Many Western foreigners are drawn to New Zealand because it is a safe, stable, English-speaking country. New Zealand has a reputation for encouraging foreign investment and has a positive attitude towards individuals who want to start their own businesses. So it comes as no surprise that more and more expats are looking to relocate to Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

With the exception of those moving to New Zealand from Australia, expats will need to have a work permit/work visa to legally work in the country. 

There’s an assortment of working visa categories, and each category has its own 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 one is a skilled worker or a labourer looking to fill a skill shortage in the country, it’s vital that expats research the work permit process as comprehensively as possible prior to application. 

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, or 23 months if expats 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, prove that they have sufficient funds to support themselves while in the country, 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

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. 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 

This 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 100,000 NZD 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. 

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