Working in New Zealand

New Zealand is a very small but sophisticated country. We only have 4.8 million people, but they are highly educated, and our economy has been growing well for decades. We have a very low rate of population replacement and are very reliant on having the right people with the right skills in the right place. And that means suitably trained and qualified immigrants are in demand. But it’s not simply a case of applying to a job advert on a website.


Finding a Job

Generally, you must have a work visa to work in New Zealand. There are several different work visas as we have already said. If you have residency, or a partner visa, or are here on a working holiday (not for South Africans unfortunately), then you don’t need a work visa.

You can search for jobs on specific job search sites in New Zealand, like Seek, or Jora, or jobs may come up in your LinkedIn profile.

Mostly job seekers use recruitment agencies or apply directly to companies on their websites. Just a hint – if you use a recruiter, avoid sending out your CV all over the place. A recruiter spends time with employers trying to find them candidates, so they have a job to do. If you are going to approach employers directly, don’t use a recruiter.

There are general job sites such as Seek or Trade Me, or there are specific recruitment agencies active in areas such as automotive, IT, teaching, medical and others. Try to target rather than send your CV to every email address you can find.

Before even thinking about sending out your CV, remember, that it is very different to the way it is written in South Africa. Employers don’t want to know your matric results or if you played second team hockey and baked koeksisters for the church. And they don’t want a history of all your jobs, even working for KFC for 3 weeks.

What they do want to know is what you can do for them. What skills do you have that will help their business?

ALWAYS convert your CV. There are sites you can use such as the Careers pages or you can use some excellent CV writers such as Loren Holzhausen at Lemonaide. They can do a great CV and a LinkedIn profile for you

Green List occupations

There are skill shortages in New Zealand which will change from time to time. Some skills are in high demand for a long time, such as physiotherapists, surveyors or diesel mechanics. Search the list of ‘green list occupations” 

The Green List also provides a fast-track to residence and a work to residence pathway. “More information about these residence pathways will be provided soon by the government”

Then there is a a new visa called Accredited Employer Work Visa which has 3 steps to being hired. Companies must be accredited to be able to apply for this visa. 

Be aware that just having a skill shortage does not necessarily mean you will get residency. It just means you might qualify for a work visa, which is a right to work in New Zealand for a limited time. There are labour shortages like fruit picking in the Hawkes Bay, or Hospitality in Queenstown, and there are lots of admin jobs, but your goal is to achieve residency.


Occupational Registration

Most professions and a lot of trades require registration with their industry associations. Before firing your CV out to lots of electrical companies for instance, you need to know that you need your qualifications assessed and you need to meet the standards of the Electrical Workers Licence Group. The same will apply to doctors, physiotherapists, teachers, and many other occupations.

You will be required to complete courses to be registered in some instances, such as electricians. In others such as real estate agents, you will be required to do a complete New Zealand focussed course of study.

The most important is the NZQA. This is the authority that ensures that qualifications meet New Zealand standards and are credible and robust both nationally and internationally.

You must have your qualification assessed by the NZQA in the first instance. They will let you know what details they require, from an original certificate, to a complete blow by blow curriculum.

NZQA may be able to assess your qualification, and you need to contact them. You will also have to deal with your occupational registration body such as:

NZ Psychologists Board  

Electrical Workers Licencing Group

Nursing Council of New Zealand

Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board

New Zealand Teachers Council

and many more

Language Skills

New Zealand is an English speaking country, so it is essential that a condition for residency is a certain minimum level of English proficiency. Coming from South Africa, English will probably be your first or second language, so most South Africans cope well. Bear in mind that there are thousands of immigrants from countries such as China, India or Iraq where they don’t even have the same alphabet, so don’t panic. You will be fine.

ALL South Africans are required to prove proficiency in English. Only citizens from Canada, Ireland, UK or USA are not required to do so, so don’t think it’s just South Africans.

All adult applicants and children over 16 need to prove their proficiency.

You can do IELTS, Pearsons or other tests. Some occupations such as teachers and nursing will have to do Occupational English Tests. Check your requirements here

If you need tuition or assistance, there are web based tests, and also TESOL tutors and educators or even short courses which are of assistance


There are minimum requirements for earnings which lead to residency. You have already seen that on the Visa page.

Just a few pointers about earnings. There is a minimum wage in New Zealand, which is currently $21.20 an hour. So, that’s for unskilled work, so use it as a reference.

Salaries are generally paid monthly, and wages either weekly or fortnightly. In fact most expenses are also expressed as weekly, so it’s easier to budget.

There is NO 13th cheque. It’s a South African anomaly and is just your annual salary divided by 13. So, budget for the December holidays.

You will find that salaries are not necessarily the equivalent of what they are in South Africa. Some such as accountants are paid much less, while some trades such as diesel mechanics and plumbers are very well paid. There are a number of rough salary guides available online

Tax in New Zealand is very simple and easy to calculate.

(See the secure login section for a very comprehensive budget spreadsheet which you can use to determine if your salary is going to allow you to succeed. There are lots of variables such as location, whether your partner works, school going children or younger toddlers, access to setup funds and more)

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