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Essential skills

Visas designed to fill employment gaps when no New Zealanders are available or cannot be quickly trained

Essential Skills work visas are designed to develop a highly skilled workforce, high quality jobs and workplaces, and high value industries in New Zealand. Essential Skills work visas may only be granted if:

  • the employment is acceptable; and
  • there are no New Zealand citizens or residents available for the work; and
  • the employer meets requirements; and
  • the applicant meets requirements.

Depending on the salary, you may be able to support temporary visas for family members. There are two types of salaries – either ‘paid at or above the median wage’ ($25.50 or more) or ‘paid below the median wage’ (less than $25.50).

To approve an Essential Skills work visa, an immigration officer must be satisfied that there are no New Zealanders available to do the job on offer. To prove this, companies would normally be expected to advertise your position online and genuinely try to recruit someone local. The extent and nature of advertising or use of other appropriate means of recruitment would normally mean:

  • listing the vacancy with Work and Income, if appropriate;
  • advertising the vacancy in a national newspaper and/or website;
  • contracting a recruitment company appropriate to the industry.

If all of these did not help and the company only has an option to hire a visa holder, then they can offer the job and provide and Employer Supplementary Form for the work visa application.

An Essential Skills work visa may be granted for the period for which the employment is offered, up to a maximum of:

  • 3 years for employment paid at or above the median wage; or
  • 6 months for employment assessed as lower-skilled, where the
  • application is made between 10 July 2020 and 10 January 2022 inclusive, unless a 6 month visa would result in the holder exceeding the 3 year maximum period holding Essential Skills visas for lower-skilled employment; or
  • 1 year for employment paid below the median wage, where the application is made from 11 January 2022, unless a 1 year visa would result in the holder exceeding the 3 year maximum period allowed under; or
  • 3 years for employment for an accredited labour hire company; or
  • 1 year or 6 months if the applicant meets the requirements for people also applying under the Skilled Migrant Category for a resident visa.
Disclaimer: information on our website is presented for general guidance only and may not reflect the latest changes in immigration law (though we always aim to update it as soon as practically possible). Please refer to Immigration New Zealand website for official immigration instructions.