Having a visa to work or visit New Zealand doesn't mean that you would be covered by the health care system if something were to happen.

If you have an accident or injure yourself while playing sport or at work, you will be covered in most instances by ACC. In other cases, it will vary based on the type of visa you have, your country of origin and the duration of your stay. Visas are complicated, but we can roughly break visa holders into two main categories which are listed below. Both have access to different services so its important to understand what cover your visa provides.

If you are here with your partner, they will not automatically receive the same level of cover as you. They will need to meet the eligibility criteria on their own.

If you have a work visa valid for two years or more

Then you are covered by the New Zealand public health care system. This means that you can register for a doctor (and pay subsidised rates) and receive access to public services. You can check your eligibility here. In this instance, you are eligible for our SmartCare range which will give you access to private health care services as well. These are usually much faster than public waiting lists.

If you have a visa valid for less than two years

In this case, you are not eligible for free or subsidised access to public health care services. You can still access some services but this will be at your own cost. In such cases, SmartStay will provide you with cover for both the public and private sector, as well as the option to add cover for doctors (GP) visits and prescription drug costs. SmartStay is the only comprehensive medical insurance available in New Zealand for people on a visa of less than two years.

Am I covered for Covid-19 in New Zealand?

Medical treatment for pandemic illness is publicly funded, regardless of your visa status.*

While pandemic related claims or treatment should go through the public health care system in the first instance as they are set up to manage the pandemic response and cover these costs, we are able to assess additional costs in relation to Covid-19 under our policies.

The New Zealand Health Care System

New Zealand's heath care system is a little different to other countries, so we have tried to explain the three main components and how they work in New Zealand.

Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)

ACC provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand. If you are injured whilst visiting New Zealand, ACC may cover treatment and rehabilitation costs while you remain in New Zealand. This is usually a free service, however, for some treatment ACC may require that you contribute a small amount.

Public Health System

The public health system is subsidised by the government but does not provide cover for everyone in New Zealand. If you have a New Zealand work visa for less than two years, subject to some exceptions, you will need to pay for your public healthcare, unless you have insurance. You can obtain details of your eligibility for public healthcare from the Ministry of Health website.

Private Health System

The private health system gives you control over when and where you are treated for health issues including being able to choose the doctor, specialist or hospital that you prefer. This is not funded by the government, so to use the private health system, you will need to pay for your own private treatment or have health or travel insurance that provides cover in New Zealand.


Acute v Elective Treatment

In New Zealand, you may see surgeries and medical treatments described as acute or elective. This is the wording that is used to describe how important a certain treatment or surgery is and the urgency with which it needs to happen.

Acute treatment

Acute treatment is when a surgery or treatment needs to be undertaken immediately because it is a medical emergency and requires urgent attention. In the public system, acute treatment is the priority so will be undertaken as soon as possible. This means that the private health system will often not be involved in acute treatment as it is dealt with quickly by the public health system.

Elective Treatment

Elective treatment is when a surgery or treatment is scheduled in advance to be undertaken at a later date because it is not a medical emergency and does not need to be performed immediately. In the public health system, wait times for elective treatment range from months to years. One of the main reasons that people decide to have their elective treatment within the private health system is because it is significantly faster.

Do you need health insurance in New Zealand?

There are a few things to consider when deciding to take out health insurance.

  • Do you have access to the public health care system? You can check your eligibility here.
  • Do you require medical insurance for your visa with immigration New Zealand?
  • How long are you in New Zealand?
  • How long are you prepared to wait for treatment?

If you don't have access to the public health care system, you can still apply for our SmartStay health insurance. You can apply from anywhere and at any time as the process is entirely online.


SmartStay is the only New Zealand health insurance product for people who are coming to visit or work on a visa valid for less than 2 years*.
SmartStay gives you all the benefits that you expect from a quality health insurance product including cover for urgent treatment in hospital, and also gives you the option to add cover for GP and nurse consultations as well as prescription drugs and laboratory tests.

Key benefits

  • General surgery $150,000**
  • Oral surgery (including wisdom teeth removal) $150,000**
  • Cancer treatment $65,000

Learn more about SmartStay

*On a work or visitor visa between 3 months and two years. If you have cover under New Zealand's public health system then you are eligible for our SmartCare range. This usually happens when you have held a work visa or visas for more than two years.

**Per claim

*Under clause B23 of the Health and Disability Services Eligibility Direction 2011.