The Comprehensive Common Sense Guide to Work to Residence Visas in New Zealand

The Comprehensive Common Sense Guide to Work to Residence Visas in New Zealand

New Zealand offers a variety of work visas. All are temporary, although some may open a path to residency. One such option is the Work to Residence Visa.

A Work to Residence Visa could be just what you need if you want to stay in New Zealand long-term. It allows you to build up two full years of work experience while you experience what life in New Zealand is like before applying for residency. It is also ideal for people who do not qualify to apply via the skilled migrant class. Applicants will have to meet all visa requirements including working the full term (2yrs) in New Zealand, and fulfilling any health, character and English language requirements.

In most cases, your eligibility for a Work to Residence Visa will depend on your skill set. Whether or not your employer in New Zealand is accredited and whether you meet the key experience and qualifications requirements will determine this.

This guide will cover the key details you need to know about New Zealand’s Work to Residence Visa.

Work to Residence Visa Categories

There are three options when it comes to applying for residency using the Work to Residence Visa.

The first is to be employed with an Accredited Employer, also known as the Talent Visa category. This is not to be confused with the Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports) Visa discussed below, you can then apply at the end of the required time period. This is for jobs where an employer can prove they need your skillset for that specific job, and cannot employ a New Zealand resident easily for the same position.

You can also qualify by finding work in one of the fields on the Long Term Skills Shortage List. Once you have worked in a job from that list for the required period you can apply for a Work to Residence Visa.

Before you start your application, consider whether using an immigration adviser could help. It is best to gain the services of an immigration adviser before you start, to ensure you don’t waste time and money on the wrong visa type or gathering evidence that will not be accepted by Immigration New Zealand. We can help you right from the start and take the stress and uncertainty out of applying.​

Have a look on our site at how we can help you with Work to Residence Visas. Or give us a call on 0800 800 612 for more information on your visa type and to see what we can do for you. ​

Talent (Accredited Employer) Visa

If your skills and talents are in demand by any of the over 1,000 accredited employers in New Zealand, you may be able to get a 30-month Work Visa that leads to gaining residency.​

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) maintains a registry of Accredited Employers that have fulfilled certain criteria and may hire migrant employees without vacancy advertisements. However, if you have a partner and children they will have to apply for a different type of visa.

This visa type is typically handled more quickly than other work visas because the company has already passed many INZ accreditation criteria.

What are the Key Requirements for a Talent (Accredited Employer) Visa?

  • Applicants must not be older than 56
  • Applicants must have worked in their profession for more than 24 months
  • Applicants must have an offer of employment from an Accredited Employer, with at least a 24-  month commitment. Your contract must be permanent or for a fixed term of 2yrs or more.
  • Applicants must be earning at least NZD 79,560 (before tax) annually for a 40-hour working week.

It is important to check that you meet all of the minimum requirements before applying for a work to residence visa to avoid disappointment or delay. We can help you with this.

Green List Occupation List

This work visa category is for people who have been offered jobs on the NZ Green List. This list is updated periodically to reflect labour market requirements. Please ensure that you check the latest list for your career type. We ensure that we hold the most up to date list here at Malcolm Pacific Immigration.

This visa can be the first stage towards residence status in New Zealand. For this visa you must be in constant employment in a profession that appears on the list for a span of at least 24 months.

What are the Requirements for a Long-Term Skills Shortage Visa?

  • You must be 55 years old or younger
  • You must have an offer of employment in a field on the Long Term Skills Shortage List
  • You must have training/qualifications and/or skills in compliance with the Long Term Skills Shortage criteria

You will need to check that your qualifications meet New Zealand standards. If they do not, in some professions there is an option to serve a ‘registration’ period under some degree of supervision. However, you may find you need to sit extra university papers to be considered ‘qualified’ here.

Again, if you have a partner or dependent children they will have to apply for a different visa based on the relationship they have with you and what criteria apply to them in terms of other applicable visas.

If you find that you are unlikely to qualify for a work to residence visa you can start with temporary work visas. You can also read more about the essential skills work visa and the New Zealand Skilled Migrant Visa which are longer term. 

Other Work to Residence Options to Consider​

Talent Visa (Arts, Culture and Sports)​

If you perform well in a specific area of art, culture, or sport and are sponsored by a nationally recognised organisation in New Zealand you may be able to get a work visa under this category.

For this visa type there is no English language requirement to meet if you are the main applicant. However, your partner and any other dependents must demonstrate that they meet a minimum standard of English to ensure that they are able to settle in New Zealand successfully.

Key Requirements for a Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports) Visa

  • Applicants must be 55 or younger
  • A reputable New Zealand organisation must support your application
  • Your application must be endorsed by your supporting organisation
  • You must have been actively involved in your profession in New Zealand for two years or more to qualify for residence
  • You must have an influential presence in your area or field of work
  • You must be able to show that your presence in New Zealand is going to continue to benefit the country long term
  • You must be able to maintain the support of a reputable New Zealand organisation
  • You must not have applied for any welfare benefits in New Zealand since your time of arrival

Religious Worker Visa​

If you are on a Religious Worker Visa in New Zealand, you can apply for residency if you meet the following conditions:

  • You are 55 years old or younger
  • You have qualifications and experience in a relevant ‘religious’ field for at least 5 years
  • You have worked in the religious sphere in New Zealand for at least 3 years
  • You continue to work with a religious group, which will sponsor or support your application
  • You can meet English language requirements
  • For the first five years, you will have to be supported by a reputable religious group that is legally registered in New Zealand as a charity
  • You must not have applied for any welfare benefits in New Zealand since your arrival here

Please note:  You can only apply for this visa type if you already hold a valid Religious Worker Visa of 3 years or longer. This is an extension of the religious worker visa, to enable you to reside here long term.

If you include your partner and children in your application for a visa, they will have to meet the same criteria for identification, health, character and English language standards that you do.

Entrepreneur Work Visas

​If you're an experienced entrepreneur interested in becoming self-employed in your own business, New Zealand’s Entrepreneur Work or Residency Visas would suit you.​

Most people get started with the Entrepreneur Work Visa. This gives them the opportunity to move to New Zealand to purchase or set up a business. You can then apply for residency after either six months or two years, depending on the category to which you are applying.

An Entrepreneur Work Visa is for people who are willing to buy or start up a business in New Zealand.

This three-year work visa consists of two phases:

  • Start-up phase: If your application is approved you will be given an initial 12-month work visa allowing you to purchase or set up your business in New Zealand.
  • Balance phase: You are granted the remaining 24 months of your visa once you have demonstrated that you have taken steps to build your business.

Requirements for Entrepreneur Work Visas

  • You must be willing to make a minimum capital investment of $100,000(NZD) into your business
  • You are expected to score 120 points or more on your application, with points awarded for the likelihood of business success and the potential value to New Zealand of your business
  • You will need to show a clear and detailed business plan
  • You must have no history of business failure, bankruptcy, or fraud
  • You are expected to meet the Immigration New Zealand requirements for health, character, and English language proficiency

The Entrepreneur Residence category enables you to live permanently in New Zealand if you have developed a growing and creative business in New Zealand with export potential. This framework provides two avenues for applying for residence:

  • Entrepreneur Residence Category 1 - The first avenue requires you to have successfully started or acquired a business in New Zealand or have been self-employed for at least two years in that line of business. It also asks you to prove your company has been of considerable benefit to the country.
  • Entrepreneur Residence Category 2- The second option offers a quicker route to your residence visa. If you have invested a minimum of NZD $500,000 in your business and provided at least three new jobs in New Zealand you can apply under category 2.

Both options obligate you to meet the standard requirements of health, character and English language proficiency.

Take advice. This visa has historically a very high decline rate (90% at one point). Take professional advice before considering applying under this category. 

Business Investor Visas

​Business Investor Visas are for investors wanting to live (obtain residency) in New Zealand.

If you're looking to invest in New Zealand, the Business Investor Visas might be a great choice for you and your family. It has two categories:

  • The first category involves a minimum of NZD $3 million invested for at least 4 years.
  • The second involves a minimum of NZD $10 million minimum invested for at least 3 years.

If you are interested in applying under any of the above investor categories, you must meet the basic NZ requirements of an acceptable investment and prove lawfully earnings. In general, suitable investments can be as follows:

  • Equity in a public or private New Zealand company. An equity investment may be active or passive and may be made directly or through managed funds. However, only the percentage of the fund invested in New Zealand is considered acceptable.
  • Bonds offered by the New Zealand Government, local New Zealand authorities or licensed New Zealand banks, financial institutions or businesses
  • New construction of any residential property that is not for the personal use of the owner and intended to produce a commercial return on the market.
  • Where applicable, a philanthropic investment can account for up to 15% of overall funding.
  • There are other investment options - take advice.

See more information on our website 

​Employees of a Re-locating Business

​If a business that is based and operating overseas decides to relocate to New Zealand, as long as this move will benefit the New Zealand economy, employees of the company may be eligible for a Work to Residence visa.

For this category of Work to Residence visa, the following provisions must be met:

  • The planned relocation must have the support of the the Ministry of Trade and Enterprise
  • Key employees will be given top priority
  • This category is not applicable under any of the other Work to Residence options
  • Applicants must meet the requirements for character, health, and English proficiency

As you can see, there are many options when it comes to obtaining a New Zealand Work to Residence Visa. Your choice as to which you apply for will depend on where you fall into the different categories, and how you meet the requirements for each.

Need More Information, Help, and Advice?​

Using an immigration adviser will boost your chances of success. Read more on how to choose the best immigration adviser in Auckland or the best immigration adviser in Wellington.

Malcolm Pacific Immigration has over 35 years of experience in supporting migrants from around the world into New Zealand. If you're interested in travelling, working or living in New Zealand, our professional team of licensed immigration advisers can assist you with a one-on-one consultation, details and representation when applying for a visa or work permit.

Call 0800 800 612 to talk with one of our experts for more information and guidance on moving to New Zealand and to book a time to sit down and look through your options and application with us.

FAQs about Work to Residence Visas​

What is a Work to Residence Visa?

​This visa is for individuals who are interested in living in New Zealand and who have a skill required by an accredited employer in New Zealand, or who’s investments or contributions will benefit the country.​

How do I qualify for permanent residency in New Zealand?

​If you have held a resident visa for 2 years or more and have lived 6 months or more for each year over those 2 years in New Zealand, you can apply for a permanent visa. If issued, you can permanently live and work in New Zealand, and come and go freely without travel restrictions from New Zealand.

How do I qualify for residence if I have a Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa?

​If you have held a Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa for at least 24 months, you can apply for a Resident Visa. You are also expected to be currently employed full-time by an accredited employer for that duration and have a basic salary of at least NZD 79,560 before tax per annum

Can I bring my family with me to New Zealand?

​You can include close family members in your application.

The family can obtain work visas or student visas as suits their needs. All international students who wish to attend university are required to apply for a separate student visa and international student fess apply.

Family members can be listed on the application for residency but they may need to follow Immigration New Zealand requirements including a basic qualification for English language.

When should I apply for residency under the Work to Residence category?

​Workers can apply for residency in New Zealand once they've completed 24 months of work. This allows for another 6 months until the expiry of their 30-month work visa. Potential applicants can still extend their Work Visa without applying for residency.

How long does it take to process an application?

​It currently takes about 60 to 90 days for Immigration New Zealand to process a Work to Residence Visa but timeframes always change.

To establish your employment information you will need to submit documents and provide proof that you have not broken any of your visa conditions. Putting all the supporting documentation together may be a little daunting but it's worth the effort.

What about Permanent Residency or Citizenship?

​You will need to check the conditions of your visa, but generally if you are granted residency you will be able to apply for permanent residency after 2 years. Once you have permanent residency the next step is to apply for citizenship but you will need to check the citizenship requirements, which include a total amount of time residing in New Zealand, police check and character references among other things.

What is the difference between a Resident Visa and a Permanent Resident Visa?​

Both visas give you the same opportunity to live permanently in New Zealand but they give you different travel provisions.

Your Resident Visa will only allow you to travel to and from New Zealand for a specified period of time – usually 24 months. Once this period has ended you may apply for a Permanent Resident Visa. A Permanent Resident Visa imposes no restrictions on how you travel. Meaning you can travel to and from New Zealand at any time, as long as you have a Permanent Resident Visa in your valid passport.

What is the Long-term Skills Shortage List?

​The Long-term Skills Shortage List or LTSSL is a register of skilled jobs which we do not currently have enough workers for in New Zealand. Therefore needing to outsource from overseas. The list is typically reviewed every 6 months and jobs can be removed from or added to the list after each review.

Can INZ help me make sure that everything is correct before applying?​

No. INZ does not offer this kind of service. The department exists to enforce immigration law, take decisions on applications for residency and grant visas for residence. Despite the availability of basic information and application forms, INZ cannot offer independent advice and tailored guidance on your particular situation. A Licensed Immigration Adviser such as those at Malcolm Pacific Immigration can provide this service.

How can Malcolm Pacific Immigration help with a Work to Residence application?

​We understand it's a big undertaking to apply for a Work to Resident visa. Even if you meet all of the requirements, you will need to present a thorough and comprehensive case explaining your eligibility to Immigration New Zealand.

Our immigration advice team is here to assist you in getting the correct details and to ensure your application has the best chance. If you’d like help with your Work to Residence Visa application or have any other queries, you can contact us by phone (0800 800 612) or through our website.

The Impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19)

​With the New Zealand border almost fully closed at the moment, most visa applications have been put on hold. Work to Residence visas will be impacted by this. However, we expect that the government will announce plans for re-opening certain visa categories sometime in 2021.

There have been some exceptions made already for partners and critical workers coming into the country, and more exceptions are expected. We are in contact with Immigration New Zealand and have the latest information on the status of each visa type. You can check for updates on our news page. 

Even with current restrictions in place we can still help you prepare to apply. Once borders re open there will be a rush to submit visa applications, we want you to be in the first group who does. If you have everything ready to submit then you can do so with confidence the very first day you are able to. This should cut down on the waiting time for a result. Some visas you may even be able to submit an application now and be in the line for review, please give us a call to check the status of your visa type.

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