Visas for New Zealand

There are a number of different visas for New Zealand to choose from depending on whether an expat wants to visit the country on holiday, travel around taking on temporary jobs on a working vacation, or move to New Zealand for the long-term.

The application process varies depending on the visa being applied for. The official Immigration New Zealand website provides extensive information about the visa process, while expats could also seek the assistance of a professional visa processing agency to help ensure that they are correctly informed about what is required of them. 

Before applying, expats must ensure that their passport is valid for at least three months (but ideally six months or more) after the date of their departure to New Zealand. They should also ensure that their passport has enough blank pages for all of the necessary arrival and departure stamps.

Applicants will also need to pay an application fee and supply several passport-sized photographs as well as any other additional information that may be required. It is important that expats take the time to ensure that their documentation is complete as incomplete applications will be rejected and returned.

Tourist visas for New Zealand

Travellers from some countries don’t need a tourist visa to enter New Zealand, including nationals of the USA, Ireland and Canada, among others. However, even if someone’s country is on the visa waiver list they will need to supply evidence of funds and proof of onward travel. Expats are able to check whether they require a visa on the official Immigration New Zealand website. 

Applicants for a New Zealand visitor visa are required to show that they are in good health, are of good character and have an appropriate purpose for their visit. They will also need to prove that they have plans to leave the country, such as an onward ticket, and that they have enough funds to support themselves during their stay.

Visitors need a certain amount of money per month of their visit, and a passport that is valid for at least three months but ideally six months or more after the date of their scheduled date of departure.

The longest that someone can stay in New Zealand on a visitor visa is nine months and during this time they are not allowed to work or study for longer than three months, and must obey New Zealand law or face deportation if they disregard these conditions.

Work visas for New Zealand

There are many different visa options available for those wanting to live and work in New Zealand. When applying for a work visa for New Zealand, expats should ensure that they choose the correct visa for their situation. There are different visas for expats wanting to work in the country temporarily and for those wanting permanent employment.

Working Holiday Scheme

Nationals of certain countries, including the UK, Canada and the USA, 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. 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 look into longer-term options.

Visa requirements differ slightly between nationalities, but expats are usually granted a permit that gives them 12 months to arrive in New Zealand and, after arriving, 12 months to work there.

Generally, working holiday visa applicants must be between 18 and 30 years old, prove that they have sufficient funds to support themselves as well as proof of onward travel away from New Zealand. Expats will also 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 five working days about whether their application has been accepted or rejected.

Skilled Migrant Category

This visa is available for those wanting to move to New Zealand to live and work permanently. In order 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.

The application process for eligible expats 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.

Countries such as South Africa are not listed among the approved countries for the Working Holiday visa and, as such, the Skilled Migrant visa is the route that many immigrants take to find work in New Zealand.

Work to Residence visas for New Zealand

The Work to Residence visa allows holders to stay in the country for up to 30 months and gives them the opportunity to apply for a resident visa at a later date. In order for an expat to apply under the programme, their skills must be needed by a New Zealand employer or they must have demonstratably exceptional talent in certain fields. 

Applicants must fall within several categories in the Work to Residence programme. This includes skilled workers with a job offer from an accredited employer, those in occupations on the skills shortage list, expats with exceptional talents in art, culture or sport, or those who plan to establish a business in New Zealand.

Permanent resident visas for New Zealand

Those who have worked temporarily and decide to stay and live in New Zealand will need to start the process of applying for residence.

New Zealand permanent residents are not citizens, but may remain in the country indefinitely. They are eligible for all of the rights and privileges of citizens, including access to health care, education and voting. They can leave and re-enter New Zealand as often as they like.

Requirements for permanent resident visas

In order to be eligible to apply for a permanent resident visa for New Zealand, applicants must have had a resident visa for at least two years continuously as well as meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • They have spent at least 184 days in New Zealand during each of the two years preceding the application

  • They can prove they have tax residence status with proper documentation

  • They have made an investment of at least 1,000,000 NZD or more in New Zealand for two years

  • They have at least 25 percent or more shares in a business in New Zealand that benefits the country in some way

  • They own a family home in New Zealand and have maintained paid employment for at least nine months within the two year period

*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.

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