James and I 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.
We had 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, where to 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.
It’s crazy how much we have seen and done in just 365 days.
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.
James and I arrived in New Zealand on 12 month visas as we weren’t sure how long we would want to stay in NZ. We quickly fell in love with Aotearoa and decided to look into getting a Working Holiday Visa extension.
Brits and Canadians are incredibly fortunate. We have the opportunity to extend our Working Holiday Visas a further 11 months on top of the original 12 month visa.
But if you aren’t British or Canadian, don’t worry – this doesn’t mean to say that visitors from other countries must leave NZ when their first year is up; rather they will have to apply for a different visa in order to be able to stay. You can explore all of these options on the New Zealand Immigration Website, which is really easy to navigate.
It explains how to apply for the 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 from back home, but the process is quite similar so reading through could help.
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.
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 are already here in NZ on your 12 month Working Holiday Visa, you’ll know that applying for your first visa is really quite simple.
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 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 spend a few months in New Zealand to save up some money, do a quick trip 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.
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.
So, if you aren’t quite ready to leave New Zealand yet either, here is how to apply for a Working Holiday Visa extension 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!
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. 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.
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.
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:
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 Radiology 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.
When you’ve done all of the above, you’re ready to submit your application. Make sure you send the following:
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 total cost of our application came to $753 NZD each.
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.
Across the 23 months that you’ll be in New Zealand on the visa, you are only allowed to work for twelve of them. 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.)
Don’t leave it until a month before your first year visa expires to start thinking about your second – you need more time! You’ll spend a few weeks pondering and getting everything ready to submit 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 would have to pay for flights, but you 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.
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?
The way we see it, is even though applying for the visa is expensive, it is not unaffordable. You can realistically save up for it while you’re earning.
This 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.
Although we’ve travelled pretty much the whole country, we are still discovering new places we didn’t even know existed. Wellington is an amazing city to live in and we can hike in a new place every weekend.
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 done the working holiday visa extension, we would be flying out of New Zealand today. I am not bored of being in the same place for an extended period because 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…
I feel relaxed that James and I have the time to discover a city we love and 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…
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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