Jobs Abroad

How to Get a Job in New Zealand

Working in New Zealand isn't necessarily as straightforward as applying for a job and getting the correct visa. Read on to find everything you need to know to get a job in New Zealand.

Photo by Maddie A., Massey University Alum

New Zealand is a highly desirable travel destination, with a high standard of living, stunning natural resources, and a welcoming and inclusive culture. Access to outdoor recreation and exhilarating activities are never far away, and the social services, including high-quality healthcare and world-class education, make it a wonderful place to live and work.

Since New Zealand is such an appealing destination, finding work can be challenging. There are various categories of work visas, and not all are available to all applicants or professions. Read on to find out how to get a job in New Zealand.

1. Determine which visa best fits your needs

Photo by Desirae M., USAC Alum

If you're wondering, "how do I qualify to work in New Zealand?" then the answer is not as complicated as you may think. There are several ways to get a job and move to New Zealand but before you jump into your employment search, you'll need to consider the legalities. Knowing what visa you qualify for is key to making your next move.

When looking at the different visa types you may be able to apply for, the two most important questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • What kind of work do you want to do?
  • How long do you want to stay?

The answers to these questions will determine which visa category is right for you and, therefore, the proper strategy for looking for jobs.

If you want to work in New Zealand temporarily while traveling around the country, a working holiday visa would be best. If you want to migrate more permanently to New Zealand, you'll need a different kind of visa.

Keep in mind that many visa categories require applicants reach a specific grade in the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test to show proficiency in English. This won't be an issue if you're coming from a predominantly English-speaking country (such as the USA, Canada, or the UK). However, non-native speakers should be aware that they may need to take this test in order to be granted a visa.

Let's take a look at the options available to you in order to make your dream of getting a job and moving to New Zealand come true!

Working Holiday Visa

Man and dog walk on beach at sunset.

Length of visa: 12 months for US citizens

If you're a US citizen under 30 years of age (or 35 for Canadian citizens) and want to divide your time in New Zealand between working and tourism activities, the Working Holiday Visa is a good option.

This is not a visa category for professionals who want to settle in New Zealand. Most Working Holiday Visa holders do casual work in bars, cafes, hostels, or orchards during the peak tourism season. You are generally not allowed to work for one employer for more than 6 months at a time. Perfect for hopping around the North and South Islands!

Currently, citizens from 45 countries are eligible for this scheme. The intake for some countries is restricted by a quota, meaning once that quota is full, applications will close until the following year. If this applies to you, it's a good idea to get your application in early during the calendar year if you're from a country with set quotas. However, currently, there are an unlimited number of visas for US, Canadian, Irish, and UK citizens available.

In order to qualify for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, you must:

  • Have adequate funds for a return ticket and to support yourself in New Zealand
  • Be able to prove that your primary reason for coming to New Zealand is tourism and that you're just planning to do a bit of work to support your travels
  • Have medical insurance coverage for the length of your time in New Zealand
  • Have a medical certificate that states you are in good health

It's also important to note that Working Holiday Visa applications from several countries (including China, the Philippines, Turkey, and others) require the applicant to take a test to demonstrate English proficiency. Even if your nationality doesn't require you to take a test, it's important to know that for most jobs in New Zealand you will need a high level of spoken English.

Find out more about New Zealand Working Holiday Visas in the following article: Everything to Know About Planning Your New Zealand Working Holiday

Skilled migrant residence visa (no job offer)

Length of visa: indefinitely for those who meet the visa conditions

In simple terms, this is a general work permit for skilled professionals hoping to relocate to New Zealand on a more permanent basis.

To apply for the skilled migrant visa, you need to follow these steps:

  • Submit an Expression of Interest (EOI): Selection for this visa operates on a points-based system. Points are awarded for things like age, occupation, work experience, and education. To be accepted to the applicant pool, you need a minimum of 100 points. However, the government is currently only accepting those with 160 or more points.
  • Be invited to apply for residence: Around every two weeks, the government selects applicants from the EOI pool. If selected, your points will be verified and you'll be invited to apply for residence.
  • Complete and submit your residence application: Once you complete and return your application form, your wait begins for final approval to get your visa.

To check where your career field ranks on the scale of skilled professionals, you can search for your title in the ANZSCO database. There is also a list of long-term skills shortage occupations that includes fields like engineering, psychology, medicine, and science as well as trades like mechanic and electrician.

Due to COVID-19, wait times are currently long as processing was delayed significantly. The New Zealand government updates the overview of the application queue every two weeks.

Accredited Employer Work Visa (have a job offer)

Length of visa: up to 3 years with the possibility of switching to an Essential Skills Visa after this period of time

To qualify for this visa, you will need a job offer of at least 30 hours a week from an accredited New Zealand employer. The catch with this process is that your potential employer must prove that no New Zealand citizen can do the job you are being hired to do. This prioritizes jobs for local residents, a policy that's present in many countries around the world.

Your best bet to be granted this visa is to work in a skilled occupation with a good amount of relevant work experience. You will need to apply for these jobs from your home country through job websites. We'll detail this process more in the next steps!

The full criteria can be found on the New Zealand immigration website.

Other less common options

A group of athletes stand in a huddle in an empty stadium.

To understand what other options you may be eligible for, you can explore visa types on New Zealand's immigration website. Two other types we'll highlight include visas for partners of New Zealand citizens and for people with exceptional talent in the arts, culture, and sports.

Partnership Work Visa

Length of visa:

If you're in a long-term relationship with a New Zealand citizen, you may find that applying for a Partnership Work Visa is your best option. This is especially so if you don't meet the requirements for any of the other visa categories, such as if you're over the age limit for a working holiday visa, or don't work in a profession highly sought after in New Zealand.

Applying for a Partnership Work Visa can be a laborious process, as you'll need to provide documentation for the duration of your relationship. While you don't need to be legally married, you're only eligible if you've been living together for at least a year.

The waiting time can be several months, and you should expect to be thoroughly scrutinized by immigration officials. But, this visa type is a good option for people in genuine relationships with New Zealand citizens who have the documentation to prove it.

Talent Work Visa

Length of visa: up to 30 months with the possibility of converting to permanent residency afterward

This visa is designed to attract talented individuals within the arts, culture, or sport. If you have an international reputation and/or are prominent in your field, this may be for you. Aside from meeting the general criteria you'll also need to be sponsored by a national organization.

2. Polish up your New Zealand resume

A woman stands on a bench with her back to the camera, the city of Auckland, NZ is in the background.

In New Zealand, resumes are generally called CVs, or Curriculum Vitae. Employers look for similar types of things on CVs as they do in the US or UK but here are some general tips for making your resume NZ-friendly:

  • It's generally uncommon to include a headshot of yourself on your CV.
  • Keep it short and to the point.
  • Be confident and thorough but don't boast about your accomplishments.
  • Include basic information like location, number of employers, and a website for any employers from outside of New Zealand.
  • Most employers ask for the contact details for two references so be sure to let your referees know ahead of time that you're listing them.

Organizations in New Zealand look for specific skills and attributes like a positive attitude, teamwork, critical thinking, and communication in potential employees so be sure to highlight these and provide examples on your CV and/or in your cover letter as they apply to the job you're applying for.

For free CV and cover letter templates, check out the New Zealand government's career website.

3. Search and apply for jobs

A couple sit at a table having coffee with a mountin scene through the window.

If you are attempting to secure a work visa through an accredited employer, you'll need to apply for a job before you get to New Zealand. Common online general job sites include:

Career-specific job sites can help those looking for employment in a particular sector:

If you've got a Working Holiday Visa, in most cases you'll want to wait until you're in the country to apply for jobs. Staying in a hostel is a good way to get a feel for the job market, as you'll likely see posters on noticeboards advertising for seasonal staff. Word of mouth among travelers is one of the best resources here. In towns with a lot of tourists, you'll also often see signs in shop and restaurant windows seeking staff during the busy season.

The exception is if you're seeking a job in seasonal adventure activities, such as skiing or white-water rafting. Jobs in these industries generally need some skills and experience, and you'll need to contact employers a few months before the start of the season, as jobs tend to fill up fast.

The Go Overseas Work Abroad Programs & Jobs page is a great place to start a New Zealand job search. Here you can find a huge range of jobs advertised in many fields, from au pairs to software developers, healthcare providers to camp counselors.

Say "kia ora" to New Zealand!

A man stands on a cliff with snow-capped mountains in the background.

Whatever brings you to New Zealand, your time there is sure to be filled with outdoor adventures, welcoming locals, and unique experiences. Even though working in a different country can be a daunting prospect, the various visa options that the New Zealand government provides makes it much easier to find a path that works for you. And when it comes to the actual job hunt, you just have to be persistent with your research and make sure you're regularly checking job boards.

In no time at all you could be saying "kia ora" to New Zealand!

Continue your research for your move to New Zealand with GO: