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Foreign Work Permits in the Cook Islands explained

6th April 2018

Foreign Work Permits in the Cook Islands explained

The intent of the STEPNZ is to enable Employers (primarily Private sector) to get NZ citizens into the Cook Islands quickly to address seasonal/contract work increases in business that that cannot be met by local workers. It is not intended to replace the work permit process.

The criteria for STEPNZ is the following:

  • - You are currently in your busy season and require extra workers quickly
  • - These workers are skilled and will be in the Cook Islands for up to 6 months and may be extended for another six months.
  • - Dependent on how this relationship works out it could be moved to an annual work permit after a year or terminated with repatriation within one month.
  • - Agreement to repatriate on completion/termination of Employment


The benefits of STEPNZ is that it has a shorter advertisement period requirement as well as shorter processing times at all agencies involved. The main difference with the regular permit process is that the employee can be in country working whilst the employer processes the permit within the first month of arrival, as opposed to off shore applications for the regular permits.

The STEPNZ program is only open to New Zealand and Australia passport holders.

Applications for STEPNZ should be made directly at the Labour division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (INTAFF). Employers should provide a copy of the contract as well as a copy of the employee’s CV and their passport. INTAFF then vets the content of the contract to check if it aligns with the special requirements of the STEPNZ program and the labour legislation. Once approved, the STEPNZ officer provides the STEPNZ forms that the Employer can bring to the Ministry of Health and the Immigration services. The forms provide a detailed list of the documents required to present to each authority.

An application fee of $100.00 will be required and the application is given priority at all three agencies.

Click here to download the ENTRY PERMIT form 

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