A year in New Zealand: Reflections on the last 12 months and extending my Working Holiday Visa

Today marks a whole year since James and I arrived in New Zealand.

We were fresh off a 30 hour flight from London Heathrow. I remember those first few days in Auckland, recovering from jet-leg and trying to familiarise ourselves with a new city.

Mount Eden, Auckland

We’d been robbed in South East Asia and were coming to New Zealand to save up some more money. We had no idea how long we would stay, we had no idea where we should look for a job or how much it would cost us to travel the country; all we knew was that we wanted to save up some money and see the lakes and mountains and forests and wildlife.

In a year, it’s crazy how much we have seen and done. This year has probably been the best of my life – no word of a lie. We lived the absolute dream, travelling by campervan, climbing mountains and getting lost in forests, swimming in lakes and stargazing until the early hours. We’ve learnt about a new country that has a unique culture and fresh history. We’ve seen penguins and seals and dolphins and heaps of native birds. We’ve tried new foods and we’ve learnt a little te reo Māori (Māori language). We’ve had new work experiences which enrich and enhance our CVs. We’ve made lifelong friends and had so many unforgettable experiences that I will look back on with a smile. We’ve grown as people and, as a couple, we’re stronger than we’ve ever been.

Mutton Cove, Abel Tasman National Park

This blog post will give you a step-by-step guide to applying for a 23 month Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand, if you are British and are already in New Zealand on a 12 month Working Holiday Visa. This post is not designed for you if you’re still at home and want to apply for the 23 month Working Holiday Visa straight-up — but the process is quite similar so reading through could help.

I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to extend my Working Holiday Visa a further 11 months which, as far as I’m aware, is only open to British or Canadian residents. This doesn’t mean to say that visitors from other countries must leave NZ when their first year is up; rather they would have to apply for a different visa in order to be able to stay.

I’m writing this post because I couldn’t find it written already elsewhere online, so I thought it would be helpful to others in my boat.


The Working Holiday Visa is something I hadn’t even heard of before I looked into visiting New Zealand.

However, this visa is a brilliant option for anyone looking to work and travel. Of course, every country’s working holiday visa requirements are different, but they are normally available to persons between 18-30 years of age and are usually valid for 1-2 years. Various different countries may be a possibility for you to work and travel depending on your nationality; as Brits we are fortunate enough to have SO many options including Australia, Canada, Japan, USA, Singapore amongst many, many others.

If you’re already here in NZ on your 12 month Working Holiday Visa, you’ll know that applying for your first visa is really quite simple (and if you’re debating whether to apply, there you go – your first visa is super easy to apply for and to receive). The 12 month Working Holiday Visa application consists of filling in your details in an online form and paying the visa fee (see this link). Presuming everything is fine with your application, a few days later you will be sent your visa by email, which you just print out and show to passport control when you arrive in NZ!

And you’ll love this country, I can promise you that – everyone does. I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t love it here, and the majority of people I have met have, like me, fallen head over heels for NZ and don’t want to leave. Perhaps they haven’t yet seen as much of the country as they would like, or perhaps they want to work and save money a little longer, or perhaps they just don’t want to go home to the UK just yet.

Huka Falls, Taupo
I applied for my second year Working Holiday Visa in NZ because of three main reasons:
  1. I needed to save up some more money and would rather do that in NZ than the UK
  2. I was offered a job contract which finishes after my visa expires
  3. Neither of us want to leave NZ just yet

If I had told the Abbi of a year ago that I would end up living in New Zealand for almost two years, Abbi-of-a-year-ago would have laughed in current-Abbi’s face. I thought we would just save up some money, do a few weeks’ worth of travel to see the “must-do’s” of NZ, and hop on a plane back to Asia. I never thought we would stay in one place for so long, or even if we could stay in one place – I assumed we would get bored and want to go somewhere new.

…but how could we leave?
Fiordland National Park

We live in a gorgeous house on a hill in Wellington with four of the best New Zealanders. I can hear tūis whistling outside my bedroom window every morning, and my daily run features views like this:

I’ve somehow managed to get a great job, where I’m valued as a person as well as an employee, where I’m trusted with responsibility and where I’m challenged. I’m able to take trips at the weekends with my boyfriend/travel partner to see the mountains, to get lost in the forest, or even to explore foreign cities.

We would be crazy to give this all up and go home.
Tasman Glacier, Mount Cook/ Aoraki National Park

So, if you aren’t quite ready to leave NZ yet either, here is how to apply to extend your 12 month Working Holiday Visa for an additional 11 months, in five easy steps. It’s not as simple as the first visa, but it’s still a relatively easy process. Good luck!

How to apply for your Second Year Working Holiday Visa to New Zealand

STEP 1: Contact Immigration New Zealand

Your first port of call is going to be contacting Immigration to find an approved medical centre near your location. In order for your visa extension application to be approved, you need to prove you are in good health and Immigration require certain medical tests to be completed in order to ensure this. Unless you’ve had them done before by an approved specialist, you will need a General Medical Certificate as well as a Chest X-Ray.

Note: Not all medical centres offer the correct tests for the visa application, and only certain centres are accepted for the visa application. This is why you should contact Immigration to make sure you have your testing done at an approved centre. We went to The Terrace Medical Specialists in Wellington for our general medical testing, and to Pacific Radiology for our chest x-rays.

STEP 2: Book an appointment for your medical tests

I recommend contacting the approved medical specialists in your area as soon as possible because sometimes the wait lists for an appointment are quite long. It’s a good idea to get a quote for the costs and you may need to organise taking time off work to have the tests, since most centres only offer appointments during normal weekday working hours.

STEP 3: Complete the application form

Go to this page on the Immigration.govt.nz website and download and print the Working Holiday Scheme Second Work Visa Application (INZ 1223) form (found here). You do not need to print the General Medical Certificate or Chest X-Ray forms; the medical centre will complete this electronically.

You will need to complete the form by hand and attach two passport photographs (taken within the last six months), as well as proof of your flight out of New Zealand or your funds to purchase a flight. We had our photos taken at the Post Shop for $20 NZD each. The form is simple to complete, but here’s what I answered to a couple of tricky questions:

  • Section C1: My UK address
  • Section C2: I left this section blank but received an email from immigration asking for my residential address in NZ which I provided by replying to the email; you can probably just complete this part here though.
  • Section D3: This is the point where normally you would provide proof of your flight out of NZ. I haven’t yet booked a flight, but printed off a copy of my UK credit card bank statement and my NZ bank account to provide proof of having enough funds to purchase a flight when the time comes. You could also provide a copy of your employment contract to show you’re earning.
  • Section F7: Yes – your immigration medical specialist will provide you with a reference number beginning NZER once you’ve had your medical tests (see step 4). Provide this reference number here.
  • Section J: I completed this section with the details of my NZ visa debit card but you can also use a credit card or a friend’s/parent’s card details; I provided my details on James’ application too. It costs $208 NZD which will be debited from your account upon receipt of your application form.
  • Note: If there’s any other confusing parts to the form let me know in the comments below and I’ll advise what I wrote!
STEP 4: Have your medical tests done

Our tests for the General Medical Certificate took about 20 minutes each. Nothing abnormal is tested and you won’t need to take your clothes off! They check things like your height and weight, eyesight, ears, respiratory system and joints, plus you’ll have a urine and blood test. We had this done at The Terrace Medical Specialists and it cost $375 NZD each.

The Chest X-Ray takes only a few seconds and involves standing in front of a machine while taking a deep breath in and out – you’ll be in the waiting room longer than you’re in the X-Ray room! We had this done at Pacific Radiology and it cost $150 each. Some medical centres can do the General Medical testing and the X-Ray at their centre; the Terrace Medical Specialists organised our appointments at Pacific Radiolody for us because they did not have X-Ray facilities themselves.

Note: The medical centre will submit your medical tests to Immigration New Zealand on your behalf. You won’t even see the results unless you contact the medical centre and request a copy of them.

STEP 5: Submit your application

When you’ve done all of the above, you’re ready to submit your application. Make sure you send the following:

  • Your completed application form (signed, dated, and with your bank card details)
  • Two passport photos
  • Proof of your onward flight out of New Zealand or proof of funds
  • Your passport

I took my forms into the branch in Wellington which is just around the corner from where I work. You can also post your application. You cannot submit your application electronically.

Immigration New Zealand require 25 days to process your application – plus any further time if they need to request further information from you, so make sure you have everything submitted correctly the first time! This said, my application was approved 12 days after I submitted it.

The Shire, Matamata
Total cost: $753 NZD
  • Working Holiday Visa 23 months: $208
  • General Medical check at The Terrace Medical Specialists: $375
  • Chest X-Ray at Pacific Radiology: $150
  • Passport photos: $20

The total cost of our application came to $753 NZD each, however, it’s important to remember that prices of the medical testing varies depending on the medical centre and depending on your location in New Zealand – for example it’s cheaper in Auckland than in Wellington, apparently.

Nelson Lakes National Park

Things to remember

  • You are only allowed to work for 12 months in total across the 23 months that you’ll be in NZ on this visa. The Working Holiday Visa is intended for those seeking primarily to travel New Zealand and secondarily to work (be it an official employment OR working in exchange for accommodation i.e. WOOFFing or HelpX-ing.)
  • Start thinking about applying for your second year at around 9-10 months into your stay on your first Working Holiday Visa. You’ll spend a few weeks pondering and getting everything done before Immigration will actually receive your completed application. Then it takes 25 days (5 weeks!) to process it. So be prompt!
  • If you are only planning on travelling for the additional 11 months after your initial 12 month WHV expires, it might be a better idea financially to simply leave NZ and re-enter on a tourist visa (valid for 3 months each time you enter the country). You’d have to pay for flights, but wouldn’t have to spend money on the visa extension or on medical tests. Worth pondering.
  • You can submit the application form before having your medical tests done, but Immigration won’t be able to progress your application until they receive the medical results from the medical specialist, so there isn’t really much point.
  • The Immigration NZ website has lots of useful information and is also the place to apply for either your first and second working holiday visa – better add it to your favourites! The Steps to Apply page and FAQ page are particularly helpful.

Roy’s Peak, Wanaka

Was it worth it?

Applying for the second year working holiday visa is pricey. $753 is a lot of money, even when you convert it back to pounds sterling (around £350). But do I think extending my working holiday visa was worth it? Without a doubt, the answer is yes. 

The way we see it, is even though applying for the visa is expensive, it’s not unaffordable. You can realistically save up for it while you’re earning, but it’s probably a good idea to have the money saved up in case you decide to apply for it while you’re travelling and without a job.

  • Firstly, extending our visas is allowing us to work for longer, which means we can save more money for our next adventure. When we first arrived in NZ, we worked for almost five months in Auckland, where we saved enough money to spend four months travelling the whole country by campervan. When we ran out of money, we had a choice on where to look for a job: at home or in NZ. Our decision was a no-brainer really.
  • Secondly, there is still so much more to see and do. Although we’ve travelled pretty much the whole country, we are still discovering new places we didn’t even know existed. There’s so much more to NZ than what’s in the guidebooks – and luckily we have some awesome flatmates who’ve shown us some hidden gems around the Wellington area. There are heaps more walking tracks to try, mountains to climb and seas to gaze at. I’m sure we’ll have enough to keep our weekends busy until we leave!
  • Thirdly, we don’t feel ready to leave New Zealand just yet. We both know that we don’t want to settle here permanently (for now), but we just don’t want to leave yet. It’s crazy to think that if we hadn’t extended our working holiday visas, we would be flying out of New Zealand today. Although I said at the start of this post that I thought I would get bored of being in the same place for a long time, New Zealand feels like so many different countries crammed into one: there’s towering mountains, active volcanoes, idyllic beaches, miles of farmland, acres of unpopulated forests, thriving cities, strong commerce, vibrant culture… New Zealand has everything you need (apart from central heating…)

Extending our visas was definitely the right choice for James and I. We have the time to discover a city we love, where we can save up money to embark on our next adventure. I’m happy to stay settled for a while, especially if it’s in a place where I can see tūis and kākā flying overhead on my route to work. In a strange way, I’m kind of glad we got robbed in Cambodia – or we might never have come to New Zealand…

Arthurs Pass

Have you visited New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa? Have you ever visited somewhere and decided to stay longer?

Thanks for reading and happy travels!


Note: all of the photos used in this post are my own.

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  1. I’m currently sat surrounded by forms to extend my working holiday visa and totally scratching my head about it. This has been a HUGE help for me! Thank you so much 🙂

    1. Ah yay so glad I could help! It seems so complicated doesn’t it, but once you get your medical done everything else is pretty simple. Good luck! You’re welcome 🙂

  2. This has been a huge help! It does seem so complicated but you’ve made it so clear. I wanted to know how you got your proof of funds? I was just going to print off my accounts from my online banking app but not sure if that’s allowed.

    1. Yes that’s exactly what I did. On your online banking it should give you the option of saving your statement as a PDF, I just printed off the most recent ones for my current account and credit card statements to show I have access to those funds if need be 🙂

  3. Excellent post. You mentioned that you take trips around the country during weekends, I am considering spending a few months working in Auckland or Wellington to do the same, can you share the details about how you plan these trips? Maybe an idea of total cost per trip, the day of the week you leave and return, etc. Thank you.

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for your comment! Are you intending to have a car? In which case you’ll have so much freedom – you could leave on a Friday evening after work and come back late on Sunday. In Auckland we were lucky to have a friend with a car and took lots of trips to the Waitakere. Here in Wellington we use the trains and go with our flatmates on trips. We don’t have our own car though I wish we did! Having your own vehicle is so much better as you have lots of freedom. I’m not sure re costs per trip as it depends on where you go, how much petrol you use etc. 🙂

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