How to Move to New Zealand Step-by-Step

How To Move To New Zealand

If you’re thinking of making the leap from your current country to New Zealand (NZ), there’s a lot to plan and do. There’s visiting and scoping out the place to make sure you’ll like living there. There’s applying for and obtaining the right visa, then getting a job, then actually flying yourself, your family and your possessions over there and settling in!

Fortunately then, in the following article we’ve broken down the steps to follow when you emigrate to the land of “Kia Ora” (fun fact: that’s “Hello” in Māori!) to make it more manageable.

Here you’ll find information about the principal places you might like to live in and an introduction to the various visas available and how to apply. There are also tips on practical day-to-day stuff like getting used to the Kiwi slang, finding somewhere to live and opening a local bank account.

In brief, we’ll tell you how easy it is to move to New Zealand depending on your circumstances. Get stuck in, and be sure to send us a postcard once you’re in your new home!

Visit NZ Before You Move There

The first step to immigrate here is to actually visit the place in advance. You may imagine that NZ is similar to other developed Western nations, such as the UK, Australia, Canada or Ireland, and in some respects that’s spot on. For instance, the official language of all these countries is English, and they’re all high-income nations that feature near the top of the global Human Development Index (HDI).

At the same time though, as you might expect, this country’s got a groove all its own. It’s worth checking that this gels with you and your lifestyle before you pack your things and fly over, ready to settle in.

For instance, there’s a lot of Kiwi slang that can take some getting used to. If someone tells you they’re heading to the ‘dairy’, that means they’re visiting the local corner shop rather than an establishment specialising in milk and cheese! And if you ask someone something and they reply “Yeah-nah”, that doesn’t mean they’re not sure, rather they’re casually saying “No, thanks”. Elsewhere, New Zealanders think nothing of walking around barefoot outside, even in places like the supermarket! It’s all part of the country’s unique charm.

While you’re in the country, it’s also worth having a think about where you might like to live. There are 3 principal cities and they’ve each got their own character:

  • Auckland. Auckland is the country’s biggest city, and a whopping 33% of its inhabitants live here. The city is characterised by its multi-cultural vibe and, in terms of work, it’s a hub for business and finance. Auckland is also called the City of Sails as it boasts 2 major harbours, so you’re always close to the water.
  • Wellington. The nation’s capital is located on the south tip of the North Island and is a focal point for government and tourism. Similarly to Auckland, it’s also located by the coast, so you’re only ever a hop and a skip from the nearest beach. Bear in mind that Wellington is famously windy, and it sits within the country’s high-risk zone for earthquakes!
  • Christchurch. Christchurch, the country’s third-largest city, is still characterised by the recovery efforts following the major earthquake there in 2011. As such, the construction industry is a big employer, although there are also opportunities in agriculture and tourism. Christchurch was formerly called ‘The Garden City’, and New Zealanders are working to restore that moniker.

Of course, if you’re more the rural type, that’s also an option. This country boasts innumerable picturesque towns and villages, and its natural scenery is rightly world-renowned (think “The Lord of The Rings”). So if your plan is to get away from it all when you emigrate to New Zealand, you’re coming to the right place!

Please note that if you’re visiting ahead of making a longer-term move there, you’ll likely need an NZeTA (Electronic Travel Authority) to be permitted entry. This includes if you’re coming from the US, UK, Canada or most European nations. If you’re coming from another country, such as India or China, you’ll need a Visitor Visa.

Research Your Visa Options for Moving to New Zealand

Once you’ve spent a goodly wodge of time in the land of Kiwis and you’ve decided that it’s the place for you, the next step is to research your visa options to emigrate there. There are a number of options available, depending on whether you intend to migrate here temporarily or on a permanent basis. Let’s have a look at the most common visas:

Temporary Visas

  • Student Visa. You apply for a student visa if you’re taking a full-time course in the country that lasts for over 3 months. To qualify, you’ll need:
    • An offer of a place from an education institution accredited by the NZ Qualifications Authority.
    • A written guarantee that accommodation is available to you (if you’re under 18).
    • Proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your stay.
    • Either a return air ticket or proof of enough funds to buy one.
  • Working Holiday Visa. This is a temporary visa for people aged 18 to 30, or 35 for the citizens of a select few countries like Canada and Finland. It allows you to stay in the country for up to 12 months, or 23 months if you’re from the UK or Canada (lucky Brits and Canadians!) To qualify, you’ll need to have a return ticket out of the country or proof of sufficient funds to buy one. You’ll also need the equivalent of 350 USD to support you for each month you stay. The main intention of your visit must be for a holiday rather than work.
  • Essential Skills Visa. This visa is for temporary migrants who’ve been offered a job by an employer who’s demonstrated that they can’t find a qualified candidate to fill the position locally. You’re permitted to stay for 1, 2 or 3 years, depending on the skills band of the role you’re taking (higher-skilled roles can stay longer). You’re permitted to study for up to 3 months in any 12-month period with this visa, and your family can apply for separate visas to join you.

Permanent Visas

  • Work to Residence Visa. You can apply for this visa if you get a job in a sector with a recognised skills shortage. It has a duration of 30 months, yet after 24 months in the country working for your employer, you’re eligible to apply for Permanent Residency. To apply, you must be under 55 years old (to work, this is how old you can be to move to New Zealand in most cases) and already have an offer of employment. This visa costs 635 NZD.
  • Skilled Migrant Visa. Similar to the Work to Residence Visa, you’re eligible for this visa if you’ve been offered a job in a sector with a skills shortage. Unlike the former visa though, to qualify you send NZ’s Immigration Department an Expression of Interest (EOI) detailing your skills and job offer. Based on the number of points you accumulate from the EOI, the Immigration Department then invites you to apply for the Skilled Migrant Visa. The EOI costs 530 NZD while the application itself costs 2,710 NZD.

Based on whether you’re moving alone or with your family, you may also need to find out about the Partner and Children Visa. Please note that your partner and kids are only eligible to join you depending on the visa you’re applying for (they can’t come with you on a Working Holiday Visa).

For your partner to qualify, you’ll need to demonstrate (among other things) that:

  • Your relationship is genuine and stable.
  • You’re living together.
  • You’re both healthy and of good character.

There are both temporary and resident visas for partners available, according to the visa you’re applying for.

Look for Work in NZ

After you’ve researched the visa options for migrating here, the next step of how to immigrate to New Zealand is to look for work. You typically do this before you fly into the country because, as you’ll have seen, most visas depend on you already having received a job offer to be eligible.

So to find work there are a number of steps you’ll need to take, such as researching which skills are in demand here, looking on the local jobs websites, and updating your CV to NZ format. Depending on where you’re from, you may also need to check whether your qualifications will be recognised there and, if not, get them assessed. Let’s look then at how to find work in Kiwi land:

  • See if your skills are in demand. You’re likelier to get a visa to migrate to NZ if you work in a sector where there’s a recognised skills shortage. To help you do this, NZ’s Immigration Department usefully offers a Skills Shortage List Checker tool. Just enter your occupation into the search bar and the tool tells you if your skills are in demand. Please note that, even if your occupation isn’t on the list where there’s a skills shortage, you may still be able to apply for other visas if you’re considered a skilled worker (according to the ‘Skill Level Classification’). So if that’s your case, keep your chin up! You can learn more about NZ’s immigration points system in our blog post here.
  • Find a job! Once you’ve confirmed if your occupation qualifies you to apply for a visa, the next step is to hit the job boards and start looking for work. Popular ‘move to New Zealand job boards’ include seek.co.nz, trademe.co.nz and even the government’s careers.govt.nz. You’ll quickly discover among other things:
    • Whether your skills and experience are compatible with the jobs available in your sector.
    • Whereabouts the jobs you’re eligible for are most common.
    • How much you’re likely to earn working there.
  • Check that your qualifications are recognised and, if not, get them assessed. Found a position you like? Then the next step is to ensure that your experience and qualifications are equivalent to this country’s own. If you’re looking at how to move to New Zealand from the USA, UK, Canada or any other comparable Western country, this will probably be the case. Otherwise, you may need to submit your diplomas to what’s called an International Qualifications Assessment (IQA). This costs 445 NZD and takes up to 25 days.
  • Update your CV to NZ format. You can check for this online. Typically, employers here like curriculums to be straightforward and clear, and for you to highlight your skills and experience that are most relevant to the role you’re seeking, rather than list every job you’ve ever had.
  • Apply for positions! As in other countries, for each role you apply for you’ll be subject to a number of interviews and tests to see if you’re the right person. With luck and hard work, you’ll be offered your dream role to immigrate here.

Apply for Your Visa

When you’ve been offered a job, you can apply for your visa. It’s important to note that, as well as having a job offer, you’ll need to comply with the other requirements of your visa, such as having a valid passport. Typically, as part of your application, you’re required to scan your passport electronically to submit to the NZ Immigration Department. In addition:

  • You must provide proof of your identity, such as a photo as well as your passport.
  • You must be of good character, such as having never committed a serious criminal offence.
  • You must be of good health, and may need to undergo a medical examination and X-ray to prove this.
  • You must have genuine (bona fide) intentions to meet the conditions of your visa and follow New Zealand’s immigration laws. This is decided based on all the material you submit in your application.
  • You may need to apply for Occupational Registration, depending on the sector you’re working in. For example, architects must register, while accountants don’t have to.

Then, it’s just a matter of submitting your application and waiting for it to be accepted!

Book Your Flights and Organise Your Move

Once you’ve got your job offer and your visa, all that’s left to do is pack up and move here! Not so fast though, because there are still quite a lot of logistics to be organised, such as:

  • Book flights for you and your family.
  • Choose a moving company to transport your possessions.
  • Find temporary accommodation for when you first arrive, until you get settled.
  • Open a bank account.
  • Find permanent accommodation.
  • Get a mobile or telephone number and sort out your home’s utilities.
  • Get registered with the local doctor, dentist, plus the tax authorities.
  • Get an NZ driving license.
  • If you have children, enrol them at the local school.
  • Get involved in the community, start making friends and pick up some Kiwi slang!

Let’s look at each of these tasks in a bit more detail. In general, it’s useful to have a ‘moving to New Zealand checklist’ of everything you need to do before and after you move to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

  • Book flights. The cost of flying will depend on where you’re coming from, how many of you are flying and how far in advance you book (typically, the earlier the cheaper). There are many flight comparison tools online to help you find the best deal, and we write more about New Zealand’s airports here.
  • Hire a moving company. It’s best to shop around and see who’ll offer you the best deal. Some shipping companies move possessions all over the world, while others specialise in transporting your valued objects to this country. Typically, moving to New Zealand shipping costs vary according to how much you’re shipping and how much space your valuables will occupy in terms of trucks and containers.
  • Find temporary accommodation. When you’re moving here, and depending on whether you’re on a temporary or permanent visa, you may decide to rent accommodation rather than immediately taking out a mortgage. The cost of renting varies widely depending on where you are in the country; as you might expect, you’ll pay considerably more to live in the city centre of Auckland than somewhere rural. Prices are particularly steep in Christchurch because 10,000 homes were destroyed in the 2011 earthquake, causing a supply bottleneck. The average national rent for a 1-bedroom flat per month is 1,120 NZD (648 EUR) and 2,200 NZD (1,276 EUR) for a 4-bedroom home.
  • Open a bank account. It’s possible to apply for an NZ bank account while you’re out of the country, so this is a good first step to take before you arrive. To help you in your research, the biggest local banks are ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Kiwibank and Westpac.
  • Find permanent accommodation. If you’ve got a permanent residency visa, you might decide to take the plunge and buy outright. Typically, homes here tend to be urban flats or detached houses; there aren’t many terraced or semi-detached properties, as are common in the UK for example. Importantly, homes in this country usually lack central heating, so it can get cold in the winters! As with renting, prices vary greatly from urban to rural zones; the cost of an average property in Auckland is 1,233,300 NZD (702,000 EUR) while outside the big 3 cities it falls to 404,500 NZD (230,000 EUR). If you’re wondering ‘How much does it cost to move to New Zealand?’, then buying a house will be your biggest outgoing expense.
  • Get a mobile or telephone number. You can go into any local telecoms shop and get a local phone number. You may have to contract a phone plan. There are only 3 providers in the country, namely Vodafone, 2degrees and Spark (called Telecom New Zealand until 2014).
  • Get registered with the doctor, dentist and the taxman.
    • You can choose which GP (General Practitioner) to register with, you can change at any time, and they don’t have to be based where you live. To register, just contact the GP you want to do so with.
    • You don’t need to enrol with your dentist before you need treatment. You’ll normally pay for any dental treatment you require, as dentists aren’t publicly subsidised in this country. For an appointment, just contact the dentist you want to visit.
    • You’ll need a tax (IRD) number before you can start working here. Tax is deducted automatically from your income. You can apply for an IRD online, and you need the details of your passport and your visa. It takes just 2 working days to receive it by email or 10 days by post.
  • Get an NZ driving license. You can use your current driving license here for 1 year after you arrive. After that though, you’ll need a local one. You must keep your driving license with you at all times while you’re on the road.
  • If you have children, enrol them at the local school. It’s mandatory for children to attend school from the ages of 6 to 16, although most children start at 5. Fortunately, NZ’s school system frequently ranks among the best in the world. If your children are attending a state school, they’ll normally go to the school nearest to you.
  • Get involved! In your epic journey of ‘How can I move to New Zealand?’ the final step is to become part of the community, make friends and learn the local customs! Be sure to take off your shoes and go the supermarket, and head to the local ‘dairy’ to buy anything but milk. In brief, when in Rome…

We hope you’ve found our guide helpful. This should give you an idea of how hard it is to move to New Zealand, how much money you need, and how long it takes. Whether you’re fresh out of university and heading to Kiwi land on a Working Holiday Visa, or emigrating permanently with your family, we wish you the very best of luck!