Can I Work in New Zealand?

If you want to work in New Zealand you will need a work or resident visa.

All employers wishing to employ non-NewZealand citizens or resident visa holders have a duty to only employ people who are entitled to work in New Zealand.

They are liable for prosecution under section 350 of the Immigration Act 2009 if they employ anybody who does not have the necessary work visa.

Please note: employment means any activity -including self-employment- undertaken for gain or reward. This includes any benefits that can be valued in terms of money, for example accommodation, food, transport.

There is a range of different work visa policies for people wanting to work in New Zealand for a limited time:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Partnership Work Visa
  • Work to Residence
  • Study to Work
  • Specific Purpose Work Visa
  • Horticulture and Viticulture Seasonal Work Visas
  • Religious Worker Visa


The Essential Skills Work Visa is the most commonly used work visa type.

If you want to lodge a work visa application under this policy, you will have to:

  • provide an offer of employment
  • meet registration requirements if applicable
  • meet health and character requirements
  • provide evidence that no New Zealand resident or citizen is available to do the work offered to you: Labour Market Shortage Test.


The Catch 22 dilemma

When lodging your work visa application, you have to submit an offer of full-time employment in New Zealand together with all other documentation. However, when looking for a job in New Zealand you will most likely come across the following line:

”Only applicants with a valid work visa may apply.”
You are facing a classical Catch 22 situation: you cannot apply for a visa without a job and you cannot get a job offer without a visa.

Ask us how we can help you to overcome the Catch22 hurdle and assist you with your work visa application!


The Labour Market Shortage Test

In addition to providing an offer of employment, applicants must also submit evidence establishing that their prospective employer has made genuine attempts to attract and recruit suitable workers in New Zealand, but that there are no New Zealand citizens or residents suitably qualified by training and experience available, or readily able to be trained to do the work offered.

If an application is based on an offer of employment in an occupation that is included on the current Immediate Skill Shortage List or the Long term Skill Shortage List, your visa officer will accept that no suitably qualified New Zealand citizen or resident is available.

Some employers have an Approval in Principle to employ non-New Zealand citizens or residents.

Learn more about the Labour Market Shortage Test.


Partnership based Work Visa

If your partner has an Essential Skills work visa or is a New Zealand resident or citizen, you might be able to apply for a work visa based on your partnership.

For a partnership based work visa, you do not have to demonstrate that no New Zealander can be found to do the particular job you want to do. Another huge advantage for you will be that you will not have to overcome the Catch 22 hurdle, which constitutes a huge problem for most Essential Skills work visa applicants.

However, your partnership based work visa will only be valid for as long as your partner's work visa is in place. It will only be granted for the duration of your partner's Essential Skills work visa and if he or she leaves or loses their job, or if your partnership ends, your right to work in New Zealand will expire as well.


Permanent Resident Visas

If you really want to work and live in New Zealand in the long run, you will want to apply for a Permanent Resident Visa.

The advantages of obtaining a permanent resident visa are huge as it will give you more freedom and will also secure your status in New Zealand for the future. As a permanent resident, you may remain in New Zealand for as long as you like and your resident visa is not bound to a specific employer, meaning that you will be able to further your career and change jobs as you like.

Any changes in your circumstances, i.e. to your health or your partnership status, will not endanger your right to remain in New Zealand and as a holder of a long term visa, you will be covered by the public health care system. Find out more about becoming a permanent resident in New Zealand.

If you want to apply for your permanent resident visa based on your professional skills, you will apply under the Skilled Migrant Category.

Will you qualify for a Skilled Migrant Resident Visa? Try our Quick Self-Check. 

Where can you get help with finding a job?

Our Job Search Professionals will get you ready for the job market and provide ongoing support once you have arrived in New Zealand.
Read more about our job search assistance program.

Read more about character:

Read more Visa FAQ's:

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Which Visa is Right for You?

Read more about the Points System:

Read more about health:

Read more about Critical Workers:

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The Skill Shortage Lists

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