What is the NZ essential skills work visa?

There are a range of New Zealand work visas to choose from. The essential skills work visa lets you live and work in New Zealand on a temporary basis. Its purpose is to help employers fill positions when they can’t find New Zealand applicants with the right skills.

What are the application criteria for an essential skills work visa?

Before you can apply for an essential skills work visa, a New Zealand employer must offer you a full-time job. The job must be either on one of the New Zealand government’s ‘Skill Shortage lists”, or one that the employer has not been able to fill with a local person. It can’t be for work that involves planting, maintaining, harvesting or packing crops.

The employer has to provide Immigration New Zealand with detailed evidence that they have tried to fill the position locally, but have not been successful.

 

You will also have to show evidence that you:

  • Have received a full-time job offer from that employer, including full details of the job, location, pay, skills, how long it is for and so on

  • Have the work experience and New Zealand-recognised qualifications for the job you have been offered

  • Meet New Zealand’s good health criteria – complete an immigration medical certificate

  • Meet New Zealand’s good character requirements – a police certificate from your country and any country you have lived in for 5 years or more since turning 17 years old.

 

Full details of the application criteria and evidence required are available on the NZ Immigration website.

What are the pay rates for people with an essential skills work visa?

If you have an essential skills work visa, your employer is not allowed to pay you less than they would have to pay a New Zealander to do the same work.

 

 

How long do essential skills work visas last?

For applications made on or after 27 July 2020, this only depends on the job’s pay rate compared to the New Zealand median wage. In 2020 it was $25.50 an hour.

  • If you will be paid at or above the median wage, an essential skills work visa can be for up to three years

  • If you’ll be paid below the median wage, the maximum length of a visa is six months

The actual duration of the visa, within the above maximum times, will depend on the length of the job offered by the employer. More essential skills information.

 

 

Can I apply for another essential skills work visa and stay longer?

Yes. If you would like to extend your stay in New Zealand, you can apply for another essential skills work visa, or another type of visa that you qualify for. Don’t leave it too late though. You’re not allowed to stay in New Zealand on an expired visa, even while you’re applying for another.

When you apply for another essential skills work visa, you must once again meet all the requirements. This includes providing evidence that your employer has not been able to find a New Zealander for the new or extended job before they offered it to you.

How many times can I reapply for an essential skills work visa?

For jobs that pay above the median wage, you can apply as many times as you like and there is no limit to the overall time you can stay in New Zealand on consecutive essential skills work visas.

If the job pays less than the median wage, or your earlier jobs were considered low-skilled under the criteria used before 27 July 2020, then the maximum continuous time you can stay in New Zealand on essential skills work visas is three years. After that have two options:

  • Apply for another type of visa or the same type, but for a job that’s on or above the median pay rate

  • Leave New Zealand for 12 months then reapply for a below median wage job on an essential skills work visa

Can I travel out of New Zealand and return during my visa period?

Not while the border is closed. Take professional advice before you book any overseas travel.

Can I study while in New Zealand on an essential skills work visa?

Yes. You can study for up to three months in any 12-month period, and also undertake study that your employer requires you to do for your job. If you want to study for longer, you’ll need to apply for a variation of visa conditions or a student visa, depending on whether work or study is your main purpose for being in New Zealand.

Can I bring my partner or children with me on an essential skills work visa?

With an essential skills work visa issued on or after 27 July 2020, you can support the following.

  • For your partner: a visitor visa and, if your job in New Zealand is at or above the median wage, a work visa

  • For your dependent children: visitor or student visas, provided your New Zealand job pays at or above the median wage, or you meet a minimum annual income requirement, which in 2020 was NZ $43,322.76
     

These visas will expire at the same time as your essential skills work visa. If you can’t support a visa for your partner or dependent children, they will have to apply in their own right.

When should I apply for an essential skills work visa?

You should apply as soon as you get the job offer from your New Zealand employer. Provided all information is correctly provided, nearly all applications are decided within about 30 days for applicants already in New Zealand. Applications are not being processed for anyone who is overseas until the border reopens.

I am overseas can I apply for an essential skills visa?

New Zealand’s border is closed. This means only critical workers are getting permission to enter New Zealand. Take advice to see if your job offer is considered “Critical”. 

Can I get help with applying for an essential skills work visa?

Yes. In fact it is the best way to ensure your application process runs smoothly. Incorrect interpretation of New Zealand’s immigration rules, missing information or unclear details often result in significant delays. That could cause your potential employer to consider another applicant.

Experienced New Zealand immigration advisers will streamline the process and give your application the best chance of achieving a positive outcome. They‘ll use their local knowledge and expertise to ensure your application is complete, matches your circumstances and meets the latest requirements.

Note: This article is about Immigration Policy but is not a description of policy. Seek expert advice to assess and receive specific advice on personal situations before lodging a visa application.

 

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