How to Relocate to New Zealand for Work: The Complete Guide

Rugby, haka, hobbits, kiwifruit… There’s a lot to like about New Zealand. So, why not make it your new home?

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to relocate to New Zealand

New Zealand, otherwise known as Aotearoa (“Long White Cloud”) in the traditional Māori language, is famous for its haka dance and its picturesque fjords, but it’s also a wonderful place to live and work.

If you’re considering moving abroad to work, then New Zealand is a wonderful option — especially if you have the skills and experience that they’re looking for.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps to take to move to New Zealand, including how to select and apply for a visa, how to plan your move, and how to secure a job. So, let’s get stuck in!

Step 1: Research New Zealand

Before you make your move and set the wheels in motion, you’ll need to do some digging and research whether moving to work in New Zealand is right for you (and for your family). In this section, we’ll cover a few things you should research.

Check whether your skills are in demand

One of the first things you should do is look at the skills you possess and your previous work experience. Then, you need to check if New Zealand is looking for people who have your particular skillset.

New Zealand has a specific list of roles that need to be filled, so you have a higher chance of being accepted into the country if you have the required skills and experience. They call these “Green List Roles”, where each role falls into one of two tiers: “straight to residence” and “work to residence”. The most desired roles fall into tier one, where people who meet the requirements become a New Zealand resident immediately, and tier two roles allow people to work toward earning residence in the country.

Some of the desired roles in New Zealand include:

Tier 1

Tier 2



Analyst programmer

Automotive electrician

Cardiothoracic surgeon

Dairy cattle farmer

Chemical engineer

Diesel motor mechanic


Early childhood teacher

Educational psychologist


Multimedia specialist




Quantity surveyor

Registered nurse

Software engineer

Secondary school teacher

Explore job opportunities

Once you’ve checked the roles on the Green List, check what jobs are available in that field. You can do this by checking New Zealand job boards and browsing company websites that are based in the area you want to move to.

If your role isn’t on the Green List, don’t worry: you can still apply for jobs later down the line and secure a job offer, but for now, it’s good to get an idea of the jobs available.

Ensure you have the right documents

In order to emigrate to New Zealand, you’ll need to have certain documentation before you can apply for a visa, so it’s best to get these ready early to make the process as smooth as possible when the time comes to apply.

The criteria are pretty extensive. For example, if you’re applying for a straight to residence visa, you’ll need to provide evidence of:

  • Identity — One acceptable photo and your passport or certificate of identity.
  • Character — A police certificate from your country of citizenship and any other country where you have spent 12 months or more over the last 10 years.
  • Health — Evidence of good health, including chest X-rays and the results of a full medical examination conducted no more than three months before your application.
  • English language — You must be able to speak English and will need to provide an acceptable English language test result if you’re not from an English-speaking country.
  • Green List requirements — These vary depending on your role, but you’ll need to provide proof of qualifications. If your qualification isn’t from New Zealand, you’ll need to apply for an International Qualification Assessment, which you can get through the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
  • Acceptable employment — You’ll need to prove that you work for an accredited employer (or have a job offer), your role is on tier 1 of the Green List, you meet the role’s requirements, and the role is permanent. You can evidence this with an employment agreement or contract.
  • Partner and dependent children — If you’re planning on moving with your family, you’ll need to provide evidence and documentation for them, too.

Research the living costs

With the cost of living increasing year on year, you’ll need to research the living costs in New Zealand before you make your decision. Are you going to be better off financially in the long term? Or will your quality of life suffer? It’s a pretty crucial thing to look into, so don’t skip this step.

If you’re emigrating from the US, for example, the average rent for a three-bedroom apartment is approximately $1,870, while the same apartment in New Zealand would cost NZ$1,423. But that’s not the only thing you need to consider. Things like taxes, travel costs, the price of groceries and your monthly salary are things to think about, too. We recommend creating a spreadsheet so you can compare the cost of things and easily see whether you’ll be financially better off.

Step 2: Choose a visa

Once you’ve completed the first step, it’s time to figure out which visa is the right one for you. The New Zealand Government Immigration website has information on all of the available resident visas, with details about the requirements for each one. They also recommend hiring a licensed immigration advisor to help you with the process, which is a good idea if you’re still unsure of the steps you need to take.

Here are a few of the visa options available and the requirements you need to meet.

Skilled migrant category visa

The skilled migrant visa is for people who have skills that will help the New Zealand economy grow. With this visa, you’ll be allowed to live, work and study in New Zealand indefinitely, and it also includes your partner, and children aged under 24, too. This visa is awarded on a points-based system, where you’ll need to score a minimum of 180 points to be considered.

Straight to residence visa

You can apply for a straight to residence visa if you work for an accredited employer (or you have an offer of employment from one), and if your role is on tier 1 of the Green List, as mentioned above. You’ll need to meet all the requirements set out for the Green List role to become a permanent resident.

Working holiday visa

A working holiday visa is a popular choice for people on a gap year from college or university. It’s a temporary work visa that allows them to travel and work for a short period in the country. To apply, you’ll need to be aged 18–30, and your employment must be temporary. This visa is valid for up to 12 months (or 23 months if you’re from the UK or Canada).

Entrepreneur work visa

If you’re interested in starting your own business in New Zealand, you’ll need to apply for the entrepreneur work visa. For this visa, you’ll need to have the equivalent of NZ$100,000 to invest, have a robust business plan, and reach at least 120 points on the immigration points system.

Step 3: Find a job

If you’re not looking to become an entrepreneur, then you’ll need to find a job in New Zealand to increase your chances of being accepted for a visa. Here are a few tips to help you when it comes to finding work.

Develop a localized résumé

You’ll more than likely have a résumé already, but it’s best to tailor it to the specific résumé standards and conventions of New Zealand. For example, employers in New Zealand prefer a short résumé that includes work experience that is relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Your résumé should also include your contact details, the skills you have that are relevant to the job (with examples of results you gained from using these skills), qualifications and education, and reference details. That’s it. They don’t need to know your whole life story, so keep it short.

Search job boards and network

Once you’ve got your shiny new résumé prepared, you can begin searching the job market. You might have come across some useful job search apps or job boards when you were looking at opportunities back in Step One, but now is the time to dig deeper to find what you’re really looking for.

If you’re a graduate, Nxtstep is a great resource for finding graduate jobs, while SEEK is a more general job board that allows you to narrow down your search with filters for your target industry and location.

Prepare for interviews

It won’t be long until the interview requests come rolling in, so it’s best to prepare for your interviews in advance. Prepare answers to common interview questions, along with questions about relocating that you might be asked.

When you do get invited to an interview, you’ll need to conduct some company research about their core values and mission so that you can properly answer any questions they throw your way. As you won’t necessarily be aware of the local area, it’s probably best to research where they’re based, too. When it comes to finding a job, there’s no such thing as too much preparation!

Step 4: Apply for your visa

This is one of the most important steps in the whole process: applying for your New Zealand visa. Let’s go over the four-step application process.

Submit an expression of interest

An expression of interest is the first step in applying. The easiest way to do this is through the Immigration New Zealand’s Online Services website, where you’ll need to register for an account. Then, you’ll be able to submit your EOI electronically.

The EOI is a form that gathers all your personal information (like your age, details about your character, your health and your employability), as well as information about your passport and where you’ve lived in the past.

Apply for residence

If you meet the requirements and have the minimum number of points needed, you’ll then be invited to apply for residence. You’ll be sent an application form that you’ll need to fill out and send back by a set date. It’s important you take your time when filling out the form, as any mistakes can cost you dearly (in time and money). You’ll also need to pay the immigration fee, which is approximately NZ$4,890 if you’re emigrating from the US.

Wait for their decision

Once you’ve submitted your application, it’s a waiting game. If you’ve submitted your application online, you’ll be able to check your application status in your online account. This process can take some time, with 90% of skilled migrant applications completing in around 46 months, while other working visas can complete in just 32 days. However, once you’ve been approved, you’ll have your work permit and visa, and you’ll be ready to go.

Step 5: Plan your move

If you’re successful in your application, it’s time to start planning your move to New Zealand. NZ Ready is a great (and free) tool to use to help you with this. You simply answer some questions, and it provides you with a handy checklist — so you don’t forget anything! Here are a few other things you’ll need to arrange when it comes to moving abroad.

Sort out your finances

You’ll need to organize what you’re doing with your belongings in your current country and sell anything you don’t want to take with you before you move. Organize any savings you have and set them aside, as it will give you a small cushion to fall back on when you’re settling in.

It’s also worth applying for a New Zealand bank account before you move there. BNZ allows you to open a bank account online while overseas, and you can activate it when you arrive in the country.

Arrange accommodation

The next thing on the list is to arrange accommodation. Some employers might offer you accommodation as part of your contract, but if that isn’t the case, search online for somewhere to stay temporarily until you decide whether you’re going to buy a house or get a rental.

Book your flights

It’s time to book your flights! Depending on where you’re moving from, it can be a pretty long and tedious journey, so make sure you’re prepared for the flight itself, too. If you’ve been accepted for a temporary visa, you’ll need to make sure you book a return ticket, as well.

Transport your belongings

Before you hop on the plane, don’t forget to arrange the transportation of your belongings (if you’re taking more than a couple of suitcases). To do this, you’re best arranging an overseas courier that has insurance in case of any lost or broken items.

Step 6: Settle in

You made it! You’re sunning it up in New Zealand with a whole new life and career to look forward to. But, what now? It’s time to sit back, relax, and settle into your new way of living.

Connect with other expats

Who better to connect with than people who’ve been through what you’ve been through? Try searching social media for expat groups. You’ll hopefully make new friends who can show you around and fill you in on all the local know-how.

Explore the local culture

Exploring a new country is wonderful, especially when you don’t have the time constraints of a vacation. Make sure to take the time to explore your new home, including looking into the history of New Zealand and getting to know the local culture and people.

Deal with homesickness

Homesickness is tough to get past. But with the support of your family, it’s possible to come through the other side. Make sure you keep in contact with your friends from home via social media, and make a conscious effort to video call them where possible to help you ease your homesickness while you’re settling in.

Key takeaways

Moving abroad is a big task, no matter which country you decide to move to. However, New Zealand, with its golden beaches and beautiful scenery, is well worth the trouble.

Here are a few key things to remember if you’re sure you want to move there:

  • Make sure to research the country before you apply for a visa. Check the local culture and even make a visit (if you can) before you make your final decision.
  • Check if you have the skills the country needs. If your skills are highly desired, it will make the process much smoother.
  • Hire an advisor if you’re struggling with the visa application process.
  • Connect with other people in the same situation so you don’t feel isolated when you move.

If you’re making the move, take a trip to the famous New Zealand fjords just for us!

Got a question? Let us know in the comments section below.

Originally published on June 16, 2017.