Migrant exploitation

Migrant workers have the same minimum employment rights as New Zealand workers. If you, or someone you know, is being exploited in the workplace, you can report it to us.

Please note that Employment New Zealand does not provide immigration advice. If you need any information about your visa status and conditions, please contact Immigration NZ on 0508 558 855. They are open from 6am to 10pm Monday to Friday (NZT) excluding New Zealand public holidays. Other contact points for Immigration NZ can be found on the Immigration NZ website.

Immigration New Zealand(external link)

What is migrant worker exploitation?

Migrant exploitation is behaviour that causes, or increases the risk of, material harm to the economic, social, physical or emotional well-being of a migrant worker. This includes breaches of minimum employment standards or breaches of health and safety and immigration laws. This excludes minor and insignificant breaches that are not constant and easily remedied.

If you are in immediate physical danger, call 111 and ask for Police.

Common types of migrant worker exploitation

You may be experiencing exploitation if you: 

  • have to pay an amount of money or a fee to get a job
  • have to give back part or all of your wages to your employer
  • have to pay or provide your own equipment that should be provided by your employer
  • are paid too little or nothing at all for your work
  • are not paid for all the hours you work
  • are asked by your boss to say you have worked less hours than you have
  • are made to work an excessive number of hours, with no breaks
  • have no time off from work
  • are regularly not paid for public holidays or annual leave.

You may also be experiencing exploitation if your employer: 

  • locks windows and doors in your workplace so you cannot leave
  • makes you ask for permission to eat, sleep, or go to the toilet
  • makes you do work that is not part of your job, such as cleaning their home 
  • threatens to call Immigration New Zealand to end your work visa
  • makes you work more hours than your visa allows
  • provides unsatisfactory accommodation – for example, it is cramped or unsanitary
  • threatens to harm you or your family if you don’t do what they ask
  • subjects you to ‘fines’ if you do something wrong or your employer doesn’t like
  • keeps your passport
  • makes any unwelcome sexual gestures towards you, or
  • provides you with accommodation as part of your wages/salary but makes you pay more for it than they should be by law.

       Working for accommodation [PDF, 476 KB]

If you have experienced a minor or one-off breach by your employer, for example:

  • your final holiday pay is unpaid
  • your holiday pay has not been calculated correctly
  • your employer has forgotten to increase the minimum wage when it increased
  • a deduction is made from your final pay.

We can help you with this. Make a complaint online or contact our service centre:

Early Resolution Form(external link)

Contact us

Your minimum rights as a migrant worker

As a migrant worker, you have the same minimum employment rights as New Zealand workers.

These rights apply to everyone – even if an employee is working illegally – and cannot be taken away.

Employers can be fined, and lose the right to employ overseas workers, for breaching these rights.

Minimum rights of employees

Other languages

Minimum rights of employees - other language translations

How to keep yourself safe

To keep yourself safe, it’s important to follow the guidance below. This will help you avoid bad employers or help to show that your employer is exploiting you.

  • Do not pay to get a job – it is against the law.
  • Do not borrow money to get a job.
  • Do not believe promises made by some employers, immigration advisors or agents – particularly if they are from overseas or ask you for money to get a job.
  • Check the Immigration New Zealand website (link below) for advice on how to avoid immigration scams.
  • Be aware that just having a job does not guarantee a pathway to residency or citizenship.
  • Do not give your passport to your employer. Keep it and other documents in a safe place.
  • Where possible, keep copies of your passport and New Zealand-issued visa.
  • An employer must give you a copy of your individual employment agreement. Keep this in a safe place.
  • Keep a record of all hours and days you work, including:
    • the amount and dates you are paid, and
    • any amount taken from your payments by your employer.
  • Where possible, have your wages paid into a personal bank account. This protects your money and can help you keep track of your wage payments.  If you are paid by cash, record the date, time and who paid you the cash payments and where possible get evidence of the cash being paid to you.
  • Keep a record of any exploitation you believe you have experienced at your workplace. For example: 
    • text, WhatsApp, WeChat, Zalo messages, emails and bank records where the employer or agent has requested payment from you for the job and if you are to make the payment to someone else’s bank account.
    • photos, audio and video can be good evidence of the exploitation.

Protect yourself from immigration scams - Immigration New Zealand(external link)

Do not be afraid to report exploitation

Some employers know that you may be afraid to report them, especially if you are working unlawfully, or are worried you may be deported.

Some employers use this fear to take advantage of you. This is wrong. The New Zealand Government wants to stop employers from exploiting migrants. We want you to report any exploitation at work.

Do not be afraid to ask for help – we will treat you fairly and may investigate your claims. If there is exploitation happening, we may take action against the employer.

What happens when you report exploitation?

Employment New Zealand will review your report. 

If you agree to be contacted, we will get back to you as soon as we can. We will confirm the information you gave us and let you know how we can help.

Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa

The Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa ensures migrants who meet the visa criteria can quickly leave exploitative situations and remain lawfully in New Zealand. The visa is valid for up to 6 months.

To begin the process of applying for the Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa you need to:

1. Report exploitation online or over the phone

Our team will assess your report and contact you to check:

  • you are currently in New Zealand
  • you currently hold an employer-assisted work visa
  • your claim of exploitation is credible, contains specific and consistent detail and does not contradict relevant information that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment holds
  • we have no good reason to believe exploitation has not occurred.

2. Get a Report of Exploitation Assessment Letter

If Employment New Zealand believes you have a credible complaint of migrant worker exploitation and you fit the assessment criteria above, we will provide you with a Report of Exploitation Assessment Letter (RoEAL).  

When determining if a RoEAL can be issued, Employment New Zealand assesses if the employer’s behaviour has caused, or increased the risk of, material harm to the economic, social, physical or emotional wellbeing of a migrant worker. This includes breaches of minimum employment standards or breaches of health and safety and immigration laws. This excludes minor and insignificant breaches that are not constant and easily remedied.

3. Apply to Immigration New Zealand with your letter

You can use your Report of Exploitation Assessment letter to apply to Immigration New Zealand for the Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa. The letter must accompany your application.  

Migrant exploitation – Immigration New Zealand(external link)

We evaluate all complaints and work with Immigration New Zealand to decide what action should be taken against the employer. This can include educating the employer or taking enforcement action against them.

We can also provide you with help, advice and connection to support services necessary for your everyday life in New Zealand.

Other helpful services

Citizens Advice Bureau

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) provides free advice on dealing with complaints and disputes.

Find a CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau(external link)


Crimestoppers is an independent charity that helps New Zealanders to fight crime, including migrant exploitation. 

Report an immigration offence – Crimestoppers(external link)

Victim Support

Free support for people affected by crime, suicide and traumatic events.

Victim support(external link)

Community Law

If you need free legal advice, you can contact Community Law.

Community Law(external link)


Unions can help you with exploitation issues and help ensure you are being treated fairly. They can also negotiate with your employer on your behalf.

Find Your Union - New Zealand Council of Trade Unions(external link)

Get support now - Public Service Association(external link)

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