Working in New Zealand


Work and migrant visa are issued by Immigration New Zealand. Details and requirements can be found at the INZ website.

New Zealand welcomes migrants and skilled workers who contribute valuable skills and qualifications to our country. However, finding a job in New Zealand may be a challenge.

The job market in New Zealand is very competitive and you may find that some employers do not recognise your overseas qualifications and training.

Although you may have gained "points" towards your New Zealand residence approval based on your qualifications and experience, this may not mean you will easily find a job in your chosen career.

We recommend you check to see if your qualifications are recognised in New Zealand. If they are not, you may have to consider extra study or retraining to get the job you want. Alternatively, you may find work in the same area, but at a more "junior" level than you may be used to, but this may not qualify for visa. As there are so many work visa options, it is advisable to ask a registered migration agent for advice.

It is very important that you can read, write and speak English. Most New Zealand employers prefer to employ immigrants with good English language skills, and you may find it difficult or even impossible to find work if your English is at a moderate or beginner level.

Your qualifications in New Zealand

The more experience and qualifications you have to offer, the better your chances of finding work will be.

If you hold overseas qualifications, these may be recognised or they may count towards a New Zealand qualification. It is very important that you find out whether your qualifications will be recognised before you move.

You can apply to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to have your qualifications assessed before you arrive in New Zealand. The NZQA has a specialist team, the Qualifications Evaluation Service, which will assess your qualifications in comparison with current New Zealand qualifications.

NZQA will charge you a fee to assess your overseas qualifications. The assessment takes about eight to 10 weeks.

NZQA evaluations are official assessments, but they are not binding on employers, professional bodies or educational institutions. Some employers may not recognise your overseas qualifications and training, but most will.

In addition, some trades and professional people, such as electricians, plumbers, doctors and teachers, need to get permission from the relevant registration board before they can work here. See Registration Bodies for contact details.

If your profession falls under one of the categories listed there, it will be a good idea to contact the registration body before applying for residence. You may need to do extra training or examinations and there is sometimes a waiting list for this.

Make sure you bring proof of your qualifications to New Zealand. These should be originals.
You should have the original of:

  • each degree, diploma or certificate you have been awarded
  • official transcripts, listing the subjects you studied and the marks or grades you obtained
  • apprenticeship documents
  • practising certificate, licence or registration details
  • evidence of professional, vocational or trade-related employment and experience
  • translations of all non-English documents prepared by an official translation service
  • proof of any name change (such as a marriage certificate or deed poll).

You may also be asked to provide a syllabus or course description and/or a list of marks for each qualification.

More information can be found at the website of NZQA

New Zealand's labour market

In New Zealand you are entitled to at least the minimum wage if you are 16 years old or over. The minimum wage is set by law, and rates of pay in your employment contract cannot be less than this no matter which field you are working in.

Major industries are located throughout New Zealand, but some parts of the country are better suited than others to industries such as agriculture and viticulture. Others have developed as centres of excellence in particular industries, such as Canterbury and its electronics industry.

Finding a job in New Zealand

If you apply for a job through an employment agency, you do not have to pay any fees - the employer pays the agency when the job is filled. You can also register with an employment agency and be contacted when suitable jobs become available. Unfortunately, you will find many recruiters unwilling to help unless you already have a valid visa.

Personal contacts are often the best way of finding out about jobs when you are in New Zealand so make use of any relevant contacts you may have.
Ask friends, family, neighbours and other personal contacts for information about job possibilities or make good use of professional job search services.
With the current economy not being what it used to be, with many candidates competing for every job, any job search may require many hundreds of CV's and cover letters to be send to potential employers.
The time involved for you will be substantial, and a professional job searcher may offer an excellent alternative.

CV and Cover Letters

We can help you with a CV, suitable for job search in New Zealand, click here!

Most advertisements ask for written applications - you will need to have an up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV) to send. You should attach a one-page covering letter to your CV with your contact details and your skills and experience most suited to the job.

Your CV is an important document and both it and the cover letter should be written in clear English. A CV is your personal sales tool - a record of your skills and experience, your interests and hobbies and your work history.

There are commercial organisations in New Zealand that will help you to write your CV, or if you are applying through an employment agency, they may rewrite your CV for you.

For our clients, a CV that is respected troughout the country will be included in our service.

Your CV should include details that are relevant to the job you are applying for including:

  • your skills
  • a list of your work history
  • details of your education and training
  • your contact details

A 'functional CV' matches your skills to the particular job you are applying for. It will have:

  • a clearly stated job goal (for the particular job)
  • your skills (that suit the particular job)
  • a short list of your work history
  • details of your education and training

A 'chronological CV' is a record of all your jobs and education in the order you did them. It can be used for many job applications.

References are also important - if you have them, attach copies of written references (in English) to your CV. Some employers will also ask for a verbal referee, so you will need to give contact details. Your referees should be able to speak English.

While you should bring the original documents with you to New Zealand, only send photocopies of your references and certificates to employers as they may not always return them.

Employment Contracts & Laws

This is a general overview of laws on employment in New Zealand. For more information contact the Employment Relations Service of the Department of Labour who have a free phone service for advice on employment contract matters.

Employment Contracts

All employers and employees have employment agreements with each other. This is the case even if there is nothing in writing, or if work conditions have not been discussed in detail. New legislation on employment law means that after 2 October 2000 all agreements need to be in writing.

The term "employee" as used in this section does not include self-employed people who work for others under contracts to do particular jobs or services.

Employment agreements may be individual (covering only one employee) or collective (covering more than one employee). It is up to employer(s) and employee(s) to work out how many and what types of contract they need.

Certain things must be included in employment contracts:

  • effective personal grievance procedures
  • effective disputes procedures
  • expiry date for collective employment contracts - individual contracts do not have to have an expiry date.

There are also some minimum employment conditions that apply by law to employees. They apply even if they have not been included in employment contracts.

Employers and employees cannot agree to do away with any of these entitlements. They can however agree to better provisions.

The main legal requirements are:

  • minimum wages for adult employees
  • minimum wages for trainee employees
  • an employer must pay male and female employees equally if the only difference is their sex
  • four weeks' paid annual leave after being in the job for a year
  • 11 paid statutory or public holidays per year, when these fall on days of the week when an employee would otherwise work
  • after six months' employment, five days' special leave for the next year, which can be used as sick leave, domestic leave or bereavement leave
  • after 12 months' employment up to 12 months' unpaid parental leave
  • leave for defence force volunteers

Your contract may also include conditions relating to:

  • duties and responsibilities
  • term of the contract
  • pay rates and basis for pay
  • other payments
  • pay day
  • method of pay
  • pay review
  • hours of work
  • holidays and other leave
  • training
  • health and safety
  • consultation
  • company policies/codes of conduct
  • restraint of trade
  • ending the contract - resignation, retirement, dismissal
  • redundancy
  • Unions or Employee's Organisations

Employees have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to belong to an employees' organisation, such as a union. A union is an organisation for employees who usually work in a particular type of job or group of jobs - for example, the Public Service Association and the New Zealand Nurses' Organisation.

The Employment Contracts Act 1991 says that jobs cannot be withheld from anyone because they do or do not belong to an employees' organisation.

Dismissal & Redundancy

There must be a good reason for dismissal and the dismissal must be carried out fairly. Otherwise, the employee may take a personal grievance claim against the employer.

Redundancy happens when:

  • a position filled by an employee is no longer needed, or
  • employment can no longer be continued by the employer for genuine commercial reasons.

There is no general right to redundancy compensation, but employees, employers and their representatives are free to negotiate this at any time. This can be before or after an actual redundancy is planned.


There is no set age to retire. It is unlawful to force an employee to retire because of their age.

New Zealand has a "national superannuation" scheme which entitles all New Zealanders to a pension at the age of 65 (or earlier if you were born before 1 April 1936), and KiwiSaver.

To qualify for New Zealand Superannuation, you need to have been living here for 10 years continuously since you were 20 years old, and for five years continuously since you turned 50.

Many New Zealanders are also planning for their retirement by joining private superannuation schemes or KiwiSaver. You pay money into these schemes, where it is managed to give you money to live on when you retire.

Income Tax

Income tax on earnings is required to be paid to the New Zealand government. There are no local or regional income or sales taxes. All taxes are collected by the Inland Revenue department.

Most people pay their income tax as they earn their income. Employers deduct tax based on salary and wages. This is known as PAYE (Pay As You Earn) tax. Banks and other financial institutions deduct Resident Withholding tax on interest as it is earned.

People who do not pay tax on all of their income as it is earned are required to settle their taxes with Inland Revenue at the end of the tax year (31 March). In most cases Inland Revenue will send you all the material you need to do this. If you are in this category may be required to pay 'provisional tax' in which case you must pay your tax in three instalments through the year.

If you receive any income you need an IRD number. You will need your IRD number before you start a job, or if you want to open a bank account.
You can find a copy of an individual IRD number application form at the website of IRD.

What types of income are taxed?

  • salary and wages
  • business and self-employed income
  • most social security benefits
  • income from investments
  • rental income
  • profit from selling capital assets - but this does not usually apply to personal assets
  • income you earn from overseas

All New Zealand tax residents are liable for income tax on their world-wide income. See the Business Regulations page for more information on individual taxation including the definition of a New Zealand tax resident and the current personal income tax rates.

You may be a tax resident in New Zealand and another country. If both countries tax their residents on world-wide income, you could be taxed twice. New Zealand has negotiated double taxation agreements with many other countries so that this does not happen.

Further sources of information:

Inland Revenue website

Working for Families

Working for Families is a package designed to help make it easier to work and raise a family.
It pays extra money to many thousands of New Zealand families. Greater financial support is available for:

  • almost all families with children, earning under $70,000 a year
  • many families with children, earning up to $100,000 a year
  • some larger families earning more.

This increased assistance is delivered by Work and Income and Inland Revenue.

Working for Families Tax Credits

Working for Families Tax Credits are made up of four types of payments:

  • family tax credit
  • in-work tax credit
  • minimum family tax credit
  • parental tax credit.

You may qualify for one or more, depending on your personal situation.

To estimate your entitlement you can use the online calculator, or call Inland Revenue's automated phone service INFOexpress on 0800 257 477.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Goods and services tax (GST) is charged at the rate of 15% for virtually all goods and services, excluding exports, financial services, and some other items.

If you are self employed (or a business) and your annual turnover is above a certain amount you must 'register' for GST purposes and charge GST on all your services. You can then claim back the GST paid on any business-related purchases and expenses.

Accident Insurance

All businesses and individuals pay premiums to fund New Zealand's accident compensation system (ACC), which pays for treatment, rehabilitation and earnings lost if you have an accident.

Your employer will deduct your ACC premiums from your pay at the same time as your PAYE tax. If you are self-employed, you pay ACC premiums when you pay any tax you owe at the end of the financial year.

Permanent residents and holders of work visa for 2 years and longer are eligible to receive all benefits that ACC offers.

Workplace Health & Safety

New Zealand law aims to prevent harm to workers and others in places of work. It does this by setting out the responsibilities of all people involved in the workplace to make sure it is safe.

Employers are responsible for:

  • making sure their employees are safe at work
  • identifying all hazards in the workplace
  • eliminating, isolating or minimising their employees' exposure to any hazards
  • having procedures for dealing with emergencies at work.

If you are an employee, you must not do anything at work that will harm yourself or other people.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 governs safety in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Service of the Department of Labour can give you more information on health and safety in employment.

All New Zealand workplaces are designated 'smokefree' in which no smoking is allowed.

The Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 requires every employer to have a written policy on smoking in the workplace. These policies are to be based on the principle that employees who do not smoke, or do not wish to smoke in the workplace, should be protected from exposure to tobacco smoke in the workplace.


If you have children who need looking after while you are at work, New Zealand has many childcare options, such as childcare centres, creches, home-based care and family day care or nannies.

Childcare centres for young children offer full-day or session care (i.e. up to four hours a day) and are open for up to eight or nine hours (between 7.30am and 6pm). Some centres may offer casual care in morning or afternoon sessions. Childcare centres will charge a weekly or daily fee, and an hourly fee for casual care.

Childcare centres are either licensed to take either under two-year-olds or over two-year-olds. Some childcare centres are based in a church or workplace and others, such as Montessori or Rudolph Steiner centres, have their own aims and philosophy.

Home-based care services provide a caregiver for very small groups of children in supervised homes in the community where the family needing the care lives. The main organisations that provide family day-care are Barnardo's, and the Hamilton Family Day Care Trust and Dunedin Family Day Care Trust. Their fees are charged on an hourly rate and the times are flexible - they can include evenings and weekends to help parents who work shiftwork (irregular hours).

For further information see the New Zealand Childcare Association website