I am an avid researcher.
A religious list-maker. I plan as much as I possibly can before leaving for a new destination to avoid feeling disorientated or unprepared when I arrive.
Before I came to New Zealand, I went through the usual routine: mapping out brief routes, researching on government websites, reading hundreds of blog posts, Pinning useful information onto my New Zealand Pinterest board. Everything I read told me what to pack, how to get my visa and what a fantastic, unforgettable, life-changing experience I would have.
But nothing told me what to actually DO once I’d got my New Zealand Working Holiday Visa. Nowhere could I find all the information, condensed into one place, on how to get an IRD number, how to get a job, how to find somewhere to live and so on.
So I did my best, gathering most of my information from backpacker Facebook groups and little-known blogs, and decided to compile this post to share with others exactly how I managed to sort my life out upon landing in Auckland at the start of my New Zealand Working Holiday.
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE NEW ZEALAND WORKING HOLIDAY VISA
Before you go to New Zealand
Step 1: Decide if New Zealand is right for you.
Before I had even made a firm decision to come to New Zealand, I looked into whether it would be the right decision for me. I was travelling with my ex-boyfriend, and, after getting robbed in Cambodia, we both wanted to earn some money to make up for lost costs.
New Zealand has been on my bucket list for like, ever. Like others, I was drawn to its beautiful landscapes, its renowned hikes and its connection to Middle Earth! I had heard amazing things about it from friends who had visited the country, and had originally planned to come to New Zealand after travelling around Southeast Asia… could having my passport stolen actually be – dare I say it? – a blessing in disguise?!
I also needed to consider whether I could actually save money on a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa. It is one of the most expensive countries in the world, and I would obviously want to travel around both Islands while on that side of the globe. How did I know I wouldn’t be putting all of my eggs in one basket, and end up losing out financially?
To put it bluntly, I didn’t. I always knew I would be taking a risk by coming to NZ – but doesn’t travelling anywhere always involve some sort of financial risk?
Step 2: Decide on a plan-of-action.
This wholly depends on what your personal choices are regarding how you want to spend your Working Holiday. Because I was arriving in Autumn, I decided to stay in Auckland throughout the colder months whilst working and saving, in order to travel the country by campervan in the summer.
So, decide if you want to travel the country first before finding somewhere you like and working, or if, like me, you want to work first to save for your trip. You can’t plan this too strictly because your plans might change when you arrive. For instance, you’ll need to factor in the time it takes to find a job etc, or if you travel, you might end up running out of money sooner than you anticipated – more on that here. Either way, it helps to have a rough idea of what you want to do.
Step 3: Apply for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.
I applied for my visa online through the New Zealand immigration website – it’s quick and easy to do, and I don’t recommend bothering with any agency who offers to do it for you, as you’ll simply be paying more for something you can easily do yourself.
When I applied in 2015, my 12 month Working Holiday Visa cost $165 NZD (equivalent to around £80 GBP). As of 12th December 2018, this fee is now $245 NZD (about £135 GBP).
If you are British or Canadian, you can apply for the full 23 month Working Holiday Visa, but you need to have a medical examination done to prove that you are in good health in order to have it approved.
I chose to apply for a 12 month visa and, after falling head over heels for NZ, decided to extend it to the full 23 months whilst living in Wellington.
You might also find useful: How to get a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa Extension
Step 4: Apply for an IRD number.
An IRD number is a tax number. You will need an IRD number in order to be taxed the correct amount whilst working in New Zealand.
Starting your IRD number application early is particularly important if you are planning on working in NZ very soon after arriving in the country, since it takes between 7-10 working days for applications to be processed. I vegan my application the second day I was in the country and received it within ten days.
To speed up the process, you can easily print off and fill in the required application form while at home, and post it off as soon as you arrive in New Zealand. You will also need photocopies of two forms of ID – so have this ready too.
I’ve written a whole blog post on how to get your IRD number – be sure to check it out!
Step 5: Rewrite your CV
Although not essential, it’s probably worth checking your CV is at least up-to-date before you start applying for jobs in New Zealand.
Depending on the type of work you are looking for, you may want to update your CV differently for your Working Holiday. You may even have multiple versions for different roles. There are definitely some must dos – and don’ts! – when writing your CV in NZ so be sure to check out my guide below.
If you don’t bring your laptop with you to New Zealand, bring a USB stick with a copy of your CV on it so you can visit an Internet café and adapt/ update it and print out more copies. I also emailed a copy of it to myself so I can attach it to emails from my phone.
When you arrive in New Zealand
Step 6: Start the job search / begin your travels
This is the part that differs for everyone depending on what you decide to do with your Working Holiday.
Finding work was my number one priority when I arrived in Auckland; other backpackers decided to buy a car/campervan straight away and travel around for a bit before settling and working. If you want to travel first, read this itinerary post to help you plan your route, and read this post if you are planning on buying a campervan in New Zealand. This post about travelling on a budget might also help you!
When it comes to finding a job, you’re probably feeling quite worried, right? Please don’t be – although I won’t say that finding work is easy, it’s definitely doable and I highly doubt you’ll go unemployed for too long, so long as you keep your options open.
Personally, I knew I wanted a 9-5 weekday job working in an office, primarily because I have previous work experience in office environments and secondly because I knew that admin roles tend to pay quite generously.
I registered with a few recruitment agencies based around the city centre and met their representatives for a chat, where I explained what type of work I was looking for and my availability. I was offered four administration roles and had secured the ideal placement within three days of starting my job-search.
I feel I need to make it clear at this point though that I was very lucky: I arrived in Auckland in the low-season so there were less people looking for work, I had ideal work experience for the type of role I was looking for, and I’m a native English speaker – which seems to be a real asset in the business world…
From speaking to others, I got the impression that unless you are an English speaker or have a specialist qualification or trade, your job prospects are unfortunately going to be slightly limited. An Italian friend I met explained that he had easily found work as a pizza chef in an Italian restaurant, since he had done the same thing previously in Italy.
However, another backpacker who only spoke limited English said that he had struggled to find a secure job and had relied mostly on agricultural work such as fruit picking to get by. He was paid based on how much fruit he picked, and would often be contacted in the morning to be told he wasn’t required to work that day. When I met him, he was working in a hostel as a cleaner for 6 days a week, in exchange for free accommodation.
The only reason I am explaining this is because I believe it is better to be prepared for these kind of situations before you leave for another country. Having to dip too far into your savings or return home early is never an easy decision.
I am by no means saying that non-English speakers won’t get a job in New Zealand because I have met plenty of backpackers from across the globe who have paid positions in hostels, restaurants and bars, as well as in administration roles.
I would therefore suggest that clarifying your level of English on your CV could be a really good idea. If an employer likes you, they would never discriminate simply if English is your second language.
As for where to look for a job in New Zealand, there are jobs across the country year-round but this understandably fluctuates depending on the season.
A brief overview would be that Queenstown is good for hospitality work (particularly throughout the winter sports season), Christchurch has a lot of work in construction, there are plenty of fruit picking jobs year-round across the Islands (but mostly during summer), and the bigger cities are understandably better places to find office and administration roles.
My top tips for finding work are:
- Make sure you have a strong CV (see Step 5).
- Bring a smart shirt & skirt or trousers with you to wear to an interview. It pays to make a good impression.
- Look for work in the right places: use websites such as Trademe and seek.co.nz and sign up for job alerts. Consider signing up to a recruitment agency. Keep an eye out for adverts in the windows of shops and restaurants, check backpacker boards and in Facebook groups.
- Always be prepared for disappointment. If you’re temping, be aware that you could be let go or moved to a different role with little notice. Remember that with so many other backpackers out there, job posts can be filled easily, but there is always work available, you just have to look for it. Mostly, stay determined and work hard.
Step 7: Open a bank account.
You’ll need a bank account in order to get paid from your job, and to avoid currency exchange fees it’s best to have an NZ one. You can start the process of applying for a bank account as soon as you arrive in New Zealand but will require a proof of address (note that some banks do accept a letter from a hostel), and your passport to open one.
There are loads of banks over here, the most common ones are ASB, ANZ, Kiwibank, Westpac, and BNZ.
You can check out the different types of accounts online and compare what they offer – sometimes there are monthly fees involved and most banks charge at least $1 per transaction if you use a different bank’s ATM to withdraw cash.
I went for the ANZ Go account which has no fees. It was easy to set up – I simply took my passport and proof of address (tenancy agreement) into a branch and I had my Eftpos card within 5 days.
If you want to transfer money from your home bank account to your New Zealand bank account, I recommend using TransferWise.
This is the cheapest place I have found to transfer money internationally – cheaper than Western Union and cheaper than a straight bank transfer. There is a small fee with TransferWise, but it’s nothing compared to what banks charge to do international payments.
I’ve used TransferWise multiple times to transfer money back and forth between my UK and New Zealand bank accounts – and I can’t recommend it more. It’s easy to use and the money usually only takes a few hours to be credited to your receiving account.
Step 8: Find somewhere to live.
This will completely depend on your budget and your own personal situation.
It’s probably best to book a hostel for the first few days after you arrive in New Zealand so you have somewhere to recover from jet-lag and orientate yourself. Hostels can be great long term too, and are always a favourite for backpackers because they’re cheap are have a lot of like-minded people staying in them. You don’t have to pay for bills or any up front costs such as bonds (which is basically a deposit). Lots of hostels offer discounts for long-stay travellers with a weekly rate instead of daily. Many have single, twin and double private rooms as well as the more cost-effective dorms. When I moved out of my flat inAuckland, I stayed at Newton Lodge Hostel for two weeks until the end of my job contract and found that most of the other guests there were long-term stayers too.
Alternatively, websites such as Facebook and Trademe are good places to look for rooms with flatmates, though you will probably need to contribute towards bill payments and pay a bond (normally a few weeks worth of rent). The plus side of this is that you’ll meet new people – often locals! – and have your own space, without having to pay for the additional fees incurred when you rent your own place (connection fees, advertising fees etc.)
Renting an apartment
Another alternative is independently renting a property, but I would only recommend this if you are planning to stick around a bit longer. Some estate agents require a minimum of three, six, or even twelve months on a contract. You can enquire about this and they might be flexible; our place was advertised for six months minimum but our landlord was happy to accept four months. You also need to factor in that you will most likely need to pay for your own bills.
I chose to rent a studio apartment located in Auckland’s city centre, which was only a ten minute walk from where I worked. If there is something I have learned whilst travelling, it’s that I like to have my own space. I didn’t want to stay in a hostel, and, as I was travelling with my ex-boyfriend, having our own apartment seemed the best option for us at the time.
Now you are set to move to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa!
These are all the big, important must-do’s for making your Working Holiday as smooth as possible. I hope I’ve covered everything; leave a comment below if there’s any other advice or information I can provide.
Check out this page on the blog, which is dedicated to resources for your New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.
You might also find the following posts useful:
- How to save money on a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand
- A guide to moving to Wellington: How to find a job and somewhere to live and Why I loved living there
- A guide to buying a campervan in New Zealand
- How I travelled New Zealand on a budget of $40 NZD per day
- How to get your second year (23 month) New Zealand Working Holiday Visa
Have you got your New Zealand Working Holiday Visa yet? If you have any questions, leave a comment below!
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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