Essential Skills Work Visa

Essential Skills Work Visa

Putting aside the fancy name, the Essential Skills Work Visa is basically New Zealand's General Work Visa.

If you are not a holder of a New Zealand Resident Visa, or a 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 undertaken for gain or reward".  This definition does not require employment as an employee.  It also covers self-employment.

However an Essential Skills Work Visa is only intended for people who are full-time employees.

What do I Need to Apply?

  1. A skilled job offer for a full-time job of at least 30 work hours per week; and
  3. Evidence that no suitably qualified New Zealand citizen or resident is available to take up the position (unless the position is listed on one of the essential skills in demand lists).        

What is Considered a 'Skilled Job'?

The Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations ("ANZSCO") outlines all recognised occupations and corresponding skills. There are five levels of occupations (1 to 5).  Generally speaking, you are more likely to be successful with your visa application when your position is skill level 1 to 3.  If your position is skill level 4 or 5, it is highly likely that a New Zealand citizen or resident can do the job or be    trained for it.

If applying for a position of level 1 to 3, the length of the work visa depends on your hourly rate.  The maximum length of this visa is five years but the usual length granted is between one and three years. Such visa, being the mid-skilled or high-skilled band of the Essential Skills Work Visa, allows you to apply for a Skilled Immigrant Resident Category Visa.

Level 4 and 5 occupations generally only result in the grant of a one year work visa without the option to apply for a resident visa.  Such one year visa can be granted only three times consecutively before you have to spend at least 12 months out of New Zealand.

What if I do not Have any Qualifications but I Have Work Experience?

The ANZSCO usually allows for substitution of work experience for qualifications.  Generally, skill level 1 occupations require a bachelor degree or five years' work experience.  For skill level 2 or 3 occupations a diploma or certificate qualification can be substituted by three years' work experience.

How do I Show That no Suitable Qualified New Zealand Citizen or Resident is Available to Take up the Skilled Job Offer Made to me?

It is difficult to prove a negative, but practically INZ will look at the following factors:

  1. Evidence provided by the employer that the employer made a genuine attempt(s) to recruit New Zealanders, such evidence is usually unsuccessful advertising of the position, and an explanation from the employer why no New Zealanders can be trained for the position.
  3. Advice from Work and Income New Zealand ("WINZ").  This usually comes in the form of a Skills Match Report which is supplied by WINZ after it unsuccessfully advertised the position.
  5. The employer's support for you as a suitably qualified person to undertake the position, usually in the form of the employer providing an Employer's Supplementary Form to your application as well as an employment contract, job offer and job description.        

What Does my Employer Need to do in Order to Make a Genuine Attempt to Recruit?

Different positions will require different modes of an attempt to recruit.  In most cases the employer will need to advertise in the media (newspapers and websites) for a reasonable duration.  The duration of advertising should ideally be more than four weeks.

What About the WINZ Skills Match Report?

If you are applying for a level 4 or 5 position the advertising via WINZ and the Skills Match Report are compulsory.  However, in any case, it is advisable that the employer lists the job position with WINZ.  This can serve as additional evidence of genuine attempt to recruit.

If you want to know more about the Essential Skills Work Visa or other work visas to New Zealand please contact Anet Tarabova.  Anet is a Solicitor at McVeagh Fleming specialising in the areas of immigration law    and civil litigation.      

Anet can be contacted by email ( or on +64 9 966 3604.

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© McVeagh Fleming 2018

This article is published for general information purposes only. Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require specific legal advice in respect of any legal issue, you should always engage a lawyer to provide that advice.