You might remember my original post about why we moved to New Zealand, and in it I briefly mentioned that we’re here on Working Holiday Visas. I had a lot of people express interest in the visa process, so let’s talk a bit about getting a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand. I’m writing this specifically for citizens of the US, as I have no experience with what the process is like for citizens of 34 other selected countries, but I’d imagine it’s not much different.
What is a Working Holiday Visa?
The Working Holiday Visa (also formally called Working Holiday Scheme) is literally what it sounds like. Its a visa that allows you to work, travel, and play in one of the most gorgeous countries in the world. For most countries you’re only allotted a 12 month period, but if you’re from the UK you hit the jackpot and are given 23 months! You’re also allowed to leave the country as many times as you wish within this 12 month period and not have to fill out any extra paperwork with the country of New Zealand.
The whole concept behind this visa is to be able to experience New Zealand and all it has to offer, but be allowed to work to fund these experiences. So, there really isn’t a need to save an ungodly amount of money before heading over.
Who is qualified for a Working Holiday Visa?
Only 34 countries are currently in partnership with the New Zealand government for the Work Holiday program, and those are:
Argentina Austria Belgium Brazil Canada Chile China
Croatia Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France
Germany Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Hungary Ireland Israel Italy Japan Korea Latvia Malaysia
Malta Mexico Netherlands Norway Peru Philippines Poland
Singapore (work exchange programme) Slovakia Slovenia
Spain Sweden Taiwan Thailand Turkey United Kingdom
United States of America Uruguay Vietnam
Click on the links to learn more about a specific countries’ holiday scheme.
On the same note, unfortunately the Working Holiday Visa is only available for those ages 18-30. If you do not meet the age quota, know there is quite a few other visas you can get to work and live in New Zealand, so don’t be discouraged.
Some other facts to consider:
Your passport needs to be valid for at least 3 months after you plan on arriving to NZ
You cannot bring children with you or be pregnant
You can only do the Working Holiday Program once
You cannot be a convicted felon or have records of bankruptcy
So you want to apply…how do you do it?
The links above should give you the information on how to apply, but for United States citizens, the application process is online and only takes about 30 minutes. Yes, 30 minutes. There’s a good chance you won’t have to send any extra documents through snail mail unless you have lived abroad in the last 3 years.
For Derik and I, we had to go get general health exam and chest x-rays for Tuberculosis since we had been living in Korea for a long period of time, and Korea is on the hazard list for Tuberculosis. *insert raised eyebrows here* The pain about getting the exams and X-rays is you can only go to specific clinics…country wide. For example, there is only one clinic in Korea to get your tests done and that’s in Busan. Thankfully we lived only about 1:30 minutes from Busan, so it wasn’t that bad of a trip. For others though? It could be a 4-6 hour trip just to get a 10 minute test done. You do not get your results right away either, you have to wait a few days for those.
The tricky part is the NZ Immigration only gives you 15 days to get your health exam, have the results sent via courier to your house, and then rushing the results to New Zealand via priority mail. Even though we got our health exams done the day after we were told we needed to from NZ Immigration, our results didn’t arrive in New Zealand on the requested date. I had to ask for an extension. Thankfully the Immigration officer working with us was super nice and understanding. I also had everything documented (even down to keeping all the receipts) to show him that we did everything in our power to get them to their final destination as fast as possible.
How long does the application/approval process take?
After we sent off our medical test results, I kept a tracking number on the package to see when it arrived at the Immigration Office in Auckland. Although it took longer than it should (especially since I paid $40 to send 3 pieces of paper), the day after they received the papers my electronic visa appeared online. I was continuously checking my account on www.immigration.govt.nz to see if the status had changed, and lo and behold it did faster than I thought it would! I didn’t receive my approval email until two days later strangely enough.
Once you are approved, all you need to do is print off your electronic visa (available for download from your member log-in on the immigration website), and bring it with you on your New Zealand flight! No visiting embassies, sending passports in, or anything. Can’t get much simpler!
What do I do once I arrive in New Zealand?
This is the part that’s filled with adventure. :) Do whatever you want to! Some people dive straight into getting a job, and some take a month or two to travel and enjoy. Derik and I took the second route, spending 3 weeks in a campervan, trying to find our ideal place to live and work. Cars, housing, and jobs are readily available and not super difficult to find. I will be writing more on each of these categories soon, just to help you get a general gist as to how we did things and see if it would work for you. As in everything, there will always be trial and error, and maybe you can learn from our mistakes!
It is important to note that before you start looking for a job, you need to apply for a tax ID (you can apply at a local post office), and get a bank account. Future employers will ask right away if you have those things.
What if I want to stay longer than 12 months?
Working on this. You can go to the NZ immigration website and answer a questionnaire to see what you qualify for. Derik and I currently qualify for a skilled migrant visa (you get points for having a degree, certain trade skills, years spent working, etc and if you have over 100 you can qualify), but another good option is to apply for a residential visa, or a work visa (basically your place of employment sponsors your visa). I’ll be revisiting this question as our 12 months draws closer.
So that’s the Working Holiday Visa in a nutshell. Ready to come join me?
Please let me know if you have any questions pertaining to the visa in the comments below!