Guide on Variation of Conditions

If your circumstances have changed, you may need to apply to change the conditions of your visa.

If you want to learn about Variation of Conditions, you've come to the right place.

This guide has everything you need to understand the basics of Variation of Conditions. You'll also find links to useful resources from our blog and video throughout, so you can plan your next steps.

What is a Variation of Conditions?

When you have been granted a visa, it is likely that it will be subject to certain conditions, especially if you are not yet a permanent resident.

For example, for a person holding a work visa that allows that person to work for an employer, the work visa will typically have three conditions:

  • the name of the employer whom you are working for;
  • the job position that you are working as; and
  • the city that you are working in (e.g. Auckland).

Likewise, visitor visas, student visas, and resident visas all come with their own conditions. If the specified conditions need to be changed, you will need to request Immigration NZ by lodging a Variation of Conditions application. Start by checking the conditions of your visa in New Zealand.

Retaining your current visa without updating its conditions to reflect any significant changes in your circumstances could lead to non-compliance with the terms of your visa. Failure to align your visa with new conditions, such as a change in your course of study, place of education, or any other major alteration in your situation, may result in a breach of these conditions.

Such a breach can have serious implications, potentially affecting your lawful status and future visa applications. Therefore, we advise you to read this guide and understand your visa options correctly, proactively inform INZ, seek the necessary changes to your visa to suit your situation, and ensure you remain compliant with New Zealand's immigration regulations.

The crucial point to understand is that any requested changes should align with the original basis for granting your existing visa.

For example, if you are on a work visa and you want to study part-time while maintaining full-time working hours, that adjustment may be acceptable. However, if you wish to fundamentally shift your primary purpose to full-time study, with work becoming secondary, then you would need to lodge a new visa application to INZ that reflects this change in focus.

If in doubt, contact us or a licensed immigration adviser to discuss your immigration matters.

Varying work visa conditions or applying for 'Job Change'

You should seek a Variation of Conditions (also referred to as 'VOC') or a 'Job Change' if there have been changes to your employment situation.

With the introduction of Employer Accreditation, Job Check and Accredited Employer Work Visa system, the name 'Variation of Conditions' is now called a 'Job Change'. For Accredited Employer Work Visa holders, you will need to apply for a Job Change if you want to change to a new employer, job position, employment location, or a combination of these.

Your employer will need to have a valid employer accreditation with Immigration NZ, as well as a valid Job Check (and job token) for the position offered to you. Ensure you meet the requirements stipulated on the Job Check.

If the new employment will pay you below the current median wage ($29.66 per hour - as of January 2024), the job must be on the 'AEWV roles exempt from paying the median wage' list. And if your existing visa duration is longer than what you will get for applying for a role paying below median wage, you will need to apply for a new AEWV instead.

For instance, if you initially received a three-year AEWV for a position with a rate above the median wage, but you now intend to transition to a role that paid below the median wage (e.g. care workforce sector where the wage exemption applies) that qualifies for only a two-year visa, you won't be meeting the eligibility criteria to apply for a Job Change in this scenario. In that case, you would need to file a new work visa application.

Varying the conditions of Partnership-Based Work Visa

If your partnership work visa initially came with restrictive work rights because your supporting partner held an AEWV and earned at or above the median wage but not twice the median wage or worked in a role not on the Green List, but the partner now meets either of these criteria, you have the option to request the conditions on your visa be changed.

This variation would change your work visa into an 'open' work visa, allowing you to work without limitations in any position or location. You will need to supply relevant evidence to show that your supporting partner now meets either of those two requirements.

It may also be possible to vary the conditions and enable study while on a Partnership Based Work Visa.

Varying the conditions of Essential Skills Work Visa

Essential Skills Work Visa was phased out in 2022 by Immigration New Zealand, but those who still have ESWVs that have not expired and are within validity can apply for a VOC to have the conditions changed (e.g. if there's a new job offer requiring you to move to Wellington).

In that case, the new employer must meet the labour market test unless the occupation is on the Green List or the role is paid twice the median wage. It would be a Variation of Conditions application and not a Job Change application.

Varying the conditions of Work Visa to study

If you need to undertake study as part of work, or if the study is not longer than 3 months, you don't need to vary your work visa conditions.

Some people like to pursue studies in addition to their employment, though it is hard work, either to progress on their pathway to permanent residence or to enhance their English language skills. If your intended course of study is unrelated to your work and/or extends beyond three months, you can apply for a Variation of Conditions to allow for part-time study.

However, it is imperative to demonstrate to New Zealand Immigration that your primary intent remains focused on working, while your desire to engage in this specific programme of study is genuine and complements your work or future prospects.

If your primary purpose in New Zealand has shifted to studying, and you wish to undertake full-time education, applying for a student visa would be the appropriate course of action.

Varying the conditions of Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Interim Visa

If you have applied for residency under the Skilled Migrant Category and you have been granted an interim visa, the interim visa will have work conditions, study conditions or visit conditions.

If it has employer-specific work conditions, you will be able to change the employer, position, location or any combination of those as long as the offered rate is paying the median wage or above and meets the relevant Job Change requirements. You will need to check that the changed job will not create issues for the SMC assessment.

If the Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa came with study or visit conditions, it may still be possible for you to work up to 20 hours per week if you meet certain requirements.

Varying the travel conditions of Resident Visa (VOTC)

When resident visas are issued, they typically come with a travel condition valid for two years. If your travel conditions have expired, and you haven't transitioned to a permanent resident visa but need to travel abroad, you must apply to have your resident visa extended to obtain additional travel conditions in order to retain your resident visa.

Varying the conditions of Student Visa to work

If you are currently holding a student visa and want to work, you may be able to apply to change the conditions of your visa depending on the level of study you are pursuing. You may be allowed to work up to 20 hours per week and full-time during scheduled holiday periods and/or during the end-of-year holiday (Christmas to New Year).

For tertiary students, you can work up to 20 hours per week in situations such as:

  • studying full-time for at least two years; or
  • studying full-time, upon completion, you will gain NZQF Level 4 or 5 qualifications; or
  • studying full-time for at least 24 weeks and being able to provide English language exam result that meets the standard; or
  • studying full-time for at least 14 weeks at a university to study English.

Tertiary students can work full-time during scheduled breaks if studying full-time for at least one year, and the course credit is at least 120 credits. During the end-of-year holiday period, if studying full-time in a programme that has at least two semesters during a period of at least eight months.

Year 12 and 13 students will be able to work up to 20 hours per week during school term and full-time during the end-of-year holiday. Parental consent and permission from the school are needed if you are under 18 years of age.

Unlimited work rights will apply to those who are studying for a Masters by Research or Doctoral degree (NZQF Level 9 or 10).

Varying the conditions of Student Visa to change course or study at a different education provider

You can apply to INZ to change the conditions on your current visa and switch to a different course or transfer to another educational institution. However, if your intention is to change your field of study entirely, you will need to include a valid explanation for this shift.

Under immigration law, you must demonstrate that you are a bona fide applicant, meaning that your intentions for studying are genuine and you will stay in New Zealand lawfully. INZ may scrutinise your application more closely if you aim to pursue a completely different subject area, as this could raise concerns about the authenticity of your intentions.

Varying the conditions of Visitor Visa

Visitor visas are typically limited in terms of permitted activities, but there are certain situations where you can request exceptions. These exceptions may include applying for extended study periods beyond three months, engaging in seasonal work within the horticulture or viticulture sectors, working up to 20 hours as a guardian, or converting your single-entry visitor visa into a multiple-entry visa.

How much does a Variation of Conditions cost?

If applying while in New Zealand, Variation of Conditions and Job Change applications cost $210 each. Variation of travel conditions on resident visas cost $240.

If you need to courier your passport to INZ at their request there could be another $8 to spend.

What are the processes for a VoC?

Step 1: Understand the requirements

If there were changes in your circumstances that might conflict with your visa conditions, or if you are planning on doing something that might trigger the conflict, you would need to start the process for a variation as soon as possible.

Step 2: Prepare application

Immigration New Zealand has been progressively rolling out options for applying for variations via their website. If your preference is to apply online, you can do so using the INZ website.

Otherwise, you will need to use the relevant INZ form.

Step 3: Lodge application

Once you have collected the supporting documents for your application, proceed to complete lodgement online or send to Immigration New Zealand by courier. If anything is missing, INZ will be in touch with you to request the information needed.

Get professional immigration advice

To expedite your application, it's crucial to ensure it is error-free and includes sufficient supporting documents for INZ to assess. 

If you're uncertain whether you've met all the requirements accurately, don't hesitate to contact us for a thorough evaluation of your case.

How long does a Variation of Conditions take?

Variation applications are processed within a few weeks, however, if issues arise, the timeline can be stretched out.

Frequently asked questions

If you are currently on an Accredited Employer Work Visa, and you want to change to another employer, you would need to apply for a 'Job Change'. Your new employer will need to have a 'Job Token' freed up in a valid 'Job Check', and you will need to meet the requirements stipulated in the 'Job Check' (e.g. work experience, qualification, etc).
It depends; if your existing visa is going to expire soon, you might like to look at securing a longer visa by applying for a new visa because applying for a VoC will not change the expiry of your visa. On the other hand, if you need to move to another employer in the shortest time possible, applying for a VoC might be quicker than applying for a brand-new visa.
If your situation involves complexities, it's advisable to consult with an immigration lawyer. We can address your concerns and guide you through your case to minimise any potential risks. The last thing you want is to find yourself entangled in unforeseen pitfalls at a later stage.
VOTC, or Variation of Travel Conditions, allows you to keep your visa valid even if you depart New Zealand and return. It's essential for resident visa holders to avoid the unfortunate situation of inadvertently invalidating their resident visa by leaving New Zealand after their travel conditions have expired.
author headshot Michael Yoon
Last modified on 20 January 2024 by
Michael Yoon
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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