Voluntary Bonding Scheme

Payments to reward eligible health professionals who agree to work in hard-to-staff professions, communities and/or specialties.

About the scheme

The Voluntary Bonding Scheme (VBS) is a practical initiative run by the Ministry of Health to encourage newly qualified health professionals to work in the communities and specialties that need them most, and to retain essential health professionals in New Zealand. Those on the scheme receive annual payments to help repay their student loan or as top-up income.

The scheme was launched in 2009 to encourage graduate doctors, midwives and nurses to work in hard-to-staff communities and specialties in New Zealand, with other professions added in subsequent years.

A Review of the Voluntary Bonding Scheme was undertaken in 2017, leading to improvements to the Scheme in conjunction with a package of employer and education led initiatives designed to help recruitment and retention in hard to staff areas.

More information and eligibility criteria and payment forms for each intake year and profession can be found on the Terms and Conditions and Payment Application page.

COVID-19 Update for Scheme participants: Applying for payments via email

Scheme participants may now apply for payments online, via email.

If you:

  • are applying for your payments after three, four or five years’ service and
  • if you have electronic copies of your supporting documents and/or
  • you have scanning facilities we recommend you scan and email your application and supporting documents to us at vbs@health.govt.nz

The application form and supporting documents should be supplied in PDF (*.pdf) format and attached to a single email.

If you still have a student loan but your household is facing financial hardship due to Level system COVID restrictions, please describe this in your email/application and provide verification of your bank account and we will consider making any resulting payment directly to your bank account (noting that IRD may ask you to contribute some of it as a compulsory student loan payment at the end of the current tax year).

The 2020 Registration of Interest period is now closed

The 6-week Registration of Interest (ROI) period is now closed.

Registrations for new (2019) graduate registered nurses, enrolled nurses, midwives, sonographers, dentists, and postgraduate general practice trainees who commenced general practice training in December 2019 must be received within the registration period – late registrations cannot be considered.

For more information see the 2020 intake page.

Scheme eligibility

Eligibility criteria and payment forms for each intake year and profession can be found on the Terms and Conditions page.

Definition of bonding

Professionals accepted on to the VBS are not required to sign an agreement in advance. Those who are accepted on to the scheme and who work in an eligible hard-to-staff community, specialty or profession and abide by the Terms and Conditions of the intake year can apply for payments after three, four and five years.

How much you will get paid

In addition to your salary, those confirmed on the scheme and who meet the Terms and Conditions will receive the following annual after-tax payments for three to five years:


1st Payment for Years 1-3 (after tax)

2nd Payment for Year 4 (after tax)

3rd Payment for Year 5 (after tax)

Doctors & Dentists




General Practice Trainees




Registered Nurses








Medical Physicists & Sonographers




Radiation Therapists




Note: Medical physicists and radiation therapists were included health professions for the following intakes: 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Sonographers were included from the 2015 intake onwards.
Dentists are included from the 2016 intake onwards.

Payments are made into your student loan account, or into your bank account if you have no student loan. You can apply for your first payment after three years, and again at the end of your fourth and fifth years. Payment forms for your intake will be available for download on the Terms and Conditions and Payment Application page on this website towards the end of your third, fourth and fifth years.

The Inland Revenue Department’s website has more information about tax rates and voluntary bonding schemes.

Eligibility criteria

There are limited places available each year. To be considered, register during the Registration of Interest period each year if you:

  • completed study at an accredited tertiary institute (check the Terms and Conditions for the full list)
  • completed your final year of undergraduate study* before the annual Registration of Interest period closes – for example, those who complete their studies in 2019 can register for the 2020 intake
  • are working – or intend to work – in an approved hard-to-staff profession, community or specialty for at least three and up to five years
  • will be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident by the time you apply for payment from the scheme
  • or are a postgraduate doctor who has recently commenced training as a GP in an approved hard-to-staff community.

* Or, if you are a sonographer, completed your postgraduate diploma the year before scheme registration.

In order to receive payments you must meet the terms and conditions of your intake year for at least three years. The date you complete studies is considered to be the date on your statement of completion of studies – not the date of your graduation ceremony. Your education provider will need to supply this statement if requested by the Ministry of Health.

Hard-to-staff professions, communities and specialties

You can read about the hard-staff specialties and communities in the Terms and Conditions for your profession and intake year.

Payments when the profession, community or specialty I work in has been removed from the hard-to-staff list

If you have previously been accepted on to the scheme you will still be eligible for payments if the profession, community or specialty you work in is removed from the hard-to-staff list. Once confirmed on the scheme, you must continue to work in a hard-to-staff category for your intake year and profession for the duration of your bonded period, even if it has been removed for future intakes.

Working part-time, taking leave or changing jobs, communities or specialties

A minimum of 0.6 FTE is required during your bonding period (this can be an average across every 12 months participating in the scheme). The requirement for Lead Maternity Carer midwives is based on the number of births attended.

If you change jobs and/or relocate, you remain eligible for payments if you continue to work in an approved hard-to-staff community, specialty or profession, and you meet the terms and conditions of your intake year.

Annual leave generally counts towards your bonding period but extended time away from work – more than 14 weeks in any 12-month period – does not.

Up to 14 weeks total absence in a 12-month period, (including your annual leave) is classed as a break, and up to 10 weeks beyond that is classed as a pause, which needs to be made up as time on the scheme.

Absences of more than 24 weeks in a 12-month period would make a participant ineligible for the scheme and payments, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

You can take up to 52 weeks parental leave and remain eligible for the scheme. Parental leave will not count towards your bonding period.

You need to submit proof of any gaps in employment, annual/sick/unpaid leave and parental leave taken when you submit your application for payment.

Email vbs@health.govt.nz to let us know if your circumstances change, or if you have any eligibility queries. If your circumstances are exceptional and result in an inability to meet the terms and conditions, you may request an exemption. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for more information.

Leaving the scheme before five years are up

You can leave the scheme before the five years are up. Your involvement is up to you. If you leave after three years, for example, you will only be eligible for the payment due at the end of your third year. Should you decide to leave please email vbs@health.govt.nz.

If you have any questions, email vbs@health.govt.nz.

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