Care Workforce Visa Pathways4 Oct 2023

If you are working, or planning to work, in a care workforce role in New Zealand then it is important you understand everything there is to know about your and your family’s visa options.

As New Zealand's population ages, the demand for aged residential care will increase significantly over the next decade. The aged care sector is already very dependent on overseas workers, and this has been recognised by the Government which has introduced visa policies specifically to attract and retain care workforce workers by providing them with a pathway to New Zealand residence.

Accredited Employer Work Visa

Anyone undertaking work in New Zealand must hold a visa which allows such work, and the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) is the main work visa for care workforce workers. There are other work visa types such as partnership, post-study and working holiday work visas which can enable work in any work roles.

To obtain an AEWV the employer must be accredited with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) – and this can be checked on the INZ website. The employer must also have an approved Job Check token. This Token is obtained after advertising the job, and evidencing there are no New Zealanders or New Zealand residents, available who have the advertised credentials to work in the role (e.g., relevant work experience and/or qualification). Once the Job Token is obtained an AEWV application can be made.

The AEWV application requires:
• Completed online application form
• A signed employment agreement, including the job description
• Evidence the applicant has the required credentials (e.g., work experience and/or qualifications). It is possible Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will also check these credentials
• All required health and character checks

Normally, to obtain an AEWV the payrate must be at least the median wage (currently $29.66 per hour – and increasing to $31.61 per hour from 27 February 2024). However, the Care Workforce Sector Agreement allows for a lower payrate for care workforce workers working in the following roles - Kaiāwhina (Māori Health Assistant), Disabilities Service Officer, Residential Care Officer, Aged or Disabled Carer, Nursing Support Worker, Personal Care Assistant, Therapy Aide, Child or Youth Residential Care Assistant and Diversional Therapist. These roles can be paid at least at the Level 3 caregiver payrate which, for the period from 1 July 2022 to 31 December 2023, is $26.16 per hour and can be issued an AEWV valid for 2 years (increasing to 3 years after 27 November 2023). The maximum continuous period a worker can remain in New Zealand holding an AEWV based on this payrate is 3 years.

For roles which are paid at, or above, the Level 4 caregiver payrate, currently $28.25 per hour, the AEWV will also be issued for 3 years, however the maximum continuous stay in New Zealand allowed for these workers will be 5 years.

Registered and enrolled nurses are covered within the separate Green List, and must have nursing registration, and be paid at least at the median payrate to apply for an AEWV or a Green List work, or straight-to-residence residence visa.

If an AEWV holder has not attained New Zealand residence in these 5 years, or is not on a residence pathway (e.g., acquiring the required skilled work experience to be make a Skilled Migrant Category residence application) by the end of this time, then they may need to leave New Zealand for 12 months before being able to apply for a new AEWV. While it is appropriate that everyone be aware of this current policy provision it would not be a surprise if this is changed in the future.

Family visas

If an AEWV holder is being paid at the median wage (currently $29.66 per hour), or higher, it is possible for their partner to be issued a partnership-based work visa allowing them to work for any accredited employer so long as they are paid at or above the median wage.

If the AEWV holder is being paid below the median wage, their partner is only eligible for a visitor visa. If the partner wishes to work, they will need to qualify for an AEWV in their own right, or wait to apply for a partnership-work visa if/when the AEWV holder’s pay increases to the median wage.

If the AEWV holder is earning annual income of NZ$43,322.76 then their dependent children can be eligible for student visas to study as domestic students up to the completion of secondary school.

Partners and dependent children must meet the relevant policy requirements in order to be eligible for any family-based visa.

Work Pathway to Residence

The Care Workforce Sector Agreement also provides a pathway to New Zealand residence for the above listed roles.

To be eligible to apply for this residence visa, applicants must have:
• held a qualifying work or other visa allowing work, and
• worked for 24 months in New Zealand in one of the specified roles (this work must be gained after 29 September 2021, and within the 30-month period immediately before making the residence application), and
• have current employment (or an offer of employment) in one of the specified roles with an INZ accredited employer, and
• been paid at or above the applicable Level 4 payrate at the time of applying for residence, as well as for the duration of the 24-month work period (see below)

Employment roles must be for full time (i.e., minimum of 30 hours per week) employment and be either permanent, or for a fixed term of at least 12 months. In certain circumstances contract for service roles may also be eligible. Immigration New Zealand will consider the main job tasks actually undertaken in its assessment of whether the job is a match for one of the specified roles.

The 24-month work period can be counted from when the applicant’s payrate first achieved the Level 4 payrate in place at the time. This rate was $27.00 per hour from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022, and $28.25 per hour from 1 July 2022 to 31 December 2023. Applicants do not have to actually hold the Level 4 Certificate in Health and Wellbeing but must be paid at the Level 4 payrate.

It is possible to combine periods of other eligible (non-care workforce) work-to-residence work to make up the required 24 months, so long as that work was either in a Green List or Transport Sector work to residence role, or in a role earning twice the median wage.

The main residence applicant must be aged under 56 years at the time their residence application is lodged. Their application may include their partner, and any dependent children who are aged under 25 years (and who satisfy the policy requirements for dependent children).

The main residence applicant must satisfy the English language requirement before lodging their residence application. This is normally an acceptable English test result obtained in the last 2 years (e.g., IELTS. 6.5, PTE 58, TOEFL iBT 79 & others). Please read our English language test guide to understand more about each test process and to provide information on which test may be more suitable.

It can be possible for citizens of Canada, USA, UK and Ireland, or applicants who have undertaken particular tertiary studies in these countries, or in New Zealand and Australia, to satisfy the English requirement without having to take an English test.

Any partner and dependent children included in the residence application must also meet an English standard, but at a lower level than the main applicant. Alternatively, these applicants are also able to meet this requirement by pre-purchasing English language lessons.

English language may present as one of the greatest challenges for care workforce workers in order to achieve their New Zealand residence, and workers should be actively progressing their English language abilities with this in mind.


Current immigration policy settings are supportive of care workforce workers obtaining work visas to work in New Zealand, and additionally provide a very clear pathway to residence after working in their role for 24 months at the Level 4 payrate. However, they will need to achieve this residence outcome within the maximum 5 years that they are able to hold their AEWV, otherwise face the very real prospect of having to leave New Zealand for 1 year. The key issue will be the worker’s ability to pass the required English test.

This information is provided as general guidance only. As each persons’ circumstances are different professional advice should be sought to confirm their individual visa eligibility.

Pathways® licensed immigration advisers are here to help – contact one of our friendly and experienced advisers today!