Which New Zealand Visa is Right for You?
Before I started traveling internationally over ten years ago, I genuinely thought visa just meant main competitor of MasterCard. My debit card was a visa, my credit card was a visa, but I didn’t know a visa was also an international permission slip specifically tailored to travel or live in a particular country around the world.
The point is that I was totally clueless when it came to worldwide migration.
Now that I’ve lived overseas in Thailand, Ghana, Australia, and currently, New Zealand, I have learned a lot about visas over the last ten years and know that they can be a massive headache, even just for a one-week visit somewhere.
There are a variety of stipulations around visas, which can vary depending on which country you’re from, why you’re entering, and what you intend to do there.
If you’re considering moving abroad for the first time and New Zealand is ranking pretty high on your list, rest assured, this outline of visas should help you figure out which one you need/qualify for to live and work or just holiday in this beautiful land called Aotearoa (the kiwi name for New Zealand meaning land of the long white cloud).
If this isn’t your first move abroad, but you just need some guidance on getting a visa to enter New Zealand, this article should help, too.
The New Zealand Immigration website is super handy when it comes to assisting you in understanding which visa is best for you.
Their handy drop boxes allow you to customize your inquiry, which includes if you have a job offer or not, if you want to study for under six months or over, where you’re from, how old you are, if you’re coming to invest, if you want to join your family for their work or travels (permanently or short term), or if you want to start a business.
The details surrounding your situation could impact the visa options for which you may qualify. Try your luck here.
Let’s start here and work our way “up” in visas (based on complication level). A holiday or visitor visa is a 9-month tourist visa that you can obtain upon arrival in New Zealand and can use over the span of an 18-month period as long as you are from the list of countries on the visa waiver list.
If your country is not on this list, you will need to apply for your visa ahead of time. It’s a very simple process to apply. You can find the online application here.
If your country is on the visa waiver list, you’ll fill out an immigration form on your flight in, the kiwis will ask about your intentions while you’re here, and you’ll likely be granted a tourist visa on arrival. You must be genuinely touring around New Zealand while on this visa. Meaning, you cannot work at all during that timeframe.
If you would like to extend this visa, you may do so for another three months. This 12-month tourist visa can be utilized over a 24-month period (as in multiple entries over time). On this visa, you are allowed to study for up to three months and include your partner or dependent children up to the age of 19.
WORKING HOLIDAY VISA:
This is likely the most popular visa used amongst outsiders looking to work in New Zealand. I may be generalizing, but a tremendous amount of twenty-something year-olds come to work & play in New Zealand that it seems to be a very popular choice.
If you’re looking for somewhere to spend a gap year, try out your first international working experience, or check off each working holiday visa from your overseas list, you’ll probably be inclined to consider this visa for 12 months in New Zealand.
If you’re from the U.S., you’re between the ages of 18-30, and you have a minimum of $4,200 in your bank account, you will almost definitely qualify for 12 months on this visa scheme.
If you’re from the U.K., you’re between the ages of 18-30, and you have at least $350 to live on for each month of your stay, you’ll likely be granted this visa for 12-23 months of time living and working in New Zealand.
Most countries in Asia, Europe and South America have agreements with New Zealand to grant working holiday visas as well, but each may vary in detail. Check out your country’s visa parameters here.
BUNAC IEP WORK EXCHANGE VISA:
If you’ve missed your shot at a working holiday visa because you’re over the age of 30, you may still get lucky with an exclusive visa through BUNAC up to the age of 35. These travel visa experts lead the way in visa acquirement in New Zealand. Even if you still fall under the normal working holiday scheme or any other visa you’re interested in pursuing, they can be of great assistance in your application process. I highly recommend you check them out here.
If you’re considering a semester abroad, an exchange program, or want to attend a university program in its entirety, you’ll fall into this visa category. The New Zealand Immigration website is actually very well designed and easy to navigate, so you can choose your study program by course, subject, or university and find out what you need to apply for a student visa. Click here for more information.
The amount of time you’d like to study in New Zealand and the country you derive from will alter the visa requirements. Check them all out here.
SKILLED MIGRANT VISA:
If you happen to have a career or certain level of expertise in a field that New Zealanders are short of, you may just be able to snag a visa based on your skills and experience. Some of the shortages currently include physicists, veterinarians, engineers, bakers, winemakers, and snowboarding instructors. The full list can be found here.
If you have the intention of staying stay long-term vs. short-term, it could have an impact on the visa you get and/or its length. Be sure to do your due diligence when researching what your work experience may qualify for before applying for a visa.
When it comes to being a “skilled” worker, there is some variety in the spread. The ANZSCO (Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations) requirements outline that skilled levels 1-3 and 4-5 each have their own break down.
If your experience and expertise is within levels 1-3 and you’re paid a minimum of $24.29 NZD per hour, you may fall into the skilled migrant category. The same goes for levels 4-5, however, you must be paid at or above $36.44 per hour. Your degree verification, years of experience, and work experience will all come into play in the application process.
You are able to apply for a skilled worker visa without having a job in New Zealand already secured, which gives you the freedom to decide which city, town, island, or company you’d like to become employed in. Read more here.
ESSENTIAL SKILLS VISA:
This is the visa that I’m currently on for work and play in New Zealand. This visa is for you if an employer in New Zealand has offered you a full-time job that no New Zealanders can fill. The job that I currently hold with AJ Hackett Bungy is quite a unique one that no one else can fill, even a kiwi.
My 5+ years of relevant experience within and without our company and the specifications of the job made me the only fitting candidate for the position. I would never want to steal a job from a kiwi – ever – but it turned out that my experience was a perfect match over any of the other applicants.
If this sounds like you, then an Essential Skills Visa may suit your New Zealand working visa scheme. Read more here.
SPECIFIC PURPOSE WORK VISA:
The name of this visa is pretty self-explanatory. If you want to come to New Zealand for a specific event or purpose, can prove you have the relevant skills for such an occasion, have a concrete job offer, and can outline the exact dates of your temporary stay, New Zealand immigration will likely classify your visit under this visa.
This visa is likely to apply for people interested in coming here for certain sporting events (players & coaches), business people being transferred from one country to New Zealand for a multinational company, specialist installers, and/or nurses from the Philippines seeking occupational registration. Find more details about this visa here.
SILVER FERN JOB SEARCH WORK VISA:
This visa category is only offered to 300 people per year within the age range of 20-35 who have a skilled background of two years experience. In order to be granted this visa, you must prove you have the right qualifications and genuinely intend to look for skilled work during your time in New Zealand.
Once you are in New Zealand and working in a skilled, long-term employment position, you may be able to apply for residency under the Skilled Migrant Category. If you’d like to read more about this visa, click here.
Partner visas can get slightly complicated, as you need to prove your relationship status versus your work experience. As partners, you must prove you are in a genuine, stable relationship that is either married or unmarried and you can also be of the same or opposite sexes.
There are two partner visas that you may enter New Zealand with provided you can prove your relationship has been genuinely entered with the intentions of being together on a long-term, exclusive basis and it is likely to endure.
This usually includes photos of the two of you together, proof of in-relationship correspondence (such as texts or Facebook messages showing you’re actually involved -- yes, people have sent in explicit stuff, eek!), and bills or bank accounts with both of your names on them.
PARTNER VISA #1: Partner of a Student Work Visa
This visa is for you if your partner is in New Zealand under a student visa. If you fall into this visa category, you are able to work and play in New Zealand during the duration of your partner’s studies and you can also study for up to three months while in country, too.
A caveat about your partner’s visa is that they need to be studying towards a career on the shortages list, intend to stay and work in New Zealand after their studies, or they’re studying towards a post graduate qualification, but I’m not sure how intense New Zealand Immigration get about those requirements. Read more here.
PARTNER VISA #2: Partner of a Worker Work Visa
This visa is for you if your partner is in New Zealand under a work visa. If you fall into this visa category, you are able to work and play in New Zealand during the duration of your partner’s work visa.
You may study up to three months while you’re in the country and you can work anywhere you’d like provided you’re not participating in commercial sexual services (yeah, that’s a thing here).
You must meet the character requirements and supply proof of your outbound travel when Immigration greets you on arrival. Any details not provided will be recorded on your visa label. Read more here.
PARTNER VISA #3: Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa
This is for the outsiders who have found a lovely kiwi to partner up with and you want to come to New Zealand to work. Provided you have proven your genuine, stable relationship for a year or more, this visa will allow you to work in New Zealand as long as you are here.
You can work almost anywhere and even study for up to three months. You do not need a job offer to utilize this visa and if you have any children you wish to bring with you to New Zealand, they can apply for a visa based on their relationship with you. Check out more information here.
PARTNER VISA #4: Partner of a New Zealander Resident Visa
This visa is very similar to the one mentioned above, however, if granted, you can stay in New Zealand for work and/or study indefinitely. You and your partner must have been together for a minimum of 12 months and provide support to you in this visa application.
If your partner has residence based on Australian citizenship or residency, they must also be in New Zealand for you to be considered eligible for this visa.
On this visa, you may actually qualify for permanent residence straight away provided you can prove you have been with your partner for five years or more while living outside New Zealand. That’s right, you need to start gathering those old photos from back when you first met and any proof your relationship is genuine and stable for the duration. Read more here.
PARTNER VISA #5: Culturally Arranged Marriage Visitor Visa
This is an interesting visa because it’s only three months in duration and is solely created for two people looking to be married pretty much as soon as the non-resident/non-citizen arrives. In those three months, you must get married to a New Zealand resident or citizen if you’d like to stay permanently.
If you do not marry within that three-month period, you must leave New Zealand. You cannot work while on this visa, but if you do enter into marriage with a New Zealand resident/citizen, you may apply for a work visa. For more information, click here.
PARTNER VISA #6: Partner of Military Visitor or Work Visa
This visa is as similar as the Partner of a Worker Work Visa, except your partner would be here for military reasons. This visa is free and allows you to live and work in New Zealand as long as your partner’s military visa is active and they are in New Zealand.
You are welcome to study for up to three months while on this visa and if you have children accompanying you, they will need to apply for their own visas in relation to the main visa holder. Read more about it here.
BUSINESS VISITOR VISA:
This is a three-month visa for those coming to New Zealand specifically for business reasons. While you are in the country, you must be able to support yourself or have the financial support of your employer.
This visa is a pretty simple one: You have temporary work here in the name of your company for three months or less, and provided you can verify that, you’ll likely be approved for this visa. If for some reason you need to stay longer than three months, you can apply for another work visa past the 90-day stipulation of your business visitor visa. Check out more information here.
POST STUDY WORK VISA - OPEN:
This is ultimately a glorified working holiday visa except you need to have completed an “acceptable” qualification within New Zealand. See that list here.
It is crucial that you apply for this visa within three months of your program’s completion or six months after if you completed a doctorate. Just like the working holiday visa, you must show that you have at least $4,200 to support yourself after graduating.
You may get a job anywhere in New Zealand doing almost anything (hence the “open” label). If you’re fortunate to find a job in your area of study, you may be eligible to apply for a Post Study Work Visa – Employer Assisted Visa for another two years of work. See below for more details.
POST STUDY WORK VISA - EMPLOYER ASSISTED:
This visa is for you if you have completed an “acceptable” qualification within New Zealand and are offered a post-graduation, full-time job in your area of study. It is crucial that you apply for this visa within three months of graduating from your study program or six months if you completed a doctorate.
The duration of this visa is typically two years, however, you can stay for three if you are working towards occupational registration. You must work for the employer that offers you a job post-graduation, as in, you can’t be offered a job, show that to immigration, and go work somewhere else.
They’re pretty specific on this one. See more detail about it here.
REFUGEE FAMILY SUPPORT RESIDENT VISA
This visa category is only available to 300 people per year, but it lasts indefinitely. A New Zealand resident who came to New Zealand as a refugee or protected person may be able to sponsor a family member along with their partner and/or dependent children.
Those who seek to sponsor family members must register with New Zealand Immigration and be selected to proceed with the process. If your family is selected to be a sponsor, you will be able to apply for residency and hopefully can join your family in New Zealand upon approval.
I would highly recommend discussing all details of this visa application process with an immigration lawyer/advisor. For more details, click here.
ENTREPRENEUR WORK VISA:
If you are an entrepreneur (experienced business person) who wants to work in your own business in New Zealand, this visa is for you. If granted this visa, you can setup a business or even buy a business in New Zealand whether you’re living here or not. This can be a step towards residency in the future.
In order to qualify as an experienced businessperson, you must make a capital investment of a minimum of $100,000 NZD and score at least 120 points on the Entrepreneur Work Visa points scale. In your application, you will be required to provide a business plan for the business you intend to setup or buy in New Zealand.
Once you have worked in New Zealand establishing your business for 12 months and can prove you’ve successfully setup all associated aspects of your business, you may be entitled to stay another 24 months. The amazing thing about this visa is that you can include your partner and dependents in the process.
This visa is also the stepping-stone for residency, which you can see outlined here or below.
ENTREPRENEUR RESIDENCE VISA:
This is the next step for the previous visa. Once you have proven self-employment in New Zealand for at least six months or you have operated your own business for two years on another visa that allows for self-employment, you can apply for residency.
If you intend to apply for residency before two years of self-employment you must either be on an Entrepreneur Residence Visa or have invested at least $500,000 NZD in capital and have created at least three jobs. Whew!
If you feel you qualify for this visa, you are not only a balling entrepreneur, but you also will likely be able to stay in New Zealand indefinitely. Your impressive residency application can extend to your partner and any dependent children up to the age of 24.
For more information on this visa, click here.
GLOBAL IMPACT WORK VISA:
This is a highly regarded visa as it takes a tremendous amount of establishment to even qualify. If you are an entrepreneur or investor who has been accepted into the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, you may apply for this visa. There are only 400 spots available per year, so you need to make your application sparkle with innovative ventures here in New Zealand.
If granted, this visa lasts for 36 months, and for 30 of those, you must remain on the Edmund Hillary Fellowship to qualify for residency. You can work, study, and live here doing what you love on this visa, but you cannot include your partner or any dependent children.
They would need to apply for visas based on their relationship(s) with you. If you think this visa suits your background and experience, please follow this link for more information.
TALENT WORK VISA (ACCREDITED EMPLOYER):
This visa is very similar to a Skilled Migrant Category visa in the sense that your skill is also a talent. To be considered for this 30-month visa, you must be offered a job by an accredited employer (as the visa title reveals) and be under the age of 55. If you work for that employer for two years, you may qualify for residency and can apply to stay in New Zealand permanently. For more information, click here.
TALENT WORK VISA (ARTS, CULTURE, SPORTS):
This visa is for the extraordinarily talented in a field of sport, culture, or art and has been offered an opportunity to work with a New Zealand organization that is established in your field. You must be 55 or under to qualify for this visa, and, if granted, you can utilize it for up to 30 months. During this duration, should you work in your field of talent for two years, you may be eligible for residency in New Zealand. Click here to learn more about this visa.
TALENT RESIDENT VISA (ACCREDITED EMPLOYER):
This visa is a level up from the Talent Work Visa (Accredited Employer), meaning you can stay in New Zealand indefinitely if you qualify for this one. In order to be eligible, you must have worked in your field of talent for a minimum of two years with an accredited employer and earn a minimum salary of $55,000 NZD.
On this residency visa, you may include your partner and any dependent children you may have up to the age of 24, which is great because then you can keep your personal fans around to cheer you on in your incredible talents. For more information, follow this link.
TALENT RESIDENT VISA (ARTS, CULTURE, SPORTS):
This visa is a level up from the Talent Work Visa (Arts, Culture, Sports), meaning for two years or more you have been actively involved in your field of exceptional talent and you are eligibly for residency.
As long as you are still prominent in your field, you have two years of experience or more involved in this declared field, and you have an acceptable sponsor from a New Zealand organization of national repute, you may qualify for residency within these visa conditions. You may include your partner and any depending children up to the age of 24 on this visa application.
To get more details about this visa, click here.
Well, there you have it! Just about every visa New Zealand offers to outsiders.
For complete transparency, I am not a qualified immigration lawyer nor am I certified to give visa advice. This article is to simply provide information to you so you can understand the breakdown of visa options and select the right one for you. If you have any questions you think I may be able to answer, do not hesitate to comment below.
Coming to New Zealand is one of the best decisions you'll ever make. Be sure to let me know how your adventure unfolds! I'd love to hear about it!
Peace, love, and kiwi adventures,