I arrived in New Zealand in the middle of February with high expectations.
A country I had dreamed about visiting for a decade proved to be everything I had hoped it would be. I spent my first month in New Zealand traveling around the South Island - from hikes so beautiful you'll hardly believe they're real to stunning boat rides and incredible roadtrip views, icy cold glacier swims and beautiful fiordland cruises.
Option 1: New Zealand Travel Visa
As a national of a visa-waiver country, you do not need to apply for a travel visa prior to arriving in New Zealand. You will be issued a landing card on board the plane which allows you to apply for a Visa Upon Arrival. Most visa-waiver country nationals are eligible for a 3-month travel visa; UK residents can receive a 6-month visa.
NOTE: this policy will be changing in October 2019 and visa-waiver country nationals will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority prior to arrival in New Zealand. Please see the updates here.
Option 2: New Zealand Working Holiday Visa
After traveling around the South Island for a month and then settling into a longer-term stay in Kaikoura for another month, I decided I loved New Zealand too much to move on just yet. I planned to apply for a working holiday visa which, as a Canadian, I can hold for 23 months.
You can apply for a working holiday visa if you are already in New Zealand; all you need is a New Zealand postal address. Please be aware that applying from within New Zealand can take up to 4 weeks to process versus 1 week if outside the country.
NOTE: I received my visa within 4 days of filing my application. Give yourself plenty of time to receive your response as approvals are on a case-by-case basis.
If your travel visa expires before your working holiday visa is approved, you must still depart the country by your original 3-month visa expiration date.
Step 1: Applying for your Working Holiday Visa
Your application for your working holiday visa will be filed online here. Select your country and then complete the entire questionnaire as required about personal information, health information and other history. Most schemes permit up to 12 months on your working holiday visa; UK and Canadian citizens are eligible for up to 23 months.
Costs vary from country to country; I paid $245 NZD as a Canadian.
Step 2: Medical Certificate
If you are coming from a country where a medical exam is required OR if you are applying while already in New Zealand, you will be required to undergo a chest x-ray and a general medical exam as proof that you are of sound health.
I had my appointment in Christchurch which I selected from the Immigration New Zealand's Approved Panel Physician's List.
The cost for the appointment, the x-ray and the medical exam (including tests for blood, urine, eyes and a full physical exam) came to $485 NZD. The clinic will provide you with an eMedical number which you submit to Immigration New Zealand so that they can access your results.
Once Your Visa is Approved
Step 3: Letter of Approval
In order to enter the country or apply for jobs, you will need to print off the letter of approval that is emailed to you and keep it with your passport at all times. It will include all the information about your visa number, your visa expiration date and all the terms and conditions of your visa.
Step 4: Insurance
Once you are approved for your working holiday visa, you are required to purchase travel and medical insurance that will cover medical costs and hospitalization should the need arise. This insurance will need to last for the duration of your stay in New Zealand. Try Orbit Protect; they have an insurance plan specifically for working holiday visa travelers.
Step 5: International Driving Permit
For those wishing to purchase a car or a van to travel around New Zealand in, check to see if the country your driving license is from requires you to apply for an International Driving Permit. Typically, licenses from non-English-speaking countries will not be permitted without the IDP.
Step 6: Money
In order to successfully enter the country on your working holiday visa, you will need to prove that you have the funds to support yourself. This is approximately $4200 NZD per year. A copy of your most recent bank statement should be sufficient evidence.
Bear in mind that this is just a minimum amount required by Immigration New Zealand. The costs of your trip will depend greatly on your choices of accommodation, transport, food and activities as well as the length of your stay.
Step 7: Bank Account
In order to be paid by your employers, you'll need to open a New Zealand bank account. The most common banks are BNZ, ANZ, Kiwi Bank and WestPac. Check out your options and choose a bank that offers convenience, low fees and high flexibility.
Step 8: IRD Number
If you make money in New Zealand, you'll need an IRD number for taxation purposes. This number will allow you to pay your taxes at the end of the year. In order to apply for an IRD, you'll need to complete a form online or pick up a paper copy at your local post office. You'll need a valid New Zealand bank account, proof of address, proof of intent of activity (your working holiday visa approval letter) and photo identification in order to validate your form. Apply for your IRD number here.
Step 9: Phone Plan
Of course, this is optional, but I highly recommend getting a monthly phone plan to use as you travel around. It will be cheaper than constantly topping up a pay-as-you-go plan. Common carriers include Vodafone, 2degrees and Spark. Check to see what the current deals are and what suits your budget and data/minutes/texting needs!
Step 10: Get a Job!
Once you arrive in New Zealand and are on the job-hunt, you can go the old-school route and wander around town looking for jobs (best for hospitality work) or get online and search there - the most common job website here is Seek.
Extending your Working Holiday Visa
As a Canadian or British citizen, you are eligible to extend your one-year working holiday visa by up to 11 months. Here are the steps you'll need to follow in order to apply.
You must apply for the extension before your original visa runs out; Immigration New Zealand requires approximately 27 days to process and return your application. You must also be in New Zealand when you apply.
As of January 2020, it costs $280NZD to apply for the extension - this did not include the cost of passport photos, the required medical exam and postage. Along with the items below, you must also mail in your passport. Everything will be returned to you by secure post at the address you provide on the form.
Step 1: INZ 1223
You need to print off a copy of INZ 1223 which is the required extension form for all Canadian and British citizens currently on their first year of their working holiday visa. You can find the form here. The form will ask for, among other things, your passport information, address, outbound travel plans, character and health.
Step 2: Passport Photos
Once you have completed your INZ 1223 form, you must attach 2 standard size passport photos. Your full name must be written on the back side.
Step 3: Medical Certificate
If you have not already completed your medical exam for your first working holiday visa (which you would have only done if you applied for your visa while already in New Zealand), you will be required to undergo a chest x-ray and a general medical exam as proof that you are of sound health.
You will need to book an appointment with one of the medical centres on the Immigration New Zealand's Approved Panel Physician's List. The cost for my appointment, x-ray and medical exam came to $485 NZD.
You will need to provide the eMedical number given to you by the clinic in your INZ 1223 form so that Immigration New Zealand can access your results.
Step 4: Insurance
Along with the above requirements, you are required to purchase travel and medical insurance that will cover medical costs and hospitalization should the need arise for the remainder of your stay in New Zealand. Try Orbit Protect; they have an insurance plan specifically for working holiday visa travelers.
Once Your Visa is Approved
Step 1: Letter of Approval
In order to enter the country or apply for jobs during your second year, you will need to print off the letter of approval that is emailed to you and keep it with your passport at all times. It will include all the information about your visa number, your visa expiration date and all the terms and conditions of your visa.