You’ve taken the plunge.
Despite all your 20-something friends getting married and having babies, plus your parents pressure to find a “real job” and settle down, you’ve decided to leave your home country for one year and move abroad on a working holiday visa.
And what a plunge it is.
Land of the long white cloud. One of the most scenic and most peaceful places to live on earth. A place where there are more sheep than people and even hobbits are celebrated. For most, it’s the other side of the world. Two large islands floating out in the Pacific. Not far from Australia or Antarctica, you don’t get much more off the map than here.
That can be daunting for people planning to make a home there for the year, but it doesn’t have to be. The truth is that New Zealand is one of the friendliest nations in the world and I’ve found, one of the most accepting of foreign guests. These five steps will help those 18-30 years old move to New Zealand on a working holiday visa.
1.) Start saving
You’ll want to separate your budget into two things for New Zealand, flights and money required on arrival.
I point out flights, because no matter where you are flying from, a one-way ticket to New Zealand is not cheap. Expect to pay about $US1,500 for a one-way ticket. Add $US200 on if you are flying somewhere other than Auckland.
After putting money aside for your flight, the rest of your budget depends on what you expect to do upon arrival in the country.
New Zealand’s immigration website states that people must have a minimum of $NZ4,200 to be eligible for the US Work Holiday Scheme. I’ll be completely honest and say that they don’t verify it. I didn’t have to prove I had those funds before applying, nor at the airport upon arrival.
That said, I really recommend having at least that much. I wasn’t checked, but you might be. Plus that is a good safety net for anyone unsure of when or where they will be finding a job in their new country.
I would recommend no less than $US2,000 to feel secure from the time you arrive until the time you find a job.
People should also consider whether they will be working, soon after arrival or after traveling around a bit. New Zealand can be an expensive country to travel. It has a lot of extreme sports that you would be silly not to try, but it’ll cost you.
2. Apply for a working holiday visa
Just do it! I don’t know why people, and by people I mean me, put this off. Most are happily accepted and if they are not, it’s usually for a very valid reason. You’ll be asked to pay an application fee, which varies depending on where you’re from. When I did it, it was free to US citizens, at the time this post was written it cost $US140, but it can change so click here to see how much it will cost you to apply.
The process is pretty similar for all the countries eligible and it’s very straight forward. You can apply online. To do so, you must fill in all your personal information, including passport number. You must answer questions about your health and your character.
Depending on your answers, you may be asked to submit more information, such as a medical, but usually you won’t be. Just follow the process and be honest.
While on the topic of applying, NZ immigration requires visitors to have travel insurance. If you’re from a country that does not have national healthcare or something corresponding the the New Zealand healthcare system, I highly recommend getting travel insurance. It literally could be a lifesaver.
3. Book a flight
I mentioned the cost of flights earlier, but there are a few more things to consider when booking a flight to New Zealand.
For starters, don’t buy a return ticket. I’ve done this twice on long term trips and both times I had to pay ridiculous fees to change my ticket. You have no idea where you will be or what you’ll be thinking at the end of your working holiday experience in New Zealand, so save yourself the money and don’t book a return flight. Plus, on a trip like this, it’s better to not have an expiration date.
Remember that with a working holiday visa people are NOT required to have a return ticket to enter New Zealand. Just keep a copy of the visa as flight attendants at the check-in counter almost always ask about this.
The easiest place to arrive is Auckland, but also look into Wellington and Christchurch. Those destinations are usually the next most affordable landing spots. Research and consider where to land seriously as flying and moving around in New Zealand is expensive.
If you are flexible about dates then do some research and find what time of year has the cheapest airfare. I would set a date early, so you have enough time to save and prepare. Some things to consider; seasons (ski season is big in Queenstown, but you’ll want to get there at the start of it), the holidays, obligations at home (housing contracts, etc.) and the amount of time it will really take for you to save up.
4. IRD number and bank account
Both an IRD number and bank account are needed to work in New Zealand.
Inland Revenue will supply you with your IRD number. For US citizens, this is similar to a social security number and important for tax purposes. To apply, you must fill out an application and present your passport as well as another form of ID, such as a driver’s license (it can be from overseas). All documents must be verified and photocopied.
This cannot be completed online. You must visit either a post office in New Zealand or Automobile Association Driver Licensing Agent. The post office should have applications available. The process is very quick. You should receive your IRD number within 8-10 days
Setting up a bank account is pretty similar everywhere. Be sure to bring your passport, another form of identification and proof of address.
Proof of address could be the letter your IRD number arrived in or it could just be a note written about by a staff member at your hostel stating that this is the address where you are living at the moment and signed. Don’t stress over how long you’ll be staying at that address. It’s not extremely important, especially if you are applying for an online banking account, which you should be.
Some banks charge a fee for people to hold certain bank accounts. Most places offer online banking accounts, which are free and the best option for temporary visitors only in need of an account to be paid into. I had accounts with both Kiwibank or Westpac. Neither of them charged for online accounts and I actually got a really good interest rate for my savings account with Westpac, earning $NZ12 some months.
5. Find a job
I’ve actually tried all these things while working abroad and suggest hospitality for the most fun, best money and most interesting experience. That said, the jobs available to you depend on where you are located and your experience.
The best source for finding jobs online in New Zealand is Trade Me. You can also find a job just walking around town. Make sure you are prepared with a CV and other things needed. Also, make sure your CV caters to the industry you’re applying for jobs. Don’t present a resume that list your IT experience when applying for a job as a cook. I know this should make sense, but it’s lost on a lot of people.
Most of the New Zealand population are located in its major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Besides a few holiday towns and some heavy farming areas, most of the country is quite rural. I only mention this because it makes finding a job in certain areas a bit more difficult.
It was really easy for me to find work in Wellington. I had about seven interviews after looking for only one day, but I struggled in Blenheim, which is a small town. The jobs offered there were mainly on farms, which usually require you have a car and I didn’t. I use this as an example of things to consider about where to live and work first. A lot of times, the best option may be in a city or a place where people can get around without private transportation. That way you can save up for a car and buy one if you want.
Most places will ask you to commit to six months or a season. So try and get to a place at the start of a season as more jobs will be available and you can fully commit.
By the end of these steps you should be working and holidaying in New Zealand. This experience is so special, because every activity in a new country, even the mundane ones like work, is different from home. It’s a new experience, which is what makes this opportunity so special.