New Zealand's safety, stability and English-speaking environment, along with its positive attitude towards entrepreneurship and foreign investment, make it an attractive destination for expats seeking work permits for New Zealand. As a result, cities like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are becoming popular choices for those who want to establish their own businesses or work in New Zealand.
Except for those moving to New Zealand from Australia, expats will need to have a work permit/work visa to legally work in the country.
New Zealand offers several working visa categories, each with specific requirements and loopholes. Immigration New Zealand’s website is a useful and up-to-date tool for helping expats navigate this complex system. It will assist expats in finding the visa that suits their field, their skill set and their intentions.
Whether they are skilled workers or labourers aiming to fill a skills shortage, it's crucial for expats to thoroughly research the work permit process before applying.
- Immigration New Zealand has an extensive guide to the different visa options available to visitors and expats.
Types of work permits in New Zealand
Working Holiday Scheme
Nationals of certain countries are able to apply for a working holiday visa for New Zealand. The Working Holiday Scheme visa allows expats to stay and work in the country for one year – 23 months if they are from the UK or Canada. It is designed for young travellers wanting to fund their travels around New Zealand; expats planning to work in the country for longer than a year should therefore look into longer-term options.
Generally, working holiday visa applicants must be between 18 and 30 years old and up to 35 for some countries, prove that they have sufficient funds to support themselves, and have proof of onward travel out of New Zealand. Expats will need to have medical insurance to cover their stay in New Zealand as well as evidence that the main reason for their visit is a holiday with work being secondary to this.
Applications for a working holiday visa must be done online. After making their application, expats will be notified within 20 working days about the outcome of the application.
Skilled Migrant Visa
The skilled migrant visa is available for those wanting to move to New Zealand to live and work permanently. To be eligible, applicants must be younger than 55 years old, pass a health screening and criminal record check, and speak English. Eligibility for this visa is determined by a points system where points are received for age, experience, qualifications and employability. Currently, New Zealand is only accepting applicants with 160 points or higher.
The application process starts with submitting an Expression of Interest which describes their family, skills and experience. If the Expression of Interest is accepted, the applicant will be sent an Invitation to Apply.
For expats from countries that are not listed among the approved countries for the Working Holiday Visa, the Skilled Migrant Visa may be the route to take if wanting to find work in New Zealand.
Entrepreneur Work Visa
The entrepreneur work visa is for people who want to work in their own business in New Zealand. Applicants need to provide a detailed business plan and have at least NZD 100,000 to invest in the business. They also need to claim a minimum of 120 points on the immigration points scale.
The visa is initially valid for 12 months in the start-up stage of the business. It can then be extended for another 24 months once the business has been set up. If the visa is granted, expats can buy or set up a business without living in New Zealand permanently. They can also use this as a first step towards New Zealand residency.
*Please note that visa regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.