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Employment & Applying for a Work Permit
Health Form

The Health Form is required by individuals applying for a work permit to work in the Cook Islands. It must be completed by an approved medical practitioner. Please refer to the medical clearance checklist to ensure the correct information is obtained.

Finding employment

Persons wishing to live and work in the Cook Islands require an entry permit with permission to work. To obtain an entry permit with work rights, they must be sponsored by a person or organisation in the Cook Islands agreeing to employ them.

Persons entering the Cook Islands to take up employment must hold relevant skills and qualifications for the vacant position applied for, and must also satisfy health and character requirements.

There is also provision for people who wish to invest in business and live in the Cook Islands (see Business Investment).

To facilitate the processing and entry of a foreign worker for work purposes, the sponsor as the employer is responsible for arranging and ensuring that the applicant meets the entry and work requirements in the Cook Islands.

It is Government policy that the employer will identify and train a local resident to take over the position at the end of the foreign worker’s contract. The employer may be requested to provide evidence of this arrangement at the time of application. The employer must also repatriate the worker on termination or completion of their employment contract.

Potential employees may refer to the following websites for potential employers:
• Cook Islands Yellow Pages at
• Cook Islands News at
• Cook Islands Herald at
• Cook Islands Government site at

Cook Islands Employers

Employers must apply for permission to employ a foreign worker if a suitable Cook Islander (including those living overseas) or Permanent Resident cannot be found to fill the vacant position. Employers may do this by writing to Immigration Cook Islands for permission to recruit a foreign worker.

Employers wishing to recruit foreign workers for employment in the Cook Islands must first advertise vacant positions locally unless the position requires specialist skills that are in shortage or not available in the Cook Islands. The vacant positions must at least be advertised over 12 days consecutively within a two week period.

The onus rests on an employer to justify the non-advertising of a vacant position to be filled by a foreign worker. The recruitment of a non-Cook Islander by an employer may be denied if the advertisement requirement is not met.
Some of the requirements to be met before an entry permit is granted are set out in the document Recruitment of Foreign Workers: A guide for employers. The document also sets out the employer’s obligations once an entry permit is granted.

Validity of Entry and Work Permits

Entry and Work Permits are normally issued for one year. Entry and work permits may be extended on application for up to two (2) further one-year periods. The renewal application must be made no less than 2 weeks before the current entry permit is due to expire. At the expiry of that final period, the worker must return to his/her country of origin.

Employers wishing to extend a foreign worker’s employment beyond three years must justify why a foreign worker is still required, and provide satisfactory evidence that steps have been taken to train a local person for the position.

Conditions attached to residence and entry/work permits
  • Applicants for work permits must apply from outside the Cook Islands. Police and medical reports must be submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration (MFAI) together with an application for an entry and work permits;
  • Work permits granted to an applicant would restrict the person’s employment to a particular employer;
  • As soon as the employment contract ceases or is terminated, the employer must inform MFAI of the departure arrangements for the employee and any family members.  The employee must return to their country of nationality and the employer is ultimately held responsible for the cost of repatriating the worker, including family members;
  • Transfer of employment to a new employer may be considered provided the sponsoring (or an employer approved to take over responsibility) gives consent in writing.
Termination of Employment

An employee whose contract was terminated by their employer will not be allowed to remain in the Cook Islands. The employer must generally make arrangements for repatriation of the employee within a reasonable period. A reasonable period is taken to mean two weeks from the date of termination or any other date as arranged with Immigration Cook Islands.

The termination of a contract will generally result in the employee not being permitted to return to the Cook Islands for employment purposes.

Authority to travel to the Cook Islands

An authority to travel to Cook Islands may be issued to non-Cook Islanders needing to travel to the Cook Islands on a single journey ticket for employment purposes.

Employees whose passports are valid for less than six (6) months beyond the intended period of stay in the Cook Islands may seek authority to travel to the Cook Islands from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration, Avarua, Rarotonga.

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