COVID-19: Your New Zealand visa options whilst offshore

During this current pandemic, many migrants are unsure about their New Zealand visa options whilst still offshore.

For most, immigrating to New Zealand may only be possible if you are able to obtain a suitable offer of skilled employment in New Zealand. With an offer in hand (preferably outside the Auckland region), your chances of obtaining a work visa will be good and you may also have a chance of subsequently being eligible to apply for New Zealand residence.

COVID-19 circumstances

Generally, we advise our clients that the most effective way to secure a New Zealand job offer is to plan a visit to New Zealand to search for work. In this visit, you can meet with recruiters, potential employers, attend interviews and gain an understanding of New Zealand’s culture. Before travelling to New Zealand on a job-search visit, we recommend you take advice about the requirements for being able to secure and appropriate visa to facilitate your travel. Our firm is able to assist in this regard.

However, the New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The travel ban applies to all arrivals into New Zealand whether it is by air or sea, and this will affect your visa options.

Travelling to New Zealand will not be an option at this stage as Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is not currently processing any offshore applications. This will impact your job search attempts as employers will be reluctant to offer employment to migrants who are currently based offshore.

However, the Government announced a list of approved projects, programmes and events for which “critical workers” may be eligible for entry as an exception to policy. Ultimately, this will give migrants in the construction industry some work visa options with a head-start to moving to New Zealand. Read more on our previous article.

Immigration lawyers

If you need personalised immigration advice, you must engage an Immigration Lawyer, Licensed Immigration Adviser or a person exempt from licensing, who are legally permitted to provide you with visa options and who may act on your behalf. You can read more on the differences here:

By engaging our team of lawyers, you will receive leading immigration advice and assistance. We will not only take care of all of your visa options and needs, but we will also guide and provide advice on a range of other legal matters that are always connected to and incidental to the migration process.

Assessment of qualifications

If you hold a qualification, it might be a good idea to first have your tertiary qualification(s) reviewed to determine whether or not it needs to be assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). This will confirm the level of study and the number of points you can claim for your highest qualification. Once you have the NZQA assessment (if required), you will be able to rely on this to show INZ that you are suitably qualified for any relevant skilled role you are offered in New Zealand.

Essentially, it is the “first step” in any successful work visa application or Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) residence application. If you wish to engage our services, we would be able to review your qualifications and assist with the application to have your qualification(s) assessed by the NZQA, if required.

Occupational registration

In New Zealand, some occupations require formal registration and practicing certificates. If so, you must get your registration in order before you apply for a work visa and we will be able to advise on this.

Whilst your qualification(s) is being reviewed and/or assessed, we recommend that you liaise with the regulatory authority directly, as the occupational registration component is usually “applicant-driven”. Once you’ve obtained occupational registration and subsequently secured an offer of skilled employment, we will only then be able to determine your visa options.

Job search & work visa options

Most migrants need a job offer to get a work visa and therein lies the Catch-22 conundrum. You may have heard that you can only apply for a job if you hold a valid work visa, but you need a job offer to be able to apply for a work visa. This is a struggle that so many migrants have to overcome and we can assure you that, if you have the skills a Kiwi employer is looking for, then you will be able to land that job offer. Most New Zealand employers are open to hiring people from overseas if they are not able to find people in New Zealand to fill jobs.

We suggest that you test the market, reach out to recruiters and do some networking whilst looking for skilled employment in New Zealand. The following websites are two nationwide job vacancy websites that contain most advertised roles in New Zealand.

We also suggest that you approach relevant Accredited Employers to see if they have any roles that might suit you, see:

In addition to the above, there are also industry specific websites, recruitment websites, etc. which may help to narrow your results when searching for specific positions.

New Zealand employers often use recruitment companies or agents to find suitable employees, particularly for specialist and high-level jobs. You can register with more than one company. The New Zealand employment market is small, so it is important to keep track of who you have contacted and when. You don’t want to flood the market with your CV.

Pathway student visa options

If you are unable to secure a job offer, another option may be to apply for a student visa. A student visa granted offshore will allow you to travel to the New Zealand border. An officer will check that you meet all of the conditions of your visa when you arrive before being granted entry permission to study in New Zealand.

A pathway student visa will allow you to undertake up to three consecutive programmes of study. Selected education providers offer a range of consecutive programmes of study either within their own institution or in conjunction with other selected education providers. A pathway student visa can be granted up to five years and removes the need to apply for new student visas as you progress on your education pathway to residency.

We will be able to provide further information if you are keen on this option.


When you are moving from one country to another, it is a complex and sometimes stressful logistical undertaking. Our intention is to relieve as much stress from the process as possible and create an enduring and long-term relationship built on trust.

It’s a huge decision to relocate your life to another country and we can manage or remove a lot of the associated risk for you. Our firm will tailor its advice and assistance to your particular circumstances. We have a large team of lawyers and professional immigration advisers. They are completely dedicated to providing the best possible immigration advice to families deciding to make New Zealand their home.

Get in touch

Contact us to speak to our expert team about whether your employees may be able to qualify for an exception. We are currently working on exception requests for entry with the new criteria.

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Lane Neave is not able to provide legal opinion or advice without specific instructions from you and the completion of all formal engagement processes.