2022.

Other visa options in New Zealand

If the Skilled Migrant Resident Category Visa or the Green List doesn't fit your situation, there are other work visa options in New Zealand. However, some of them are quite niche, so it is important to check the full list online to see if any of these apply to you. A selection of available work visas include:

Entrepreneur Work Visa

This is the best option if you want to work in your own business in New Zealand rather than be an employee. To be eligible, you must have NZ$ 100,000 to invest, a business plan, and be able to claim 120 points on the points scale. This visa allows successful applicants to stay for up to three years in New Zealand and allows for the inclusion of partners and dependent children.

Good to know:

In some circumstances, if your business is in the science or information and communications technology sectors, Immigration may waive the NZ$100,000 capital investment requirement.

Post-Study Work Visa

This visa is intended for those who have recently finished studying in New Zealand. It allows applicants to remain in New Zealand and work for three years, depending on the degree completed. Under this category, your partner can apply for a work visa, and children can study fee-free as domestic students.

Talent (Arts, Culture, Sports) Work Visa

You should consider applying for this visa if you have exceptional talent in the arts, sports, or other cultural categories. Applicants require a sponsor and the support of a New Zealand organization – one that is recognized in your particular field. Under this visa, successful applicants can stay for up to 30 months on a work visa, and if a residence application is successful, they can remain indefinitely. This visa is for those 55 years and under and cannot include spouses or children, although they may apply for their own visas based on their relationship with you.

Entertainers Work Visa

This is a visa intended for those working on a specific film, video or production in New Zealand for a limited time. Applicants must possess skills that cannot be met by New Zealand's entertainment industry. Under this visa, applicants can remain in New Zealand for the duration of the project and must work for the employer under which the visa was applied for.

Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa

This visa is for those who have a partner who is a New Zealand citizen or resident. To meet the requirements of this visa category, you must provide evidence of a genuine and stable relationship with your partner. If granted, you may work in New Zealand and are entitled to study for three months. Successful applicants can only have this visa for two years; however, before it expires, they can apply for residency based on partnership.

Working Holiday Visa

The length of your working holiday visa will vary per country of origin, but these usually allow you to work whilst you are traveling around New Zealand and are limited to those between the ages of 18 and 35. This is not usually a long-term option but is intended for those working more casually in tourism or horticulture while also completing a tourism itinerary. Find out more in our article The Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand.

Digital Nomad Visa

Though New Zealand does not currently have a digital nomad visa, digital nomads and remote workers can apply for a Visitor Visa or a Working Holiday visa, which allows them to stay in the country for 12 months (or up to 23 months if they are from jurisdictions like the UK or Canada). There are reports in 2022 that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is considering developing a visa category for digital nomads, so watch this space!

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.