The New Zealand Work Visa and Work Permit

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For all temporary visas you need to:

• be of good health
• be of good character
• have a passport that is valid for at least three months past the date you are to leave New Zealand

Broadly speaking, there are two types of work visa or permit. (Visas are issued overseas and convert to permits in New Zealand.)

There is the Work To Residence Visa and the Essential Skills Work Visa.

If you’re hoping to get work in New Zealand, be sure to read our guide: 10 Things you MUST do when writing a New Zealand CV to help maximise your chances of getting a job interview.

Work To Residence (WTR)

The most desirable work visa is the Work to Residence Visa.

If you can get one, qualifying for permanent residence is straightforward. All you need to do is work in NZ for two years and apply for permanent residence.

There are three main ways for job-seekers to obtain WTR;

• WR1 Talent (Accredited Employers)
• WR2 Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports)
• WR3 Long Term Skill Shortage List.

All allow you to work in New Zealand for 30 months. They are multiple entry visas so you may enter and leave New Zealand as often as you wish.

Getting a Talent Visa

The two talent visas are similar.

For most people interested in moving to New Zealand, the WR1 – accredited employer route – will be more useful. You must have a job offer for full-time employment from an accredited employer.

For both types of talent visa you must be aged 55 years or younger, meet the requirements for health and character, and have found an employer (WR1) or organisation of national repute (WR2) that wishes to make use of your skills in New Zealand.

Additionally, for WR2 Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports) you need to have exceptional talent in your field, be prominent in your field, be sponsored by a New Zealand organisation of national repute and satisfy the immigration service that your presence in New Zealand will enhance the quality of New Zealand’s accomplishments in your field.

Almost three hundred and fifty New Zealand employers have gained accreditation to offer jobs qualifying for WR1 Talent Visas.

Talent visa jobs must be for at least two years duration, for at least 30 hours per week, in the employer’s main business activity and offer a minimum annual salary of $55,000 (if you work more than 40 hours per week, the salary must be calculated at 40 hours).

Getting a Work Visa for Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL)

You can obtain this visa if your skills are on the Long Term Skill Shortage List and you have a full-time employment offer in New Zealand for a 2-year period. Additionally, you can apply for permanent residence in New Zealand after you have worked here for two years.

You have to meet the same requirements for health and character as WR1 and WR2 and should be under 53 years old when you apply for the work visa as you need to be less than 56 years old to be eligible for residence after two years.

The NZIS has to be satisfied that your training or experience qualifies you for the job you have been offered.

The current Long Term Skill Shortage List consists mainly of engineering, medical and IT skills.

Essential Skills Work Visas

If you cannot secure work with an accredited employer, or if your skills are not on the Long Term Skill Shortage List, you may be able to get an Essential Skills Work Visa for New Zealand.

This is a slightly less prized visa than a WTR visa because it does not lead automatically to permanent residence.

To secure an Essential Skills Work Visa you need a job-offer.

There is no age limit on Essential Skills Work Visas. This may sound attractive if you are older and wish to settle in New Zealand.

You need to remember, however, that Essential Skills Work Visas do not lead to residence. So, if you intend applying for residence, you will need to do this under the Skilled Migrant Category and this is age limited. You must be less than 56 years old to qualify.

Essential Skills Work Visas are granted for a maximum of three years.

Further work permits will be issued as required, provided employment is still available.

There are special five year visas which are issued if your New Zealand job is classified as skill level on the ANZSCO and your salary is at least $55,000.

The most convenient job you can be offered in order to obtain a Essential Skills Work Visa is one on the Immediate Skill Shortage List – the ISSL.

This is because, for most jobs, if a non-accredited employer wants to offer a job to someone from overseas, they first need to prove they’ve tried and failed to find a suitable New Zealander for the job. This is called a labour market test.

BUT, if the job is on the ISSL (or LTSSL), employers don’t need to prove this.

The difference between the ISSL and the LTSSL is that LTSSL jobs are in areas of ongoing skills-shortages.

Jobs on the ISSL are those in which the skills-shortages are supposed to be temporary.

Temporary, however, can still mean a number of years.

You need to remember that your qualifications need to be of the same standard as New Zealand’s qualifications to be accepted. You can check this here.

If your qualification is not listed, you will need to apply to the NZQA’s Qualification Evaluation Service who will assess whether your qualifications are acceptable in New Zealand.

Other Temporary Visas

There are several other specialised categories of temporary visa including visas for tour guides, work exchange schemes, highly specialised fields of work and certain occupations for Chinese, Philippines, or Vietnam nationals. Further details can be obtained here.

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