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How to hire overseas workers

Someone from overseas can be a great asset for your business, bringing fresh contacts, skills, and perspectives. You could hire them to work in New Zealand, or their home country. Either way, you’ll need to think about certain things.

When businesses hire someone from overseas, the person usually moves to New Zealand to work. Many jobs require someone to be physically present to do work like picking fruit, providing health care and carrying out in-person training. But when you export, you might want someone to work for you overseas.

In both cases, hiring people from overseas presents unique challenges, like advertising the job, making sure they have the right visa and dealing with cultural differences. This page highlights things to think about in each case. It also discusses the new visa scheme to help businesses get the workers they need, while making sure New Zealanders are first in line for jobs.

Overseas candidates don’t need a visa to apply for or be offered a job.

Overseas candidates don’t need a visa to apply for or be offered a job.

But in many cases, candidates must have a job offer to support their visa application.

Hiring someone from overseas to work in New Zealand

When you plan to hire someone to work in New Zealand, you need to advertise for the right person on a platform they use.

SkillFinder is a free online tool to connect you with skilled workers overseas interested in living and working in New Zealand.

SkillFinder(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Finding and hiring workers overseas(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Anyone who isn’t a New Zealand citizen or resident needs a valid visa with work rights to work in New Zealand. They need to apply for the visa but you, as the employer, will also need to take some steps. You’ll need to be accredited and show that there are no suitable New Zealanders available. We discuss this below, in ‘Hiring someone on an Accredited Employer Work Visa’.

Things to consider before hiring migrants(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Job check: check what you need(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Support their visa application

If the person you want to hire doesn’t have a visa that allows them to work in New Zealand, they’ll need to apply for a work or resident visa — before they start work. Find out what you need to do for their application.

Recognised Seasonal Employers Limited Work Visa(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Help them settle

Someone who’s new to the country might not understand Kiwi terms like ‘bring a plate’, or what a chocolate fish symbolises, so help them settle into New Zealand life. The sooner they and their family adjust, the less stressed they will be. The sooner they adjust, the better things will be for your business too, because they’ll be happier and be more productive at work.

Use these free resources and services to prepare for their arrival and help them adjust.

Support migrant staff(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Create a welcome kit(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Video: Preparing for your migrant(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

You can help someone get a work visa.

You can help someone get a work visa.

You can’t advise people how to get a visa but you can guide them to useful public information, eg on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Immigration New Zealand(external link)

Only licensed immigration advisors, Citizens Advice Bureau staff and lawyers can give immigration advice.

Only licensed immigration advisors, Citizens Advice Bureau staff and lawyers can give immigration advice.

That means you can’t tell people the best visa to apply for, or what documents they’ll need for their application.

Hiring someone already in New Zealand

You might not be trying to hire someone from overseas, but someone who answers your job ad may be from overseas. Even if they’re already in the country, check that their visa allows them to work here before you offer them a job.

Use VisaView to check if someone is allowed to work in New Zealand.

VisaView(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Making a job offer

Hiring someone on an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV)

The AEWV is a new approach to hiring skilled migrant workers where no New Zealanders are available to do a job. Train and upskill locals wherever possible before turning to overseas candidates. In most cases, jobs available for AEWV holders must pay the market rate and at least the median wage.

If you become an accredited employer, you’ll have to commit to helping overseas workers settle in New Zealand. For example, you’ll have to tell them how to get an IRD number, what accommodation and transport choices they have, and how to get health services.

Benefits for businesses, New Zealanders, and overseas candidates

The AEWV arrangement ensures that:

  • businesses get the skills and workers they need
  • New Zealanders are first in line for jobs
  • overseas candidates have more certainty about the role they’re moving to New Zealand for, and their visa application process is more streamlined.

The arrangement also fights worker exploitation because businesses who have failed to meet immigration requirements or employment standards recently won’t be able to take part. 

Existing visas remain valid

Current visas continue to be in force until they expire, as long as visa holders continue to meet conditions. You only need to think about becoming an accredited employer:

  • when you want to hire someone from overseas on an AEWV
  • if someone in New Zealand isn’t legally allowed to work for you.

Find out more about the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV)(external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Three steps to hiring someone on the visa

Several things need to happen before someone comes in on the visa.

1. Apply to become an accredited employer

You'll need to meet minimum accreditation requirements. You may also have to meet extra requirements, depending on what your business is and how many people you want to hire on the visa.

You can apply for accreditation on the Immigration New Zealand website. 

2. Apply for a job check

Once you’ve been accredited, apply for a job check. The check confirms that the job has been advertised to New Zealanders first. It also confirms things like the:

  • terms and conditions of the job
  • minimum and maximum rate of pay
  • location
  • minimum qualifications, work experience or skills needed to do the job. 

3. Get your candidate to apply for the visa

Once the job check is approved, ask your candidate to apply for the visa.

Following employment laws

You must comply with New Zealand employment rules when you hire anyone, no matter where they’re from. This includes meeting minimum employment rights, eg:

  • providing a written employment agreement
  • paying minimum wage
  • giving minimum leave entitlements
  • providing a safe workplace.

 

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Getting someone to work for you overseas

If you export or manufacture overseas, you may want to hire staff in that country. Having staff means you have more control about when and how they work than if they were contractors. 

But having staff also means obligations. For example, you might have to pay employment tax, superannuation and fringe benefit tax. Also, having staff might create a “fixed place of business”, a status which could trigger more obligations like taxes and reporting.

Think carefully before you set up overseas

Think about working with an agent

Try to work with an independent agent instead of hiring staff, for the reasons above. Also, stopping work with an agent is usually easier than asking staff to leave.

Generally, an independent agent is someone who:

  • has a written contract that describes what they do
  • can choose who to work for, and what hours to work
  • brings their own tools and equipment
  • doesn’t earn holiday pay or get paid for sick leave.

Check the laws in the relevant country and industry to find out the definition that applies to your case. 

Think about people in your supply chain too

If you buy from overseas manufacturers or make your goods overseas, you’ll need to make sure the workers are treated fairly and ethically. Even if the workers aren’t your staff, customers will want to know that goods are made humanely. 

You could do things like:

  • check that the workers are being paid at least the minimum wage in their country
  • think about how likely unfair conditions are (carry out a risk assessment) and look into the risks you identify
  • ask suppliers to follow a code of conduct
  • get suppliers to report on workers’ conditions.

Procurer's approach to assuring ethical and sustainable work practices in supply chains(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Practical steps to identify and mitigate labour rights issues in your supply chain (PDF, 144 KB)(external link) — Employment New Zealand