Sex work in New Zealand

We are taking a proactive approach to ensure employers, facilitators of service and workers in the sex industry understand their rights and legal obligations.

Addressing the exploitation of migrants is a priority for the New Zealand Government.

Temporary migrants, who breach their visa conditions by working in the New Zealand sex industry, are vulnerable to exploitation.

Migrants who don't hold any visa to be in New Zealand are even more vulnerable. These migrants are less likely to be aware of their rights and entitlements than their New Zealand colleagues.

Information for workers

Where to get help and more information

  • Call us on 0800 20 90 20 or email info@employment.govt.nz for help and more information. 
  • Call us if you believe you are being exploited, you are concerned another person is being exploited or if you want to report an unscrupulous employer.
  • Contact Immigration New Zealand on 0508 558 855 if you have questions about your immigration status and whether you can work in the sex industry on your visa.
  • Contact CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111 or complete an online Crimestoppers form to report a case anonymously.
  • Contact the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective(external link) for more information about working in the sex industry.

How to report migrant exploitation

Call the MBIE Service Centre on 0800 20 90 20 to report migrant exploitation
If you feel physically threatened or your personal safety is at risk, you should call your local police or dial 111 if it is an emergency
You can also provide anonymous information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

All employees in New Zealand have minimum employment rights that their employer must meet.

As an employee you have the right to:

  • annual and public holidays (including payment)
  • other forms of leave such as sick or bereavement leave
  • rest and meal breaks
  • at least the minimum wage
  • written employment agreements that are followed

You may be a victim of migrant exploitation if:

  • you are subject to fines from your employer for doing something wrong
  • you have to pay your wages back to your employer
  • you have been sexually harassed by your employer
  • your employer bullies or threatens you
  • someone keeps your passport and money from you
  • you can’t leave your workplace because the doors and windows are locked
  • you must ask permission to eat, sleep, or go to the toilet
  • you have no time off for medical appointments, to go shopping or meet friends
  • you are paid too little money or none at all
  • your employer forces you to work to pay off a debt
  • your employer threatens to harm you or your family if you don’t cooperate

Some employers know that migrant workers can be afraid to report exploitation at work, especially if migrants are:

  • working when their visa doesn’t allow them to work
  • in New Zealand unlawfully because their visa has expired
  • worried they’ll have to leave New Zealand

Some employers use this fear to take away your rights. This is wrong. The New Zealand Government wants to stop employers from exploiting migrants. We want you to report any exploitation at work. If you report exploitation, you may be able to stay in New Zealand while we investigate and prosecute your employer. We may let you complete your visit. This may happen even if you’ve been working without the right visa.

You can also report migrant exploitation via Crimestoppers, which provides an anonymous and simple way to pass on information to authorities. There are two ways you can contact Crimestoppers via 0800 555 111 or through an email form available on their website https://www.crimestoppers-nz.org/about/contact-us/email-anonymously(external link)

Please note that all reports of migrant exploitation will be treated in the usual manner and participation in the research commissioned by MBIE does not guarantee any outcome in relation to a report of migrant exploitation.

Who can be a sex worker in New Zealand

New Zealand citizen Yes. New Zealand citizens can also operate or invest in a commercial sex business.Yes. New Zealand citizens can also operate or invest in a commercial sex business.

Student visa holder

Work visa holder

Visitor visa holder

No. People who perform commercial sexual services are breaching the conditions of their temporary visa and may be liable for deportation. 
New Zealand resident New Zealand residents can be sex workers in New Zealand but can become liable for deportation if they invest in, are a director of, own or manage a commercial sex business.

Information for employers

Under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, foreign nationals on temporary visas (including visitor, student, or work visas) in New Zealand are unable to work in the sex industry. People may be made liable for deportation if they have been found to have breached this condition. Under the Immigration Act 2009, people unlawfully in New Zealand may not work in New Zealand.

People who hold resident visas are not able to operate or invest in a commercial sex business in New Zealand. If a resident visa holder operates or invests in such a business they are deemed to have breached the conditions of their visa and may become liable for deportation.

Your responsibility as an employer

It is your responsibility to ensure any worker engaged in your operation is able to undertake the work, and is not doing so unlawfully or breaching their visa conditions.

This includes any workers who advertise services through your website.

It is an offence to aid or abet migrants to remain in New Zealand or to breach the conditions of their visas.