Essential Skills Work Visa

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

This article was prepared in May 2013. It is intended as general information and not specific legal advice. If you want legal advice about a problem, you can contact the author below.


Putting aside the fancy name, the essential skills work visa category is basically New Zealand's general work visa category.

If you are not a New Zealand resident or citizen, you will need a work visa to undertake any employment in New Zealand.

What is Employment?

Immigration New Zealand ("INZ") defines employment as any activity for gain or reward.  Gain or rewards include providing any benefits that can be valued in money such as board or lodging, goods or services.


What do I need to apply?

A skilled job offer and evidence that no suitably qualified New Zealand citizen or resident are available to take up the position.

What is considered a skilled job?

There is this 854 page document called the Australian and New Zealand Classification of Occupations ("ANZSCO") which outlines all the jobs you can think of and the corresponding skill level of the occupation.

Generally speaking, applicants are most successful when they apply for positions with skill levels of 1 to 3.  If you are applying for a position with skill level 4 or 5, it is highly likely that a New Zealand citizen or resident can already do that job.

I do not really want to read through 854 pages, can you sum it up?

If your job requires a qualification or professional registration, chances are that it is a skill level 1 or 2 position.  This means you will be in a much better position to demonstrate that no suitably qualified New Zealand citizen or resident is available to take the position.

What if I do not have any qualifications but I have work experience?

The ANZSCO allows for substitution of work experience for qualifications.  Generally, skill level 1 positions require a Bachelor degree or 5 years' work experience.  For those skill level 2 or 3 positions, a Diploma or Certificate qualification can be substituted with three years' work experience.

How do I show that no suitably qualified New Zealand citizen or resident is available to take up the skilled job offer made to me?

Excellent question.  How do you prove a negative?  How do you show that there are no New Zealand citizens or residents anywhere in the world that could take up the position?  This requirement, as it is currently drafted in INZ policy, is potentially impossible to meet.

Practically however, INZ will look at the following factors:

  1. Evidence of the employer making a genuine attempt to recruit New Zealand workers.
  2. Advice from Work and Income New Zealand ("WINZ").
  3. The employer's support for you as a suitably qualified person to undertake the position.

What does my employer need to do in order to make this genuine attempt to recruit?

Different positions will require different modes of attempt to recruit. Generally speaking however, the employer will need to advertise in the media (eg newspapers and websites) for a reasonable duration. The duration of advertising should not be any less than two weeks, and in an ideal situation should be more than four weeks.

Do I need to do anything about WINZ or does INZ take care of that?

Employers would be well advised to list the job position with WINZ. This can serve as evidence of a genuine attempt to recruit. In addition, if there are no suitable candidates for WINZ, this can serve as additional evidence that no suitably qualified New Zealand citizen or resident can take up the position.


Want to know more about business visas to New Zealand?

Talk to Kishen Kommu.   Kishen is an Associate at McVeagh Fleming specialising in the areas of immigration law and civil litigation. Kishen can be contacted on +64 9 306 6748 or by email (