New Zealand

Working in New Zealand?

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Working in New Zealand

The economy of New Zealand is characterized by a high level of economic freedom and low corruption rates. The country’s beauty and laidback lifestyle are a big plus as well. We take a look at New Zealand’s social security and business etiquette, as well as the qualifications needed to work here.
As the seat of the national parliament, Wellington is New Zealand's political center.

At a Glance

  • If you have professional skills in forestry, engineering, or construction, you have a good chance of securing your dream job in New Zealand.
  • In New Zealand, 98% of the population speaks English. However, it might take some time to get used to the distinct local language as a lot of people mix numerous Maori words with English.
  • Work permits can be granted for a maximum of three years; in order to apply you will need a confirmed job offer and a signed employment contract.
  • Benefits and disability insurance are available to all residents, regardless of their employment history. However, everyone must contribute to the ACC, which provides compensation for work-related accidents.
  • New Zealanders have a reputation for being very open-minded and friendly which also applies to doing business. It’s a more informal business culture, yet punctuality and dressing conservatively is advised.


What Makes New Zealand So Popular?

The prospect of living and working in New Zealand attracts thousands of people each year. In international rakings, the country is continually among those nations with the highest economic freedom and lowest rates of corruption. Although dairy products, meat, and fruit remain New Zealand’s most competitive exports, its economy also offers expats lots of employment opportunities in other sectors.

The country also remains a popular destination for self-made expats who like the lifestyle and natural beauty. Although salaries are good, making big bucks usually isn’t a priority for expatriates in New Zealand. This is reflected in the sectors in which foreigners are typically employed. While in places such as Singapore or Hong Kong, most expats are found in finance, expats in New Zealand are employed in much more diverse fields, including education, healthcare, and forestry.

Do You Have the Right Skills?

There is no single set of skills which will secure you a dream job offer. However, skills currently in demand in New Zealand include forestry, engineering, and construction. Having the necessary qualifications to  work in the education and healthcare sectors is also beneficial. Many expats in New Zealand will give you only one piece of advice: finding work in New Zealand requires both a lot of initiative and persistence.  

Immigration authorities regularly publish Essential Skills in Demand Lists, which specify fields with a short- or long-term need for skilled workers. Expats working in one of these fields are not only likely to have fewer difficulties in finding a job, but they also have certain advantages regarding the work permit application process.

A Mix of English and Maori

English is the main language in New Zealand. However, the country actually has three official languages: English, Maori (the Polynesian language spoken by the indigenous people) and — surprisingly for many — New Zealand Sign Language, which was made the third official language in 2006.

In New Zealand, 98% of people speak English as their first or second language, and it is used as the main means of communication. Sufficient knowledge of English is essential for anyone who is considering working in New Zealand.

Even those with a good knowledge of English might need some time to adjust to the distinct local pronunciation. Numerous Maori words have also found their way into everyday conversation: whānau for extended family, or kai meaning food, are just some of them. Many words for flora, fauna, and scenery are also derived from te reo Māori, as are place names — pronouncing destinations can be tough for expats in New Zealand!

Paperwork and Permits: Long-Term Visas

Work permits for New Zealand can be issued for a maximum of three years; in order to apply, you will need a confirmed job offer and a signed employment contract. Even with a contract, there still is some paperwork to tackle.

Firstly, you need to prove that you possess the necessary qualifications for the specific position. Foreign qualifications usually have to be evaluated by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) before you can begin working in New Zealand. Your employer must then show that they have searched for and failed to find a suitably qualified New Zealander before hiring a person from abroad.

Lastly, authorities will administer a Labor Market Test before issuing a work permit. The process may be quicker if your professional skills are in demand, or if you consider working at a local branch of your current company.

Once you are granted a permit, you can move to your new home together with your dependent family members. While spouses of expats working in New Zealand have to apply for a separate work permit, they do not need a confirmed job offer prior to moving. For more information on visa requirements and work permits, read our article on moving to New Zealand.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Serhat Ahmed

"With all of the information that InterNations provided on Wellington, it made my move from Turkey easier than I could have imagined."

Melanie Rasbery

"Since I knew about the active expat network in New Zealand, InterNations made moving to Wellington more exciting than it had seemed before."

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