Everything you need to know about a Working Holiday in New Zealand
A working holiday is an amazing way to explore the mindblowingly beautiful islands in the South Pacific called New Zealand. Not only does it give you plenty of time to see what this incredible country has to offer, but it also allows you to work so you can earn money to fund your travels. Who wouldn’t want that right?! Now before you buy a ticket and rush to New Zealand, a working holiday does require some planning in advance. To make things easier for you, we’ve written this working holiday in New Zealand guide so you know what to do before you go and once you’re there, and you can enjoy every second of your time in the land of the long white cloud!
First, make sure if New Zealand is the right country for you. New Zealand has some of the most incredible landscapes you’ll ever see, and they’re literally around almost every corner, but it isn’t all sparkles and sunshine. The real Middle Earth is also one of the most expensive countries in the world, and the weather can be pretty horrific with four seasons in one day.
Working holiday visa
A Working Holiday Visa allows you to enter, travel around and work in New Zealand for up to a year (people from the UK and Canada can travel for up to 23 months), and lets you train of study for up to 6 months in total, but this doesn’t come without a few restrictions. To be eligable for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa you have to check the following boxes:
Hold a nationality in one of the eligible countries - Find the full list of eligable countries here.
Be between the age of 18 and 30 - Your age at the moment you apply for the visa counts. If you turn 30 while your visa is being processed, in between your visa being granted and you arriving in New Zealand, or while you are in New Zealand on your Working Holiday your visa remains valid. People from Argentina, Chile, Czech, Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay can apply for the visa until the age of 35.
Be in good health - In some cases you might be asked to provide a recent chest x-ray and/or medical examination as proof of your good health.
Be of good character - In some cases you might be asked to provide a recent police certificate as proof of your good character
Have enough funds to support yourself - You need to be able to show that you have at least the equivalent of 4200 New Zealand Dollars (NZD) available.
Have a ticket to leave New Zealand, or enough money to buy one - You need to be able to show either a copy of an outgoing ticket, or proof of an additional 1000 NZD available.
Have full medical insurance for the lenght of your stay - You need to be able to show a copy of your insurance certificate or an approval letter from your insurance company.
Not have had approval for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa before
Not bring children with you on your working holiday
Often your application can be processed without the need to provide evidence of your good health, good character or sufficient funds, so don’t spend money on getting a police report or an expensive chest x-ray yet, but be prepared to get them when you are asked for it.
Out of the 45 nationalities that can apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, 28 countries have quotas on how many visas are granted per year. Find out if the quota for your nationality has been reached here. Also, some nationalities need to provide evidence for additional requirements, like proof of a certain level of education and proficiency in English, or proof of additional funds. If you check all the boxes, you can apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa here. At the moment of writing this article, the processing fee is 280 NZD, and 90% of all applications are processed within 30 days. This can vary from time to time, but the exact fee and processing time will be shown before you apply.
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prepare for your working holiday
Let’s assume that your visa gets granted, congratulations! Now the planning can start. As mentioned before, once the visa has been granted you have a year to enter the country which gives you more than enough time to prepare.
First of all you need to decide on a rough plan. Will you start looking for work immediately when you arrive in New Zealand so you can save up more and then travel, or will you travel first and then find work when you run out of money? Also decide on which season you want to arrive in New Zealand, different areas have more or less work depending on the season (more on that later), and you’ll probably want to travel in summer. Don’t plan too strictly though as things will likely change. You might get an opportunity that makes you change your plans, or you might run out of money sooner than expected, and you need to factor in the time it can take to find a job.
Now that you have a bit of a plan, you can also roughly calculate how much money you need to save. Of course you’ll need to have at least 4200 NZD as per your visa requirements, but if you want to start travelling around first you are going to need more, especially if you are planning on buying a car or campervan to get around (you should, it is the absolute best way to travel around New Zealand!).
When you’ve saved up enough it is time to book your flights and gather the last essentials for your big adventure. Depending on your nationality you might need an international drivers licence if you want to drive around yourself, an international bank card is no unneccesary luxury either, and you’ll need a sturdy backpack to carry your stuff.
Lastly, book a few nights in a hostel in advance, especially if you plan on starting in Auckland like most people do. Hostels in the bigger and more touristic places book out fast so chances are that if you just rock up, there won’t be an empty bed for you. So if you want a roof over your head when you get to New Zealand, book your first accommodation in advance.
What to arrange when you get to new zealand
You’ve made it through New Zealand’s rigorous customs and immigration screening and are now standing in Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud. We bet you feel both very excited and a bit anxious because that is how we felt too. But before you start traveling or looking for work, there are still a few things that need to be arranged.
Proof of address - For almost every official body you’ll need to be able to provide a proof of address, which is a document stating that you are registered on a living address. Most hostels can give you a proof of address if you stay there for a few nights, sometimes for a small additional fee. If you’re staying in a hotel or AirBnR, check if they can give you a proof of address before booking.
IRD number - The main reason why you need a proof of address, is because you need it to apply for an IRD number. Your IRD number is your tax number which your employer will need for you to get paid. You’ll also need a second identification document (like an international drivers’s licence) to apply for an IRD number. You can apply for an IRD number here.
New Zealand bank account - Having a New Zealand bank account will make getting paid and paying for things a lot easier. To open a bank account in New Zealand you’ll need a proof of address as well.
New Zealand SIM card - You can’t go without a phone with data connection, and international roaming becomes craaaazy expensive, so get a New Zealand SIM card as soon as you can!
Working in New Zealand
Contrary to popular belief you aren’t limited to doing farm- or hospitality work. You’re allowed to do any job, as long as it is legal and not a permanent contract or a contract for more than 12 months. However, there is always a high demand for workers in unskilled and temporary jobs, so a lot of people end up in the farming, hospitality and tourism sectors, because in these sectors you can find work the easiest.
When looking for work, looking in the right region and in the right season can greatly increase your chances of finding the type of job you want. Christchurch, for example, usually has a high demand for construction workers and tradies. Auckland is great for finding an office job year round as a lot of big multinational corporations have offices here. In Wellington there is plenty of office work too because the government is settled here, but you can find hospitality work as well. Queenstown is great for hospitality work year round, and in winter there is always work to be done on the ski slopes. And then there is the Nelson area, Bay of Plenty and Otago where there is an inexhaustable demand for farm workers and fruit pickers in summer.
The minimum wage in New Zealand is 17.70 NZD per hour. You shouldn’t expect to get more than 25 NZD per hour, unless you find a carreer job. Some jobs might pay a bit less per hour, but then offer accomodation with the job, like when you work on a farm or in a hostel for example. Websites like Backpackerboard and Seek show a lot of working holiday jobs, and there are countless Facebook Groups for people on a working holiday in New Zealand.
Even though New Zealand is an expensive country, your wage should be enough to cover your living expenses, do some fun activities here and there, and allow you to save up a little. On top of that, packpacker jobs give you a lot of flexibility, free time, and you get to meet heaps of other working holiday-goers, so meeting new people and finding travel buddies is super easy.
Travelling in New Zealand
Now it is time for the best part, and the whole reason why you wanted to go to New Zealand in the first place, exploring its breathtaking scenery! Despite its relatively small size, there is a LOT to see here. From golden beaches to rugged cliffside coastlines, from rolling hills to massive mountain ranges full of glacial lakes, from dense rainforest to wide open vistas, and everything in between. And then there is the incredible wildlife. We have been in the water with dolphins and stingrays, you can see whales, sharks, and even orcas depending on the season. If you know where to look you can find the smallest and cutest penguin in the world; the little blue penguin. Or what about the yellow-eyed penguin, which is the rarest penguin in the world. And then there is of course the elusive and almost mythical kiwi bird. The biodiversity in New Zealand truly is like nowhere else. That’s why we recommend setting aside at least six months for travel if you really want to see the country without having to rush through parts. At the end of this article we’ll suggest some awesome things to do and spots you really should not miss out on.
The absolute best way to explore New Zealand is by campervan. Not only does having a campervan help you cut down on accomodation costs and give you the freedom to go whereever you want to go, it also allows you to go off the beaten path to explore those little corners where you’ll find the most amazing things. The road less travelled is where adventure happens, and having a campervan gets you there! With a campervan you also have access to a lot of free campsites throughout the country, and if your campervan is self-contained you are even allowed to freedom camp in some areas. Look on TradeMe or Facebook Groups for campervans for sale, or if you are good with your hands, convert a van into a campervan yourself like we did.
find out if vanlife is something for you:
Extending your stay in new zealand
You’ve worked a bit, travelled through the country a bit, and have truly come to love New Zealand and its people. Your twelve months are almost over, but you really don’t want to leave. Fortunately there are ways to extend your stay! The first option is called a ‘Working Holiday Extension Work Visa’. This gives you the possibility to extend your stay by three months if you’ve done at least 3 months of seasonal work in the horticulture or viticulture industries (farmwork or fruit picking). You can apply for a Working Holiday Extention Work Visa here.
The second option is getting a work visa through sponsorship by either a company or a New Zealand citizen or resident. If a company company feels that you would be of great value to them, they can offer you a job with a sponsored work visa. The company needs to be a registered New Zealand company, and they need to provide clear arguments to New Zealand Immigration explaining why you would be of great value to them. They will also have to agree on taking certain responsibilities for you. If your partner is a New Zealand citizen or resident, they can sponsor you for a ‘Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa’. Immigration won’t just give this to you though, you will need to privide certain documents to proof that you’re in a stable and commited relationship.
If you want to stay even longer, you should look into becoming a resident. To become a resident you need to gather a certain amount of points. You get points for things like your education, field of work, skilled work experience, qualifications, your age and where you live in New Zealand. Find out more about the point system here.
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Start your new zealand adventure!
Now you know all the basics about working holidays in New Zealand. If you follow these guidelines you’ll easily transition into your year of work and play in the most beautiful country in the world. Don’t be shy and let us know if you have any questions or doubts. We’d love to help and make sure your working holiday in New Zealand will be an unforgettable, life-changing experience!
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