Skip to main content

Offshore talent - How can they enter NZ?

New Zealand’s borders have now been shut for almost 18 months. In this time, only a small portion of offshore workers have managed to enter the country through the border exemption process. The impact on NZ employers, many of whom are unable to meet Immigration New Zealand (INZ)’s extremely high threshold for approval but desperately require workers, is profound. The critical shortage of workers is felt across most industries in NZ - healthcare, IT, infrastructure, construction, hospitality, primary industries - you name it. 

Luckily for some of these employers, there are three distinct categories of employment that allow for offshore workers to be brought into NZ: Critical Health Workers, Other Critical Workers, and Approved Classes of Workers.

Other Critical Worker (OCW) is the category that employers ask us about most often - understandably, as it is the most complex. Sitting at an approval rate of around 60%, OCW caters to all types of workers in non-health industries and selected government projects, and the bar for assessment is set extremely high. The initial request to bring in an OCW has to be put through by an employer or their representative  - the employee cannot do it.

What Is the Trick to Getting an OCW Approved?
Unfortunately there is no one single factor, but rather a combination of factors. The decisions regarding OCWs are made by INZ’s national managers with input from external business advisors. The applications are looked at with a fine tooth comb and every argument presented is broken down to see if the worker is really physically needed in NZ.

INZ will seek to understand:

  • The uniqueness of the worker’s skill. Is there no one else available in NZ who possesses the same skill/experience?

  • If the worker can do their job remotely. Is it truly impossible to get the job done in a different time zone?

  • If the worker’s role supports a project deadline. And if so, is the deadline urgent - with significant consequences if it goes unmet?

  • The employer’s previous efforts to fill this role. Has the employer already taken efforts to hire a candidate, or otherwise resolve this situation, without trying to bring an overseas worker into NZ?

Before submitting for an OCW, it is important to understand the exact criteria that INZ is looking at and what can be done if the request gets declined.


Critical Health Workers
If an employer is looking to hire for any number of healthcare positions, there is a good chance that the role may fall under the Critical Health Worker category. This will allow the employer to bring in current or new health or disability workers, so long as the role will have them delivering at least one of the many “critical” health services in New Zealand. Further information about critical health workers is available here.


A Recent Addition: Approved Classes of Workers
Immigration New Zealand recently created an additional list of roles for which candidates may also be granted border exemptions, and thus be able to come in from overseas to fill these roles. As this class of workers is constantly evolving, we do expect new industries and roles to be added to the list of approved workers. However, INZ has not yet advised when that might happen, or what the updates might be.

The approved classes of workers include teachers, dairy farm workers, veterinarians, port crane operators, RSE workers, shearers.

 Learn more about approved classes of workers here.


Bringing Approved Workers into NZ
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to bringing potential workers into New Zealand, nor is there an across-the-board approval rate. Each class of worker has its own unique process which requires a thorough understanding of the industry-specific registration and visa processes.

If the roles you are hiring for fall into the categories listed above, we recommend you begin the application process sooner rather than later. Unsure how to get started? Schedule a complimentary consultation with Aims Global.


About Arunima

Arunima Dhingra, CEO Aims Global & Principal Licensed Immigration Adviser #200900407

Arunima Dhingra is a long-standing licensed immigration adviser in New Zealand. She is the Founder and Director of Aims Global and has been providing immigration advice and support to NZ businesses and migrants for over 15 years. Arunima was a finalist at the prestigious NZAMI Immigration Awards in 2015, and won the awards in 2017 - Immigration Adviser/Lawyer of the Year Award and Community Outreach Award.

Arunima has been serving as a Board Director for New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment (NZAMI), NZ's largest association of immigration advisers and lawyers, for the past 3 years and was chairing their Policy Committee for 2 years.