Are you a small business and wonder what the process is for bringing staff in from overseas?

Related expertise
Special Counsel

The thought of bringing in overseas workers to fill vacancies may seem overwhelming.  Whilst it is certainly not onerous, it is important to have a full understanding of the process and to consider key factors.

Employer accreditation

An employer looking to recruit overseas workers, must firstly submit an accreditation application to Immigration New Zealand (INZ).  When applying for accreditation, an employer should consider how many overseas workers it may need and where the workers will be based (working under the direct control of the owner or placed with a third party).  This will ensure that the correct type of accreditation is applied for – standard, high-volume, or triangular.  

An employer should also consider who the “key persons” are within its business.  A “key person” is someone who exercises influence over the organisation, such as the directors of any company.  The accreditation application form requires a business to make declarations on behalf of all the key persons. Therefore, it is important that all the key persons understand the declarations being made on their behalf.

During the processing of an accreditation application, INZ will assess whether the business is a genuine entity and is financially viable.  Evidence to demonstrate a business has sufficient financial resources to employ and pay any overseas workers must be uploaded with the application.

All accredited employers have obligations they must meet during the terms of their granted accreditation.

This includes:

  • Not employing a migrant who does not have the right visa or visa conditions.
  • Informing INZ of any changes to its key persons or business structure.
  • Ensuring that any employees involved in the recruitment of an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) holder complete employment law modules on the Employment New Zealand website.
  • Ensuring any AEWV holders are provided with the settlement support information and given paid time to complete the employee modules within their first month.
  • Advising INZ of any changes in its key people and when an AEWV holder leaves their employment (unless they leave within one month of the expiry of their visa).

An employer’s failure to comply with its obligations can result in its accreditation being suspended or, in the worst case, cancelled.  To avoid this, an employer should ensure it has policies and procedures in place to ensure it is compliant.

Job check application

Once a business has acquired accreditation, it can then apply for a job check for specific vacancy or vacancies.  For a successful job check application, most roles must be advertised on a national job website for at least 14 days.  Where an role is considered low skilled, it must be advertised for 21 days and listed with Work and Income.  Low skilled roles are those at level 4 or 5 on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).

Where the advertising process has resulted in an employer being unable to locate any suitably qualified and available New Zealanders, a successful job check application can be submitted to INZ.  Documents demonstrating where and for how long the position was advertised must be provided, along with evidence that no suitable or available New Zealanders were identified.

A draft Employment Agreement setting out the terms and conditions of the role, including a position description, must be uploaded with the job check application.  INZ will review the documents to ensure that the proposed agreement complies with New Zealand’s employment and immigration laws. 

INZ will also review the position description to confirm that the role is a substantial match to the chosen ANZSCO code.  Therefore, it is important to carefully choose the correct code to ensure that the vacancy has been advertised as required,.

Once a job check is approved, INZ will notify the employer. The employer can then pass on the Job Check approval details to a migrant or their immigration lawyer.

Accredited employer work visa

The migrant can then prepare and submit an application for an Accredited Employer Work Visa . They must upload supporting documents demonstrating, amongst other things, that:

  • They meet the minimum skill level and are also suitably qualified for the role.
  • They meet health and character requirements.
  • Where required, the applicant meets the English language requirements.

Once the application is approved, the AEWV will be valid for a period of two years, where the role is low skilled.  The AEWV can be issued for a maximum period of five years if the role is at ANZSCO skill level, 1, 2 or 3 and the rate of pay is at or above the median wage (currently $29.66). 

The start date of an AEWV is when the overseas workers first travels to New Zealand, or from the date of issue, if the applicant is already inside New Zealand.  The AEWV holder can only work in the specific role and location, and for the employer, as specified in the AEWV document.


There are certainly key considerations that each employer must be aware of when looking to hire overseas workers.  Where in doubt, it is recommended that an employer seek professional immigration advice. Should you wish to get in touch please contact our Immigration team.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

Related insights

Find an expert