Work Visas for 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 Catch22 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 Catch22 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.


Partnership based Work Visa

If your partner has a General 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 General 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 General 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 on 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 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.

How many points will you need for your Expression of Interest to be successful?


Working on a student visa
You may be allowed to work part-time for up to 20 hours a week and full-time during all scheduled holidays and/or during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Part-time work (tertiary students)
You can work up to 20 hours a week if you’re studying full-time for any of the following:

for at least 2 years
for a New Zealand qualification that gains points under the Skilled Migrant Category
for a foundation programme for at least 1 academic year at level 4 or higher on the New Zealand Qualification Framework at an education provider in Canterbury.
Full-time work (tertiary students)
You may be able to work full-time:

during scheduled breaks in study, if you’re studying full-time for at least 1 academic year and your course is worth more than 120 credits
during the Christmas and New Year holiday period, if you’re studying full-time and your course is worth 120 credits or more.
PhD and Masters by research students
If you’re enrolled in Masters by research or doctoral degree programme awarded by a New Zealand tertiary institution, there are no restrictions on the hours you can work.

Part-time work (English language students)
You can work for up to 20 hours a week while you have a valid Student Visa if your course meets certain conditions.

Courses 6 months and longer
You can work part-time if all of the following apply:

your study is full-time
your programme of study for 6 months or longer
we believe the main purpose of your study is to improve your English
you have an International English Language Testing System certificate with an overall band score of 5.0 that’s no more than 2 years old – you’ll need to provide this with your application.
Courses 14 weeks and longer
You can work part-time if all of the following apply:

your study is full-time
your study is for at least 14 consecutive weeks
you’re studying English language
your study is with a university, or a high quality education provider.
Shorter courses
When we assess if you’re eligible for work rights, we’ll look at any English language study you’ve done on previous Student Visas. We can count your previous English language study towards the 14 weeks if:

your new study follows on from your previous study
the study is with the same education provider.
Secondary school students
If you’re studying in year 12 or 13, the last 2 years of secondary school, you can work up to 20 hours a week during the school year and full-time in the Christmas and New Year holiday period between school years.

If you’re under 18, you must have written permission from your school and your parents or legal guardian to work.

You don’t need written permission if you‘re over 18 and at secondary school, and want to work during the summer holiday period.

Practical experience
You’re allowed to work, to meet a requirement of practical experience for your programme of study in New Zealand, if practical experience is a course requirement.

Check your visa label
If you’re allowed to work, your work rights will be recorded in your eVisa or the visa label in your passport, or explained to you in a letter.

If you work when you’re not allowed to, you’ll be in breach of your visa conditions. If this happens you may have to leave New Zealand. If you have questions about your work rights, contact us.

Contact us

Work you can’t do
International students aren’t allowed to be self-employed. You must work for an employer and have an employment agreement.

You can’t provide commercial sexual services. This means you can’t:

work as a prostitute
operate a New Zealand prostitution business
invest in a prostitution business.
Information for

If you wish to stay in New Zealand and work after you have finished your studies, you will need the right visa.

Depending on what you studied, you may be able to work in New Zealand for up to four years, and possibly even gain residence.

Gaining work experience
The study to work pathway currently has two steps: Post Study Work Visa (Open) and Post Study Work Visa (Employer Assisted). However, from 26 November 2018, our policy is changing and we will only grant Post Study Work Visas (Open).

Post Study Work Visa changes

Post Study Work Visa (Open)
The Post Study Work Visa (Open) allows you to find a job that is relevant to your qualification. It’s valid for 12 months, and during this time you can work for almost any employer in New Zealand. After you have found a job relevant to your qualification you can apply for a Post Study Work Visa (Employer Assisted).

Post Study Work Visa (Open)

Post Study Work Visa (Employer Assisted)
The Post Study Work Visa (Employer Assisted) allows you to stay in New Zealand and work for a specific employer for a further two years, if your job is relevant to your qualification. To be granted a visa, you must hold a Post Study Work Visa (Open) or apply no later than 3 months after the end date of your student visa (no later than 6 months if the qualification was a Doctoral Degree). From 26 November 2018, we will no longer be granting employer assisted post-study work visas. However, you may be eligible for an open work visa instead.

Post Study Work Visa (Employer Assisted)

Post Study Work Visa changes
From 26 November 2018, post study work visas will change. These changes will include removing the employer-assisted post-study work visas and adjusting how long we grant post-study work visas for. There will also be policies that ensure that current students are not disadvantaged by the new policy settings.

Post Study Work Visa changes

Staying permanently
After your Post Study Work Visa (Employer Assisted) you may be eligible to apply for a New Zealand resident visa under the Skilled Migrant Category. This visa uses a points system based on factors such as age, work experience, your qualifications, and an offer of skilled employment.

Skilled Migrant Category
Skill shortages in New Zealand

Finding a job
It’s important to remember that there may be plenty of competition for jobs after you graduate, from both international and domestic students. Studying in an area of skill shortage may increase your chances of getting a job.

You may also find New Zealand’s job market different from what you are used to. The New Zealand Now website has information that can help you adjust your approach to meet employers’ expectations.

Skill shortages in New Zealand
Finding work | New Zealand Now