For social workers

The Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) is the Crown regulator that registers social workers who want to practise in New Zealand.

New Zealand is in the process of shifting to mandatory registration. This means:

  • All social workers will need to be registered by February 27, 2021.
  • If you are successful in your application to be registered, you will also need to apply for a valid Practising Certificate, and renew it each year.

Registration and a Practising Certificate

Why you need to be registered and hold a Practising Certificate

Becoming registered means you have met all the criteria to become a social worker, i.e. you have been assessed as being competent, fit to practise, and will be held accountable for the way you practise. Once registered, you will remain on the register unless you ask to be taken off or the SWRB Board takes you off.

The Practising Certificate is the document that shows you are legally able to practise as a social worker in New Zealand that year.  Each year, when you renew your Practising Certificate online, you are declaring that you:

  • are competent
  • fit to practise
  • are being held accountable for the way you practise, i.e. you have undertaken Continuing Professional Development, including supervision
  • have informed the SWRB of any serious health issues or convictions.

The Practising Certificate demonstrates your commitment to being a professional.

The following provides information on:

Registrations

Registration requirements

You can apply to become a registered social worker if you meet and maintain professional standards of experience, practice and expertise.

To apply for registration you must:

  • have completed a recognised New Zealand qualification (recognised New Zealand qualifications are listed here) OR
  • have overseas qualifications equivalent to a NZ qualification which you can find out more about here OR
  • have enough practical experience if you don’t have a NZ recognised qualification, as per the SWRB register through experience criteria (Section 13 registration)

Please note, applications can be submitted in Te Reo Māori.

If you have an overseas qualification, find the next steps here.

Documents you will need

Before you apply to register, gather copies of the following documents:

  • CV (covering past 10 years)
  • Professional reference, and a

Request and consent vetting form 2019

You also need certified copies of the following documents:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Your passport or a NZ driving licence
  • Photo (passport-sized)
  • Qualification certificate* and official academic transcript.

*For new graduates who have just completed their qualification but are yet to officially graduate:  You can apply to become registered before you receive your qualification certificate.  In place of this certificate, you can submit a certified copy of your official academic transcript which states that you have completed all requirements and are eligible to graduate. If the official academic transcript does not state this, you will also need a letter of completion from your institution.  Please submit these along with the other registration documents required. 

You may also be asked to provide some, or all, of the following documents:

Confidential Professional Reference

Confidential Character Reference

Confirmation of hours

Registration with other regulators

Statutory Declaration

Apply to register here

Registration FAQs

How do I become registered?

It’s an online process through the SWRB website but before you apply, check out our eligibility tool.  You can find it on the home page when you scroll down, under Eligibility Test.

How long does it take to process an application?

There is a small team and currently it takes around 12-14 weeks to process a registration application.  However, there are a couple of things that can influence this:

What documents will I need?

 You will need to provide the following:

  • CV covering the past 10 years
  • Confidential professional reference from your most recent manager or supervisor
  • A NZ police request and consent vetting form

You will also be asked to provide certified copies of the following:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Your passport or a NZ driving licence
  • Photo (passport-sized)
  • Social work qualification* and official academic transcript

*For new graduates who have just completed their qualification but are yet to officially graduate:  You can apply to become registered before you receive your qualification certificate.  In place of this certificate, you can submit a certified copy of your official academic transcript which states that you have completed all requirements and are eligible to graduate. If the official academic transcript does not state this, you will also need a letter of completion from your institution.  Please submit these along with the other registration documents required. 

You may also be asked to provide some, or all, of the following documents:

Sending in ALL the required documents will mean your application progresses more quickly

  • Once you’ve completed the online application, we will provide you with a checklist to help make sure you have included what is needed
  • When we receive your application, if a document is missing, we will let you know
  • Processing will not continue until we have received what is missing.

Please remember we require payment of the application fee – we begin the application process once the non-refundable fee is paid, not prior.

How much are my registration and Practising Certificate fees?

Please see this year’s fees here.

Can I fast track my application?

Applications are processed in the order that they are received by the SWRB office, so the sooner you send us all the information required, the sooner it can be added for processing.

We don’t fast track applications as we treat everyone in a fair and consistent way.

Once an application is complete and any further information requested has been supplied it will go forward to the next available SWRB Board meeting where it is considered for approval.

Why can’t you process faster?

We are committed to processing applications as quickly as we can, however, we also need to make sure we follow a fair, consistent and robust process

Ultimately, the SWRB’s primary function is to protect the safety of members of the public, which means that when we are assessing an application for registration, we take the time required to ensure we have all the information we need to confirm that an applicant is competent and fit for registration.

My employer has already run a police check on me, can I use this for my application?

Unfortunately, we can’t use police vetting results that have been run by someone else, as we are required to make sure we have the correct type of check and it is a requirement of the Social Work Registration Act (2003) that we run this check ourselves.

It is also a requirement of the New Zealand Police that police vetting results cannot be shared.

What if I have overseas qualifications?

If you have AASW-accredited Australian qualifications, you can apply to register.

If you hold overseas qualifications from any other country and wish to apply for registration in New Zealand, there are a number of steps to go through. Please click here.

Can I start practising while the registration process is taking place?

Yes, currently you can. However, as of 27 February, 2021, you will need to be registered before you can practise.

Can I be employed as a social worker while the registration process is taking place? Will I be able to use the title ‘social worker’ while the registration process is taking place?

You can be employed as a social worker and use the title ‘social worker’ up until 27 February 2021.  After that, the title ‘social worker’ becomes protected and you will only be able to call yourself a social worker if you are registered by the SWRB.

Once I am registered, how long will my registration be valid for until I need to re-apply?

Your registration does not expire but you are required to renew your Practising Certificate each year.

Once I’m registered, what will I need to do to maintain my registration?

You will need to:

  • renew your Practising Certificate every year
  • pay the Disciplinary Levy,
  • undertake supervision and
  • maintain a continuous, up to date and accurate record of your Continuing Professional Development activities in a CPD log

What’s the difference between being registered and holding a Practising Certificate – why do I need both?

Becoming registered means you have met all the criteria to become a social worker, i.e. you have been assessed as being competent, fit to practise, and will be held accountable for the way you will practise. Once registered, you will remain on the register unless the SWRB Board takes action to de-register you or you ask to be taken off.

The Practising Certificate is the document that shows you are legally able to practise as a social worker in New Zealand for that year.  Each year, when you renew your Practising Certificate online, you are declaring that you are still competent, fit to practise, and you have informed the SWRB of any serious health issues or convictions.  You are also declaring that you are being held accountable for the way you practise, i.e. you have undertaken Continuing Professional Development, including supervision.  The Practising Certificate is therefore a demonstration of your commitment to being a professional. 

What if I don’t want to start practising immediately after graduating?

It is up to you to choose to practise or not after graduating. However, you will need to be registered before you can practise as of 27 February 2021.

What happens if I want to go overseas for a year after studying before practising?

You do not need to hold NZ Registration/Practising Certificate if practising outside of New Zealand. Therefore you can go overseas but on your return, you will need to apply to become registered and/or apply for a Practising Certificate before you begin practising.

Can I put my registration on hold if I want to stop practising for a few years?

You will remain registered but if you wish to stop practising, all you have to do is declare yourself as non-practising through your online Practising Certificate account on the SWRB website.

Will I need to pay during this time?

There is currently no fee for non-practising but if you stop practising for three or more years and then wish to return to practise, please contact the SWRB to find out the next steps, and there may be a return to practise fee required.

How long do I have to complete my 2,000 hours?

You have up to 8 years to complete the required 2,000 hours of supervised social work practice in New Zealand.

What happens if I don’t complete my 2,000 hours during this time?

If you do not meet the required 2,000 hours within the given time, you may risk your registration being cancelled.

What happens if my registration isn’t approved? What do I do then?

If your registration is declined, you have the right to appeal to the District Court within 20 days of being notified of the SWRB’s Board decision.

Practising

Practising Certificates

As a registered social worker, you are required to:

Find out what you need to do to apply for a Practising Certificate here.

Provisional registration

If you are provisionally registered and want to move to full registration, you will need to complete 2,000 hours of supervised social work practice in New Zealand.

Below is the confirmation of hours form to be completed by your manager/supervisor.

Confirmation of Hours

If you are provisionally registered with an overseas competence, please go to the Overseas Qualifications page to find out what you need to do to become fully registered.

Residential, mailing or work address change

Registered social workers are legally required to inform the SWRB of residential, mailing or work place address changes.

You can update your details any time by logging into your profile at Practising Certificate online account or alternatively email us at practisingcertificate@swrb.govt.nz

Name change

As a registered social worker, you are legally required to inform the SWRB if you change your name or you are practising under a different name than we have you registered under.

You need to provide a certified copy of the document confirming your name change, ie the marriage certificate or deed poll name change.

If you haven’t legally changed your name but you are practising under a different name, please fill out the following statutory declaration:

Statutory Declaration

Please mail the certified copies or the statutory declaration to the SWRB at PO Box 3452, Wellington.

Competence

Competence measures

We will be changing the way we measure competence over the next couple of years to line up with best practice.

The competence of social workers is vitally important to the SWRB, and we will be introducing a range of measures.

Under amendments to the Social Workers Registration Act in 2019, all social workers will need to be registered by 27 February 2021, and have a valid Practising Certificate, which must be renewed each year.

The changes also have an impact on competence, and include the following:

  • There is no longer a competence assessment required for New Zealand-qualified social workers, at the time you apply for registration*
  • Educational institutions are responsible for ensuring  the competence of their graduates
  • There is no longer any need to do a competence re-certification every five years
  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD) logs will be audited annually.

*Social workers who hold overseas qualifications are still required to complete a competence assessment when first registering.

When the new competence measures are developed, we will update this information.

Continuing Professional Development

Once registered, social workers are required to maintain a continuous, up-to-date and accurate record of their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities in a CPD log.

While there is no longer a need to do a competence re-certification every five years, the SWRB will be carrying out an annual audit of CPD logs. Find out more about CPD here.

How will we know if social workers are competent?

There are a number of mechanisms in place to ensure social workers are competent, from when they first begin work to the way they practice each year.

1. Educational institutions are responsible for ensuring  the competence of their graduates

2. Social workers hold themselves responsible and accountable for the way in which they practice.  Each year, when registered social workers renew their Practising Certificate, they sign a declaration that they are:

  • competent,
  • fit to practise, and
  • accountable for the way in which they practice.

They are also expected to uphold the SWRB Code of Conduct which requires social workers to:

  • act with integrity and honesty
  • respect the status of Mäori as tangata whenua
  • respect the cultural needs and values of the client
  • be competent and responsible for their professional development
  • protect the rights and promote the interests of clients
  • strive to establish and maintain the trust and confidence of clients
  • respect the client’s privacy and confidentiality
  • work openly and respectfully with colleagues
  • maintain public trust and confidence in the social work profession
  • keep accurate records and use technology effectively and safely

Social workers receive regular supervision and their CPD plan and log are signed off by their supervisor.

3.       The employer is responsible for the delivery of social work services, and for the way in which social workers go about their practise when working with people, families, whanau, aiga, groups and communities.

4.       The SWRB requires social workers to plan and be responsible for their own Continuing Professional Development, which is audited.

There is a professional standards process which the SWRB oversees so if there is a concern or a complaint raised about the competency of a social worker, it is assessed, investigated if needed, and action is taken where necessary.

Return to practice

How to return to practice

The SWRB is currently finalising a policy for social workers returning to practice.

Until that’s in place, registered social workers who wish to return to practice following a break in practice of less than three years* can apply for a Practising Certificate.

Registered social workers who have not held a Practising Certificate for three years or more should contact the SWRB at practisingcertificate@swrb.govt.nz.

You may be required to complete a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) log, practice study, and a self-reflection, and a fee will apply.

*The Social Workers Registration Act 2003[SA2]  requires an application for a Practising Certificate to be referred to the SWRB Board[SA3]  if the SWRB Registrar believes or suspects the applicant has not held a Practising Certificate in the previous three years.

Been living overseas?
Have you been living outside of New Zealand for the past 12 months or more? If yes, then you will need to submit a police certificate from the countries you have been living in for 12 months or more.