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Temporary Visas: Working, studying or visiting for a limited time

Overview of the Temporary Visa system

Immigration Act 2009, ss 14, 79

If you want to stay in New Zealand temporarily to work, study or visit, you’ll need a Temporary Visa from Immigration New Zealand. You’ll also have to get entry permission when you first arrive in New Zealand.

Different types of Temporary Visa: Working, studying, visiting

INZ Operational Manual: Temporary Entry, E3.10, E3.15, U2.5, V2.5

There are three types of Temporary Visa:

  • Work Visa – These allow you to work in New Zealand as long as the visa is valid and you follow the conditions of the visa – for example, you might have to work for a specific employer. Work Visas don’t allow you to study, apart from work training that’s part of your normal conditions of employment and one course of study or training of up to three months. Generally, the maximum time for a single Work Visa is five years. If you want to stay longer, you’ll need to apply for another Work Visa before the first one expires.

Immigration Act 2009, s 4; INZ Operational Manual: Temporary Entry, W2.2

If you’re not a citizen or permanent resident and you’ll be doing “work” in New Zealand, you’ll need a Work Visa. The immigration laws define “work” as “any activity undertaken for gain or reward”. This includes self-employment.

INZ Operational Manual: Temporary Entry, E3.20(c), (d), U3.1(a)(ii)

  • Student Visa – These allow you to study or train in New Zealand while the visa is valid. You can’t work unless the visa says you can. Generally, the maximum time that Immigration New Zealand can grant a single student visa for is four years. To get a Student Visa, you must have paid all the fees for your course (or be exempt from paying them). It will be a condition of your Student Visa that you attend your course and that you make satisfactory progress.
  • Visitor Visa – These allow you to be in New Zealand, until the date specified in the visa, for any legal purpose, such as visiting family or friends, getting medical treatment, or just sightseeing. You can’t work or study, apart from one course of study or training of up to three months. The maximum time Immigration NZ can grant a single Visitor Visa for is 12 months, and usually one won’t be granted for more than nine months.

There are also two special types of Temporary Visa: Limited Visas and Interim Visas (see “Limited Visas and Interim Visas: Special types of Temporary Visa”).

COVID-19 rules

My visa is expiring soon but I wasn’t able to leave New Zealand because of Covid-19

If your visa is about to expire and you are unable to travel home, you can apply for the COVID-19 Short-term Visitor Visa. This is a new two-month visitor visa available for people reaching the end of their current visas who need extra time to make arrangements to travel home. You’re not allowed to work while on this visa.

For more information see, www.immigration.govt.nz and search ‘COVID-19 Short-term Visitor Visa’.

If you don’t have a current visa

If you don’t have a current visa or you were unable to apply for one before your current visa expired, then you will be in the country unlawfully. As you are not able to apply for a visa while unlawful, you must either leave the country or ask for a special temporary visa under s 61 of the Immigration Act. For more information on applying for a special temporary visa under s 61 see “If you’re here illegally: Understanding your options” in this chapter.

Is my visa eligible for an extension?

Immigration NZ has extended a number of existing visas. If your visa is about to expire you could be eligible for an extension of your visa by 6 months. Some visas have automatically been extended.

You can check for the updated list of visas that qualify for extensions on the Immigration NZ website. See www.imigration.govt.nz and search ‘visa extensions and visa conditions’.

If you think you qualify for an extension but you have not been contacted by Immigration NZ, you can request an extension check on the Immigration NZ website. You can also go to www.communitylaw.org.nz/coronavirus-and-the-law for more information on how COVID is affecting immigration and other areas of law.

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Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Immigration New Zealand


Immigration New Zealand is the government organisation that deals with visa applications and other immigration issues. It’s part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.


You can read Immigration NZ’s Operational Manual at www.immigration.govt.nz/opsmanual

Immigration and Protection Tribunal


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