Working in New Zealand - Your Ultimate Guide

working in new zealand

Working in New Zealand requires that you qualify for a work visa. In some instances, you'd also have to get a job before you can immigrate. But which one comes first? And where do you start? Many people simply don’t know! If you can relate to this, continue reading and you'll discover the answers to your questions.

We're going to tell you how to:

  • Find out if you’re eligible to work in New Zealand
  • Find and apply for jobs (and stand out from other overseas applicants)

As starting over in a new country is intimidating for most people, we'll also discuss what to expect from working in New Zealand.

1. Find out if you’re eligible to work in New Zealand

You can only work in New Zealand if you have a valid visa that allows you to do so. That means qualifying for one of two work visas:

  • Skilled Migrant Visa
  • Accredited Employer Work Visa

There are also other visas that allow migrants to work in New Zealand. These are the Partner Visa, work visas for partners of work visa holders, and the Post Study Work Visa.

Below you'll find the basic requirements of all these visas. You'll also get links to the individual visa page on our website.

The skills New Zealand need and a job offer

To be eligible for a Skilled Migrant Visa, you must:

Go here for an in-depth look at the Skilled Migrant Visa.

Job offer from an accredited employer

To be eligible for an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV), you must:

  • Work in New Zealand for an accredited employer
  • Live and work in New Zealand for up to three years if you're paid at or above the New Zealand median wage, and for up to 2 years if you are paid below the median wage
  • Study for up to 3 months in any 12 month period, or do any study required as part of your employment
  • Support your dependent child's visitor or student visa if you earn at least NZD $43,322.76 each year
  • Only work for the employer who offered you the visa application for the length of your visa ⁠— if your situation changes you must vary the conditions of your visa or apply for a new visa.

If eligible, you could fast-track to residence or gain it after two years.

Go here for an in-depth look at the Accredited Employer Work Visa.

You are the spouse or life partner of a New Zealander

If you want to join your spouse or life partner in New Zealand, you’ll apply for a Partner of a New Zealander Resident Visa under the family stream. This visa will allow you to work in New Zealand.

To apply for the Partner Visa your relationship must be one of these:

  • Legal marriage.
  • Civil union.
  • De facto relationship.

Your relationship must also be able to meet the following criteria:

  • Credible: Are both the partner and applicant credible in the evidence they present?
  • Co-habitation: Barring any special circumstance preventing it, partners must live together.
  • The partnership is genuine: The reasons for entering into and remaining in the partnership are genuine.
  • The partnership is stable: The partnership is exclusive and of a long term nature.

Additionally, the New Zealand partner must be able to show:

  • Proof of their residence status.
  • New Zealand is their primary place of residence.
  • That they are an eligible supporting sponsor.

Go here for an in-depth look at the Partner visa.

Your partner has or is applying for a New Zealand work visa

When one partner in a relationship moves to New Zealand on a work visa, the other partner is allowed to apply for a Partner of a Work Visa Holder Visa.

Partners are two people, either same-sex or opposite sex, who live together and are in a stable relationship in any of the following:

  • Legal marriage; or
  • Civil union; or
  • De Facto relationship.

Also, you and your supporting partner must meet these criteria:

  • Be 18 years of age or older. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you’ll need consent from your parents or guardians.
  • You must have met each other before applying for a visa based on your relationship.
  • You cannot be close relatives.

Considering the visa is dependent on your partner’s work visa, the following should also be true:

  • Your partner is making an application for a work visa.
  • Your partner has already secured a work visa.

Go here for an in-depth look at the visa for a Partner of a New Zealand Work Visa Holder Visa.

Acceptable qualification(s) completed in New Zealand

Depending on your qualification and where you studied, you can work for any employer for between 1 and 3 years, and do almost any work.

Immigration New Zealand defines an ‘acceptable qualification’ as:

  • A qualification studied and completed in New Zealand
  • Level 4 or higher on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework:
    • Level 7 or higher: Only acceptable if your course lasted 30 weeks or more.
    • Level 4 to 6: Only acceptable if:
      • Your completed your course after 60 weeks or more; or
      • You gained two qualifications that each involved 30 weeks of study. The level of your last qualification must be higher than the first.

Go here for an in-depth look at the Post-study Work Visa.

To see if you meet the requirements for any of these visas, do this…

Immigration isn’t always black and white or straightforward. That’s why judging your eligibility for a work visa is not as easy as ticking off the bullet points on our lists.

What you want to do is contact a licensed immigration advisor for an assessment. This is the surest way to know if working in New Zealand is a possibility for you.

Our immigration advisors can do such an assessment for you – all you have to do is book a consultation call. You'll not only discover your visa options, but you'll also learn how the visa application works and the costs involved.

Eager to discuss your work visa options? Book a consultation call with our licensed advisors

2. Look and apply for jobs

For most migrants, working in New Zealand would mean getting a job offer before making the move. Finding a job overseas is not always easy, but we’re going to share the information below that’ll get you off to a good start.

Read this article before doing anything

There are three golden rules to keep in mind when you're looking for a job in New Zealand:

  1. Make sure you qualify for a visa – as we discussed above.
  2. Stand out from the crowd with a migration cover letter and a New Zealand-friendly CV.
  3. Market your CV.

You can find an in-depth discussion of these rules in this article - Searching for a job in New Zealand. Follow all three and you'll exponentially increase your chances of getting a job offer!

Job websites and recruitment companies

As you’ll see in our three golden rules, you have to market your CV. This involves thinking outside of the box, like making network connections on LinkedIn.

However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still actively apply for jobs! Here's where you'll find jobs, whichever profession you may be in:

As someone who’s applying for jobs from overseas, your best bet is starting with employers who are used to hiring migrants. Two good places to find such employers are Workhere and Working in New Zealand.

New Zealanders most often use TradeMe and Seek to find jobs. Something to keep in mind is that employers on these websites are not all willing to employ from overseas.

You can see more job websites on

Not all job sites are general. Some sites are industry-specific. We’ll list a few below, but you can see a comprehensive list of industry-specific sites on

3. What to expect from working in New Zealand

You're likely to have questions about working in New Zealand. For instance:

  • What will my employer want from me?
  • What type of support is available for newcomers?
  • Are the hours long? Will I have time for my family?
  • What will the office setup be like?
  • What are New Zealand labour laws like?

The good news is that you can get clarity on all these questions right here and now. We’ve compiled all the information you need to know below.

3.1 What do New Zealand employers want?

New Zealanders are known for getting on with the job and finding solutions to problems.

The same will be expected of you.

Your employer would want you to have a ‘can-do’ attitude. You’ll find fitting in much easier if you can focus on the positive, find new ways of doing things and be willing to go the extra mile.

3.2 Is support available for newcomers?

Most New Zealand employers are sympathetic towards the struggles of migrants settling into a new country and new job.

You’ll find that many employers are happy to help you in the first couple of weeks by:

  • Assigning you a ‘buddy’ – a colleague – to answer your questions and to help you through the first couple of days or weeks.
  • Giving you time off during the day to sort out paperwork or for appointments.
  • Granting extra leave days to take care of something back in your home country.

All you have to do when you need help is ask for it. Never be afraid to speak up! If you don’t, all you’ll be doing is making the transition period from old to new much harder on yourself.

3.3 Balancing work and family

New Zealand landed the second spot out of 33 countries for work-life balance in HSBC’s 2019 Expat Explorer Survey.

Naturally, number 2 is a fantastic place to be – especially since the rankings are decided by expats living and working in each of the 33 countries.

3.4 The New Zealand office

No two offices in New Zealand are the same but there are generalities to all New Zealand companies:

  • Smaller businesses: Many New Zealand businesses average under 14 employees with SMEs (Small to Medium-sized Enterprises) accounting for 40% of New Zealand’s economic output.
  • Greater involvement: With small companies being the norm, working  in New Zealand means you’ll be a bigger part of the organisation. This is great because:
    • You’ll be involved in more aspects of the business.
    • You’ll have more opportunities for professional development.
    • You’ll have a better overview of the company and what’s happening the company.
    • You stand a better chance of being noticed and advancing your career.
  • Unstructured, independent working: As mentioned, New Zealanders are known for getting on with things. This means not much supervision is required and managers know they can trust their staff to deliver.

3.5 New Zealand labour laws

You can expect to be treated fairly and equally. Discrimination in the New Zealand workplace is illegal and is not tolerated.

You’ll have the right to join a union and your employer won’t be allowed to choose a union for you.

For all your other rights as a New Zealand employee, have a look here.

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