Employing workers from overseas
There can be a number of advantages to employing workers from overseas – overseas workers bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to your business. In addition, migrant workers are often highly educated and aware of current and emerging industry trends from their experience in overseas markets. The New Zealand Human Rights Commission suggests that employing migrant workers also helps to improve workplace tolerance and improves communication between employees. This could help you gain a competitive advantage and grow your business.
Before you hire workers from overseas you need to be aware that not all overseas workers are legally entitled to work in New Zealand, and it is your responsibility as an employer to ensure your employees are legally allowed to work for you.
If you hire an employee who isn’t entitled to work in New Zealand (even if they tell you otherwise), you could receive a fine of up to $10,000 or face other penalties.
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Any employee from overseas, who isn’t a New Zealand citizen, needs to have the right visa or permit to work in New Zealand. While it’s the employee’s responsibility to arrange a visa or permit to work in New Zealand, you might be asked to provide information in support of this, and you’ll need to check they are legally allowed to work here and have the correct work visa or permit before they start work.
You’re allowed to ask a prospective employee for evidence to show they are legally entitled to work in New Zealand. This could include asking to see a passport, birth certificate, citizenship certificate, residence permit, or Australian residence return visas.
However, you can’t directly ask an overseas worker their personal history or country of origin in a job interview, or as part of the pre-employment process.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has made it easier to avoid any problems by creating the following resources for employers:
VisaView is a free online service for businesses provided by INZ. Employers can check a prospective employee’s entitlement to work in New Zealand. Once registered, it’s easy to use and only takes a moment to check. Find out more, register, and use VisaView.
Employers who decide not to use VisaView should still check a prospective employee’s entitlement to work for them. See INZ’s entitlement checklist [PDF] and a guide to help employers check work entitlement [PDF].
For more information about how to approach job interviews, or other tips to make the hiring process easier, the Human Rights Commission has a range of free resources that can be downloaded from the resources page of their website.
Many employers like to help new staff through their move to New Zealand and the immigration process, but it’s important you are aware of a couple of legal pitfalls to avoid.
If you’re helping an employee to move to New Zealand, you’ll have to be careful not to breach the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act (2007). Designed to protect the interests of people receiving immigration advice and to enhance the reputation of New Zealand as a migration destination, the act requires that anyone giving immigration advice must be licensed unless they are exempt (such as some employers who have experience hiring employees from overseas). This applies whether the person providing advice is within New Zealand or outside New Zealand. The Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) is responsible for administering the Act.
It is not an offence to discuss publicly available information with potential migrants. You can refer them to any information on the Immigration Advice page on the IAA website, or you can suggest that migrants contact the IAA by phoning 0508 IAA IAA (0508 422 422) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guide for employers and recruiters
The IAA and INZ have developed a guide to help employers understand their options: Immigration Advisers Licensing Authority factsheet [PDF, 112KB].
Info sheets for employers and migrants
INZ has designed information sheets to help your candidates decide on which option is best for them, according to the type of job you are offering. You can provide candidates with the link to these factsheets and discuss the information. Then the candidate can make their own decision about which visa option is best for their circumstances. See the employer resources section.
Overseas workers who are allowed to work in New Zealand are entitled to the same workplace conditions as other employees and are covered by New Zealand employment law.
If you need some assistance with employment related matters for employees, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – Employment Relations website is a valuable resource and contains tools and other practical information and resources for employers and employees. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – Employment Relations Employment Agreement Builder for employers helps you build a comprehensive employment agreement for employees.
Find out about Employment regulations.
Find out about Managing staff.