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Accessing the Immigration System : Who Can Apply for a Visa and Who Can’t

In this article understand how to access New Zealand's immigration system, including who can apply for a visa and the potential barriers individuals may face.
July 25, 2023
|
5
 min read

Moving to a new country can be an exciting but complex process, especially when it comes to navigating the immigration system. In this article, we'll take you through the key aspects of accessing New Zealand's immigration system, including who can apply for a visa and the potential barriers individuals may face.

The Importance of Meeting Specific Visa Requirements.

Acquiring a visa and securing permission to stay in New Zealand encompasses more than merely meeting the specific criteria of a visa category, like health, character, or sponsorship requirements. It also involves ensuring your eligibility to apply for the visa in the first place.

There are many types of visa available for migrants or visitors to this country and depending on your situation you will need to ensure that you choose the appropriate one. 

Before proceeding with a particular visa application, it is crucial to assess your eligibility and determine whether you meet all the necessary requirements. Failure to meet these criteria may result in your visa application being declined. Seeking guidance from Immigration advisers before submitting your application can be immensely helpful, saving you valuable time, money, and unnecessary stress. Their expertise can assist you in navigating the complex immigration process, ensuring a smoother and more successful application.

Who Can Apply for a Work Visa?

There are several work visas depending on your skill levels and whether they are deemed an essential skill. Work Visas can be temporary or lead to a residency visa. 

To understand where you skill set fits in you can assess your work experience against:

  • The Green List - a list of occupations that are considered vital to the economic and social development of New Zealand. These roles can allow for a fast track to residency
  • The Skilled Migrant Scheme - a point system rewarding migrants with tiered points based on their skill, experience and education.

If your role and experience does not fit within these two categories the most common form of entry into New Zealand for work is a temporary work visa called the Accredited Employer Work Visa. 

Who can apply for a work visa

Requirements for Migrant Workers Applying for an Accredited Employer Work Visa NZ

If you are considering the Accredited Employer Work Visa, to be eligible under this scheme, the key requirements are:

  • Offer of Employment: Migrant workers must have a valid offer of employment from an accredited employer.
  • Role Requirements: The workers must meet all the specific requirements for the role they have been offered.
  • Character Requirements: Migrant workers must meet the character requirements set by the immigration authorities.
  • Health Requirements: Migrant workers must meet the health requirements set by the immigration authorities.
  • Qualifications and Experience: They should possess the necessary qualifications and experience relevant to the role they are being offered.


Entering New Zealand: Do I Need a Visa Before I Travel to New Zealand?

To enter New Zealand, you typically need both a visa or entry permission. New Zealand & Australian citizens have the right to enter and leave the country freely, while non-citizens with valid visas can move around within New Zealand and leave when they want .

If you fall into any of the following categories, you may apply for a visa to work temporarily in New Zealand:

  • You have received a job offer from a New Zealand employer.
  • You are arriving for a specific work-related purpose or event.
  • You have a partner in New Zealand and wish to join them while also working.
  • You belong to a country that has a special work scheme with New Zealand.
  • You have been studying in New Zealand and now wish to work here.

Furthermore, certain work visas can potentially lead to residence status, granting you the right to live, study, and work in New Zealand indefinitely. To be eligible for such visas, you must possess the necessary skills, experience, and qualifications required for the New Zealand workforce. 

For more information on how to apply for a work visa read our article  

Do I Need a Visa Before I Travel to New Zealand?

Do I Need a Visa if I am Visiting New Zealand?

New Zealand offers a visa waiver for many countries, allowing citizens to apply for entry permission upon arrival. The IMZ website has a full list of countries that are allowed so it is important to understand if you will be covered by a visa waiver. This eliminates the need to obtain a visitors visa from overseas. However, you will still require a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) before your travel.

The NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) has different validity periods depending on the traveller's status. For regular travellers, the NZeTA is valid for up to two years, allowing multiple visits during this period. 

In the following cases, you”ll be covered by a visa waiver:

  • UK, up to 6 months - If you're a British citizen or passport holder with the right to live permanently in the UK, you can visit New Zealand for up to six months. This applies only if your purpose of travel is not for medical treatment.

Other visa waiver countries, up to 3 months - Citizens of over 50 specified countries can visit New Zealand for up to three months without a visa. These countries include:

  • Most European countries
  • Canada, the US, and Mexico (excluding Central American countries)
  • Some South American countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, and Chile
  • Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia (excluding other Asian countries)
  • Some Middle Eastern countries, like Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE (excluding countries like Syria, Iraq, and Iran).

To obtain an NZeTA, there is a nominal fee involved. The cost of an NZeTA request is NZD $23. However, if travellers use the free app, they can avail a discounted rate of NZD $17 for their NZeTA application.

Not Everyone Can Apply: Understanding Barriers

Not everyone has the right to apply for and have their visa application considered. Some individuals are barred from applying due to their current situation. For instance, if your current visa has expired, and you're now in New Zealand illegally, or if you've already claimed refugee status, you may be barred from applying for a new visa.

Moreover, certain categories of people are prohibited from being granted any visa due to past criminal or immigration law violations, either in New Zealand or overseas. For example, if you were previously deported from New Zealand for committing a crime, you might face barriers to applying for a new visa.

Temporary or Permanent Barriers

The barrier preventing you from applying for a visa might be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances. If you're in New Zealand and your visa is soon to expire, leaving the country can "reset" the system, allowing you to apply for a new visa from overseas. However, some barriers, like past deportations or criminal convictions, may result in temporary or permanent bans from obtaining a visa.

Exceptions: Visas Granted in Special Cases

Despite being barred under certain rules, there are exceptional cases where Immigration New Zealand can grant a visa. For instance, individuals in New Zealand unlawfully may be considered for a "section 61" visa, granted under special circumstances. Similarly, those disqualified from getting a visa due to deportation or other reasons can seek a "special direction" from the Minister of Immigration.

Check Before You Fly

Accessing the immigration system in New Zealand involves understanding the specific requirements for the visa you're applying for and determining if any barriers prevent you from applying. Before travelling to New Zealand, make sure to check the latest border entry requirements and visa regulations to ensure a smooth and successful journey to this beautiful country.

If You Need Advice On Work Visas & Residency Applications

If you need advice on your next steps talk to a licensed immigration adviser who can help you navigate the immigration process. With the help of a licensed immigration adviser in New Zealand, you should be able to obtain your desired work visa with no problem, so long as you meet all of the accredited employer work visa requirements.


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Our highly experienced licensed Immigration team will take away the stress and worry of navigating the complicated world of New Zealand Immigration. All you need to do is get in touch. Our team is on standby, ready to help.

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Our highly experienced licensed Immigration team will take away the stress and worry of navigating the complicated world of New Zealand Immigration. All you need to do is get in touch. Our employer team is on standby, ready to help.

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Update

Migrant Worker Residence

Today the government announced a pathway to residence for migrant workers who are living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave who are eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else they will miss out on this one off opportunity.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrants Opportunity

Today the government announced a pathway to residence for people living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else you miss the boat.

January 9, 2023
Update

New Employer Accreditation Process

The government has moved the introduction of the new employer accreditation process across to mid-2022. At the same time, the Minister of Immigration announced new work visa rules for migrant workers who are already in New Zealand and working full time.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government has increased the median wage to $27 per hour from 19 July. Any Skilled Migrant residence application lodged after this date will need to include a skilled job offer that pays at least $27 per hour. For some lower-skilled occupations, the minimum pay rate increases to $40.50 per hour.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 19 July 2021

  • The median wage used to assess Essential Skills Work Visa applications increases from $25.50 per hour to $27 per hour.
  • Applicants paid below the median wage may be granted a work visa for up to 24 months. The usual 6-month visa validity restriction is suspended until mid-2022.
  • In certain cases, the labour market test is waived and in some cases, it will still apply.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 30 June 2021

  • Employer Accreditation and Approval in Principle applications are now closed.
  • No new Employer Accreditation applications (including renewals) will be accepted until the new process goes live in mid-2022.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Employer Accreditation Becomes Mandatory

Employers of migrant workers must become accredited from 1 November 2021 before work visa applications can be processed. Most employers are not accredited. Those that are accredited will have to roll into the new system when it goes live in late September.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From mid-2020 (delayed)

  • Government to negotiate and introduce Industry Sector agreements setting minimum conditions for industries that heavily rely on overseas workers. Sectors include; residential care, meat processing, dairy, forestry, road freight transport, tourism, and hospitality. Construction, horticulture, and viticulture may also be included.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

Skilled occupation "Dairy Cattle Farmer" spilt into three occupations. New occupations are: "Dairy Farm Manager", "Assistant Dairy Farm Manager" and "Dairy Herd Manager". Each sit at different skill levels, therefore, the award of points will depend on pay rates, job tasks and other requirements.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 15 February 2021

  • Dairy Cattle Farmer job offers are now assessed by three new occupation descriptions: Dairy Farm Manager, Assistant Dairy Farm Manager and Dairy Herd Manager. Pay rates and job tasks will determine how long a work visa is valid. Take advice.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool for six months (to be reviewed in April 2021). Invitations to Apply for Residence remain suspended. The last selection from the Skilled Migrant pool took place on 18/03/2020.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 7 October 2020

  • Introduction of "Oversupply" and "Undersupply" occupation lists used to assess Essential Skills Work Visa applications when a job offer pays less than the median wage.
  • Employers offering jobs to migrant workers where an occupation is on the "Oversupply" list will not get Skill Match reports issued by Work & Income. Solid evidence of genuine attempts to find a local to fill the job will be critical for approval.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government added four new occupations that are now regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. These are:

Aged or disabled carer, Bicycle mechanic, Driller and Nursing Support worker.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 27 July 2020

  • Essential Skills work visa applications are now assessed based on the current median wage (NZD $25.50 or more per hour.).
  • Job offers paying below the median wage require employers to pass the labour market test* and secure a Skills Match Reports from WINZ (work visas granted for a maximum of 6 months).

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

Anyone invited by Immigration NZ to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category where their invitation is dated between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020 (inclusive) has now been granted an additional six months to lodge their residence application.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 27 May 2020​

  • Regional Skill Shortage List goes live. 15 regions around New Zealand list occupations reflecting local skill shortages in each region. The labour market test is not mandatory provided the job offer matches the occupation and region plus the visa applicant has qualifications and/or work experience set out on the list.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool. This means Invitations to Apply for Residence are also suspended. Malcolm Pacific Immigration does not anticipate selections to resume until after the general election held on 17 October 2020.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

Immigration NZ is now prioritising Skilled Migrant Residence applications where the main (principal) applicant meets the criteria:

  • Has employment paying double the median wage which is currently NZD $51 per hour OR NZD $106,800 per annum; OR Has New Zealand occupational registration and is required to hold valid registration to lawfully carry out their job.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 24 February 2020

  • Wage or salary thresholds increase for Essential Skills Work Visas applications lodged on or after 24/02/2020 (labour market tested; read more here).
  • Higher Skilled employment increases to $38.25 or more per hour ($79,560 per annum*)
  • Mid Skilled Employment increases to $21.68 or more per hour ($45,094 per annum*)

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 7 October 2019

  • Base salary to qualify for a Work to Residence Visa (WTR) supported by an accredited employer increases from $55,000 per annum to $79,560 per annum (or $38.25 per hour).
  • Pay rates for WTR visas are now reviewed annually.
  • Work visa applicants paid less than $79,560 per annum by accredited employers need to apply under other work visa categories.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government recently added more occupations that are now to be regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. In order to qualify for points, the job must be paying at least the current median wage (or higher for certain occupations) at the time the residence application is lodged.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 1 November 2021

  • Work to Residence Visa (Accredited Employer and Long Term Skill Shortage) applications close.
  • Applications lodged on or before 31 October 2021 will be processed under current visa settings.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Mandatory Vaccination Required for Travel

From 1 November 2021 anyone who is not a NZ citizen must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt) before travelling to New Zealand. Fully vaccinated means your last dose of vaccine was given at least 14 days before travelling and it was an approved vaccine.

January 9, 2023
Update

Employer Accreditation

Applications for employer accreditation closed at the end of June 2021. Applications lodged before the closure date are still being processed. New applications for accreditation open on 9 May 2022. The process will be quite different to what employers have experienced in the past. Businesses will need to meet minimum standards.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

Wednesday, 1 December is fast approaching and it is estimated that around 16,000 individuals and families can apply in the first wave for the 2021 Resident Visa opening next month. It is exciting for the thousands of people who have been waiting patiently to become residents that finally the finish line is in sight.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The first wave of applicants can apply from 1 December 2021. Around 16,000 applications are expected in this first wave. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. In total, the government expects approximately 110,000 applications that will include about 165,000 people.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The second group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 March 2022 are those who hold an eligible work visa and either meet "Settled", "Skilled" or "Scarce" as set out above. In total Immigration NZ estimate around 110,000 people will qualify to apply for this visa.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The first group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 December 2021 are those that on 29/09/2021:

  • Had lodged a residence application under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) or Residence from Work category; OR Had lodged an SMC Expression of Interest (EOI) in the SMC pool that included at least one dependent child aged 17 or above.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

Is this the only requirement to qualify for residence? No. In addition to the eligible work visa criteria workers also need to be regarded as one of the following:

  1. Settled.
  2. Skilled.
  3. Scarce.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

People who were lawfully in NZ (or in Australia when the travel bubble closed between April and July 2021) on 29/09/2021 need to meet the visa eligibility criteria:

  • Workers in NZ who held an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and on the day they apply for residence; OR Applied for an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and the work visa application is subsequently approved and still hold an eligible work visa on the day they apply for residence.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The government has introduced a limited pathway to residence for people who are already living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave of people eligible to apply. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. The deadline to apply for the 2021 Resident Visa is 31 July 2022.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Critical Purpose Visitor Visas

A small number of critical health workers (taking up jobs for six months or longer) or specialist workers (taking up jobs that are for longer than six months) who were granted border exemptions may also have eligibility for the 2021 Resident Visa. They will need to have arrived in NZ and lodge a 2021 Resident Visa application.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Policy Decision Key Dates in 2022

  • July 4. Applications open for the new Accredited Employer Work Visa.
  • July 31. Applications for the 2021 Resident Visa close.
  • August. Skilled Migrant Residence category scheduled to reopen.
  • August. A new pathway to residence for people earning 200% or more of the median wage.

*Excludes high-risk countries.

January 9, 2023
Update

Policy Decision Key Dates in 2022

  • February 13. Fully vaccinated Kiwis plus certain other travellers entering NZ from the rest of the world* can skip MIQ.
  • April 30. The border starts a phased reopen to fully vaccinated foreign nationals.
  • April 30. The Productivity Commission reports back to the government on immigration settings.
  • May 9. Applications open for mandatory Employer Accreditation.

*Excludes high-risk countries.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Categories Closing

The work visa categories set to close are:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa – approval in principle
  • Work to Residence (Talent – Accredited Employer)
  • Work to Residence (Long Term Skills Shortage)
  • Silver Fern Job Search Work Visa (closed October 2019)
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Work Visa.
January 9, 2023
Update

The Green List

In order to address labour shortages in New Zealand's crucial industries the NZ government has implemented a "Green List" of sought-after high-skill occupations. This list offers a prioritised pathway to residency.

There are qualification and/or occupational registration requirements to meet. Occupations are broken down into two tiers: 

  • Tier 1 - direct pathway to residence
  • Tier 2 - requires a period of two years or longer before applying

The recent additions in May 2023 across many sectors can be found here

June 16, 2023