Essential Skills Work Visa for New Zealand

A popular temporary work visa options that allows employment in New Zealand from 1 to 3 years.

A popular option

By far the most popular temporary New Zealand work visa option, the Essential Skills Work visa requires you to have an offer of full-time employment in New Zealand. There are specific requirements for a job offer to be acceptable. You must be deemed qualified for the position offered, and the salary or hourly-rate offered will determine the duration of your visa (12 months or 3 years) and the requirements for the employer to test the labour market prior to offering you the position.

Can I be offered employment without holding a visa?

This is a frequent question; have a look at our ‘catch-22’ page.

Essential Skills Salary Threshold

Policy under the Essential Skills work visa category does require that you are paid at a minimum salary threshold (or equivalent hourly rate) in order to be eligible. This is typically indexed on the New Zealand median wage which gets reviewed each year in November. Note that Immigration New Zealand will also want to ensure you are paid at "market rate" ie you are offered what a New Zealander would be offered for the same position, based on the experience and the level of responsibility required.

If you are paid at or above median wage ($27/hour from 19 July 2021), your visa is granted for up to 3 years, and this opens right for your partner to seek a work visa and your children to seek student visas to student as domestic students.

If you are paid at below median wage, your visa is granted for 12 month, and your partner and dependent children may only visit.

How long can I stay in New Zealand for?

Depending on your salary, this visa is granted from 6 months to 3 years, may be renewable. You may also study for up to 3 months per year, or as part of your employment (if required by your employer).

Although this visa does not lead to residence, it is often used as a stepping-stone towards an application under the Skilled Migrant Category.


Depending on your situation, your Essential Skills Work Visa may come with conditions. These could specify restrictions in regard to:

    • a specific occupation, and/or
    • a specific employer, and/or
    • a specific location, and/or
    • travel restrictions

Unless your occupation features on one of the Essential Skills in Demand lists, your employer will need to prove they have attempted to recruit New Zealanders before they can hire a migrant.

Note, there are no English requirements for this visa, although INZ will expect you to have sufficient English proficiency to fulfil your work obligations.

Can I bring my family with me?

Your family may not be included in your application. However, they may be able to apply separately based on their relationship to you (spouse and dependents). The salary offered also determines visa options for your family.

Note, this visa will not allow you to be self-employed; you may want to look into the Entrepreneur visa as an alternative option. Talk to us now to discuss your options!