How to join

Overseas applicants

Due to recent criteria changes, we are temporarily unable to recruit overseas candidates who require a Skilled Migrant Category Visa (SMCV).

Thank you for your interest in the New Zealand Defence Force. Due to recent criteria changes, we are temporarily unable to recruit overseas candidates who require a Skilled Migrant Category Visa (SMCV). We are actively working with the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Enterprise (MBIE), and we will keep this page updated with progress. In the meantime, please continue preparing your application, and check out our website for the latest overseas recruitment information. Your dedication and patience is appreciated.

For overseas applicants who have New Zealand Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship, this change in criteria does not impact you. Please continue working through your application with your Candidate Engagement Facilitator (CEF).


Have you considered making the transition?

This can be your chance to have a change of lifestyle, travel to new places both for work and leisure, and live in a relatively safe environment for you and your family. Your previous service to your country will have given you the experience and transferable skills that allows you to fit right in with the NZDF. Whether you are living in New Zealand already or are thinking of moving over, this could be an opportunity for you to be part of this Defence Force.

Before you begin

To apply for any career with us, overseas applicants must: 

  • Be a currently serving member of the UK, Australian, USA or Canadian Armed Forces, who is eligible for release from this service within 18 months of applying and/or;
  • Be a citizen of either the UK, Australia, USA, or Canada for a minimum period of 10 years, or have been living in NZ for at least the last 5 years;
  • Meet current vacancy and rank criteria at the time of application.

Eligibility results must be included on your application at time of registration. If successful, it is your responsibility to become a NZ Permanent Resident to gain the right to live and work in NZ.

Read more about our citizenship & security requirements

You'll be assigned a Lateral Recruiter and Candidate Engagement Facilitator (CEF) who will help you through the process and answer any questions as you go. Please check the requirements below.

Visa requirements

You must apply to become a NZ Permanent Resident. We cannot influence NZ Immigration in any way, however your Offer of Service will be used to facilitate your application.


We advise that you apply for and gain a NZ Permanent Residence class visa via the Skilled Migrant category. The New Zealand Immigration rules for the Skilled Migrant Visa (SMV) have recently changed. The points required to gain a SMV is 180 points.


Please be aware of the legality with NZ Immigration – once you have your visa in your passport, you must move to NZ and commence work within a certain timeframe (depending on the type of visa). You will need to take this into account when planning your arrival in NZ and enlistment date.


Once enlisted, it is your responsibility to gain NZ citizenship as soon as you’re eligible. For more information visit the New Zealand Immigration website.

Security clearance

You must gain a security clearance at the required level for your role. Check what level is required on the relevant trade page.


We will request evidence of your current security clearance and apply to the NZ Security Agency to transfer this clearance to NZ. If you do not have a current security clearance, we will apply for your NZ security clearance, however this will take a considerable length of time.

Medical clearance

You will need to undergo a full medical examination with your current military doctor and have all medical forms completed. Send these forms to your CEF who will liaise directly with our medical team. Our doctors will assess your fitness for enlistment and grant a medical clearance to enlist if everything is in order.


Please be aware that the military medical is separate to your immigration medical - we require a military doctor’s assessment of your health, as they understand the environmental issues of being in the NZDF. If you are unable to see a military doctor, you will need to have the full medical examination completed by a civilian doctor at your own cost.


Once in NZ, you will be required to undergo a fitness test and it is an expectation of your military service that you will maintain the required fitness levels. If you incur a medical condition between your medical examination and your arrival in NZ, please notify us immediately.


Once all the above is successfully completed, you will be eligible to enlist in the NZDF and an enlistment date will be agreed upon. The NZDF is unable to enlist personnel until they are completely discharged from their current service obligations, including any reserve liability and terminal or resettlement leave. This normally entails an enlistment date the day after the terminal date, or later, as agreed.


You should not resign from your service until you have met the above criteria: i.e. passed the full medical and security clearance assessments, as well as gained a NZ Permanent Resident class visa.


Please note that any Offer of Service is subject to meeting and maintaining the health, fitness and security criteria prior to and upon enlistment.

Roles available to overseas applicants

Applications from overseas personnel are open for all three Services (Navy, Army and Air Force) for selected trades and at selected rank levels. Personnel who do not meet these criteria will not be processed due to the high volume of applicants.

Only certain vacancies are open to overseas applicants.

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Coming to New Zealand

The purpose of this section is to provide general information to help facilitate the transition from overseas to NZ. A number of independent sources have been included and individuals are strongly encouraged to undertake their own research to develop a realistic and personal impression of life in NZ.


Personnel enlisting from overseas need to be prepared to pay their own relocation expenses. Partial funding may be available, and will be determined on an individual basis. Any funding that is approved will be included in the OOS. Funding is done on a pay and claim basis and will bond you to the NZDF for a period of three years.

Rank and seniority

We aim to recruit successful lateral candidates at a rank and seniority that reflects their military service. However, we are a small Defence Force and this will be dependent on vacancies. If you're offered a reduction in rank, it is in no way a reflection of your skills and experience. You'll likely be required to complete the respective promotion courses to amalgamate you into the NZDF, establish a peer group, and enable us to assess you for further career progression.

Pay, tax and superannuation

NZDF personnel are paid fortnightly and subject to ‘PAYE’ (Pay As You Earn) tax in accordance with current NZ tax rates. Details of tax rates and brackets can be found at

NZDF rates of pay are regularly reviewed, and your salary will be determined by your skills, experience and knowledge. The details of your remuneration package will be included in your OOS.

You'll join the Government Kiwisaver superannuation scheme. Members contribute a minimum of 3% of their salary and the NZDF will contribute 4%. However, benefits are locked in until at least age 65 (with minor exceptions). For more information on the Kiwisaver scheme, visit

Medical and dental

All service personnel are provided with subsidised medical and dental care. The NZDF does not provide cover for families of service personnel.

NZ’s public health system is good by world standards. All essential health care is provided free to NZ Residents through the public health system. This means that some routine services, such as visits to local doctors and dentists, must be paid for. NZ Residents may receive free hospital treatment, subsidies on prescriptions and support services for specific disabilities. Please visit the Ministry of Health’s website for more information:


Upon enlistment, members of the Regular Force are entitled to apply for service housing. There is a waiting list for service housing in some locations. In these locations, members will be placed on the housing register and allocated housing based on their priority when a house becomes available.

NZ’s housing market has become significantly more expensive in recent years, affecting both rental and purchasing markets.  Please visit relevant commercial sites to ensure you have a realistic understanding of housing costs.

Families and equal employment opportunities

The NZDF has family-friendly, equal employment and anti-harassment policies in effect. Family-friendly policies have been implemented, so that the unique aspects of service (such as deployment) do not impact adversely on families. There are also trained personnel who are able to provide guidance on any aspect of discrimination, harassment or other adverse events.


You must seek permission to wear any awards or medals on the NZDF uniform. We'll apply on your behalf to the NZDF’s medals team for recognition of any awards or medals you hold. Please provide all relevant details including evidence to your Candidate Engagement Facilitator.


The NZDF’s standard entitlement to annual leave is 25 working days. The statutory leave entitlement is 11 public holidays each year. However, you'll likely be expected to parade on Anzac Day (25 April).

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