12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
He joined the Auckland Blues earlier this year ahead of the start of the Super Rugby tournament and has captained his province Northland in the ITM Cup, New Zealand's domestic Championship, since 2009.
Payne has the ability to play on the wing, at centre or full-back and could prove to be a valuable acquisition for Ulster.
Ulster's operations director David Humphreys commented: "Jared has made a big impact in the Super Rugby competition so far this season.
"His ability to play a number of different positions in the back-line and the experience he has gained in leading Northland in the ITM Cup means that he will fit very well with the profile of our squad."
Payne, who has started all six of the Blues' Super Rugby matches so far this season, said: "I'd always thought that I'd like the chance to play abroad at some stage in my career.
"I didn't think that chance would come up as early as it has but I'm delighted to have signed for Ulster.
"I've spoken with David (Humphreys) at length about the rugby set-up and have certainly been impressed by what they're trying to achieve and how they're going about it.
"I've also talked to some friends from outside rugby circles about what life in Northern Ireland will be like and I'm really looking forward to arriving in Belfast."
He added: "I've really enjoyed captaining Northland and feel that the extra responsibility is good for my personal game, I thrive on it.
"I'm aware that Ulster have a fairly young group of backs coming through and I'm keen to be involved in helping with their development. I look forward to passing on a bit of knowledge to anyone who may benefit from it."