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New Zealand,  Working Abroad

3 Types Of Work Visas For Backpackers In New Zealand

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Last Updated On 6th February 2024 By Lauren | Wild Lovely World

New Zealand is a really popular destination for backpackers to travel for work and play. Working as you travel will allow you to build up your funds so that you can keep traveling without worrying about running out of money!

Currently, there are three different visas that allow backpackers and young professionals to work in New Zealand.

The most popular work visa for backpackers in New Zealand is the Working Holiday Visa. This visa allows you to work for any employer in any industry for up to 2 years (depending on your nationality

Secondly, the Supplementary Seasonal Employment Visa can provide employment opportunities for those who don’t meet the WHV criteria. The SSE visa allows the holder to work in horticulture and viticulture for up to 6 months for recognised Seasonal Employers.

If you have a skill that is in demand in New Zealand, then you may be eligible for the Accredited Employer Work Visa. The AEWV visa is an option for skilled professionals that have experience in a skill shortage area and have a job offer from an Accredited Employer.

This post will provide a simple explanation of each visa, how much the visas cost and how to apply for them.

Work Visas For Backpackers In New Zealand Explained

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Lauren at Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Summary Table Of Work Visas For Backpackers In New Zealand

Below is a summary of three types of work visas that backpackers and young professionals can apply for to live and work in New Zealand.

Working Holiday Visa (WHV)Supplementary Seasonal Employment Visa (SSE)Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV)
Employers/IndustriesAnyHorticulture & Viticulture Only – SSE EmployersOne Accredited Employer Only
Length Of StayUp To 24 MonthsUp To 6 MonthsUp To 36 Months
Minimum Wage RequirementNoNoNew Zealand Median Wage – $29.66 Per Hour*
Skill RequirementNoneNoneSkill On Shortage List
Age Requirement18-30 Years (35 Years For Some Nationalities)NoneNone
Job Offer RequiredNoYesYes
Visa Fee$455$700$750
Summary table showing work visas for backpackers to live and work in New Zealand.
*For AEWV, some industries have a lower wage requirement.

Working Holiday Visa (WHV)

The New Zealand Working Holiday Visa offers an excellent opportunity for those aged 18-30 (35 for some nationalities) to work and travel in the country for 1-2 years. This is by far the most popular backpacker work visa.

With the Working Holiday Visa, you will be able to work in any job industry in New Zealand. While working you have the same rights as New Zealanders do, however, the specific conditions of the visa vary depending on the country of your nationality. You may only be eligible to work for an employer for a maximum of 6 months and it’s likely that you cannot accept a permanent position.

Regardless, with the Working Holiday Visa, you will be highly employable and sought after by New Zealand employers. New Zealanders typically rely on Working Holiday Visa holders as the cornerstone labour market for major industries such as hospitality and tourism.

My Experience On A Working Holiday Visa In New Zealand

I did a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand from 2020 to 2023. Yep, you read that right – I was on a WHV in New Zealand for 3 years! That’s because it was extended automatically by Immigration New Zealand to encourage WHV holders to stay and fill job shortages during Covid-19.

I had a great time on my Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand. I found it incredibly easy to find work. I loved traveling the country and discovering all its amazing natural wonders. However, I think my experience was very different from the usual WHV experience because I was there throughout the pandemic. I wrote more about my experience in New Zealand during Covid-19 in this post here.

Despite how easy I had it when I was on my WHV, I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity and means to do a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand to go for it. You’ll learn so much about yourself and more about the world around you.

How To Apply For A Working Holiday Visa In New Zealand

Applying for a Working Holiday Visa is very easy. You can apply online and it costs around $455. Depending on certain conditions, you may need to do a medical check or a police check.

The Working Holiday Visa is only available to certain nationalities and there may be a quota on visas issued per year. You will need to check your eligibility and application requirements on the New Zealand Immigration website linked below.

Once the visa is approved you have 12 months to enter New Zealand and will be activated at the point of entry. The visa also allows multiple entries so you can come and go from New Zealand as much as you want during its validity period.

You can be in New Zealand when you apply or overseas.

For more information on the Working Holiday Visa visit New Zealand Immigration here.

My Experience Applying For A Working Holiday Visa For New Zealand

I found the application process to apply for a Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand SO INCREDIBLY EASY. All it took was completing the online form, and making the payment, and my visa was granted within a couple of weeks. That was actually a long time, considering my partner got his application approved within a matter of minutes!

I was an applicant from the United Kingdom and my partner was an applicant from Ireland.

lauren exploring vineyards on waiheke island new zealand
Lauren exploring Mudbrick Vineyards on Waiheke Island, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Supplementary Seasonal Employment Visa (SSE)

If you are not eligible for a Working Holiday Visa then you could consider a Seasonal Employment Visa. The Seasonal Employment Visa allows you to work in the horticulture and viticulture industries for 6 months.

There is a quota of SSE visas issued each season, depending on labour demand and shortages. Currently, there is a huge demand for workers in the horticulture and viticulture industries, so there are many SSE visas available.

How To Apply For The Supplementary Seasonal Employment Visa In New Zealand

To apply for this visa, you will need to be on a current Tourist or Student Visa.

Usually, you will need to do a medical and police check to apply for the SSE visa.

You will also need to have a valid job offer from an approved SSE employer. There is a list on the New Zealand Immigration website of employers that are SSE-approved. SSE employers include packhouses, orchards, vineyards and farms.

An SSE visa application costs around $700 and needs to be submitted by post or in person. You must already be in New Zealand to apply for this visa.

Once the visa is approved you can work for an SSE employer. It does not need to be the same employer that gave you the job offer.

For more information on the Supplementary Seasonal Employment Visa visit New Zealand Immigration here.

Skill Shortages In New Zealand

New Zealand is facing huge labour shortages in many industries. For example, construction, healthcare, teaching, engineering and hospitality to name a few. If you have skills or qualifications in any of the skill shortage areas then you will be in high demand in New Zealand. It’s worth checking the lists online at New Zealand Immigration and seeing if you are eligible for any other work visas. If you can get a work visa for one of these skill-shortage jobs then you will be able to earn more and stay in New Zealand for longer.

For more information on work visas and skill shortages in New Zealand, visit New Zealand Immigration here.

Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV)

In 2022 a new visa for migrants to be able to work in New Zealand was launched – the Accredited Employer Work Visa. This visa is designed to help New Zealand employers hire migrants directly into roles if they are facing a skill shortage.

The visa can be granted for up to 3 years, but only if you are paid at or above the New Zealand median wage which is currently $29.66 per hour.

If you are paid below the median wage then the visa can be granted for 2 years. For many industries, including hospitality and tourism, there is a minimum wage requirement of $28.18 per hour which is 95% of the median wage. You can see which roles are exempt from paying the median wage for the AEWV visa here.

The Accredited Employer Work Visa ties you to the employer who offered you the visa application. Employers must apply for accreditation with New Zealand Immigration and go through an approved job check process to be eligible to hire migrants on a visa. This means that employers must prove that there are no New Zealanders available to do the work that you have been offered.

Holding the Accredited Employer Work Visa means that you may be able to apply for Residency Visas.

How To Apply For The Accredited Employer Work Visa

To be eligible to apply then you need to have a job offer from an accredited employer. You will also need the skills/experience and qualifications for the job and have proof of these.

The employer needs to send you a link to the application form so that you can apply for your visa.

You may need to complete a medical and police check.

The Accredited Employer Work Visa costs around $750. You can apply while you are in New Zealand or from overseas.

For more information about the Accredited Employer Work Visa, see NZ Immigration’s website here.

3 Types Of Work Visas For Backpackers In New Zealand – Thanks For Reading!

In this post, we have looked at three different work visas that are eligible for backpackers or young professionals in New Zealand.

The Working Holiday Visas allow you to work for any employer in any industry for up to 2 years.

The Supplementary Seasonal Employment Visa allows work in horticulture and viticulture for up to 6 months for recognised Seasonal Employers.

Finally, the Accredited Employer Work Visa is an option for skilled professionals that have experience in a skill shortage area and have a job offer from an Accredited Employer.

All three visas cost between $455-750 to apply.

You can apply in New Zealand for all visas or from overseas for the Working Holiday Visa and the Accredited Employer Work Visa.

Eligibility criteria vary between the visas and you may need to do a medical and a police check. For more information, you can visit the New Zealand Immigration website.

I hope you have found this information useful! – Lauren x

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Lauren is a coffee and cat obsessed travel writer from the U.K., specialising in solo female, couple travel and budget backpacking. She has previously lived in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England and Scotland. Follow her adventures around the world on her blog WildLovelyWorld.com

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