Complete Guide to the New Zealand 'Green List Visa' and Immigration Pathways

What are Green List occupations and the visa options for immigrating to New Zealand? Explore the fast-track pathways to a resident visa with our complete guide.
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Michael Yoon
Principal Immigration Lawyer
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What is the New Zealand Green List Visa?

The New Zealand 'Green List visa' is a streamlined immigration pathway designed to attract highly skilled migrants to fill critical skill shortages in the country. It offers a fast-tracked route to residence for individuals with qualifications and expertise in specific occupations that are in high demand. The Green List visa aims to make it easier for skilled migrants to move to New Zealand by providing clear and efficient pathways to residence.

The Green List visa is part of the government's broader strategy to address skill shortages and boost economic growth. By attracting skilled workers in key sectors, the government aims to enhance productivity, innovation, and competitiveness. The Green List visa also seeks to simplify the visa application process for eligible individuals, making it easier for them to secure residence and live in New Zealand.

What are the Green List Occupations?

The Green List encompasses a wide range of occupations that are in high demand in New Zealand. These occupations span various sectors, including construction, engineering, healthcare, technology, and education. The list is divided into two tiers:

  • Tier 1: Occupations eligible for the Straight to Residence visa pathway.
  • Tier 2: Occupations eligible for the Work to Residence visa pathway.

Tier 1: Straight to Residence Visa Pathway

Some of the occupations on Tier 1 of the Green List include:

  • Construction: Construction Project Manager, Project Builder, Quantity Surveyor, Surveyor.
  • Engineering: Chemical Engineer, Civil Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Electronics Engineer, Environmental Engineer, Geotechnical Engineer, Industrial Engineer, Materials Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Production or Plant Engineer, Structural Engineer, Telecommunications Engineer, Telecommunications Network Engineer.
  • Healthcare: General Practitioner, Anaesthetist, Psychiatrist, Surgeons (various specialisations), Other Medical Practitioners (various specialisations), Resident Medical Officer, Medical Laboratory Scientist, Clinical Psychologists, Psychologists, Physicist (Medical), Orthoptist, Veterinarian.
  • Technology: ICT Managers, Software Engineer, ICT Security Specialist, Multimedia Specialists.

Tier 2: Work to Residence Visa Pathway

Some of the occupations on Tier 2 of the Green List include:

  • Healthcare: Anaesthetic Technician, Medical Laboratory Technician, Medical Imaging Technologist, Medical Radiation Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Sonographer, Podiatrist, Audiologist, All Registered Nurses (including Aged Care), Midwife.
  • Education: Secondary School Teachers with specialisations, Registered Early Childhood Education (ECE) Teachers.
  • Trades: Automotive Electrician, Diesel Motor Mechanic, Electrician (General), Plumber.
  • Agriculture: Dairy Farm Managers.

Recent additions to the Green List visa:

  • Straight to Residence visa: Aviation Engineer, Naval Architect, ICT Database and Systems Administrator, Mechanical Engineering Technician, Aircraft Maintenance Engineer.
  • Work to Residence visa: Corrections Officer.

It's important to note that the Green List is subject to change, with new roles being added and others removed based on the evolving needs of the New Zealand labour market. Therefore, it's crucial to refer to the official Immigration New Zealand website for the most up-to-date list of Green List occupations.

What are the pathways to residence through the Green List visa?

The New Zealand 'Green List visa' is a reference to two distinct visa pathways to residence, catering to different skill sets and experience levels of migrant workers:

Straight to Residence Visa Pathway

The Straight to Residence visa pathway is designed for highly skilled migrants in Tier 1 occupations on the Green List. If you have a job offer from an accredited employer in New Zealand and your role is on Tier 1 of the Green List, you can apply for residence immediately upon arrival in New Zealand or even from offshore. This pathway is a fast-track option for those with in-demand qualifications, allowing them to become residents without a prior period of work in New Zealand.

Work to Residence Visa Pathway

The Work to Residence visa pathway is for skilled migrants in Tier 2 occupations on the Green List. To be eligible, you must secure a job with an accredited employer in New Zealand and work in your Tier 2 occupation for two years. After completing the two-year work period, you can apply for residence in New Zealand. This pathway provides a route to residence for those who may not meet the immediate requirements for the Straight to Residence visa pathway but have the qualifications and experience to contribute to New Zealand's workforce.

Both pathways require meeting specific criteria related to qualifications, work experience, and English language proficiency. Additionally, applicants must meet health and character requirements. It's important to note that the specific requirements may vary depending on the occupation and the pathway chosen via the Green List visa.

What are the requirements for the Green List visas?

To be eligible for one of the Green List visas, you must meet certain requirements, which vary depending on the specific visa and occupation. However, some general requirements apply to both the Straight to Residence visa and Work to Residence visa pathways:

  • Job Offer: You must have a valid job offer from an accredited employer in New Zealand for a role on the Green List.
  • Qualifications: You must possess the qualifications, registrations, or experience specified for your occupation on the Green List. These qualifications are typically based on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) and may require assessment by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
  • English Language Proficiency: You must demonstrate sufficient English language skills, usually through an approved English language test.
  • Health and Character: You must meet health and character requirements, including medical examinations and police clearances.
  • Age: For most Green List visas, you must be 55 years old or younger.

Straight to Residence Visa Requirements:

  • Tier 1 Occupation: Your job offer must be for an occupation listed on Tier 1 of the Green List.
  • Minimum Salary: Some Tier 1 occupations have minimum salary requirements, which are linked to the New Zealand median wage.

Work to Residence Visa Requirements:

  • Tier 2 Occupation: Your job offer must be for an occupation listed on Tier 2 of the Green List.
  • Two Years of Work Experience: You must have worked in your Tier 2 occupation for at least two years in New Zealand on a relevant visa.
  • Median Wage: You must be paid at least the median wage at the time of your residence application.

It's important to note that these are just the general requirements, and specific occupations may have additional criteria. It's crucial to carefully review the requirements for your chosen occupation and visa pathway to ensure you meet all the eligibility criteria before you apply for a Green List visa.

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How to apply for a Green List visa?

The application process for a Green List visa is entirely online. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Secure a job offer: Obtain a valid job offer from an accredited employer in New Zealand for a role on the Green List.
  2. Check your eligibility: Ensure you meet the specific requirements for your chosen occupation and visa pathway, including qualifications, work experience (if applicable), and English language proficiency.
  3. Gather documentation: Collect all necessary documents, such as your passport, qualifications, employment contract, and evidence of English language proficiency.
  4. Submit your visa application: Complete the online visa application form through the Immigration New Zealand website, paying the required application fee.
  5. Await processing: The processing time for Green List visa applications can vary, but the government aims to process most Straight to Residence visa applications within 3 months and most Work to Residence visa applications within 4 months (as of June 2024).

Important Note: It's highly recommended to seek professional assistance from a licensed immigration lawyer to ensure your visa application is complete and accurate, increasing your chances of success.

If you are an employer looking to hire a migrant worker through the Green List, you must first become an accredited employer. This involves meeting certain criteria and completing an application process. Once accredited, you can then offer jobs to migrant workers and support their visa applications.

Changes to the Green List visa

The New Zealand Green List is not static; it undergoes updates to reflect the changing demands of the labour market. Recent changes include:

  • Addition of new roles: Several new roles have been added to the Green List visa, expanding the range of occupations eligible for fast-tracked residence. These include roles in aviation, marine design, ICT, and mechanical engineering.
  • Movement of roles between pathways: Some occupations have been moved from the Work to Residence visa pathway to the Straight to Residence visa pathway, allowing eligible migrant workers to apply for residence immediately upon arrival in New Zealand. For example, secondary school teachers were moved to the Straight to Residence visa pathway in May 2024.
  • Removal of roles: Certain roles have been removed from the Green List, particularly in the transport sector. Bus and truck drivers who apply for an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) on or after 7 April 2024 are no longer eligible for the Transport Work to Residence visa.

These changes highlight the dynamic nature of the Green List and the government's commitment to adapting immigration policies to meet the evolving needs of the New Zealand economy. It's essential to stay informed about the latest updates to the Green List to determine your eligibility and choose the most suitable pathway to residence in New Zealand.

Median Wage Requirements for Green List Visas

The median wage is a crucial factor in determining eligibility for various Green List visas. It serves as a benchmark for assessing whether a job offer is genuine and whether the applicant's qualifications are in demand.

Straight to Residence Visa

For the Straight to Residence visa, some Tier 1 occupations have specific minimum salary requirements tied to the median wage. These requirements ensure that migrants are offered competitive salaries that reflect the value of their qualifications and experience.

Work to Residence Visa

To be eligible for the Work to Residence visa, migrant applicants must be paid at least the current median wage at the time of their residence application. This requirement applies to both Tier 2 occupations and roles that were previously on the Work to Residence visa pathway but have since moved to the Straight to Residence visa pathway.

Changes to Median Wage Requirements

The median wage is subject to change, and recent updates have impacted the requirements for certain visas. For example, the median wage increased to NZD $31.61 per hour on 28 February 2024, affecting the wage thresholds for various visa categories, including the Skilled Migrant Category and Green List visas.

However, the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) wage threshold was paused at NZD $29.66 per hour. This pause allows the government to explore alternative options to the median wage threshold to ensure it effectively attracts the migrant workers New Zealand needs and addresses genuine skill shortages.

It's important to note that migrants who already hold an AEWV paid at the paused wage rate can still accrue work experience for Skilled Residence, even with the increased wage requirements. However, they must have a job or job offer that meets the skilled residence pathway rate in line with the median wage at the time of their application.

Understanding the median wage requirements and their implications is crucial for both migrants and employers. By staying informed about the latest updates and seeking professional advice, you can navigate the Green List visa process more effectively and increase your chances of success.

Frequently asked questions

The Green List is a more focused and streamlined version of the previous skill shortage lists, such as the Long-Term Skill Shortage List, Regional Skill Shortage List, and Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List. While the Green List includes many occupations from these previous lists, it is shorter and more targeted towards highly skilled roles that are in global demand and experiencing ongoing shortages in New Zealand.
If you don't qualify for the Green List visa, you may still have other pathways to work and reside in New Zealand. One option is to apply for an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) and then pursue residence through the Skilled Migrant Category. This category assesses your qualifications, skills, and work experience to determine your eligibility for residence in New Zealand.
Yes, if you are already in New Zealand on a valid visa, you can apply for this visa if you meet the eligibility criteria. You can either apply for the Straight to Residence visa immediately or work in a Tier 2 occupation for two years and then apply for the Work to Residence visa.
Yes, your partner and dependent children can apply for a visa to join you in New Zealand if you are applying for one of the Green List visas.
The processing time for Green List visa applications varies depending on the complexity of the application and the volume of applications being processed. However, Immigration New Zealand aims to process most Straight to Residence visa applications within 3 months and most Work to Residence visa applications within 4 months (as of June 2024)
The Green List visa simplifies the hiring process for accredited employers by removing the need to provide proof of advertising for Green List occupations when applying for an AEWV job check. This streamlines the recruitment process and allows employers to fill skill shortages more efficiently.
The Green List is regularly reviewed and updated to reflect the changing needs of the New Zealand labour market. New roles may be added, and existing occupations may be removed or moved between tiers based on the demand for specific qualifications. It's important to stay informed about the latest updates to the Green List to determine your eligibility and choose the most suitable pathway to residence in New Zealand.
The 'Green List Visa' is a catch-all term that refers to two specific visas that utilise the 'Green List' as a pathway to immigrate to New Zealand. As such, there is no such thing as a 'Green List Visa'.
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Last modified on 3 July 2024 by
Michael Yoon
Principal Immigration Lawyer
Michael has been working as a lawyer in New Zealand since 2006. Over the years, he has successfully helped thousands of clients to get their desired outcome. Clients find Michael knowledgeable, approachable and professional — a trusted expert.

Remember, New Zealand immigration laws and policies change constantly, without warning.

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