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Visa Approvals For South Koreans Set To Increase

By David Fisher, New Zealand Shores, Law and Policy Adviser

From 20 December 2015, changes to New Zealand Immigration Policy will mean that South Korean nationals may find it much easier to live and work in New Zealand. The changes to policy have been introduced as a result of the signing of a free trade agreement between the two nations earlier this year and will include changes to the Working Holiday Scheme, the addition of Korea as a qualifying country under the Primary Sector Trainees policy and the creation of a new special work category for Korean nationals.

New Zealand and South Korea have long had a unique bond dating back to the Korean War (1950-1953) during which 6000 New Zealanders served. A New Zealand embassy was opened in Seoul in 1971 and the two countries regularly hold ministerial and official meetings. Trade between the two nations totalled over $4 billion in 2014 and is set to increase as a result of the recently ratified Free Trade Agreement.

The changes to Immigration policy for Korean national fall into three main categories:

  1. New special work instructions are being added for the Republic of Korea which will allow qualified and/or experienced Korean nationals to be granted work visas for up to three years in certain occupations.
  2. Republic of Korea has been added to the qualifying countries under the Primary Sector Trainees instructions, allowing up to 50 Korean nationals to be granted a work visa to undertake vocational programmes of study and work placements.
  3. The number of available places in the Korea Working Holiday Scheme has been increased from 1,800 to 3,000 each year. The restriction on working for the same employer for no more than three months has been removed.


New Work Visa Category

The new special work category is in essence very similar to the Essential Skills Work category, in that the main requirement is that the applicant must have an offer of employment and otherwise meet the health and character requirements for temporary entry. The key advantage of this new special category is that if an applicant has a job offer on the list of accepted occupations, and meets the associated requirements, there will be no need to conduct a Labour Market Check. This means that the employer will not be required to prove that they have made attempts to recruit available New Zealanders for the position, allowing them freedom to recruit directly from Korea. The category is only available to Koreans who are ordinarily and actually resident in Korea at the time of application and applies to the following occupations:

  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Food Technologist
  • Forest Scientist
  • Korean Language Instructor
  • Korean Tour Guide
  • Multimedia Designer (Film Animator)
  • Taekwondo Instructor
  • Traditional Korean Medicine Doctor
  • Software Engineer
  • Veterinarian


To find out if you meet the requirements for these occupations or whether this visa is the right one for you you should contact a licensed immigration adviser or lawyer.

Primary Sector Trainees

This work visa provides an opportunity for primary sector trainees from  countries with whom New Zealand has an agreement and are supported by their home government to undertake vocational  programmes of study and gain work experience in their chosen fields.

The 12 month work visa provides for a minimum of three months vocational study at a high quality education provider followed by a land-based primary sector work placement (excluding forestry) of up to nine months.

Primary sector trainees are expected to return to their home country for at least two years after the completion of their study and work experience placement to apply these new skills and knowledge.

As of 20 December 2015 Korea will be added to the list of qualifying countries under this scheme.

Korea Working Holiday Scheme

Each year a limited number of places are available for citizens of South Korea between the ages of 18 and 30 to be granted a 12 month working holiday visa under this scheme. The primary aim of the scheme, which is also offered to citizens of many other countries, is to allow young people to travel and spend time in New Zealand while undertaking employment.

To fulfil this purpose the original requirements of the scheme have been that a working holiday visa holder can not work for the same employer for more than three months. From 20 December 2015 this restriction will be removed, allowing applicants free choice of employment during their entire 12 month stay, and the number of available places has been increased from 1800 to 3000.

If you are a Korean national and you would like to know more about obtaining a visa to live and work in New Zealand then we can help. One of our licensed advisers can assist you in preparing a structured plan to achieve your migration goals.

David Fisher

New Zealand Shores Immigration Law and Policy Adviser