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To visit New Zealand and work you probably need a Work Visa

Everyone working in New Zealand for any period must be:

- a New Zealand or Australian citizen; or,
- an Australian permanent resident (Australians have the automatic right to work in New Zealand); or,
- hold a New Zealand residency permit, or a valid work visa.

This is the law, and the responsible government department, Immigration New Zealand, is required to implement it.

Visiting producers, directors, cast and crew must apply for a Temporary Work Visa before they come and work.

Usually the production arranges the work visas on behalf of the crew. These requirements apply equally to ordinary employees, independent contractors and freelance crew. In Immigration New Zealand documentation the word employee also applies to contractors and freelance crew. The most common screen crew visa is called an Entertainers Work Visa. 

To assist Immigration New Zealand (INZ) interpret the law, they work within rules laid out in the INZ Operational Manual. The part that specifically relates to temporary entry for screen crew: Immigration Instructions - Temporary Entry 2' Section W3.1 of Immigration Instructions - Temporary Entry 2 requires, among other things, that the producers show that the crew they want to bring in are manifestly essential to the production, or that they do not put at risk engagement of New Zealand professionals, or that the producer has appropriately looked at engaging New Zealand professionals.

To get a work visa, crew probably need a 'Letter of Non-Objection' (LONO)

Section W3.10 of Immigration Instructions - Temporary Entry 2 requires, with some exceptions, that the producer obtains the agreement of the relevant New Zealand performers union or professional association. For crew, excluding producers and directors, this professional association is The Screen Guild.

The way to obtain agreement is by requesting from The Screen Guild a letter of non-objection (LONO) which can be forwarded with the visa application to Immigration New Zealand and it will greatly facilitate and speed up most crew visa applications with Immigration New Zealand.

NZCS is the largest representative body of cinematographers and camera crew in New Zealand. All applications that fall under our membership are forwarded to NZCS for consideration. The Screen Guild's position is that they will support NZCS in whatever conclusion we make when reviewing the submissions.

Click here for further Visa information.

How does NZCS process LONO applications and what is the criteria?

The criteria that NZCS use for granting or declining a letter of non-objection are defined in Section W3.1 of Immigration Instructions - Temporary Entry 2. They are:

  • the applicant is of international distinction, or particular ethnic significance, or is manifestly essential to the presentation or production; or
  • the applicant's engagement does not put at risk the engagement of New Zealand entertainers or professionals in equivalent work unless the wider benefits to be obtained from the applicant's employment outweigh the loss of job opportunities for New Zealanders; or
  • they have given appropriate consideration to engaging available New Zealand entertainers or professionals.
  • the applicant is working in New Zealand for more than 14 days (14 days is inclusive of the date of arrival and the date of departure).

Getting the balance right for the overall benefit of crew in New Zealand is a vital role. Because there can be many grey areas in a LONO application, NZCS also takes into account the overall circumstances, such as:

  • What is the production type and time frame
  • Does applicant have expertise or specialist skills that is not currently available in New Zealand
  • Does the DP have a prior relationship with the Director
  • Does the applicant have a prior connection to the production i.e. they are already shooting principal photography in another country
  • Did the production complete due diligence to hire local DPs before engaging international crew
  • Are the production providing training opportunities to up-skill local camera crew
  • What percentage of the overall crew, including HoDs, are being hired locally versus coming from overseas
  • If the production is receiving any New Zealand funding
  • If the production has New Zealand centred content or story

If you are a member of NZCS, this means sometimes you may see some overseas crew come in without having all the information behind the decision.

How is this process supporting NZCS members?

Processing LONO's for international crew to fill roles we wish were filled by local crew, can sometimes feel like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. NZCS works hard in these circumstances to create opportunities towards the creative, cultural and financial wellbeing of New Zealand Cinematographers.

We ask the difficult questions and respond on your behalf: All application-related discussions between the Production/producers and The Screen Guild, are routed through our Executive Officer. This enables our committee to review applications on your behalf, without fear of jeopardising personal ties with Producers.

We promote local talent: We can identify who the production has contacted by requesting proof of due diligence as part of the application process, giving us the opportunity to understand what the production needs and put forwards additional names of NZCS members who we know could fill the role to ensure they do not put at risk engagement of New Zealand professionals.

We create professional development opportunities: If an oversees DP is essential, we collaborate with the Production to determine how local crew might benefit from the specific area of experience being in the country. We can do this in a variety of ways, depending on the production and circumstances, such as:

- collaborate with the production to create paid internships on the job to shadow the DP.

- invite the DP to be a guest speaker at an NZCS hosted event, to speak about a past project(s) or experience to share their knowledge.

- create paid additional days for crew to come and learn so that they can gain the necessary IMDb credit for future opportunities. 

- offer masterclasses or workshops on the production site to help local crew up-skill

Promoting local contacts and suppliers: NZCS offers free advice on local contacts and suppliers with a view towards developing direct partnerships with incoming productions.

Creating international connections: Creating open communication channels with abroad production companies and studios so that when they return to New Zealand, they have a point of contact to assess the experience and availability of local crew before engaging international crew to travel to New Zealand.

Key takeaway

Foreign Directors of Photography (DPs) who come to New Zealand often work with our crew and discover how they meet and often exceed international standards, asserting that if they had known this beforehand, they would have hired local crew.

NZCS is continuously striving to create relationships and acting as a contact point prior to the hiring decision being made, which is beneficial for both international productions and local crew. If you would like to have a conversation with us, please get in touch.

PHOTO: DP intern Aline Tran stands (middle back row) next to Cinematographer mentor, DJ Stipsen (left of Aline) on a 'Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program' paid internship placement on international TV Series 'Time Bandits' at Stone Street Studios, Wellington.

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Ariel Camera Limited
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