Religious Worker Work Visa

Under this category, religious workers can be granted work visas up to a maximum of four years.
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Michael Yoon
Principal Immigration Lawyer
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What is it?

Many years ago, all religious workers had to apply under a work visa category called "Essential Skills" work instructions when applying for their work visas.

That created difficulties as religious workers were not engaged in employment in the traditional sense, and also because their "employers" relied on donations to keep their organisation running.

That did not sit well with the Essential Skills work instructions and it was like trying to put a square peg through a round hole. Immigration New Zealand recognising this problem updated its instructions in 2010 to create a new category to dedicated for religious workers.

You will need to satisfy each of the following requirements:

  • meet general requirements; and
  • meet sponsor requirements; and
  • meet qualification requirements.

Let's take a look at each of them in turn.

What are the requirements?


General requirements include paying correct application fee, using prescribed Immigration New Zealand form, meeting health/character requirements, and being a 'bona fide' (genuine) applicant. In addition, you must not have held a work visa under this category for four years or more.


You will need to be sponsored by a religious organisation which is registered as a charity with the Charities Commission. The primary purpose of that charitable organisation must be for advancing of religion. The organisation must also meet certain criteria to be an 'acceptable sponsor', including not being in receivership/liquidation, not having breached sponsorship obligations previously, etc.


You need to have had training and/or experience relevant to the religious work you are being sponsored to undertake, of at least two years, in the field of religious work. Religious work is defined as follows:

  • teaching or guidance in religious scripture or philosophy;
  • leading religious practice, worship or prayer;
  • conducting religious initiations, ordination or ritual;
  • ministering or pastoral care;
  • roles of religious leadership in relation to any of the above.
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How much does it cost?

The application fee payable to Immigration New Zealand for this visa application is $700.

What is the processing time?

According to the latest figures available from Immigration New Zealand, 90% of all applications lodged under this category are taking about 51 weekdays from lodgement date to decision, and average processing time is about 21 weekdays.

How will it be decided?

The issue of the visa under this category will be subject to a number of conditions:

  • initial visa will be valid for up to two years (maximum four years allowed under this category); and;
  • you must undertake religious work for the sponsoring organisation only;
  • the sponsoring organisation must meet its obligations throughout the duration of the visa.
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Last modified on 11 January 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.

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