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Immigrating to New Zealand: How You Could, and Why You Probably Can't

Updated on November 15, 2014

Immigrating to New Zealand from anywhere except Australia is pretty difficult, and it's entirely possible you're just not eligible, even though there's nothing wrong with you. I learned this the hard way after a working holiday in Wellington. New Zealand is an amazing, beautiful country, and my only regret now is that I know that now, but I can't go back. I'm pining!

In the attempt I became something of an expert on the immigration law, so I created this lens to help all of you who want to go and might otherwise end up paying for expensive immigration advice. DON'T DO THAT. It's a waste of money - they can't tell you anything you can't dig up on the NZ immigration website anyway.

I'm clearly not an immigration official and should not be believed over professionals, but I hope this lens will help clarify your options a little. Always, always, double-check the info on the official website.

So, let's get started!

Note: Guide written in August 2012.

You can forget about it if

- you're over 55

- you're seriously ill

- you have been convicted of serious crimes

- you've been deported from NZ before

- you don't speak any English (but then how are you reading this?)

Option 1: You're Australian

It's all good. Just go. You don't need anything else. You're legally able to work in NZ.

Lensmaster Serenia has this to add:

Although Australian citizens are eligible to live and work in NZ with no visa (as long as they have a legal Australian passport) they are not permanent residents in NZ and are not eligible for all the perks of those who are NZ citizens - such as free healthcare, student loans, welfare etc etc. The exact same deal works for NZ citizens living and working in Australia.

So there you go.

Option 2: You're a Skilled Worker of the Sort NZ Needs Right Now

and with certain qualifications

The question of being "skilled" arises in most of the working visa categories. It means you have to have either three years of experience, a degree, or both (depending on the skill in question) in one of the professions that New Zealand needs right now.

You can find the list here: Skill Shortage Lists.

There are two lists behind the link: The Long-Term and the Immediate Skill Shortage Lists. If your profession (that you have experience and a degree in) is on the Long-Term Skill Shortage List, and you're under 55 and healthy and have no criminal record and have never been deported from NZ, you have a real shot at getting a visa. This is called immigration under the Skilled Migrant category.

If your profession is not on the LTSSL, but is on the ISSL, that doesn't mean much. It's only relevant to people looking to work in NZ temporarily.

Skills also come into play in cases where you have a job offer in NZ, but we'll look at that in a moment.

Option 3: You Have a Job Offer from New Zealand

If your profession is NOT on the Long-Term Skill Shortage list, but you have a job offer in NZ, your employer must be a very special employer indeed. This is called the Talent (Accredited Employers) Work category.

In this case, the employer will need:

- to be accredited with NZ immigration (list of accredited employers)

- to offer you full-time work for at least two years with an annual base salary of at least NZ$55,000

This will not give you residency, but you can then apply for residency under the Work to Residence category.

You may also need something called occupational registration, but this only applies to some occupations.

Option 4: You're a Wealthy Entrepreneur Who Wants To Start a Business in NZ

I say wealthy, because you'll need to show you have enough funds not only to support yourself but to start your new business. You'll have to convince Immigration that you have a really good idea, too. It will be a temporary work visa that can lead to residency via their entrepreneur categories after it has been proved successful.

This is called the Long-Term Business Category.

Option 5: You're a Star

The Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports) Work Category is fit for few of us. You need to prove you

- have excellent talent in art, culture or sports

- are internationally recognized for it

- are supported by an NZ organization

- are sponsored by an NZ individual or the organization supporting you

Wow, yeah... not me!

Option 6: The Business You Work For Relocates to NZ

They've got a category for that, you lucky bastard.

Option 7: You're Immediate Family of NZ residents

Partner - If your partner (spouse or common-law spouse - same-sex included) has an NZ residency or citizenship and is able to support you, they can sponsor your partnership visa. You can also be included in your partner's initial residency application.

Parent - If your child has been an NZ resident for three years, you can apply for residency under the parent category. It's a bit more complicated than that - take a look.

Dependent child - Your children can be included in your original application or apply to join you later.

Sibling or Adult Child - Nope. An NZ resident can't sponsor a sibling or adult child.

Option 8: You're Samoan

There's a Samoan quota to encourage Samoans to enter New Zealand. It's run by ballot, and you can check out the requirements you need to fill here.

Option 9: You're From a Different Pacific Nation

Pacific Access is a program encouraging people from Pacific nations to relocate to NZ. Like the Samoan quota, it's run by ballot, and requires registration to the program. The 2012 program is open to residents of Kiribati, Tonga, and Tuvalu.

Option 10: You Want to Study in NZ

This is not a residence category, but students who graduate from an NZ university are well-placed to find employment to make them eligible for work visa.

It's also to be noted that student fees can be almost twice as high for foreigners.

Option 11: Working Holiday

Again, this is not a residency category, but people under 30 can get working visas in NZ for 12 months, after which they'll have to leave or apply for visa again under a different category. You can only do this once. Getting a working holiday visa is actually quite painless, as long as you are the right age, in good health and of good character.

Why I Didn't Make It

a personal note

I'm Finnish, which worked in my favour in that I didn't need to pay to extend my holiday visa (which is good for 3 months initially, and can be renewed twice), but didn't quite give me the edge Australians have! Some nationalities may have to pay to enter New Zealand, even just on a holiday. To renew my visa, I also needed to prove I have sufficient funds to support myself. An interesting point is also that in order to enter New Zealand in the first place, I had to have a return ticket back to Europe already lined up!

I had three years of experience in a profession on the Long-Term Skill Shortage List (ICT) but - worse luck! - my BA is in Film and TV, a different profession, so I wasn't eligible for a Skilled Migrant visa.

I entertained some hopes of getting an accredited employer to hire me, but I'm not quite that desirable as an employee (the employer needs to also pay money to be allowed to take on a foreign worker), and most employers wouldn't even see me if they learned I had no valid visa at the moment, even if a temporary one could be granted in a couple of weeks pending a job offer.

My partner, who is younger than I am, got a working holiday visa quite effortlessly (I'm over 30 and therefore ineligible) and was quickly employed. We entertained real hopes of her being hired on a permanent basis by her employer, who was accredited, but time just ran out. And so here we are, back in Europe.

Wellington Coast
Wellington Coast

So You Think You're Eligible?

Good for you! Now go back to the website, take their skilled migrant points allocation test (if that's your category), check out their list of approved doctors who can verify your health, take a look at the various forms for your category, goggle at the prices, and decide if this is what you really want.

Good luck!

Giftopus by Kivitasku Designs
Giftopus by Kivitasku Designs

Kivitasku Designs on Zazzle

Check out my shop for postcards, shirts, prints and more featuring my art and photography.

Subjects include:

- pinups

- nature photography

- cute cartoony characters

- holiday cards

- historical figures (as pinups)

- and, as they say, much much more!

Music from New Zealand

Guestbook - Let me know what you think!

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    • Vilja profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Helsinki

      @TeacherSerenia: Thanks for the clarification! I'll add that to the lens. :)

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      6 years ago

      Although Australian citizens are eligible to live and work in NZ with no visa (As long as they have a legal australian passport) they are not permanent residents in NZ and are not eligible for all the perks of those who are NZ citizens - such as free healthcare, student loans, welfare etc etc. The exact same deal works for NZ citizens living and working in Australia.

      I hope that album of maori songs has the song Poi-E on it. That is a classic NZ Maori song from the early 1980s and one of my favourites.

    • Vilja profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Helsinki

      @CoeGurl: I'm sorry to hear that! You can stay for a while if you're under 30, or as long as 9 months if you can afford not to work. Or if you're really persistent, you could try getting the right education and/or experience (though the list of desired professions might change in the meanwhile). It's a really lovely place and worth visiting.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Aw, my dream of living in New Zealand is dashed! But it's better to face the reality of it. : ) Thanks for the information!

    • Vilja profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Helsinki

      @MrMojo01: Well done, her! :)

    • MrMojo01 profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting. My sister immigrated to Australia and I was surprised how difficult that was also.


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