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I'm going to work in New Zealand and my work visa will start after my arrival. I will enter as a tourist before with a waiver (I'm from Canada). I've been told that I need to go out of the country and return to validate my work visa. Can I just go to immigration at the airport?

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No, you do not have to leave New Zealand to switch visa types. From Can I apply for any other visa while on a visitor visa in New Zealand?:

Apply to stay longer

If you're already in New Zealand and have a visa you can reapply for the same visa or apply for a different one.

  • Not sure this answers the question. OP already has the other visa, so they can't apply again. – MJeffryes Jan 2 at 19:59
  • @MJeffryes: It doesn't matter if the OP already holds a not-yet-valid work visa when entering the country. The situation is the same. New Zealand does not require people to leave and re-enter to "validate" anything. – Greg Hewgill Jan 2 at 20:03
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    Fair enough, but the page you linked, as far as I can tell doesn’t say that (maybe I’m missing something) – MJeffryes Jan 2 at 23:56

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