Detailed Overview of the Essential Skills Work Visa Updates by the INZ

Essential Skills Work Visa Updates
The Essential Skills Work visa provision allows any person who is not a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand to work within the country’s bounds provided they receive an employment offer and meet certain conditions.
This visa category was adopted owing to a need to recruit specialized employees because of a shortage of skilled laborers in specific critical industries in New Zealand. The NZ Skill Shortage List is a credible one that gets updated periodically and informs you about jobs and skills in-demand.

Any non-New-Zealander can make an application for the Essential Skills Work Visa if they receive a written full-time official job offer from an employer who is a citizen or resident of NZ. However, a person can only work under an employee and cannot conduct independent research as mentioned in the clauses.

Conditions and Criteria

There are certain conditions levied on both the employer as well as the non-native employee for them to request the Essential Skills Work Visa grant from the INZ authorities.

Conditions Levied on the Employer

The employer needs to fill up the supplementary form that can be procured from the INZ authorities. This form seeks information about the employer, employee position details, and an employer declaration. Book a Consultation to learn how to get in touch with prospective New Zealand employees looking to recruit!

They must prove that they have run a local labor market test.

The employer must prove that they are requesting to hire a foreigner for the designated job due to a shortage of skilled and suitable candidates in New Zealand. They must provide sufficient evidence of the extent to which they had advertised for the job, i.e., run a labor market test, offer to recruit citizens of the country, why prospective candidates were turned down, and reasons why New Zealand candidates could not be readily trained for the job.
Only if the claims are found to be true as judged by the INZ authorities will a foreigner be considered for admission under the Essential Skills Work. Given the foreign employee meets the occupational criteria as stated in the Essential Skills List, the level of proof that the employer requires to produce will depend on whether the job position is deemed high skilled or low skilled.

For high-skilled job occupations, the employer needs to produce

  • Motivational statement.
  • The text for their advertisement.
  • Details of where and for what duration their advert ran for.

For low-skilled occupations, the employer needs to produce

  • A Skills Match Report from Work and Income.
  • Motivational statement.
  • Proof of their advertisement for the role.
  • Evidence that there are no New Zealand citizens available to fill the job vacancy.
  • Evidence that there are no New Zealanders who deem themselves suitable for the job.
The above restrictions imposed on the employer can be waived only in two exceptional cases:
  • If the foreign employee who wishes to apply for the job is working in an occupation that features in the Essential Skills in Demand list, a more restricted list of more specialized fields for which New Zealanders’ supply is significantly lower.
  • The employee has recently been invited to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant category.

The foreign employee must meet these conditions

As a prospective foreign employee, you will be granted a visa only if you can produce all evidence that you possess the necessary skills and qualifications to fulfill the designated tasks and have sufficient experience in the occupational area in which you are invited to apply. You must be practicing an occupation listed in the Essential Skills List or the Essential Skills in Demand list. Even besides these, you will be subject to scrutiny vis-a-vis good character, health, bona fide before being granted an Essential Work Skills visa.

The pay rate

Between July 10 and July 26, 2020, the INZ authorities used a combination of your ANZSCO level and pay rate to determine whether someone is low, medium, or high-skilled, which decided their stay duration.
From July 27, 2020, this has been replaced by categorizing applicants into two groups:
  • Whether they receive the median wage or more
  • Whether they receive less than the median wage
Where the median wage is NZD $25.50 per hour.
The median wage criteria apply only to those applicants who have applied on or after July 27, 2020.

Changes in the Essential Skills Visa Protocols

The pay wage of an Essential Skills Worker determines specific protocols of their stay and other factors, the two most important being the duration of their stay and whether they can support their partner’s work visa and the visitor visa of their dependent children. The above points are concerning the changes made in the Essential Skills Visa protocols post-July 26, 2020:

Eligibility to support the family

  • If you earn the median wage or more, you will be able to support a visitor visa or a work visa for your partner, as well as a student or visitor visa for your children.
  • If you earn below the median wage, you will be able to support a Visitor visa for your partner but not a work visa, which they will have to apply for in their own right. You can still support visitor and student visas for your children only if you meet the minimum income threshold of NZD $43,322.76 in a year.

Duration of Stay

  • If you earn the median wage or more, you will be granted a visa for three years.
  • If you earn below the minimum wage, the visa will last for six months.
The maximum combined length of all work visas for jobs with wages less than the median wage is three years. After that time, you will be subject to a stand-down period of 12 months.

Stand-down Period

  • A stand-down period means leaving New Zealand for a period of 12 months before you can be allowed to apply for another visa for work that pays below the median wage.
  • If your job pays less than the median wage, you will be subject to a stand-down period if you have been in New Zealand for three years to work on an essential skills visa.
  • Previously this clause of the stand-down period applied if you were assessed as lower-skilled labor, i.e., if you applied before July 27, 2020.

The Work to Residence Visas that you can apply after 24 months of engagement in the job is of two types.


The NZ immigration policies are undergoing changes with evolving global circumstances in the aftermath of COVID-19. Although the border is still sealed, it is advisable to acquaint yourself with visa waiver and border relaxation policies so that you can plan your tour or work-purpose journey well in advance without having to go through the unnecessary hassle.