Āpiha Whakahaere Manene
Immigration officers control the entry of people from other countries into New Zealand. They assess and decide visa applications from people who wish to visit, study, work or reside permanently in NZ according to immigration laws and policies and the principles of fairness and natural justice.
Immigration officers with one to three years’ experience usually earn
$40K-$66K per year
Senior immigration officers with managerial responsibilities usually earn
$72K-$88K per year
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Pay for immigration officers varies depending on their experience.
- New immigration officers start on $40,000 to $44,000 a year, depending on where they live. Due to the Canterbury re-build the demand for immigration officers in Christchurch has increased and, they are likely to start at the higher end of the salary range.
- They can progress to earn about $66,000 a year.
- Immigration managers (of about eight to 10 people) usually start on $72,000 to $76,000 a year.
- Immigration managers can progress to $88,000 a year.
Source: Sherwin, J, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, January 2014.
What you will do
Immigration officers may do some or all of the following:
- provide information about immigration laws, policies and procedures
- answer written and phone enquiries
- read, check and decide on applications for residency or entry into New Zealand
- interview applicants
- explain decisions to applicants
- issue permits and visas
- assess potential immigration risks
- investigate breaches of immigration laws
- advise on immigration policy and operations.
Skills and knowledge
Immigration officers need to have:
- knowledge and understanding of a range of cultures
- good interviewing and communication skills
- excellent writing skills
- analytical and research skills
- knowledge of immigration laws, policies and official procedure.
The ability to speak another language is also useful.
- work regular office hours, but may be required to work overtime. Their position may be fixed term or permanent
- usually work from Immigration New Zealand offices or international airports (as Border Immigration Officers) within New Zealand. They may also work overseas at Immigration New Zealand's offshore offices, and at embassies, consulates and high commissions
- work in conditions which may be stressful when dealing with difficult or complicated cases.
What's the job really like?
Lakshmi Murali - Immigration Officer
Variety of the job appeals
Immigration officer Lakshmi Murali says it is the variety of tasks and duties she enjoys most about her job. "Each case is a learning process, because you do something different with each one."
Lakshmi organises permits for people who have married New Zealanders, those who have offers of work in New Zealand, and people who are just visiting. "We might speak to employers, do labour market checks, or talk to our client to clarify certain things."
Understanding the process from both sides
Lakshmi can understand the immigration process from both sides, having moved from India to New Zealand herself. When clients find the experience difficult or stressful, she can empathise with them. "When you apply as an immigrant, you're so anxious to know what's going to happen – whether you're going to be approved or not – and you really want to know the progress of your case."
Despite that pressure Lakshmi finds serving new immigrants very rewarding. "Once people talk to us and we explain why something is taking the time it does, and what the process we're following, then they're usually happy with that."
To become an immigration officer you need:
- to be a New Zealand citizen or have permanent residency.
- a tertiary qualification, ideally in law or public policy, or a qualification which demonstrates analytical ability and excellent written communication
- to undergo training after you are employed, in immigration policy and its application
- to pass a test and become warranted to work in immigration
- to be willing to undergo further training, such as advanced customer service skills or writing for work.
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter further training.
Immigration officers need to be:
- good at communicating, particularly in writing
- friendly, patient and fair
- responsible and resilient under pressure
- able to use sound judgement
- able to work well under pressure and work well in a team
- able to keep infomation private
- accurate with an eye for detail.
It's a very people-oriented job. You deal with people all of the time, and are constantly in contact with all sorts of different organisations in the course of processing applications.
Faye-Maree Davy - Immigration Officer
The most useful experience for immigration officers is working at an Immigration New Zealand contact centre, located in Auckland or Palmerston North - as this provides experience and knowledge of immigration laws.
Working in a State Owned Enterprise enforcing policy, rules and legislation is also useful.
Other useful experience includes:
- work involving management of caseloads or workflows
- work involving applying polices or rules and making decisions of consequence, such as work on insurance claims
- work in local or national government organisations
- customer service.
Experience living or working overseas and/or using a second language is also an advantage.
Find out more about training
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
- (04) 494 0260 - www.mbie.govt.nz/about-us/careers
What are the chances of getting a job?
According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of immigration officers remained fairly stable between 2010 and 2012. Immigration officer opportunities that do arise are mostly due to resignations or retirements.
Most new immigration officers are on fixed-term contracts
Because there is a shift to on-line processing of simple visa applications, the number of immigration officers is expected to decline in the future. As a result, most immigration officers who are being employed in 2014 are offered fixed-term contracts.
Christchurch rebuild is driving demand for immigration officers in the city
The rebuild of Christchurch after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes means:
- there is a high demand for immigration officers to process applications from skilled migrants coming to work on the rebuild
- it is harder to get immigration officers to work in the city because of housing and other issues.
As a result, the chances of getting a job in Christchurch as an immigration officers are better. Only in Christchurch are immigration officers being employed on permanent contracts.
Call centre or administrative jobs can be a stepping stone to immigration officer work
A good way of gaining experience and getting a job as an immigration officer is to first work in an Immigration New Zealand call centre or in an administrative support role
One employer of immigration officers
Immigration New Zealand (part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) is the only employer of immigration officers in New Zealand.
- Sherwin, J, senior recruitment adviser, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Careers New Zealand interview, 2014.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘2003-2012 Occupation Data’ (prepared for Career Services), 2013.
Progression and specialisations
With experience, immigration officers may get opportunities to work in Immigration New Zealand's offshore locations.
Some immigration officers progress to become immigration specialists (Technical Advisors), business advisors / analysts, or managers.
Immigration officers may also move to other roles within Immigration New Zealand, other parts of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, or other government departments.
Last updated 28 January 2016