How To Move To New Zealand – The Only Guide You Will Need

Thinking about a move to New Zealand and want to know more? This article will help answer some of your key questions.

No matter your reason for wanting to move to New Zealand, it is a beautiful country with a climate that provides over 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, stunning beaches, mountainous ski resorts and countryside to explore.

Like many other countries around the world, New Zealand’s economy was hard hit by the recession of 2008 but compared to others has rebounded quickly, returning to low unemployment rates, close to the levels prior to the economic crisis. However, there is still a need for skilled workers in many sectors, including construction, hospitality, healthcare and the digital sector. This provides a fantastic opportunity for people thinking about a move to New Zealand. 

Already sounding promising? Then the next steps are to do the proper research needed to make an informed decision, whether you move alone or with family. This guide provides you with some important topics to consider, advice and information about those topics and by the end, you will feel confident in your decision to move.

(Please note that we have endeavoured to provide you with as accurate and up to date information as possible. However, regulations, laws and processes can change, so please do check with the relevant New Zealand departments to confirm information, prior to making any decisions)

Visas – What you need to know

It is important to understand that no matter your reason to move to New Zealand, you must ensure you have the correct visa and documentation. This could be for working and/or studying. The New Zealand government’s Department of Immigration has created an online tool to help you find the right visa and this can be found on their website.

Please see below some of the most popular visa options:

  • Working Holiday Visa – This is for people aged 18-30 who wish to work and travel in New Zealand for up to 12 months. There are rules which you must follow if you choose this option, including having sufficient funds to buy a return ticket, if you have not purchased one prior to arrival. Furthermore, you should have at least NZ$4,200 in your bank account.
  • Work to Residence Visa – This option is for people on the Long Term Skills Shortage List and allows them to move and work in New Zealand for 30 months. Once 24 months have passed, they can then apply for permanent residency. Some of the qualification criteria include being of good character, under the age of 55 years old and have an offer of work.
  • Skilled Migrant Resident Visa – This offers the applicant permanent residency, if their skills fall within any of the skills shortage lists but they do not have an offer of work in place. Most of the qualification criteria mirrors the Work to Residence visa. There is also a job search visa which can be used for nine months.
  • Entrepreneur and Investor Visas – People with over NZ$100,000 and a detailed business plan for investing this money in a new business, can apply for an Entrepreneur visa.

You can find the full list, along with descriptions and costs at https://www.iaa.govt.nz/. There are companies who provide support for visa applications, for an additional fee. You should make sure they are registered with the government prior to using them.

Location, Location, Location – Which city is for you

The choice you make will depend on a variety of factors but first, let’s discuss some of the most popular cities and why they stand out.

  • Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city is situated on the southern part of the North Island, with beautiful beaches, a vibrant social life and a status as being the most affluent parts of the country. There are large employers here including tourism and the government itself. It is however, located within the highest risk area for Earthquakes, with approximately 14,000 occurring each year in New Zealand, but only a few hundred of these can be felt. The city suffers from cold winds in winter, but fantastic weather as well!
  • Auckland – The city of Auckland has a far more mild climate and enjoys a multicultural feel due to the large population of people born overseas. It was created to encompass two harbours and as such, water sports and sailing are part of the life blood of the city dwellers. The types of jobs you will find in Auckland include finance and digital, with large corporations choosing this city for its base of operations.
  • Christchurch – Many will know of Christchurch through the news coverage of the devastating earthquake in 2011. As a result, there is a large rebuilding effort underway and this has opened up opportunities for people who have skills in the construction trade. There are surrounding suburbs where the earthquake has had less of an impact and employment opportunities in tourism and agriculture await.

Buying and Renting – Which is the right choice for you

No matter whether you choose to buy or rent in New Zealand, you will face many of the same issues that you deal with in other countries, primarily that costs will approximately double in the cities compared to rural locations. The most expensive city at the time of writing is Auckland, particularly for accommodation close to the sea or near indemand amenities.

The housing market has steadily recovered since 2011, after the economic crisis and we have seen a rise of 7.6% between April 2017 and April 2018. some cities are struggling more than others with the housing demand, resulting in higher prices.

Buying your home

Similar to buying a property in other countries, it is advisable to get support from a qualified professional, such as an estate agent, who has knowledge of the area you wish to move to. This is because there will be some differences in the process which you may fall foul of, without guidance. One example is that it can be difficult to get insurance for a property and this may need to be in place prior to purchase.

You’re able to obtain information on the land you wish to purchase, from the local council and this will tell you about the property boundaries and whether there is consent for further renovation or extension. There is normally a small fee to pay to obtain this.

We have found that most homes purchased by people moving to New Zealand are apartments in city locations or detached properties in the more rural and suburban locations.

Renting your home

Clearly, buying is not an option for those on a temporary visa and so the majority of people will rent a home, until a time that they leave or apply for a permanent visa. 

You will find plenty of landlords offering tenancies where there is no specific length of contract, perfect for those who wish to move around or are uncertain of where to live / find work. Equally, for those wishing to house hunt, this provides a temporary solution without a big commitment. A tenant would traditionally be required to give three weeks notice before moving out again.

The rent will fluctuate depending on location but the national average for a single bedroom flat is NZ$280 per week, increasing up to more than double for a four bedroom family home. However, as previously mentioned, cities such as Auckland will cause these prices to increase significantly.

Should you wish to rent a property, you must be prepared to pay a deposit of two to four weeks rent. There will generally be further fees from the landlord or estate agent on top of this. As you can see, the up front costs are not insignificant and you should also consider whether the property is furnished or not. If not, you will need to find furniture, appliances etc.

Healthcare and Education

The basics about healthcare

As with countries like the UK, you will be treated in a public hospital in an emergency. However, the type of visa you have, will determine whether you are eligible for subsidised treatment. In general, those with a visa for two years or more, will be covered. Anyone under this threshold will pay the full fees. The government’s health ministry has more information on exemptions, such as in accidents.

You can choose to take out private health insurance and a monthly premium for these can cost between NZ$40 and NZ$100, depending on the cover you choose and your personal circumstances (such as age).

For dental treatment, adults will need to pay privately but children under 18 receive free care.

The basics about education

It is important to be aware of the different school systems in place, if you’re considering moving children to New Zealand. All children are required to go to school between the ages of 6 and 16, but can start at 5 years old. 

One cost that may be new to many people used to state schools, is the concept in New Zealand of voluntary contributions. This cost can be anywhere from NZ$800 a year, up to NZ$4,000 depending on the rank of the school.

There is a wealth of information about schooling in New Zealand, to be found online on the government websites, including the Education New Zealand site https://www.studyinnewzealand.govt.nz/.

Working in New Zealand

When choosing to move to New Zealand, employment will probably be the top consideration for most people – without employment, how can you get a visa, gain residency or afford to live in such a beautiful country.

The rebuilding of Christchurch is expected to take until 2020 at the earliest and this is without the usual delays and extra work that comes with any large infrastructure project. As a result, there are still plenty of opportunities for people with skills in the construction and trade industries. Building surveyors, engineers and carpenters are all in high demand in Christchurch. But these are not only located in one city, as other regions are in the middle of infrastructure projects such as railway improvements and city developments. 

One issue that has been created by this focus on construction and development, is a shortage in skilled labour for other areas of the economy, such as healthcare. Having said that, this doesn’t mean there will be jobs for everyone and so it’s vital to check the following government website https://skillshortages.immigration.govt.nz/ for updated lists on what skills are in demand.

Depending on your skills, you may find your profession on the immediate skills shortage list or the long term list. Traditionally, short term shortages involve construction, healthcare and agriculture, whilst longer term shortages include engineers and social workers, as well as the above professions.

How to find a job

One of the first things you will discover when job hunting in New Zealand is that the majority of jobs are not advertised in the traditional way. Networking and personal recommendations play a vital role in increasing your chances of finding a job role. As such, consider contacting local communities of expats and see what help they can provide.

Despite this, there are still some very useful websites to register on and check through and these include:

Recruitment companies will provide extra support in finding work, particularly if your focus is on temporary jobs in an office or agriculture. It is best to target the local recruitment companies for these jobs and the multinational, large firms for more professional, permanent roles.

Living Costs – What have you budgeted for?

There are plenty of calculators online for calculating the living costs for a particular city or country and so our advice would be to spend some time on these, understanding what costs are involved, if you weren’t aware of any and become better acquainted with the requirements of New Zealand. 

Before considering any other costs, you should research the price of your chosen visa. These have been mentioned at the start of this article and full details can be found on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Rental or Housing costs have also been explained above, so we will not go into too much detail again, except to say that these can vary greatly depending on location and type, so do plenty of research so there are no nasty surprises.

Healthcare and education fees will vary depending on your situation, but emergency healthcare will be covered in New Zealand, free of charge.

Social costs are something that will be personal to each of you and so have a think about what you spend currently, what hobbies you enjoy doing and then research these in New Zealand, to see how it compares. This will give you a relatively accurate idea of what to allocate to this topic within your budget.

Taxes must be paid, no matter the country you move to and New Zealand is no different. When you decide to work in New Zealand, you must apply for a number from the Inland Revenue to ensure that you don’t pay an emergency tax style rate, as this could be 45%, compared to a far lower rate. 

Travel costs will depend on your location. If you’re living in the cities, you may be able to get away without a car but the majority of people will want a car to travel around the country and for those that are working in more rural areas, it is vital.