Getting a New Zealand work visa: full guide

Gabriela Peratello

New Zealand is an attractive expat destination, famed for outstanding natural beauty and a great work life balance. If you’re thinking of getting a work visa for New Zealand you’re in the right place.

This guide covers the New Zealand work visa requirements and options, including who can get a working holiday visa for New Zealand.

Moving overseas can be exciting, but living between countries can be pretty expensive too.

That’s why this guide also covers how you can cut the costs of currency exchange and international transfers with Wise, to make your money go further when you move.

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📑Table of Contents

Can you get a work visa for New Zealand from the USA?

There are several different ways you can apply for a work visa for New Zealand from the USA. The right visa for you will depend on your circumstances, including:

  • Whether you have a job offer already or not
  • Whether you’re in New Zealand already or not
  • What sort of work you will do
  • How long you want to stay
  • Your age and personal situation

We’ll cover some of the most popular New Zealand work visa options a little later so you can research the one which may suit you best.

There’s also a handy checker tool on the New Zealand government website which lets you enter a few details about yourself and generate details of the visas which may be available for you to consider¹.

⚠ A note on Covid-19
    As the world continues to work through the implications of the pandemic, travel and immigration processes have been altered and interrupted.
    The details in this guide cover the pre-pandemic options open to US citizens applying to work in New Zealand. However, you’ll need to check the latest requirements in this evolving situation before you start your application.

New Zealand work visa requirements

If you already have a job lined up in New Zealand your employer will be able to help you with the visa application. They’ll normally need to demonstrate that you’re suited to the job and that there were no local candidates which could have performed the duties equally well.

Whether you, your employer, or a professional agent are organising your New Zealand work visa, you’ll usually need to provide supporting evidence to prove a few things²:

Your identity and personal detailsYou’ll need to provide a passport and other personal documentation and data
You’re entering New Zealand for a genuine purposeBy showing a legitimate job offer for example
You intend to stay in New Zealand on a temporary basis onlyBy showing you retain links to your home country
You’re of good characterThis may involve providing a criminal records check
You’re in good healthMedical checkups may be required

The exact documents you must provide will depend on a range of factors including the visa route you’re applying to, where you’re coming from and the job you want to do. We’ll go into the types of paperwork commonly needed in a little more detail later.


New Zealand work visa types

There are lots of different visa types available for people who want to work in New Zealand. Choosing the right one for you will require a bit of research — here are the key visa types for people applying to work in New Zealand from the US.

Temporary work visas

Temporary work visas for New Zealand fall into a range of categories, from visas which allow holders to take on seasonal work, to temporary permission for people with specific skills to work in the country.

You’ll usually need a job offer from a New Zealand based employer before you can apply, and you’ll also be required to show that you have the same skills and qualifications that a local job holder would have.

Temporary work visas are usually offered in industries where there is a skills shortage — which means you won’t be taking work away from qualified local candidates.

The online New Zealand skills shortage checker tool can be a helpful way to assess if your application for a temporary work visa may be accepted, based on your role and industry³.

Working holiday visas

New Zealand has working holiday arrangements with many countries, which allow young people to work and travel in New Zealand for a fixed period.

If you’re aged between 18 and 30, and from the US you may be able to apply for a working holiday visa to live, work and travel in New Zealand for up to 12 months⁴.

You’ll need to complete an application and prove you have funds of at least 4,200 NZD to live on while you’re there to get started.

Wondering how much that would cost you in USD? Check the converter below

Resident visas

If you’re planning on staying in New Zealand for longer a resident visa class may be better for your needs. Here are a few of the most common.

Skilled migrant visa

The New Zealand skilled migrant visa allows holders to live and work in the country indefinitely. It’s offered to people who the government feels will contribute to the economic development of New Zealand⁵.

To apply for this visa you’ll need to send an Expression of Interest which is assessed by issuing points for different skills, experiences and potential contributions you can make. Factors like your qualifications, language abilities and the industry you work in all make a difference to your suitability. If you score enough points you may be issued a visa.

Entrepreneur visa

The New Zealand entrepreneur visa is aimed at people who have been self employed in New Zealand for at least 6 months, or who have run a business there for 2 years or more⁶.

To qualify you may need to demonstrate the capital you’ve invested in your business, and show you’ve created 3 or more jobs for local people.

Accredited employer visa

If you have a job offer from an accredited employer in New Zealand you may qualify for this visa category. It’s worth noting that the terms of this visa are changing in the middle of 2022 — the older type of accredited employer visa is only being issued to people who are renewing a visa at the time of research⁷.

Under the new accredited employer visa which will be active from July 2022, holders may be able to apply for New Zealand resident status as long as they’ve been employed by the same employer for 2 years, and are paid double the median wage or more⁸.

Work to residence visa

Depending on the type of work visa you have, you may be able to change to a longer term residence visa in future. Different criteria and eligibility requirements are in place based on the original visa you held, and your longer term intentions.

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How to get a New Zealand work visa: application process

In most cases you can apply for your New Zealand work visa online, although there are a small number of visa categories where you need a hard copy of the paperwork to get started.

The exact process you need to go through will depend on the visa type — but the basic steps will be as follows:

Step 1. Decide on the type of visa that best suits your needs — your employer may help with this

Step 2. Gather the paperwork you’ll need to submit your application

Step 3. Submit your application — this can usually be done online

Step 4. Wait for a visa decision — you’ll be notified if you need to provide any supporting materials

Read further: New Zealand jobs for expats

Important information on New Zealand work visas and permits

Let’s look at some other key information to be aware of if you’re considering applying for a work visa for New Zealand.

How long is the processing time for work visas?

The processing time for your visa application will depend on the specific visa type, and whether you’re applying from outside or inside of New Zealand.

There’s a handy tool on the New Zealand immigration services website which allows you to review the average waiting times for different visa types based on your nationality and location.

Here are some example wait times at the time of writing⁵:

Visa TypeTimeframe
Essential skills visa90% of applications are processed within 4 months
Accredited employer visaaverage processing time of 78 days
Working holiday visa for US citizensaverage processing time of 80 days

How much does it cost to get a work visa in New Zealand?

The application fees for different visa types can vary based on where you’re applying from and your nationality. Here are a few examples, based on a US citizen applying from the US prior to travel to New Zealand.

New Zealand working visa typeCost
Working holiday visa
    35 NZD application fee
Skilled migrant visa
  • 530 NZD initial application fee
  • 3,310 NZD application for residence fee
Entrepreneur resident visa
    4,140 NZD application fee
Accredited employer visa
    No application fee for US residents

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Which documents will you need to get a New Zealand work permit?

The documents you need to support your New Zealand work visa application vary based on the visa type. As an example, let’s look at the requirements for the skilled migrant visa type⁹:

  • 2 passport photos
  • Your valid passport
  • Your birth certificate
  • Clear police record check
  • Health certificate
  • English language proficiency test if you’re not a native speaker
  • Evidence of your suitability for the job you’ve been offered — usually provided by your employer
  • Evidence of your qualifications and work experience
  • Expression of interest showing why you want to apply for this visa

Documents may need to be certified, and if they’re not issued in English will usually have to be translated by an approved translator.

How will getting a work visa in New Zealand affect your spouse and family members?

You may be able to apply for New Zealand visas for your spouse and dependent children, according to your visa type.

In this case your family members will often need to apply separately and demonstrate that they fulfil the visa requirements around good character, health and English language proficiency themselves.

Moving to a new country is exciting but there’s a lot to do — and it can be a relatively stressful process. However, there’s plenty of help on hand and the New Zealand government and immigration service website is very comprehensive, offering guidance, information and support for applicants.

Use this guide to start off your research — and don’t forget to check out Wise as a smart way to save money on currency exchange and payments when you live overseas. One less thing to worry about as you prepare for your new life in New Zealand.


  1. Immigration NZ - New Zealand visas
  2. NZ Government - Applying for a work visa
  3. Skill Shortages
  4. Immigration NZ - USA working holiday visa
  5. Immigration NZ - Skilled migrant resident visa
  6. Immigration NZ - Entrepreneur resident visa
  7. Immigration NZ - Talent accredited employers work to residence visa
  8. Immigration NZ - New employer accreditation and work visa
  9. Immigration NZ - Skilled migrant resident visa

Sources checked on 01.18.2021

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