If you’ve chosen to visit New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa, you’re in for an exciting time. But along with the anticipation of spending a year or two living in one of the world’s most beautiful countries, there’s also a lot to consider!
First you’ll need to ensure that you’re eligible for this particular type of visa and that it fits your requirements. Then comes the application.
But applying for your NZ Working Holiday Visa (NZ HWV) is just the first step. Once you arrive, there’s so much to think about, from opening bank accounts to getting a tax number and finding a SIM card.
We’re here to make applying for your NZ WHV as easy as possible. Read through this information before you arrive in New Zealand and use it to get all your documents in order before departing.
Then return to this post upon your arrival for a step-by-step guide on what to do to set yourself up for a successful and exciting working holiday in New Zealand!
Cassie, the author of this article, arrived in New Zealand on an NZ WHV herself so she has been through this exact process. Join her as she shares her experience, best practice application tips and the reality of setting up life in New Zealand.
Planning for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa
Before setting your heart on working on New Zealand, you should check the requirements and that you’re eligible.
The following countries have a quota, allowing their citizens to work in New Zealand for the short term. The number of visas issued to each country varies, and applications are closed each year once this quota has been met.
Check the immigration website for complete details about the countries that can apply for the WHV and for updates about the number of visas issued this year.
Every country has a slightly different criteria to apply.
Thankfully, all you need to do is find your country here and then click on it. Be sure to read the requirements specific to your country of residence.
The standard criteria usually include things like:
- age (usually 18-30 or 18-35, depending on where you’re from)
- being able to provide proof of identity
- being of good health and character
- intending to meet the conditions of your visa
- having enough funds to live in New Zealand (at least NZ $350 for each month of your stay), including enough money for an onward ticket out of New Zealand.
To help you out, we’ve included links to some of the main countries that visit NZ.
If you’re not eligible for an NZ WHV, don’t panic. Chances are, you’ll still be eligible to visit NZ on vacation. A range of alternative visas are also available if you’re keen to move to New Zealand more permanently.
How to apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa
There are two main ways to apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa:
- apply yourself directly through the NZ immigration website
- use a visa agent who will make the application for you.
Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, but before we go into how to apply, let’s check that you’re eligible for a WHV in New Zealand.
Applying for a WHV yourself
We recommend applying for the WHV yourself – especially if you’re on a budget.
Firstly, it’s much, much cheaper. Secondly, it’s easy.
The website clearly states what documents you need to attach before applying, and the application won’t go through until you’ve completed every step, so it’s hard to miss anything.
If applying yourself, follow this process:
- Confirm that you are eligible for an NZ WHV and that it meets your needs.
- Get your documents ready (your passport and medical certificate if applying for a 23-month visa).
- Apply for your visa through the NZ Immigration website (create an account or log in to your existing account).
- Pay the NZ $245 fee for your visa application – note, this is non-refundable.
- Make sure all your details are correct before hitting submit!
- Check your visa status on the NZ Immigration website any time after submitting.
- Check your emails! NZ Immigration will email you your visa once it’s been processed.
Applying through a visa agent
If you’re not on a tight budget, there are some advantages of applying through a visa agent.
Getting someone to do it for you can save time and stress. Plus, visa agents will often help with other things like accommodation when you arrive.
- Check the cost of using a visa agent.
- Consider what you want from your visa agent. Do you just want them to get the visa for you or also help you set up bank accounts, accommodation, etc.?
- Fill out the form on their website and wait for them to get in touch.
- Alternatively, set up an appointment with a local visa agent at their office.
- Follow their instructions and await details of your visa.
Remember that the more support you need, the more expensive it will be to have someone support you.
Visa agents include Visa First, for standard assistance, and Intro Travel, who get your visa, plus get your bank account, sim card and tax number ready for you. Global Work and Travel will also plan your entire arrival, with a dedicated trip coordinator and guaranteed job interview before arrival.
You can check the current predicted visa processing times online – they are updated frequently.
At the time of writing, it’s estimated that most WHVs are processed within four working daysHowever, some take longer. Still, 90% of applications get processed within 25 weekdays.
Although it can take up to 2 months, for many people (including me), visas are processed within a week.
After applying for your visa, you can also log back into Immigration Online Services to check the status of your application.
Why do some take longer to approve than others?
There are a number of reasons some applications take longer to be approved.
Your application may be:
- missing required information. Learn more about what is required before submitting your application
- waiting on additional information from you. Be sure to check your emails/letters
- waiting on information from others, like qualification verification or police reports
- delayed because a large number of applicants have submitted requests at once
Congratulations, your visa’s been approved! What next?
After your New Zealand visa is confirmed, there are a few things you need to do before arriving in New Zealand.
- Decide where you want to begin your Working Holiday Visa (check below for our recommendations) so you know where to fly to.
- Book your flight. Use Skyscanner to check the cheapest dates to fly into your city of choice.
- Book travel insurance! Make sure your insurance covers any activities you want to do. Choosing the correct insurance can save thousands of dollars and a lot of stress.
- Look up expected costs in New Zealand. Outside of accommodation, things like groceries and gas can be pricier than many newcomers expect. This is because so much has to be imported into the country. Use this knowledge to budget how much you need to save in advance.
- If you’re a driver from a non-English-speaking country, you’ll need to get an International Driving Permit to bring along with your original license.
- Get copies of any essential documents – we suggest having a copy of your passport, insurance and visa in your emails. Having them saved to your phone documents folder and even keeping a printout can be handy.
The Best places to begin your New Zealand Working Holiday
Ideally, you’ll fly into a city you don’t mind staying in for a week or two (if not a few months). This will allow you to get set up with bank accounts, a mobile phone plan, and everything else you need – more on that soon.
Even if you plan to head to remote or rural areas, setting yourself up first in a larger city with many options can be helpful.
Auckland, North Island
If you’re looking for temp or office work, it’s also a great place to stay long-term. I found a 6-month job just four days after arriving in Auckland.
Wellington, North Island
It’s also a great spot to pick up temp jobs, and the place to be if you work in politics or for the government.
Christchurch, South Island
If you want to base yourself in South Island, the biggest city, Christchurch is a great option.
It has everything you need to set up in a new country while also being a stone’s throw away from some of New Zealand’s most beautiful places – not to mention its own array of museums, attractions, cafes, and hikes to keep you busy.
What’s more, this is a city that encourages a great work-life balance.
Queenstown, South Island
This is New Zealand’s most prominent tourism hub. You’ll meet lots of other travellers, plus, it’s a great place for backpacker-friendly jobs.
Accommodation is expensive (and can be hard to come by), and you’ll need to make sure you don’t blow your budget on the pricy adventurous attractions before finding a job!
To make your savings stretch, we recommend checking our these free Queenstown activities until you have secured a job.
>>> Once set up, you can stay put or check out more of the best places to live in New Zealand.
Book your initial accommodation
It’s worth booking your first accommodation before you arrive in Aotearoa.
We recommend locking in a whole week or two as longer stays usually give discount prices, at least on websites such as booking.com and Airbnb. You’ll also have enough to take care of when first arriving, without having to worry about your next stop.
As an ‘older traveller’ (and I mean that only in WHV terms – I was a sprightly 29 when arriving), I opted to book a private room at an Airbnb rather than staying in a hostel.
This was cheaper than a private hotel room, and the local Auckland family even took me to a couple of local hotspots and helped recommend a SIM card.
Alternatively, you could book a bed in a dorm room. This is likely to be the most cost-effective option, but won’t give you much privacy.
What to do once you rrrive in New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa
After you arrive in New Zealand, there are a few things you’ll need to do to get set up.
Organise these things before travelling or applying for a job.
Open a New Zealand bank account
You need to open a bank account to get paid for work, access online banking, and get a debit card and/or EFTPOS card.
There’s no need to pay to open your account. ANZ, BNZ and Kiwibank are some popular options with no monthly fees.
Other New Zealand banks have small fees or/and make it harder for backpackers to open an account. For example, Westpac requires evidence of employment to open an account (and you can’t officially get a job without a bank account).
We recommend applying online for your account before you arrive in New Zealand. Major banks often book up appointments weeks in advance, you’ll want to get organised from home, particuarly if you plan to find work soon after arriving.
To give you an idea of what to expect, this was the process I went through with ANZ:
- I supplied my passport, evidence of visa, National Insurance Number (also known as a Tax Identification or Social Security number, depending on where you’re from) and proof of overseas address.
- They helped me complete my migrant banking form and check all the details were correct.
- When I went to my in-person appointment (after requesting to do so online), it was very quick and easy, and I could see they were set up to simultaneously help several other newcomers in separate private rooms.
- I left my ANZ appointment with a login to my new bank account. My Visa debit card arrived in the post shortly after.
- The banker printed out a letter stating my bank account was open. You need this letter to apply for an IRD number, so if they forget to offer, make sure you ask for one!
Did you know? An IRD number is like a social security number in the US.
Get your IRD number
Once my bank account was open and I had a letter from the banker to prove this, I applied for my IRD number online.
As stated on the website, you just need a copy of your passport, Immigration New Zealand Application Number, NZ bank account, and overseas tax number/national identity number (if you have one).
You’ll receive your IRD number by text or email within two working days.
You need an IRD number and bank account to get a job in New Zealand, so this should be one of the first things you do after arriving if you’re looking for work.
Get a New Zealand sim card
Setting up an affordable mobile phone in New Zealand is easy.
SIM cards can be ordered online and sent to your accommodation, or you can pick one up from a wide range of stores.
We recommend Skinny as they offer great service at super affordable prices. Plus, we’ve got free data for you!
Alternatives include Spark, 2Degrees and Vodafone.
You’ll want to do this nice and early so you can keep an eye on job listings and offers!
Pro Tip: Check your phone is unlocked before travelling. Some phones overseas are locked to one network provider so may not work here until they are unlocked.
Find long-term accommodation in New Zealand
While some hostels offer long-term stays, this usually isn’t the chepest option. And if you’re a social butterfly, it still might be a fun way to spend your time, but most of us need a little privacy!
You can look for flatshares on websites such as NZ Flatmates, Roomies and Trademe. However, I found that the easiest way to find accommodation in NZ was through Facebook groups – plus, they’re free to use!
Just type in the name of your city and ‘flat share,’ ‘accommodation’, ‘flatmates’ or ‘rent’ to find relevant groups.
Some worthwhile groups include:
- AUCKLAND FLATMATES & FLATS WANTED (AFW)
- Wellington Rentals and Flatmates
- Flatmates & Flats Wanted Christchurch
- For rent in Queenstown, New Zealand
Once in, you can post that you’re looking for a room and/or message people looking for a flatmate.
Alternative accommodation options
While we’re sure you’ll find a room quickly, especially if you’re in a major city, there are other options if you’re struggling or if you just want something less permanent.
WOOFFing is a popular option for some. This involved exchanging your services on a farm for accommodation on site. Just be sure you have your bank account sorted before heading for the countryside.
If you’re an experienced animal carer, you can also try petsitting. Just make sure you’re willing to put the animals first before committing to a stay – after all, it’s a big responsibility to take good care of someone else’s beloved pets.
Secure a job in New Zealand
Now that you’ve got your visa, bank account, IRD number mobile phone sorted, let’s find you a job to pay the bills!
Fortunately the WHV lets you work in any job, in any sector in New Zealand.
Find a job online
Online job sites are the most popular places to find jobs in New Zealand. Seek is a fantastic option with many office job, and both skilled and unskilled positions. You can filter the search only to see positions available to Working Holiday Makers too.
TradeMe is another popular option for jobseekers nationwide.
You can also check PickNZ or Backpacker Work for rural and seasonal jobs. Just double check that a company looks official and is popular with other backpackers before driving somewhere remote, especially if you’re a solo traveller.
Some careers have their own specialised websites too, like the Education Gazette for teachers and educators. If you work in a particular profession, you could check to see if a specialist website exists for you too.
Retail and hospo
Apply to retail or hospitality jobs by checking for their online application forms or handing around CVs in-store.
Coffee shops and restaurants may have positions advertised on shopfronts, and many others post these positions to Facebook groups.
Apply to temp agencies if you’re looking for a reliable office job. This is how I found a 6-month job (which extended out to 12 months) within just a few days of arriving in New Zealand.
I applied to agencies which specialised in office help, but you can also find construction jobs through recruitment agencies. These roles can last anywhere from 1 or 2 days or a week to 6 months, depending on what you want.
If you’re struggling to find work, you can also try WOOFFing or volunteering in exchange for accommodation.
Or mix it up like me. After my office contract ended, I spent 6-months volunteering at an animal sanctuary through Workaway.
If you’re keen, there are plenty of opportunities out there.
Now that you know how to apply for your NZ WHV and all of the steps to move on to after it’s been accepted, isn’t it time you pushed ahead with your Aotearoa adventure?
If you’re considering visiting New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa, don’t forget to join our Facebook community, New Zealand Travel Tips (NZTT).
Not only will we keep you updated with exciting travel news throughout the year, but our friendly community can help answer any questions you have about our beautiful country.