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NZ employer responsibilities and obligations – everything you need to know


Employers who hire foreign skilled migrants take on responsibilities and obligations under New Zealand’s immigration and labour laws, which govern a worker’s immigration status as well as job and working conditions.

Getting familiar with your responsibilities is crucial if you are planning to recruit and employ migrants or if you currently have any visa holders working for you. Here are some key points to keep in mind to understand the laws and comply with them as an employer:


Offering a job to a migrant

New Zealand’s immigration policies are designed to enable employers to access the skills they need to fill gaps in their workforce, whether you are offering a job to an overseas candidate or hiring a migrant already in the country:

Hiring a worker outside New Zealand

You can legally offer a job to an overseas candidate before they have a work or resident visa.

The first step is to provide them with an offer of employment that includes a clause stating the contract is subject to immigration criteria being met.

Then, you can start the process of supporting the overseas candidate with their visa application which includes the employer accreditation, local advertising, and job check.

As an employer, you have an obligation to check that your prospective employee has a valid visa that allows them to work by the time they start their employment with you.

Hiring a migrant already in New Zealand

Before a migrant can begin working for you, you must check that their visa gives them the right to work in New Zealand. The type of visa they have can affect the role you offer and how long they can work for you.

Here you can find some valid visas that allow migrants to work, and you can also check someone’s visa status here, but it is important to ask for authorisation from your future worker for you to use their information for the purpose of confirming work entitlement and identity.

Penalties for hiring an illegal worker

If you hire an overseas worker that is not entitled to work, you can face some penalties:

  • Fine of a maximum of NZD $10,000 for employing a foreign national who is not entitled to work in New Zealand.
  • Fine of a maximum of NZD $50,000 for allowing or continuing to allow a foreign national to work while knowing that person is not entitled to.
  • Imprisonment for seven years or a fine of a maximum of NZD $100,000, or both, for exploiting a foreign national and allowing them to work while knowing that the person was not entitled to work.


Providing immigration advice to migrants

It is important that you know that you can support candidates to get their visas, but you must not provide them with any immigration advice, such as recommending which would be the best visa for them to apply for, or what documents they may need for the application. Only people who are licensed can provide advice on New Zealand immigration matters.


Recruitment and employment costs

One of the commitments you make when you hire a migrant worker is to pay all recruitment costs in and outside New Zealand, and not pass costs on to your employees. This includes:

  • Advertising costs
  • Recruitment agency fees
  • Employer accreditation fees and job check application fees
  • Trade testing
  • Tools you own
  • Training and induction
  • Payment to secure a job
  • Bonding agreements illegally binding workers to a business
  • Deductions that are unreasonable or not agreed in writing


If a migrant worker is found to be paying for a job offer, you can be charged with breaching immigration law.


Employment law

New Zealand has laws that help keep workplaces fair. Those laws apply equally to migrants, New Zealand citizens and residents. So, if you are employing an overseas worker, you must offer work conditions that are no less than the legal minimums for New Zealanders, such as:

  • Written employment agreement
  • Minimum pay
  • Same pay and conditions that you would offer a New Zealand citizen to do that job
  • Break entitlements
  • Annual and public holidays
  • Sick, parental and bereavement leave
  • A safe workplace
  • Accurate pay and holiday records


Feedback about an employee who has left their employment

If a worker from overseas has a visa that specifies employment with your business and unexpectedly leaves that employment before the expiry of their visa, you must inform NZ Immigration about it, as the worker may be in breach of their visa conditions by remaining in New Zealand after the employment has ended.


For any questions, regarding your responsibilities and obligations as an employer of foreign workers, please contact Arno Nothnagel, our NZ Immigration Director, here.

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