Sending Employees Across the Ditch

by 25 Oct 2012

 Karen Justice, Principal, New Zealand

New Zealand and Australia share many similarities, and numerous laws and regulatory matters are reciprocated between our two countries. There are notable differences, however. One of these is immigration rules. Each country has its own separate immigration program, yet from reading the press it would be easy to think that its one-way traffic, with the large number of Kiwis heading to Australia well documented in both countries.

What is not so well known is the situation in reverse. Special immigration allowances between the two countries enable permanent residents of Australia (as well as Australian citizens) to enjoy relatively free travel to and work opportunities in New Zealand. For employers needing to relocate workers from Australia to New Zealand, this makes life relatively easy.

Australian citizens, travelling on Australian passports, are granted full residence upon their arrival in New Zealand, as are those arriving with a valid Australian permanent resident or resident return visa at the time they enter New Zealand. This status allows the holder to remain in New Zealand for as long as they wish, and to work for whomever they choose. It also gives Australians other benefits, including being able to undertake tertiary studies as domestic students, eligibility for access to the public health care system, and the ability to purchase property without query.

However, these special immigration allowances do not apply to everyone arriving from Australia. Anyone on a temporary visa in Australia (for example a subclass 457 visa) has to apply for an appropriate visa prior to travel to New Zealand (unless they are on a genuine visit and are from a visa waiver country). 

It’s also worth noting that:

  • If the worker does not hold a visa that allows them to remain in New Zealand for at least 12 months when their household goods are cleared through customs, they will be charged GST (15%) on the value of their personal goods. There is no charge for those with longer stay visas
  • Anyone who has a valid work visa (or series of work visas) that enables them to stay for at least 24 months is eligible to access the public health care system, just like a New Zealand citizen or resident. Dependent children of such visa holders, regardless of their length of visa, are also eligible
  • School age dependents of work visa holders are eligible for student visas so they can attend school as domestic students for the duration of their stay (again regardless of the length of the visa) and are not subject to overseas student fees.

In general, employers of temporary workers in New Zealand have a much easier time of it from an immigration perspective than employers in Australia. Employers are not responsible for providing health insurance (or even ensuring that the worker holds such insurance), repatriation costs, or covering any debts that the work visa holder may incur whilst in New Zealand (of course, an employer may offer these benefits to workers, but they are not required as part of the immigration process).

It is also possible to have an employee in New Zealand that is not employed by a New Zealand entity – the worker can quite happily remain on an overseas payroll if this is what the company decides it would like to do. Of course, if they are to be employed locally, then they will need to be given (and agree on) an employment contract that is compliant with New Zealand employment laws current at the time of signing.





Karen Justice




T: +64 4 499 2043