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If you want to hire a foreign worker to work for your business, you need to make sure they have a valid visa with working rights. While the candidate will generally be responsible for applying for the visa, you will need to provide some supporting documentation. However, some changes will commence in 2021 to the way employers recruit foreign workers for temporary work. This article explores how to hire foreign workers in New Zealand currently and outlines changes to the law that you must be aware of. 

Steps You Need to Take

Check the Employee Can Legally Work for You

Before a foreign worker starts working for you, you must check that their visa conditions allow them to work. If they do not have a visa, you can offer them the job during your recruitment process, but the position of employment should be conditional on that person getting a visa. Indeed, the foreign worker cannot start working for you until they have a valid visa.

Although the candidate leads the current application process for most visas, this will change as of 2021 as employers will be responsible for leading the process.

Labour Market Test

Some visas require you to conduct a Labour Market Test to confirm whether there are any New Zealanders who are capable of filling the role, before you hire foreign workers. You need to show that you have made a genuine attempt to attract and recruit suitable New Zealanders for the job. Further, you must provide evidence of your recruitment attempts, such as:

  • internet advertising; and 
  • a report on how many applications you received.

As of 2021, there will be a stricter approach to the Labour Market Test. You will need to include the salary when advertising the job, provide information about low-paid jobs to the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and accept potential workers referred by MSD for a low-paid job.

Most Common Working Visas

There are two main types of work visas, including:

  • temporary; and
  • residence. 

A temporary visa has a set period of time which is usually less than five years. On the other hand, a resident visa allows the worker to stay in New Zealand indefinitely. The temporary visa can be either ‘open’ or ‘employer supported’. An open visa means the worker already has a visa that allows them to work for you.

Some examples of open work visas include:

  • working holiday visas;
  • post-study visas;
  • student visas; and
  • partner of worker work visas.

Employer Supported Visa

An employer-supported visa means you need to offer the worker a job before they can apply for a visa to work. The most common employer support temporary visa is the Essential Skills Visa. To be eligible for this visa, the role needs to be 30 hours or more a week and the duration of the visa depends on skill level and salary. 

A Labour Market Test is usually required to show that New Zealand workers are not available for the particular position. If the role is on one of the skill shortage lists, then you may not need to conduct Labour Market Testing.

Another type of employer supported visa is Work to Residence. It starts as a temporary visa but provides a resident pathway after two years. 

Residence Visas

The main residence visa is the Skilled Migrant Category Visa. This is a points-based visa and takes into account the applicant’s:

  • job offer;
  • salary;
  • work experience and academic qualifications;
  • age; and
  • job location.

The visa applicant must first submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) before Immigration New Zealand will invite the applicant to apply for residence under this category. Many foreign workers come to New Zealand on an Essential Skills Visa and then move to the Skilled Migrant Category Visa.

Accredited Employer: Now and in 2021

Currently, some employers choose to become an accredited employer when they regularly need to recruit skilled foreign workers. This allows them to carry out the employment process without needing to conduct a Labour Market Test each time they submit a visa application. 

However, this is about to change. As of 2021, all employers must be accredited to hire foreign workers on the new temporary work visa. Additionally, you may still need to carry out a Labour Market Test.

 The new temporary visa will be replacing the:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa;
  • Essential Skills Work Visa — approved in principle;
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa;
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa;
  • Silver Fern Job Search Visa; and
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.

From 2021, employers wanting to employ foreign workers on the new temporary work visa will use a 3-step process, involving:

  1. an employer check, that is, a mandatory employer accreditation for all employers;
  2. a job check, including a market salary rate check to make sure salary is paid in line with New Zealand market rate and a labour market test to ensure New Zealand workers are not available; and
  3. a worker check, meaning that when the worker applies for a visa, they must meet character, identity and health requirements, as well as show that they have the skills to do the job.

Key Takeaways

There are certain requirements that you must follow before you hire foreign workers, such as checking their visa conditions to confirm whether they can legally work in New Zealand. As of 2021, the new employer-led process will commence, which will streamline the process for you to employ foreign workers. If you need assistance with the process of employing foreign employees to work for your company, contact LegalVision’s New Zealand employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.


Can I Hire an Overseas Employee?

Yes, you can hire an overseas employee provided they can legally work for you. This means that they need a valid visa. Importantly, some visas will require you to conduct a Labour Market Test.

Can I Offer Someone a Job Before They Have a Working Visa?

Yes, you can offer a candidate a job before they have a valid visa to work in New Zealand. However, the offer of employment should be conditional on the visa being granted. This is because they cannot actually start working for you until they have a visa.

What is the Labour Market Test?

If you want to sponsor a foreign worker to gain employment in New Zealand, you may need to conduct a Labour Market Test. This involves assessing whether any New Zealand citizens are capable of filling the role before you hire overseas workers.

What Visa Should a Foreign Worker Apply For to Work for My New Zealand Business?

Your candidate can apply for a temporary visa, which limits their capacity to stay in New Zealand to a set period of time. Alternatively, a residence visa allows them to stay in New Zealand indefinitely. This could be an Employer Supported Visa or a Skilled Migrant Category Visa.

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