New Zealand: Essential Skills Work Visa

Essential Skills Work Visa for New Zealand

Fraser Clarke

Essential Skills Work Visa

If you have been offered a full-time job, and you have the necessary qualifications and experience to work in that job, you can apply for a temporary visa to work in New Zealand. Your employer must have checked if any New Zealanders were available to do the work, before offering you the job. 

If you are granted this visa, you may be able to support visa applications for your partner and dependent children.


Visa Overview

With this visa you can:
  • Work in New Zealand for an employer who has offered you a full-time job.
  • Study for up to 3 months in any 12 month period, or do any study required as part of your employment.
  • Stay in New Zealand for up to 3 years depending upon the pay rate of the job you have been offered
  • You may work only in the specific occupation, for the employer and in the location specified on your visa.
  • You must be paid at or above the New Zealand median wage for work that is assessed as paying at or above the New Zealand median wage.
  • You must leave New Zealand before your visa expires.

Upcoming Visa Changes 

From 19 July 2021

These changes will:
  • streamline the application process
  • Increase visa duration
This includes:
  • Increasing the maximum duration of an Essential Skills visa for jobs paid below the median wage from 12 to 24 months
  • Removing the requirement to provide medical and police certificates if these have already been provided to Immigration New Zealand, even if they were provided more than 36 months ago
  • If the applicant is remaining in their current full time employment and not changing their role, employer or location of work
    • the employer will no longer need to meet labour market test and
    • applicants and employers will be able to make declarations in place of providing evidence that the requirements are met

To be eligible for the removal of the labour market test and new evidence requirements, you must also hold one of the following visas:

  • Any work visa (including a Working Holiday Visa)
  • A student visa to study Masters or PhD
  • A Critical Purpose visitor visa granted as a critical health worker, or granted for more than six months as an ‘other critical worker’.


From 30 August 2021 

  • you will be able to apply online.
  • changes to requirements apply up to the middle of 2022. (An update will be provided as soon as an exact date is confirmed.)
  • Labour market tests will still be required from employers for vacant roles, or where the worker will change the region they work in for the employer. 
  • Fees for the two-year Essential Skills visa will remain the same at $440 plus the Immigration Levy of $55. Employers are encouraged to meet these costs.  


The Essential Skills Visa will be replaced by a new visa in mid 2022.


From Mid 2022: Accredited Employer Work Visa

New accreditation and single work visa (Employer Lead)

  • The Accredited Employer Work Visa will replace 6 temporary work visas with one. 
  • The new 3-check visa application process is led by the employer before the migrant applies. 
  • The system will introduce 3 checks before an employer can hire a migrant worker. These checks are:
  1. the employer check — employers need accreditation to pass this
  2. the job check
  3. the migrant worker check
  • If you have a current temporary work visa you will not be affected as long as you are meeting your visa conditions and your visa remains valid.
  • If you have a Residence from Work visa application underway (requiring a further Work to Residence visa to be granted residence), you will be able to continue this process if you remain with your employer.
  • The changes to accredited employer work visas will not affect other work visas holders.

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