A year in New Zealand: How to get a Working Holiday Visa extension

9th May 2016

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

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.

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

Mount Eden, Auckland

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.

This year has probably been the best year of my life.

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.

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

Mutton Cove, Abel Tasman National Park

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.

This post gives you a step-by-step guide to applying for your New Zealand Working Holiday Visa Extension.

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.

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com


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.

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

Fiordland National Park

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.

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

Huka Falls, Taupo

I applied for my Working Holiday Visa extension 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 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.

…but how could we leave?

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:

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Wellington’s Cable Car

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.

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!

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

Tasman Glacier, Mount Cook/ Aoraki National Park

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. 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:

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 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.

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:

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.

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

The Shire, Matamata

Total cost: $753 NZD

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.

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

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 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.)

– Start thinking about applying for your visa extension 9-10 months into your first year.

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!

– Consider if a tourist visa is a better option

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.

– Submit your application after having your medical done

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.

– Use the resources available to you

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.

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

Roy’s Peak, Wanaka

Is the Working Holiday Visa Extension 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 is not unaffordable. You can realistically save up for it while you’re earning.

– We can work for longer

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.

– 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. Wellington is an amazing city to live in and we can hike in a new place every weekend.

– 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 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…

Extending my visa was definitely the right choice for me.

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…

Working Holiday Visa Extension for New Zealand - spinthewindrose.com

Arthurs Pass

Have you applied for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa extension? Do you ever visit a place and realise you need to stay longer?

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

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10 responses to “A year in New Zealand: How to get a Working Holiday Visa extension”

  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 🙂

  2. Erika says:

    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.

    • Abbigail Bishop says:

      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. Mike says:

    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.

    • 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. 🙂

  4. mtjeffreys says:

    Super interesting and informative post thank you so much! I was just wondering if I could ask you one other thing. Did you have to provide any police certificates when you were extending your working holiday visa to the 23 month option or not? I’m going through the process of gathering my documents together now, and am booking my medical too but was wondering if obtaining a police certificate from the UK was necessary or not?
    Thank you so much 🙂

  5. Megan says:

    Hi Abbie,

    So great to read this and it certainly is reassuring. Are you still in NZ? Can you help answer a couple of my questions?

    My partner and I are looking to go out to Auckland in October after falling in love with the place April/May 2017. Are we best off applying for a 23 month visa now, and have the medical checks done in the UK before getting to NZ, do you think this would work out cheaper?

    When you went off to travel what did you do with your rented place? Did you just leave it empty, or move out and look for another place when you came back after travelling about? Can you get short contracts on rental properties in Auckland?

    Thank you so much.


  6. Michael says:

    Really interesting read and great all-round blog!

    I’m currently in Auckland on a working holiday visa and am in the process of getting an extension. However, I’m getting close to reaching the 12 month working limit.

    I’m working an office job at the moment, and was hoping to be offered a job contract / work visa to be able to continue working in New Zealand. I was wondering what the process was for you in terms of getting a job contract, and how long that took?

    Thanks 🙂

  7. Magda says:

    Hi, what did you put on section when day ask when i planning to leave nz ,is it matter ? And what about supporting funds ?

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I’m a travel loving sustainability advocate, on a journey to live a low-impact lifestyle alongside seeing the world. I’m obsessed with my two dogs, secondhand shopping, and growing vegetables.

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