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Here’s How to Apply for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa!

If you’re looking for a working holiday New Zealand blog post – this is the one for you! There are lots of different New Zealand visas – but this article focusses on the Working Holiday Visa. Below, we cover things like the working holiday visa age limit and how to get settled in New Zealand and find jobs on a working holiday.

We asked our local resident, Pete, to give you the details about his experience applying for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa as a Canadian. That said, we’ve also included the information for a New Zealand working holiday visa for USA or UK passport holders. Born in the wrong climate to do what he loves, Pete is a long-time sailor and coach that was raised in Canada. He became good friends with Eric during their time in university.

Pete moved to Auckland after his degree utilizing the Working Holiday Visa. Years later, he is now the full-time Manager and Club Coach of Murrays Bay Sailing Club – working with young sailors to help them succeed! In his free time, he enjoys surfing, hiking, and skiing through as much of New Zealand as he possibly can. He was even kind enough to write about all the best things to do in New Zealand! So, let hand it off to Pete to learn more about applying and his experience in New Zealand.

**As a disclaimer, this post is intended to provide general information about the process of applying for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa. It is in no way meant to replicate/replace legal or immigration-related advice and specific questions about your application should be directed to the Department of Immigration in New Zealand.

What is the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa?

guy sailing boat on blue water new zealand working holiday visa
Pete doing what he loves best – sailing!

In general, the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa is an agreement between New Zealand and other countries that allows young adults to travel and work freely in New Zealand. These agreements and sometimes referred to as “Working Holiday Schemes” and they exist for lots of different countries – allowing you the potential chance to get out there and explore the world!

The New Zealand Working Holiday Visa has a few stipulations to be eligible to apply and travel to New Zealand. Since Pete is a Canadian, we will focus on the process for a Canadian to apply. On the working holiday visa, the details are:

  • Your visa is valid for 12-23 months.
  • Travel is the main purpose of the visa, with work and/or study a secondary priority. You can work the whole time on your visa up to 23 months – but work must be part-time only. You can study for a maximum of 6 months, regardless of visa duration.

Since this article focuses on a Canadian applying for the Working Holiday Visa to New Zealand. If you are interested, here is the general information page for all nationalities thinking of applying for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa. If you are a reader from the following countries, here are the official pages from the New Zealand Department of Immigration to get you started:

Each of the nationalities has slightly different details for applying (like age limits) so it is important to visit the page for your citizenship to make sure you cover all the details specific to you.

Looking to Apply for Other Visas? – Our Massive Visa Guidebook Lists Common Travel Visas

Applying for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

To apply for the Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand as a Canadian you must provide the following documents or details. You can check the official criteria page for details. Note that some of these are mandatory and some of these are supplementary and may be requested after you apply.

  • Passport Details: These help to confirm age and citizenship. Keep in mind there are minimum guidelines for how many months should be left until your passport expires.
  • Onward Travel: Proof of onward travel ticket OR funds to purchase a plane ticket after the visa is done.
  • Funds: Prove that you have $4200 NZD in your accounts – this is on top of your plane ticket budget.
  • Be of Good Character: You answer questions about yourself when you apply.
  • Health Insurance: You must be insured (even for hospitalization) for the duration of your visa. You may be asked to show this upon arrival in New Zealand.
  • Medical Certificate: Might be asked if you apply for 12 months. If you apply for the full 23 months, you need a medical certificate (health check-up) done.
  • No Previous Visa Granted: You must NOT have applied for this Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand before.

As for the overall process, it is laid out on the website but the actual steps can vary depending on your citizenship, details, and unique situation. Generally, the steps are as follows:

  1. Apply Online: You will apply online, answer the questions, and submit electronic versions of documents, and pay the fee. The fee to apply is $208 NZD and this is only payable by credit card (Visa or MasterCard)
  2. Process Application: Immigration will process your application and email you if they require anything else from you (like a Police Certificate from your home country). Currently, 90% of applications decisions are made within 28 days.
  3. Receive Decision: New Zealand Immigration will email you with their decision for your visa and, if approved, the next steps.

Applying for a Working Holiday Visa Extension

Besides following those steps above, Pete went through the process to extend his visa after one year. He mentioned a few things that you’ll want to consider. These are things that they don’t necessarily tell you or don’t make obvious to someone applying.

  • It is important to get all your required documents together ahead of time, bring them with you, and make copies. This is because while applying for the one year visa is easy, but applying for a two-year working holiday can be more daunting.
  • If you intend to extend a one year to a two-year visa, depending on the country you are in it might be easier and cost-effective to undergo your medical screening in your home country before you leave at the beginning. I got the medical done in Canada beforehand even though I only applied for a 1 year initially. This proved to pay off because….
  • If you want to extend from a one year to a two-year working holiday, you cannot apply for the extension while outside of New Zealand. Meaning if you have all the documents you might need for the two-year visa, then you don’t have to go home, gather them, AND come back to New Zealand to apply to extend. The plane ticket can be costly for just a medical check and/or police certificate if you knew ahead of time that you might want to stay longer.
  • The processing times can vary quite greatly. My first visa took three months to get but my extension (because I had everything already) to a second year took 3 days.

Getting Settled in New Zealand

If you’re looking to come over for a season (which would be up to a year), this is the pretty standard way to get settled into life in New Zealand. If you are considering two years, you may want to plan a bit more when it comes to housing and if you are buying a car.

Setting up Financials/Logistics/Government Stuff

There are a few things that you will need to do to get settled. Some things, done right after you land, will make the later steps far easier. Here is Pete’s advice:

  • Get a SIM and Data: As soon as you land, go and get a cell plan with some data on it. Things such as bus schedules usually run on an app. It’s just easier to navigate when you need to with Google if you have data and not just seeking wifi.
  • Apply for a Bank Account. This will help you with your finances. First, decide on a bank to open an account with. Next, they will need to send you mail to your ‘address’ so they can verify you’re a person. This takes a few days to receive and can be a temporary address. In fact, most hostels are used to being the ‘address’ for working holiday visa travellers. The longer you wait to apply for a bank account, the longer you have to stay in one place – and people don’t travel here to just see one city! So do this as soon as possible. That way, you can get on your way of exploring!
  • Get Your IRD Number. This is for taxation purposes with the Inland Revenue Department. If you make money, you need an IRD number and you need a bank account to apply. You can find out more information here.

Housing

The next thing you’ll want to consider is housing for both the short and long-term. Whether you use one city as your base and travel from there or travel from point to point will dictate the kind of housing (and the timelines) you are looking to rent for:

  • Housing is pretty typically a week or fortnightly setup here. You can find flats like you would anywhere else in a major city – through TradeMe New Zealand, or through Facebook Housing Groups. We don’t have really dodgy or sketchy areas like in North America. I mean, if you’re looking for trouble you can find it – but trouble won’t generally try to find you here.
  • Some popular areas where those on working holiday visas find early work will do “work for a room” as a general setup. This is more typical outside of Auckland, where the real estate hasn’t inflated to beyond sustainable levels.

Transportation

How you want to get around New Zealand is definitely up to you. City centres are small and the bigger ones have decent public transportation systems. To travel around the country, however, you could get a used car or ideally a self-contained campervan. The most common way to find a used car is to search Facebook for a car buy/sell group or our 2nd hand website TradeMe New Zealand. Most countries have a driver’s license agreement with New Zealand, so you can get a car (and insurance if you want it) and be able to drive.

If you’re not keen on buying a car, the other option is to hitchhike. This is very common, I’ve picked up dozens of under 30 hitchhikers while driving around the country.  You can also consider the campervan relocation deals. Jucy does a good one that gives you a $1 rental, and 5 days to usually get from Christchurch to Auckland!

Finding Work in New Zealand

ski slopes with fresh white snow new zealand working holiday visa
This setting is a popular place of employment in New Zealand!

Finding work on a Working Holiday Visa can depend on your skill set and where you are based. Many workers move with the seasons (ski season, surf/beach season). You will also be luckier in the service industry if you are looking for part-time work. Lots of employers in seasonal industries rely on part-time holiday workers to be their staff and so they are usually more set-up to handle your unique needs. You can begin your search through Facebook Groups.

Here are a few more general pieces of information to get you acquainted with the climate, the culture, and day to day life in New Zealand. These are in addition to the logistical things to do when you land!

Weather/Climate in NZ

snowy mountain with grass in front new zealand working holiday visa
Heading out for an adventure? Just a short drive away!

The weather in New Zealand can vary greatly by the season and by the island that you are visiting. A typical high in the height of summer is around 25-30 degrees Celsius. It’s also important to remember that our summer is from November to March – since we are in the Southern Hemisphere! New Zealand has the highest rate of melanoma in the world. The sun kills people and will kill you, too. Take it seriously – big straw hats and sunscreen aren’t just a fashion statement.

In the winter time, a typical high is about 17 degrees Celsius. But again, this varies depending on if you’re in the mountains or down on the coast. We don’t get a huge range in Auckland (the North Island). The weather extremes really are in the mountains, and generally on the South Island. The mountains (I’ve heard) can get a frigid overnight as -15 in the winter, but I haven’t experienced past -10 here.

Culture and Kiwi Slang in New Zealand

People here are basically Canadian – but friendlier. In Auckland, people are a bit edgier. I don’t mean bad – just a little more “not-relaxed” compared to the rest of the country. We’re all nice, but the nicest people come from the rest of the country.

If you understand Canada comparisons, Auckland develops a bad reputation that is very similar to how Toronto develops a bad reputation with the rest of Canada. Toronto is fine – but the rest of the country kinda rolls their eyes because sometimes it feels like Toronto is the centre of the universe!

Here’s a funny one: Shoes are optional. Basically everywhere. I’ve gone for over a month in my mid-twenties without wearing shoes. Groceries, banks, food establishments – all optional. I wouldn’t suggest not wearing shoes all the time but you don’t have to stress if you aren’t wearing them. I’m dead serious.

If you want to brush up on the slang used in New Zealand, this is a really good (and comical) video on Kiwi Slang that will help you out. Sweet as!

And there you have it – basically everything you need to know when applying for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa! Even though the process will differ for everyone, we hope this is a helpful template to get you started. Whether you’re thinking of applying or looking to get settled into a new adventure in New Zealand – a huge shout out (once again) to Pete for sharing his knowledge! If you’re in New Zealand, stop by Auckland and give him a wave from the shoreline!

As always, Happy Working Holiday Waddlin’,
-L&E

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Things you should know about the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

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While waddling the globe, Penguin and Pia enjoy belly slides and tasting the freshest fish dishes the world has to offer. When not lounging on ice chairs, they can be found working in the travel space in countries all around Europe.

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