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

To work in New Zealand, you must have the skills the country needs. This is the most important requirement when applying for a work visa.

Depending on the visa you qualify for, you'll be eligible for temporary residence, a pathway to residence, or permanent residence straight away:

  • Temporary residence: Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Pathway to residence: Accredited Employer Work Visa, Entrepreneur Visa
  • Residence: Skilled Migrant Visa

These are not the only visas that allow you to work in New Zealand though. Working in New Zealand is also possible as the partner of a New Zealander or work visa holder, or after studying in New Zealand.

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.

The skills New Zealand needs and a job offer

You’ll only be eligible for an Essential Skills Visa if you meet these basic criteria:

  • You have a written full-time job offer from a New Zealand employer.
  • Your occupation is on the essential skills list.
  • You possess the skills, qualifications, and experience necessary to perform the role you’ve been offered. Additionally, Immigration New Zealand must be satisfied that there are no suitable New Zealanders for the position.
  • Your remuneration must be according to the ANZSCO level of your occupation.

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

Job offer from an accredited employer

An ‘accredited employer’ is a New Zealand employer who:

  • Needs skilled or talented workers from overseas; and
  • Has been pre-approved by Immigration New Zealand to hire foreigners.

The first step to working for such an employer is having the skills and qualifications the company needs. Secondly, is meeting a set of basic criteria. These stipulate that you:

  • Must be under the age of 55.
  • Have a job offer from the accredited employer which is for:
    • Full-time work; and
    • More than 2 years; and
    • You must earn at least NZD55,000 a year (before tax).
  • Work in the specific occupation and for the specific accredited employer detailed in the job offer that was the basis of your work visa application.
  • Have full provisional registration, if it’s needed to work in your occupation in New Zealand.

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

The financial means to start your own business or to buy into an existing business

If you want to work in your own business in New Zealand, you’ll have to be able to demonstrate the following:

  • NZ$100,000 capital to establish the business. This does not include working capital. Some sectors can apply for a waiver of this NZ$100,000. Talk to our advisors for more details.
  • A business plan that shows that your business will add value to New Zealand and can succeed.
  • Good business character. Immigration New Zealand will review any circumstances of business failure, fraud, and bankruptcy.
  • A score of at least 120 in a points-based assessment.
  • Good health.
  • English language ability.

Go here for an in-depth look at the Entrepreneur 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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