Hello, fellow wanderers!
If you are reading this post, you are probably planning on going on one of the biggest adventures in your life: to work and travel around the most untouched, pure and overwhelmingly beautiful country in the world, New Zealand.
We’ve been here on a Working Holiday Visa for almost a year now, and it has been just wonderful. However, we like to plan movements like this thoroughly, and I remember that when we were applying for the visa, we were desperately trying to find answers to tones of questions we had in our minds; we spent hours googling and reading other posts, all in vain. So we would like to put together all the useful information regarding how to apply for the Working Holiday Visa, and, what is even most important, what to do after.
To start with, here are some short facts about New Zealand:
- It’s absolutely beautiful.
- Yes, it’s expensive.
- You can earn and save a lot of money.
- You can travel around on a budget.
- You will have a big culture shock when you arrive. In a Westerner’s mind, New Zealand is a developed country with high standards. This is true to some point, but remember that this is an island country far away from everything and very little influenced by other civilizations. They also have a very short history and the autochthonous Maori culture is still very present.
- Despite what’s mentioned above, you will find thousands of migrants who have come to New Zealand recently, especially from Asia.
- Locals are incredibly kind.
Ok, now that you know what to expect from New Zealand, at least, a little bit, we will lead you step by step through the whole process of how to apply for the Working Holiday Visa and what to do once you have it. Voilà!
1. HOW AND WHEN DO I APPLY?
First and foremost remember that you can only apply for the Working Holiday in NZ if you are more than 18 years old and less than 30 – that’s the rule. But when it comes to WHEN to apply, each country has different conditions and arrangements with NZ. For some countries, such as Germany, there are no limits on how many people can apply for the Working Holiday and the visas are therefore available throughout the whole year. For other countries, such as Slovenia or Spain, Working Holiday Visas are issued once a year and have limited spaces. Since we are from Slovenia, we will focus on our country, but remember that the process for each country is exactly the same.
First of all, get acquainted with the NZ Immigration website: http://www.immigration.govt.nz. Click on Apply online and select Working Holiday Schemes under Online applications. Choose Working Holiday Visa and create an account. Once your account is created, log in and under the section Work choose Working Holiday. Once you’ve reached this page, you’ll find all further information you need. Read carefully their Health Requirements, as you might need to submit a certificate about your health conditions.
To see when you can apply for the visa, go to the bottom of the page and select your country where you’ll find out when your visas will be available and all other requirements.
- For countries where the number of visas is limited, you have to be VERY WELL PREPARED. NZ only issues 100 Working Holiday Visas for Slovenians each year (usually in April), and when we were applying, the visas were gone in less than 15 minutes. This means that you’ll have to follow the updates on the NZ Immigration site carefully and thus know the date and hour when the visas for your country will be issued. Calculate the time difference between NZ and the country you are applying from, and wait in front of computer 5 minutes before. Go through all the steps mentioned above and keep on clicking refresh button until you can open the application.
- Being well prepared doesn’t only mean that you are waiting in front of your computer at the exact time when applying for visas is open. The very useful thing to do is that some days before the visas for your country are out, you practice as if you were from some other country where the visas are available all year. You log in and go through exactly the same steps, but instead of choosing your own country, choose for example Germany and open the application. Start filling it up to see all possible questions you’ll have to answer to. Go through the whole application until they ask you to pay (I guess I don’t have to mention that if you’re not German you shouldn’t pay for it, but just in case: DO NOT PAY FOR THE FALSE APPLICATION!). The first time it will take you about 10min to fill it all up, so do it at least 3 times before you are ready to fill out your “real” application. This is REALLY helpful because they will ask you a whole lot of questions when applying, so make sure you’re ready! Once the time has come, open your application, fill it up and click SEND. If you manage to pay, it means you’re in the game!
- Don’t use your tablet to apply. The Immigration site doesn’t show up properly on tablets and the application can’t be downloaded. Use a proper laptop or a computer.
- For those who travel a lot, there is a very important fact you need to pay attention to. In the application they will ask you if you have travelled to countries with high risk of tuberculosis in the past 5 years, so make sure you read carefully which are those countries in the Health requirements section. If your answer is YES, then this is going to be fun, because you will need to send a Chest x-ray to prove you are healthy. However, you don’t need to do it in advance, they will ask you for it once you’ve submitted your application. You’ll have to send it back to them in 2 or 3 weeks time. The problem is that you can’t do the Chest x-ray anywhere you want, but only with approved panel doctors. If you’re from Slovenia, you’re in a little trouble, because no panel doctors are listed for Slovenia. However, you can simply answer that you haven’t been to any of those countries, but if you really want to have the working holiday experience in New Zealand, I wouldn’t play with this. Just be honest and do what they ask you.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve got your Working Holiday Visa now! 🙂
2. WHAT CAN I DO WITH MY WORKING HOLIDAY VISA?
Well, you can work and travel :-). All the Working Holiday visas are valid for 12 months, and, again, different countries have different arrangements, but usually there are two options:
you can either work throughout the whole year, but can only work for the same employer for 3 months (this is the case for Slovenia). Then you have to change the job, which can be really annoying, but that’s just how it is.
you can work for only 6 months out of 12, but you are allowed to work for the same employer for the whole 6 months (this is the case of Spain). We’re not sure what happens if you break this rule and work for longer than allowed, but if the immigration “catches” you, they will, at least, cancel your WHV.
Working Holiday Visa is also a great place to start if you’re seriously thinking about migrating to New Zealand or Australia. In New Zealand, it is quite common that, for the first three months, the company hires you with your WHV, and if the employer wants you for a longer period of time, they will offer you the Work visa after the 3-month period is finished. The Work Visa allows you to work for 12 months, but only for the employer that sponsored your visa. If after one year your employer still wants you to work with them, they get you another Work visa for another 12 months. The good thing is, that while you’re working in NZ, you collect points and after some months you can already apply for residency. Once you get it, you can apply for permanent residency, but this can take a bit longer – it usually takes a few years. But once you have permanent residency in NZ, you are allowed to leave the country and come back whenever you want and start working again. What’s even better – it allows you to move freely to Australia and work there as an NZ resident. However, I don’t know if you’re thinking this far (although many people do), but the point is that getting the Work Visa in NZ is easy (much easier than in Australia), and if you want to spend more time here and save some more money you should definitely consider getting it once you find an employer who is ready to sponsor you.
3. WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO START WORKING?
Lots of paper work. To activate your Working Holiday visa, you need:
- An address
- IRD number
- A bank account
First of all, how the hell are you going to have an address if you have just arrived? Well, here’s a really good trick most of the backpackers use once they arrive in New Zealand: they go to the Nomads Fat Camel Hostel and ask them to use their address. If you book a room with them, you’ll get to use their address for free, otherwise you’ll have to pay around 40 NZD or, if you’re lucky like us, they’ll let you use it for free even though you’re not staying with them. Believe me, this is REALLY useful, because a PO BOX is NOT VALID for getting an IRD and opening a bank account, so the Nomads Fat Camel Hostel is basically your only solution. By the way, the hostel is located in Auckland, so make sure you fly there :lol:. I imagine any other hostel you’re staying at might also lend you their address, but this one is already checked :-).
Now that you have your address, you’ll need your IRD number. Well, this is a bit more complicated. You can apply for the IRD at any post office, but it will take from 10 – 14 days before you get it. If you go for this option remember that, apart from your passport, you will need an additional identification document in English. Your ID in English will NOT WORK, it MUST be an international driving license or a New Zealand +18 card, and otherwise you’re in trouble. For us, the trouble was double: we didn’t have the international driving license plus we came in New Zealand completely broke and needed to start working asap. Without knowing what to do, we called directly to the Inland Revenue (0800 227 774) and told them about our situation. They arranged a personal appointment for us the very next day and gave us our IRD numbers straight away and on the spot, which was very relieving. However, you’ll need to bring another document apart from your Passport, but this time, it doesn’t need to be an international driving license. Any document in English and a picture of you will do.
The third thing to do is fortunately the easiest one: opening a bank account. It’s up to you which bank you choose, you just walk in and talk to the kind lady at the counter. At some banks, they will make an appointment for you to open up the bank account a few days later (yes, they actually arrange appointments for this – have I mentioned a culture shock before? 😛 ). We personally chose WestPac, but I guess any bank will do. It’s completely free and closing the account is also free, which is pretty awesome 🙂
Now that you have all the paper work done it’s time to find a job!
4. DO I NEED TO CONTACT AN AGENCY TO ARRANGE EVERYTHING FOR ME?
Absolutely not. You can do it all by yourself, which will also save you quite some money. There are hundreds of agencies that offer packages that include accommodation and all other arrangements (IRD, opening a bank account), but if you follow the steps above, you’ll have absolutely no problems arranging everything by yourself.
5. WHERE AND HOW DO I FIND A JOB?
Believe it or not, this is the easiest part. The best page to look for backpacking jobs (hospitality, farm working, working in a hostel in exchange for accommodation, housekeeping, babysitting etc.) Is http://www.backpackerboard.co.nz. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for more “serious” jobs, check out http://m.seek.co.nz. However, the most common backpacking job is working in a restaurant or a cafe, and for us (and many other backpackers) the best option turned out to be going from door to door with our CVs and asking if they need someone to work. Many restaurants don’t publish advertisements on the above-mentioned sites even though they want to hire someone precisely for that reason: because there are heaps of backpackers leaving their CVs directly in the restaurants every day, and when they want to hire someone, they simply choose someone from their collection. This way worked out for us the best, and we got all our jobs just a few hours after we left our CVs in different establishments.
6. WHERE DO I LIVE WHILE WORKING IN NEW ZEALAND?
Depends. If you choose to work in a big city, the best way is to rent a room. Create an account on www.trademe.co.nz where you’ll find all the ads from people looking for flatmates. But be prepared for REALLY HIGH RENTS. Especially Auckland is crazy expensive, but it’s still much cheaper than staying in a hostel.
Another good option is trying to find a job in a hotel where they usually offer you discounted accommodation.
7. HOW MUCH WILL I EARN AND SPEND?
Again depends on the job, but backpackers usually get minimum pay, which is 14,75 NZD/h. After deducting the tax, you’ll get around 12,50 NZD of pure earnings. The good thing in NZ is that you’ll get your payments weekly, and all your expenses, such as rent and electricity, will also be weekly. If you stay in Auckland, you’ll pay between 180NZD and 250NZD for a room per week. Of course, you can find cheaper options, but the conditions you’ll be living in probably won’t be good. Remember that houses in NZ are very cold, and if you’re staying there during winter you want to find at least an average room. When looking for a room, ask specifically if the price includes all the expenses, and if it doesn’t, ask how much the whole amount will be approximate.
Another good think about working in NZ is that, apart from your regular pay, you also get a holiday pay. As I mentioned before, you will either work for 3 or 6 months for the same employer and since your main purpose is probably to save as much money as possible, you won’t waste your holidays. However, as a legal worker in NZ, you are entitled to vacations, and the company will put a certain amount of money on the side each week and pay it off for you along with your last payment, which will be an extra little bonus at the end.
8. OUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Now that we’ve told you all the formalities about the working holiday in NZ, we’d like to share some personal experiences.
For the first 6 months, we were working in Auckland, each of us in a different restaurant. The first thing we noticed is that Kiwis are extremely nice. They are always willing to talk, and small talks between a client and a waiter is almost a must. “Hey, how are you today” is not just a polite phrase, but also a question that is expected to be answered. Once you’ve answered, don’t forget to ask back! :roll:. They especially enjoy talking to foreigners, and if they’ve been to your country, you’ll probably get pulled out from the table by your boss, reminding you that you’re here to work, not to talk :-).
The atmospheres we were working in were very different: we had awesome experience working with truly kind managers and bosses while others were a complete mess. I guess there is no rule; you just need to be lucky to find a nice place to work at, just like anywhere else.
We worked 9 months out of 11 that we’ve spent in NZ. Our weekly earnings in Auckland were about 1.100NZD/week while our expenses were 320NZD/week for rent, and about 100NZD/week for groceries. Working in hospitality has another very good thing, and that is that you usually get one whole free meal per shift, and some free drinks. This saves you quite some money, because food in NZ is not cheap! However, back to our expenses: in 9 months of working, we saved about 22.000 NZD (15.000$/13.600€). We bought a car for 4.000NZD, which we expect to resell for about 3.000NZD. The first month of our trip coasted us around 3.500NZD, while the second part of our trip is still yet to be done. Now, put the numbers together and apply for the Working Holiday in NZ! 🙂
We hope you enjoyed this article, and even if you didn’t, we at least hope you find it useful 🙂 If so, don’t forget to share it with your friends and other travellers to help them get the Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand 🙂