Help to find workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Find out about some options if your business needs some extra workers.

Border exceptions – bringing workers to NZ

The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  Only a small number of people can travel to New Zealand, such as New Zealand citizens and people with a critical purpose to travel.

Permission to travel to New Zealand is granted by Immigration New Zealand. Requests are assessed against the criteria put in place by the government. More information is on Immigration New Zealand’s website.

Immigration New Zealand

If you need to apply to Immigration New Zealand for an exception to bring in people to provide critical services or skills, think about:

  • whether the individuals from overseas are critical for the delivery of time-critical projects or programmes that are of strategic economic importance (such as, providing significant spillover benefits to the economy, major employment in a region, or preserving significant international trade-related business)
  • why the work is essential to your business
  • why this international expertise, technical requirements, or unique talent is critical for success
  • the reasons why it is not possible to redeploy workers already in New Zealand
  • whether there are already people performing these roles in New Zealand
  • the length of time the workers are likely to be in New Zealand
  • what alternative arrangements have been considered and why are these are not being pursued.

Getting help to find workers in NZ

MPI has regional workforce liaison officers around the country. They work with sector groups and businesses to support the redeployment of workers into the food and fibres sector.

To get in touch with one of our liaison officers, email info@mpi.govt.nz

In your email tell us what region you are in and all your contact details.

These websites are a good start to find workers in the food and fibres sector:

Introductory courses to the food and fibres sector

MPI is supporting familiarisation courses across the country.  These include Telford in Balclutha and Taratahi in the Wairarapa. 

The courses focus on areas like apiculture, basic machinery use, agricultural contracting, and dairy farming (supported by DairyNZ). 

We’re also supporting taster courses which allow people to experience different areas of the food and fibres sector.  An example is supporting winter pruning courses run by New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated.

The courses are free, and some can provide accommodation and food.

Telford Taster Course - Southern Institute of Technology

Taratahi Ag Contracting course - Universal College of Learning

Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) Scheme

With the New Zealand border currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19, there are no RSE workers coming into New Zealand.

Normally, the RSE Scheme enables the horticulture and viticulture sectors to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers.

For RSE workers still in New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand has updated some of the settings for the RSE Scheme.

RSE information – Immigration New Zealand

Working holiday visa extension

People who are already in New Zealand on a working holiday visa can make a one-off application to stay an extra 3 months if they have completed at least 3 months of seasonal work in the horticulture or viticulture industries.  

Working holidaymaker extension work visa – Immigration New Zealand

Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visa

People who are already in New Zealand on a student or visitor visa can make a one-off application for a work visa to do seasonal work in the horticulture or viticulture industries. They can only apply if there are not enough New Zealanders available to do the work. 

If you are on a Working Holiday Visa and don’t apply for the Working Holiday Visa extension, you will automatically be granted an SSE visa to do seasonal work in the horticulture or viticulture industries.  To register as an SSE employer, you need to apply to be accredited.  

SSE application form - Immigration New Zealand

SSE work visa - Immigration New Zealand

Seasonal work visas available - Beehive

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