An American teacher says immigration rules have prevented him from getting a job in New Zealand, despite a desperate teacher shortage.

Jake La Jeunesse, 35, a high-school English teacher, says Wellington-based recruitment agency Education Personnel has not put his name forward for a single job although he has had NZ teaching registration since January.

He moved to Auckland last month to join his wife, who has started a research job at Middlemore Hospital, but he has so far only been able to get relief teaching work at an adult English language school.

His email correspondence with Education Personnel consultant Roslyn Bourke shows that he Inquired about numerous jobs that were advertised since January, but that Bourke told him the schools "will not respond until all NZ candidates have been considered".

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"They are actively preventing me from getting hired in New Zealand because I am an overseas teacher," La Jeunesse said.

In an email on May 24 about a job at Matamata College, Bourke wrote: "Matamata are still interviewing NZ candidates so there is no update from them at this time."

On September 2, she wrote: "Schools are advertising for a Jan 2019 commencement and a number of teachers are on the move, once the first rush has past schools can then consider overseas teacher[s]."

La Jeunesse said the agency clearly was not putting his name forward until schools had considered an initial shortlist of New Zealanders.

"Psychologically speaking, this is enough to prevent overseas teachers from getting hired," he said.

The Ministry of Education estimated yesterday that the country would need 200 extra secondary teachers from the start of 2019, and more than doubled its target for total overseas teacher recruitment in 2019 to 900.

However La Jeunesse's subject, English, has not been one of the subjects in short supply. A survey of 162 secondary principals in the first term this year found only one English teaching position unfilled, compared with five in technology hard materials, four each in science and te reo Māori, and three in maths.

Jake La Jeunesse has taught in Korea and in an American university but can't get work in a New Zealand school. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Jake La Jeunesse has taught in Korea and in an American university but can't get work in a New Zealand school. Photo / Jason Oxenham

La Jeunesse's experience has also been unusual. He taught English in South Korea from 2006-08, then did a master's degree in English and taught first-year university students and high-school students taking university credits.

He said he and his wife were attracted to New Zealand by Sir Peter Jackson's movie Lord of the Rings.

"We really liked the movie, we like being outdoors, it looked like such an amazing unspoilt country," he said. "What with America going crazier and crazier, now is a good time to find somewhere else."

Immigration NZ general manager Stephen Dunstan said schools and their agents were required under current immigration rules to offer jobs to any suitable NZ applicants before they could look for overseas recruits.

However this will change if the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment accepts a request by the Ministry of Education to add teachers to the Essential Skills in Demand list.

"It means you don't have to go through the labour market test, you don't have to show you advertised in NZ first, we'll take it at face value that there are no New Zealanders available because it's on the list," he said.

Education Personnel managing director Stuart Birch said La Jeunesse was "actively promoted to NZ schools" and added: "Education Personnel have recruited hundreds of teachers into NZ schools over the last 12 months and the big majority of these have been teachers from overseas."