A Guide to Visa Types and Work Permits in New Zealand

A Guide to Visa Types and Work Permits in New Zealand
A Guide to Visa Types and Work Permits in New Zealand

Although you may have read that there are more than 80 different kinds of work visas in New Zealand alone, the majority of them are nation-specific.

This suggests that different requirements, as well as the number and type of approved visas, vary based on the country of origin.

You can begin the process of applying for a New Zealand visa right away because this part only contains the most pertinent information.

You should be aware that certain visas are more expensive than others, with the work visa for entrepreneurs being the most expensive.

The majority of applications also demand that you pay an immigration charge.

Some conditions are common to all types of New Zealand visas, and most of them involve an online application process.

Remember, however, that certain visas have extremely short application windows and that once they are available, spots usually get filled in the first few days.

An immigration point system known as the “Point Scale” applies to some visas in New Zealand.

Work Permits and Work-Based Visas

If you wish to get a work permit or employment visa to be able to work in New Zealand, this guide gives you an overview of the different kinds of working visas and covers the most common options in more detail.

If you wish to know about other types of visas in New Zealand, you can check the New Zealand Government immigration website for:

  • Visitor’s visa
  • Visas to study
  • Visas to invest
  • Visas for partners and children
  • Business Visitor Visa

New Zealand’s Work Visa Requirements

The different work visa types may have different eligibility requirements, application forms, costs, or processes. In general, to apply for a work visa in New Zealand, you need:

  • Proof of identity (passport or certificate of identity and two acceptable visa photographs)
  • Proof of good health (completed health questionnaire  chest x-ray and medical examination after arrival)
  • Proof of good character (completed character questionnaire,  police certificates from your country of origin and any country where you’ve lived at least five years since turning 17)
  • Proof of being bona fide.

Every document you provide needs to be the original document or a certified copy.

When applying for a visa, you will typically find a guide on the official website that corresponds to each visa type.

You are advised to read through this document beforehand to make sure you are on top of every requirement.

Then, you want to have each document with you and ready for submission before beginning your application process.

If your visa is subject to a points scale, you can typically find a simulation on the immigration website that allows you to test if you meet the required points to apply.

Keep in mind that only an immigration officer can award you points during the assessment of your visa. Read more about this below.

Is it difficult to obtain a New Zealand work visa? 

In general, it may be difficult to get a work visa in New Zealand due to limited spots or tight deadlines for applications.

If your country has a set quota, that means applications will open on a specific day.

Typically, you will have 59 days from the application date to apply, but this timeframe may depend on your nationality and the country where you are currently residing.

But even with this interval, you can expect vacancies to disappear quickly. Be precise and follow the deadline that applies to you.

Once the quota is reached for each country, you can only apply again the following year.

For some countries, the quota is as low as 50 people a year, while for others, the quota is unlimited (Canada, the UK, Japan, etc.).

You can check a complete list of work visas for the conditions that apply to your country.

Work Visa Application Process and Form

Much of the process for visa applications is done online through New Zealand’s Immigration website.

This online process is easy and fast, and it should not take more than 15 minutes to complete the online form.

As an alternative, you can send all required supporting documentation and the application form for the type of visa you selected to the relevant receiving center.

What kind of visa you applied for and whether you will receive an eVisa or need to submit your passport for processing will be communicated to you.

This is an electronic visa held in the immigration electronic system that replaces the physical sticker or stamp on your passport. This eVisa applies to the following visa types:

  • Student Visa
  • Work Visa
  • Visitor Visa
  • Business Visitor Visa
  • Group Visitor Visa
  • Partner of a New Zealander Resident Visa
  • Dependent Child Resident Visa

To receive an eVisa, you will need to create an online account on the immigration website and continue the application process there.

You are advised to print the eVisa letter and to keep it with you when in the country.

Types of Temporary Work Visas

It is important to know that all work visas in New Zealand are temporary, even the specific visas that can lead to permanent residence, which are covered further in this guide.

When talking about a temporary work visa in New Zealand, that means these types of visas are not geared towards getting permanent residence.

There are two main temporary work visas in New Zealand:

  • Working Holiday Visa, which has a duration of one or two years;
  • Essential Skills Work Visa, which allows you to stay between 1 and 5 years depending on your level of skill and the duration of the employment contract;

1. Essential Skills Work Visa

The Essential Skills Work visa is for skilled workers whose job is listed on the Essential Skills in Demand List.

It allows you to work in the country for up to five years, but the duration may depend on your skill level.

For a foreigner to fill a job position with this visa, the employer must prove that they could not hire a New Zealander.

How to Apply

To apply for an Essential Skills work visa, you will need the following documents:

  • A job offer for a full-time position, and a copy of your employment agreement.
  • Your employer must prove that a New Zealander could not be hired for the position.
  • An “Employer Supplementary Form” describing your job offer (completed by the employer).
  • A document proving the necessary qualifications (original or certified copy).
  • Occupational registration (if applicable).

You also cannot be subject to a stand-down period (the period when you are required to spend 12 consecutive months outside of New Zealand).

Although this type of visa only intends to fill temporary skill gaps, you may still apply for residence if you gain enough points to qualify for residence under the  skilled migrant category.

Other Work Visa Types

To know all the types of visas for working in the country, you can check the complete list of all work visas in New Zealand.

If you are unsure which type of work visa is right for you, New Zealand’s immigration website offers a detailed online service that allows you to see your options based on your age and the country where you are from.

Besides showing all the options that apply to you, you can also compare up to three types of visas side by side.


Who qualifies as a skilled or highly skilled worker in New Zealand?

Your qualifications, skills, and experience will fall into one of five categories defined by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).

You are considered a skilled worker if:

  • Your occupation is listed in ANZSCO as level 1, 2, or 3, it matches the description for that occupation, and you are paid more than 25 NZD (16 USD) an hour or more (or the equivalent annually).
  • Your occupation is listed in ANZSCO as level 4 or 5, it matches the description for that occupation, and you are paid more than 50 NZD (24 USD) an hour or more (or the equivalent annually).
  • Your occupation has no corresponding description, but you are paid 50 NZD (24 USD) an hour or more (or the equivalent annually).

How much does a work visa cost in New Zealand?

Typically, there are two types of costs associated with work visas: a visa fee and an immigration levy.

However, some countries have higher fees than others, and some may have a fee-waiver agreement with New Zealand, so always check your specific requirements.

The visa can be paid online through a credit card (Visa or MasterCard).

The visa fee will be different if you are coming from one of the Pacific countries.

No matter which visa type you apply for, the immigration levy equates to 55 NZD (37 USD).

Work Visa Type Visa Fee: NZD Visa Fee: USD
Partnership/Work to Residence Work Visa 580 390
Entrepreneurial Work Visa 3,310 2,230
Working Holiday Visa 190 130
Working Holidaymaker Extension Visa 190 130
Other Work Visas 440 300


2. Self-Employment Visas

You may only be self-employed in New Zealand if you have the right to live in the country permanently or have been granted one of New Zealand’s self-employment visas.

Types of Visas that Allow for Self-Employment

  • Working holiday visa
  • Entrepreneurial Work Visa
  • Investor’s Visa
  • Post-Study Work Visa (for new graduates who recently completed a qualification in New Zealand)

Partners of New Zealand citizens also have the option to work as self-employed in the country.

Keep in mind that you can’t be self-employed in New Zealand if you are staying in the country with a student visa or a visitor’s visa.

The most common visa types to do business in New Zealand are the Entrepreneur Work Visa and Investor Resident Visa.

We cover the requirements, application process, and costs for these New Zealand self-employment visas below.

3. Business Work Visa

The Business Work Visa is for those who wish to buy or set up their own business in the country.

You are allowed to stay and work in New Zealand for a total of three years: one year during the startup phase and then two more years after proving you have set up your business.

To apply for this visa, you will need to meet all the general visa requirements mentioned previously, as well as the following conditions:

  • Invest at least 100,000 NZD (65,000 USD) in a business.
  • Meet the minimum of 120 points on the Entrepreneur Points Scale.
  • Provide a detailed business plan.
  • Set up your business within 12 months.
  • Take part in an evaluation of the Entrepreneurial Work Visa Category.

Beware that this visa type can be expensive. Most visas for New Zealand tend to cost from 200 to 600 NZD (130 to 390 USD) overall, but the Entrepreneur Work Visa for most applicants costs 3,365 NZD (2190 USD) in total in fees on top of the 100k NZD (65k USD) you need to invest in the country.

4. Visa for Investing in New Zealand

Two types of visas allow you to invest in the country, which will also grant you residence:

  • Investor 1 resident visa: If you invest 10 million NZD (6,5 million USD) in the country over the course of three years, you and your family can live in New Zealand indefinitely.
  • Investor 2 resident visa: If you are under 65 years of age and you invest 3 million NZD (2 million USD) over four years, you and your family can live in New Zealand indefinitely. However, there is a quota of 400 people for this type of visa.

You may also apply for other types of visas that allow you to invest in the country (e.g., a temporary retirement visa), so check the complete list of visas that allow you to start a business or invest.

Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

In general, all visas in New Zealand are temporary and automatically grant you residence for their duration.

If you want to become a permanent resident in New Zealand, you will first have to apply for a temporary residence permit and, only later, apply for permanent residence in New Zealand.

Beware that only some visas allow you to bring your spouse and immediate family with you.

New Zealand does not have a fiance visa in its migration law.

However, not all temporary visas can lead to residence—there are specific visa types that can be extended and eventually lead to residence.

These types of visas are explained below, as well as all the necessary temporary residence permit requirements, steps, benefits, and fees.

Typically, to become a permanent resident, you must be 55 or younger and have worked in New Zealand for two years on a temporary visa.

Temporary Visas that Lead to Permanent Residence and How to Apply

1. Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa

You can apply if you have the relevant skills and experience. You must be 55 or younger, a skilled worker, and can claim 160 points on INZ’s point scale for Skilled Migrant Expression of Interest.

2. Employees of Relocating Business Resident Visa

You may apply for this visa if your employer’s business moves to New Zealand.

3. Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa

You must have the relevant skills and talents needed in New Zealand.

You should be under 55 and have a job offer for a full-time position for two years that pays 55,000 NZD (35,000 USD) a year.

Your employer has to be accredited by Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

4. Entrepreneurial Work Visa

You are an entrepreneur or innovator and want to buy or set up a business in New Zealand. You have invested at least 100,000 NZD (65,000 USD) in your business, can claim 120 points on NZ’s point scale for entrepreneurs, meet the business plan requirements, and can read, write, and speak English.

5. Long-Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa

This visa is for those who have the skills and talents needed in New Zealand. You must be 55 or younger and your occupation is on the skill shortage list. This visa does not come with the option of a family visa.

The application process for each temporary visa type may vary, but, in general, you will need to put in an expression of interest, which includes a score point based on your age, work experience, qualifications, and the job offer (if applicable).

If you are selected, you can then make a full application. Applications are chosen only once a month.

New Zealand Permanent Residency Benefits

As a permanent resident, you have the benefit of being able to live, work, and study in New Zealand and to travel to and from New Zealand without restrictions. You can also include your partner and dependent children on your visa application if they were included in your original residence application.

How to Get Permanent Residency in New Zealand

What are the requirements for permanent residency? To obtain permanent residency, you must live in New Zealand for two years under a residence visa. You must also meet the following requirements:

  • Prove your identity with an ID and two acceptable photos.
  • Be considered to have good character.
  • Show evidence that you have met the conditions on your current resident visa.

Show Your Commitment to New Zealand

You can show your commitment to New Zealand in one of five different ways:

  • You have spent enough time in New Zealand, for which your travel records will be checked.
  • You have New Zealand tax residence status, for which you will need a statement from Inland Revenue and a completed confirmation of tax resident status.
  • You have invested in New Zealand, for which you will need evidence such as bank documents or property deeds.
  • You have a business in New Zealand that is successful and benefits the country.
  • You have established a base in the country (e.g., by owning a home, creating employment, being self-employed, etc.).

Permanent Residence Application Process and Fees

The application process and fees for a Permanent Residence Visa may vary depending on the country you are from and whether you are applying in your country of residence or New Zealand.

In general, you will have to fill out the application form for a Permanent Resident Visa and send it along with the required documents to the correct receiving center.

You can find this by entering your nationality and country of residence on the official immigration website.

Permanent residence visas cost 210 NZD (140 USD), plus an immigration fee that varies by region.

You may also have to pay the receiving center fees and courier fees for your passport to be sent back to you if you cannot collect it yourself.

Renewing or Extending Your Visa

If you’re already in New Zealand and your visa is about to expire, you might need to renew or extend it to continue staying legally.

Renewal or extension processes can vary depending on your visa type and individual circumstances.

It’s essential to check the specific requirements and procedures outlined by Immigration New Zealand to ensure a smooth transition and avoid any legal issues.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Navigating the complexities of visa applications and immigration laws can be challenging, especially if you encounter difficulties or have specific circumstances.

In such cases, seeking legal assistance from immigration experts or lawyers familiar with New Zealand immigration laws can be invaluable.

They can provide guidance, clarify doubts, and assist you throughout the visa application process, increasing your chances of success.

Staying Informed

Immigration laws and visa requirements can change over time. It’s crucial to stay informed about any updates or amendments that may affect your visa status or application process.

Regularly checking official government websites, subscribing to newsletters, or seeking updates from reputable immigration sources can help you stay up-to-date with the latest developments in New Zealand’s immigration policies.


Navigating the visa types and work permits in New Zealand can seem daunting due to the variety of options and complex application processes.

However, with proper guidance, preparation, and understanding of the requirements, you can successfully navigate the immigration landscape and pursue your goals in New Zealand.

Whether you’re seeking temporary work opportunities, aiming for permanent residency, or exploring entrepreneurial ventures, thorough research and adherence to immigration regulations will be key to your success.

By utilizing the resources available and seeking assistance when needed, you can embark on your journey to live, work, and thrive in beautiful New Zealand.

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