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Essential Skills Work Visa

Important! The information about Essential Skills Work Visa is no longer current. Please check our Accredited Employer Work Visa page on this site.


A perfect match for skilled employees

Arguably the most sought after type work visa, New Zealand Essential Skills Work Visa is for skilled professionals, qualified by training or experience. Their remuneration should meet a certain threshold and their employer has genuinely and unsuccessfully tried to fill the position with locals through advertising in media or seeking help from Work and Income, the government agency responsible for aiding people in their job search. 

The complexity of the application routine warrants scrupulous attention to detail, as one has to take into account multiple factors. Our expert advice is just one mouse click away – do not disparage the importance of making it right from the outset, book your free consultation with immigration professionals now. 

What can you do on an ESWV?

Essential Skills Work Visas will usually allow their holders to work for a specific employer, at a certain position and at a certain place. If any of these conditions are to change, the visa holder should either apply for a variation of conditions, or a new work visa.

Essential Skills Work Visa uses a 2-tier system based on the pay level

There are 2 tiers currently in use by INZ to assess the skills of an applicant. The demarcation line between the two is drawn at the current New Zealand median wage ($27 per hour). Then, there are those paid at or above the wage, and those paid below.

How will the pay rate be calculated if I get an annual salary?

Immigration New Zealand will use hours of work as set out in the employment agreement. If salary-based, the annual salary will be divided by 52 weeks and subsequently by the number of hours worked each week. 

E.g. $58000 (annual salary) ÷ 52 (weeks) ÷ 40 (hours worked per week) = $27.88 / hour

What difference does it make to me, whether I am paid at or above, or below the median wage?


The effect the remuneration has on the visa is multiple, though it does not make your prospective visa either superior or inferior.

  • Firstly, the duration of the Work Visa will depend on the pay. 
  • Secondly, a stand-down period will apply to those paid below the median. 
  • Thirdly, the type of visa your family may get also depends on your salary.
 Paid at or above $27Paid below $27
Maximum duration currently
3 years

2 years
Stand-down period*N/AAfter maximum of 3 years on a work visa, a stand-down period of 12 consecutive months will apply.
*- stand-down period for workers who had their work visa extended and who would otherwise be subject to it before 31 December 2020 is delayed for 6 months in line with the visa extension. If your stand-down period comes into effect from February 2021, normal conditions apply (12 months)

What about my family? Will they be able to join me?


Visas for family
You are…Paid at or above $27Paid below $27
PartnersWork or Visitor visaVisitor Visa
ChildrenStudent or Visitor visaStudent or Visitor visa

How to qualify for an Essential Skills Work Visa?

  • just as with all New Zealand visas, health and character, bona fide and other requirements standard for temporary class visas should be abided by and are not to be overlooked;
  • a mandatory requirement for those eligible is that they are qualified in a suitable way, whether by training, experience, or a combination of both;
  • your employer must have left no stone unturned in their attempts to recruit New Zealanders to fill the position. This included advertising for the vacancy on such internet resources as and others, and major newspapers. For certain jobs local advertising may be acceptable;
  • generally, for all lower-paid positions the employer will be obligated to meet the labour market test, and to that end to liaise with the Ministry of Social Development to see if they have any suitable candidates. This will result in the issuance of a Skills Match Report, and which the employer will need to provide;
  • your employer must have a good reputation as a law-abiding company, that is to demonstrate a history of compliance with New Zealand employment and immigration legislation;
  • the job offer must be genuine, the employment must be likely to continue and be full-time; and, finally,
  • the remuneration offered must be at the market rate for the occupation and do not exceed, or fall short of it by a large margin.

Your employer's role is pivotal

It is your future boss who would need to stand by you all the time. They would provide clarification of your prospective job duties, if required, and attest to your skills that match them best. The employers, whose role can hardly be overestimated, will also need to complete paperwork in support of your application. Should the need arise, they will interact with INZ and Work and Income, who will issue a Skills Match Report.

You must support your application for an Essential Skills Work Visa by

  • an offer of employment meeting the requirements (as listed above);
  • Employer Supplementary Form completed by the employer;
  • evidence of your suitable qualification through training or experience; and
  • depending on the area, the results of a Labour Market Test (including SMR, if applicable, and screenshots of the advertising for the position).

At New Shores Migration we pride ourselves on providing ongoing support to essential skills work visa applicants by clarifying to their employers what they should do to secure the desired skilled staff for their company. You can book your free 30-minute consultation today to talk to us about your demands and we will get back to you with our estimate of your chances for a successful outcome.

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Our adviser and director has been in the same boat with most of our valued clients who come to seek his counsel. He came to New Zealand as a migrant in 2002 and has been calling it home since then. It is our pleasure to serve your needs and provide professional immigration advisor services to help your dreams come true.
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