New Zealand has several skills shortages and is actively recruiting foreign workers. Industries in particular need include education, health and medical, information and communications technology, agriculture and farming, engineering and trades.

Confusingly Immigration New Zealand tends to talk about visas and permits. A visa is the label placed in your passport, while the permit is a stamp you’ll get from immigration on arrival, dependant on that visa. The visa allows you to travel to New Zealand, while a permit allows you to remain in the country. This guide talks only about visas, but if you’re applying from within the country you’ll actually be applying for a permit.

Visa fees depend on your country of citizenship.

Who needs a visa to work in New Zealand?

Everyone, except Australian citizens and permanent residents (including returning resident visa holders, unless their visa includes work conditions). If you’re the spouse of a New Zealand or Australian citizen/resident you wills till need a work visa.

However, visits for business negotiations, short-term sales trips, work for trade missions recognised by the New Zealand government, or work for overseas governments, may not need visas. If unsure, check here

Ways to work in New Zealand

  1. Working Holiday Scheme
  2. Temporary Work Visa
  3. Work to Residence
  4. Skilled Migrant Category
  5. Asylum & Refugee Status

1. Working Holiday Scheme

On this 12-month visa, people from 23 nationalities, including the UK, Ireland and USA, aged 18-30 (at time of application) can take up temporary work in New Zealand, though it must be the “secondary intention” of your visit, after tourism. 

  • Applicants must also hold an onward/return ticket or sufficient funds to purchase one and a minimum of NZ$4,200 for living costs, on arrival
  • Citizens of the United Kingdom can obtain a 23-month (or 12-month) visa, though work is restricted to 12 months. Applicants must hold an onward/return ticket or funds to purchase one and a minimum of NZ$350 per month available, on arrival. A Medical and Chest X-Ray Certificate is required for the 23-month option
  • The Working Holiday Scheme visa can even be applied for from within New Zealand and is best done so online at

2. Temporary Work Visa

  • The Essential Skills Work Policy allows those with a job offer from a New Zealand employer in an occupation that’s in demand to gain a Temporary Work visa.
  • If your occupation is on the Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) you are entitled to go for visas under the permanent Work to Residence or Skilled Migrant categories (more below). If it is on the Immediate Skill Shortage List (ISSL) you can apply for a Temporary Work visa.
  • If your occupation is not on either list, you may still be able to obtain a visa if your potential employer proves they have genuinely searched for suitably qualified New Zealanders.
  • Applicants must pass health (a Medical and X-Ray Certificate) and character (a police certificate) requirements, as well as proving they are suitably qualified. Temporary Work visas are valid for either three or five years.
  • Those wanting to join a partner in New Zealand are eligible for a work visa under the Family Stream Policy. Applicants must meet health and character requirements and show they are living together with their partner in a “genuine and stable relationship.”
  • The Student and Trainee Work Policy is aimed at helping students who need work experience, while the Study to Work Policy allows overseas students who have completed a qualification in New Zealand to stay and work after their studies, in areas suitable to their qualification.
  • Those who want to come to New Zealand to work on a specific purpose or event should apply for a Specific Purpose or Event visa. Similarly, tour guides, leaders or escorts will need a Specific Purpose work visa. 
  • Nine-month Work visas are available for business personal under the Long Term Business Category, which allows applicants to establish a business in New Zealand.  You must be of good health and character, have reasonable English, a sound business plan and evidence of enough money to support yourself and any partner or children. Before the nine months expire you can apply for a further Work [visa] of up to three years. There are further visa options for potential investors.
  • The Horticulture and Viticulture Seasonal Work Stream includes special policies related to seasonal work. There is also a Work Exchange Scheme Policy, work visas aimed at religious and fishery workers and particular work visas relating to Chinese citizens.

3. Work to Residence

  • Work to Residence is a visa path, which enables in demand occupations to obtain a 30-month work visa that turns into a permanent visa, or “residence”. If your occupation is on the LTSSL and you have a job offer, you could be eligible for this visa.
  • As well as health and character requirements you must prove you are suitably qualified, that you are either fully or provisionally registered (if your occupation requires it) in New Zealand and under 53.
  • For occupations not on the LTSSL, you could still earn a 30-month visa under the Talent (Accredited Employers) Work Policy. For this, employers must be accredited to recruit staff from overseas.
  • Sportspeople, artists, arts and cultural performers may alternatively be eligible for a 30-month work visa under our Work to Residence, Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports) Work Policy.

4. Skilled Migrant Category

  • Applicants do not need a job offer for a Skilled Migrant visa. As well as health, character, and English language skills, applicants must be aged 20-55 (inclusive) before you start the process.
  • An Expression of Interest (EOI) is lodged and applicants get points for certain factors, including qualifications, whether you have a job (or one waiting for you), previous work experience and your age.
  • If you don’t have enough points (140) for an automatic Skilled Migrant visa, you may still get one if there’s an annual shortage in your occupation. Alternatively, you may be invited to apply for a Temporary Work visa.

Visa details do change regularly so check the website for updates,