Variations of Work Visa Conditions – Watch Your Step

In April Immigration made a small, quiet change to its policy which could be a headache for a lot of people.

Essential Skills Work Visas are the most comoon type of visa based on a job offer.  It used to be fairly straightforward to apply for a Variation of Conditions if you changed employers in the same town (still doing the same job) or got promoted in your present job.  Now, however, you must make a whole new application for Work Visa from scratch.  This means that Immigration can reassess everything – your health, character, whether there are New Zealand workers available for the job . . . everything.

One particularly insidious result of this is that if you had worked for someone in the past without having the right work conditions on your visa, this can all be brought up every time you switch jobs as a “breach of visa conditions”.  Then you have to justify yourself to Immigration all over again as to why it happened.  And this sort of thing happened a lot because people often didn’t realise that they needed to tell Immigration every time something changed about their employment situation.  After all, if I’m working as a welder and get a better offer down the street or out of town, what’s the problem?  As we discovered over the last year, it was really quite a big problem.  We had to rescue a couple of clients from being deported.

To check if you need to apply for a new Work Visa, the test is simple.  Read the Work Visa stamp on your passport.  If the name of the job, the employer or the town where you work does not match what you’re doing now, then put in an application to sort it out.  If you don’t, it could wreck your chances of getting future visas, or even applying for Residence down the track.


About Simon Laurent, Lawyer

Principal of LaurentLaw Barristers & Solicitors. NZ immigration law specialist.
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16 Responses to Variations of Work Visa Conditions – Watch Your Step

  1. renata says:

    Hi Iam just wandering if my husband went back to Samoa willingly without deportation but he was unlawful for 10years how difficult will it be for me to get a partnership visa for him to reenter new Zealand


    • It may be possible, but it will depend on whether you have extremely good and extensive evidence for the whole time that you have lived together, and a good explanation why he has overstayed for so long. Without those he will not get back at all, ever.


  2. dar says:

    Hi I apply under essential skill work visa, i got work visa but now i want to change company who is down in Hamilton.
    1. Which visa i need to apply for? New work visa or Variation of condition?
    2. During visa process can i go back to my home country and come back?


    • You probably need to apply for a new Essential Skills Work Visa because you are changing your work location. Whether you can leave NZ during the process depends on when your current visa expires. If it expires while you are still overseas then you must wait until the new Work Visa application is approved before you come back.


  3. Lu says:

    If you apply for a new work visa due to changing employers, and for whatever reason, the visa is declined – what happens to your existing visa. Obviously if you can’t get a new visa, you would like to stay with the employer where you are currently working. Just worried that the visa gets cancelled and you have to leave NZ


    • Your existing visa does not get cancelled just because you applied for a new one. If you continue to working for your previous employer, then nothing has changed and you can continue to work for them until that visa runs out.


  4. vilis patel says:

    I am working for Auckland base company. I got 3 years essential work visa on last march 2017 to work only for Auckland. Now my employer will start new office in Hawke’s bay within one month and he want to me work in Hawke’s bay office.
    1. Am I need to apply essential work visa with new advertisement with position or can I apply without any advertisement for position?


  5. Pasindu says:

    Hi Simon,

    I’m a web developer and holds a essential work visa till 2019 JULY. I got a new offer for a project from a new company for a 1 year contract that I’m keen to work on. What will happen if I apply a change of conditions for this new job and take it over? will immigration cut down the visa period as well or will it just change the company name only?


    • If your new job is identical to the old one, and the company is in the same town, then you only need a Variation of Conditions and the duration of your Work Visa is unaffected. However, if either the job or the town change, then you must apply for a new Work Visa. The duration of the new job will depend on the salary that you will be paid in the new job, after changes to Work Visa Instructions at the end of August. For more detailed advice you should contact us or another professional adviser for a direct consultation.


  6. Altaf Vora says:

    I got 3 years essential work visa and I am working in Auckland can change my employer if I want to change a job with same field and same post what is the process to inform to immigration.


  7. Maribelle Hanopol says:

    Hi Simon,
    If i got a new offer with same location and place do i need to resign first in my previous employer for me to apply my work visa conditions? And if it will decline what will happen to my visa and my partner visa as well? Thank you


  8. Joshua says:

    Hi Simon,

    If I have essential work visa and I got promoted to a different position with the same company and same location.

    1. should I apply for a variation?
    2. should I apply for a new work visa?
    3. is it enough proof that I was under training while for 3 years for the new position.


    • You must apply for a new Work Visa. A Variation of Conditions is not sufficient. The employer must advertise and show that they could not find local people to fill the position. It is largely irrelevant that you have been trained up to the position, although if the employer can show that it takes 3 years to train someone, that could argue in favour of saying that they can’t find local people for the job.


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