Visas and Work Permits 11 min

Work permits and visas in New Zealand: an employer’s guide

Written by Sally Flaxman
January 30, 2024
Sally Flaxman


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If you want to secure visas for team members to work in New Zealand, this guide is for you. 

Employers must ensure their employees have the correct work permits and understand their rights as foreign workers before they work abroad. In New Zealand, labor laws can be tricky to understand. To avoid hefty fines or legal trouble, employers must comply with the relevant employment laws, immigration regulations, and tax practices.

You may need to get a New Zealand work visa for remote employees if you are:

  • Hiring a worker from New Zealand, but your company doesn’t own a legal entity in the country

  • Hiring a non-citizen of New Zealand

  • Relocating an employee to New Zealand

  • Supporting one of your digital nomads who would like to work in New Zealand

Each situation follows a specific path, potentially full of complications and delays. One of the best ways to hire abroad is to work with a global employment partner or employer of record (EOR) like Remote.

This guide will take you through the work permits and visa requirements in New Zealand. We’ll also briefly touch on how you can use an EOR to hire in New Zealand compliantly. 

The importance of immigration compliance in New Zealand

While governments in many parts of the world are embracing remote work and digital nomad trends, they are also enforcing stricter rules and more checks on foreign workers. Now more than ever, institutions want to regulate who can work in their countries, how, and for how long.

To hire or relocate an employee to New Zealand, you, as the employer, must take care of several legal aspects on behalf of your employee. Failing to do so or not doing so correctly (e.g., working in New Zealand on a tourist visa instead of a work permit) can translate into serious issues that include financial loss, legal problems, and monetary penalties.

Regardless of how long your employee would like to work abroad, you must support them to ensure that everything goes as smoothly, quickly, and efficiently as possible, and in full compliance with their chosen country’s rules and regulations.

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Which workers need a right-to-work check in New Zealand?

All workers relocating to New Zealand must possess a valid, in-date work permit if they are not New Zealand citizens. 

New Zealand currently offers a vast range of work visas, each one with its eligibility criteria, duration, and rights. Understanding which type of visa is best suited to which type of employee can quickly become a nightmare, especially for companies that go about this process on their own.

Before you know it, you can waste precious time (and money) trying to navigate the complexities and intricacies of the country’s work visa system instead of enabling your employees to get settled quickly in their new life abroad. 

What are the eligibility requirements for a work visa in New Zealand?

All individuals above the age of 16 who either have or do not have a job offer in New Zealand can apply for a work visa in the country, regardless of their citizenship status.

The available options vary from six (for those individuals with a work offer) to nine (for those without a work offer) different types of visas:

  1. Skilled migrant category resident visa: This is the right type of permit for skilled non-citizens who will actively contribute to the economic growth of New Zealand. To apply, individuals need to send the New Zealand government an EOI (expression of interest) detailing how their work experience and qualifications are suited to this specific visa.

  2. Straight to residence visa: This visa is available to employees who work for an accredited employer (or have a job offer from an accredited employer) and whose job title is listed on the country’s Green List’s Tier 1

  3. Partner of a student work visa: With this visa, partners of students who already hold a New Zealand work permit can stay in the country throughout the entire duration of their partner’s studies. 

  4. Business visitor visa: This is the visa to apply for if an individual wants to visit New Zealand to conduct business there for a limited time. 

  5. Post-study work visa: Individuals who have recently completed their studies can apply for this visa, which allows them to live and work in the country for up to three years.

  6. Partner of a worker work visa: This visa is issued to people whose partner is in New Zealand on a valid work visa.

  7. Entrepreneur work visa: Individuals looking to start a new business in New Zealand can apply for this visa. Candidates must have at least NZD 100,000 to invest and a ready business plan to introduce to the government. 

  8. Accredited employer work visa: Employees who have received a job offer from a New Zealand-accredited employer can enjoy this visa, which entitles them to live and work in the country for up to three years. 

  9. Specific purpose work visa: Individuals planning to visit New Zealand for a business event or a similar purpose can request this permit. 

What are the long-stay visa types in New Zealand?

Not all visa types we have listed above ensure a prolonged stay in the country. We explain which ones do and how long these permits are valid so you can secure the right one for your remote employees.

Skilled migrant category resident visa

With this visa, the applicant can live and work in New Zealand indefinitely, which makes it one of the most comprehensive visas available. Additionally, they can bring along their partner and any dependents under 24 years of age.

The New Zealand government uses a points-based system to determine whether an application is successful. Currently, the government is only accepting EOIs with at least 180 points.

An important note about this visa is that it’s not available to self-employed people.

Straight to residence visa

If employees want to move to New Zealand permanently, their best option may be the Straight to Residence visa. This visa enables the applicant to bring their partners and any dependents under 24 years of age.

To be issued this visa, the applicant must work for an accredited employer, and their job title must be in the country’s Green List’s Tier 1.

Work visa

If an accredited employer has offered an employee a work contract of at least 30 hours a week, the employee can apply for this visa and enjoy a three-year stay in New Zealand. If, however, the employee is paid below the country’s median wage, the visa will only be valid for two years.

Successful applicants can also bring their partners and children under the New Zealand work visa, provided they earn at least NZD 43,322.76 per year. Another significant consideration to make when discussing this visa is the primary requirement. Because the permit ties to the employer who helps issue it, if the employee changes work or stops working for that employer, they will need to apply for a new (and possibly different type of) visa.

Post-study work visa

Individuals holding degrees level 7 or above qualification can apply for this visa, which allows them to work in New Zealand for a maximum period of three years. If the individual’s qualification is below level 7, they must work in a job connected to their specific studies.

Entrepreneur work visa

Startup founders and other entrepreneurs planning to launch a business in New Zealand can take advantage of the country’s Entrepreneur work visa. This permit enables selected individuals to stay and work in New Zealand for up to three years.

The government considers the first 12 months of stay the “startup stage” of the visa. After this period, the candidate needs to show that their business is effectively up and running to prolong the work permit for another 24 months.

To qualify for this visa, individuals need to prove funds of at least NZD 100,000 unless their business is within the IT (Information Technology) or science sectors or is particularly innovative. In those cases, the government may waive the mandatory investment requirement.

How do you get a work visa for New Zealand?

As New Zealand offers many work visa options, it can be challenging to establish the process to get one. As the requirements can vary considerably depending on the type of New Zealand work visa, you may want to determine which one you need first. 

Generally speaking, though, you may need to take the following steps to get a New Zealand work visa:

  • Provide identity information, including a photo and a valid passport

  • Deliver specific medical certificates and have Immigration New Zealand (INZ) approve a chest X-ray (in some cases)

  • Ensure that all certificates and information provided get translated into English by a body officially authorized by the New Zealand Government

  • Have a reliable internet connection, as most governments now issue work visa applications online, and a few may require an applicant to fill in and sign a printed form, depending on the country of origin

  • Set up a New Zealand Government RealMe account before the application process starts

  • Secure an IRD number from the Inland Revenue, which you can do after you get accepted and acquire your work permit

After finishing the last step, the employee also needs to give their IRD number to the employer as soon as they start working in New Zealand. The government will use this number for tax-related purposes in the country.  

What is the process for employee work visa sponsorship in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, private citizens, residents, companies, and organizations can sponsor applications for work permits. In the case of an organization supporting one of its employees’ work visas in New Zealand, they must meet the following criteria:

  • They must be registered in New Zealand as a company

  • They must name and authorize a specific person to act as a sponsor and guarantor 

  • They must prove that they are not in liquidation or receivership

Many companies rely on an EOR service to take care of their hiring and relocation processes so that they can focus on growing their business. Learn more about relocating employees internationally by checking out our informative webinar on relocation for international employees.

What are the visa requirements for digital nomads in New Zealand?

New Zealand doesn’t have a specific digital nomad visa at present. However, digital nomads are encouraged to visit and work in the country under a Working Holiday visa.

To qualify, the applicant needs a valid passport issued by one of the countries on New Zealand’s Green List, and they must be between the ages of 18 and 35. In addition, the applicant must also be able to show available funds in their bank account to demonstrate their ability to sustain the daily expenses that living in New Zealand involves.

How to apply for digital nomad visas in New Zealand 

The applicant must provide the following documentation upon application:

  • A passport that is valid for at least 15 months from the time of application (for some countries, the validity needs to be even longer)

  • Proof that they will not bring any dependents with them, including partners and family members

  • Proof that they have passed all the relevant immigration health checks

  • Proof that they have sufficient funds to support their life in New Zealand as well as to purchase their return ticket

  • Valid health insurance issued by a firm in New Zealand.

To apply, the employee must visit the Government website or, if they are already in the country, schedule an in-person appointment with the relevant immigration office.

How Remote makes compliance in New Zealand so much easier

Compliance is perhaps the most crucial aspect when it comes to employee relocation. Each country has specific regulations around immigration and work permits. Non-compliance can lead to significant fines and penalties, and you may even get into legal trouble because of incorrect employee misclassification and permanent establishment risks.

At Remote, we are passionate about supporting companies of all shapes and sizes with their global expansion. Because managing full-time and contract workers around the world can be stressful and demanding, Remote takes care of international payroll, benefits, taxes, stock options, and compliance for you. 

When one or more of your employees decide to relocate, you are likely to get overloaded with new employment requirements and labor and tax laws. 

Remote's Relocation Guide can simplify this process by providing you with the critical information and steps to take when relocating your employees. For more advice on the relocation process, contact our expert Mobility team, who are happy to answer any questions you may have.

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