Interested in moving to New Zealand? This is our simple New Zealand Immigration Guide, containing all the info you need to get started. From getting a visa to finding work and (eventual) citizenship – it’s all here. Read on!
New Zealand: Quick Facts
- New Zealand is made up of two main islands (North Island and South Island) and its land size is the same as the state of Colorado, with the total area measuring 268,021 km².
- The native Maori of New Zealand hail from Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands (Maori is the 2nd official language).
- Also referred to by its Maori name, Aoeteroa (“land of the long white cloud”).
- New Zealand is an open-minded country. It was the first country to give women the vote in 1893 and on April 13, 2013 it was the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize gay marriage.
- New Zealand is one of three countries in the world to have two national anthems. As a former British colony, it retains “God Save the Queen” as its primary anthem (“God Defend New Zealand” is the second).
- New Zealand’s main industry is agriculture. For the record: there are almost 7 sheep to every person in the country (4.8 million people, ~32 million sheep).
- Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD)
- Spoken languages: primarily English (95.9%), however all school students are required to learn Maori (4.2%) up to a certain level and all public signs are in both English and Maori.
- Major religions: Anglican (45%), Presbyterian (19.9%), Catholic (13.6%), Methodist (9.5%).
- Major races: European (67%), Maori (15%), Asian (10%), and Pacific Islander (7%).
- Largest cities: Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, and Christchurch.
Why move to New Zealand
- Equality attracts many to New Zealand. There is fair treatment for all, with a strong justice system protecting individual rights and freedoms.
- New Zealand is an immigrant friendly country and New Zealanders are known for their warm and hospitable nature. Racism is not prevalent.
- The country’s natural settings are world-renowned. With its diverse landscape of mountains, rivers, plateaus and plains, New Zealand is still very much untouched (yet remains a highly developed country).
- The (mild) weather in New Zealand is favorable to many. There are four distinct seasons.
- New Zealand maintains a distance from major superpowers and rarely gets involved in political disputes that other smaller nations get embroiled in.
- Education is a priority for the New Zealand government, and schools offer a high level of education. There are a number of different universities in the major cities that are universally recognized. New Zealand also offers a number of different internships and apprenticeships for young graduates. Although university education is paid for, it is still relatively cheap compared to other western countries and a number of grants, scholarships and loans are available for both New Zealand citizens and foreign nationals.
- Locals enjoy a good lifestyle – most are able to balance work with pleasure. A healthy lifestyle is the norm.
- It is one of the cleanest and greenest countries in the world – New Zealanders are keen to maintain the pristine image of the country. There are strict laws regarding conservation and most people respect the environment.
- Safety is a high priority in New Zealand – dangerous situations/settings are hard to find here.
- New Zealand has a good medical system (everyone is entitled to free healthcare).
- There is plenty of work for skilled migrants, and wages are good.
- Expats are entitled to the same rights as New Zealanders when purchasing property, there are no restrictions or extra levies that exist (unlike in some other countries).
- New Zealanders tend to be innovative entrepreneurs and like to use what they call kiwi ingenuity. Doing business with New Zealanders is straightforward.
- New Zealand has an excellent road system, and traffic jams are rare.
- Women are entitled to up to 12 months maternity leave (there is even a 2 week paternity leave for fathers).
- New Zealanders have a good work ethic, and the unemployment rate is relatively low.
Reasons Not to move to New Zealand
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- The cost of living in New Zealand is relatively high (rent and food prices are high when compared to other developed countries).
- Due to the influx of wealthy expatriates, New Zealand housing/land prices have skyrocketed and are much higher than neighboring countries. Expect to pay at least $500,000 NZD for an average house in a major city.
- New Zealand gets a lot of rain, even in the summer months.
- There are no tax exemptions on earnings and taxes are relatively high. Residents are taxed on their yearly income (the lowest tax bracket is 10.5%).
- As most families own at least two cars, the public transport system is almost non-existent. Buses and coaches exist, but do not run frequently.
- Flying from city to city is costly and tickets are rarely on sale.
- For many, New Zealand is literally on the “other side of the world” – it is difficult (and expensive) to pop home when you like.
- New Zealand has a strict immigration policy. It can also be a long-winded process – entry visa approval can take up to 6 months.
- New Zealand has an aging population. There are fewer professional jobs for young graduates, and the country is experiencing somewhat of a “brain drain” – young kiwis are increasingly looking to emigrate and get experience abroad.
- Going through customs in New Zealand can be a nightmare. New Zealand is extremely strict with regards to what you can and cannot bring into a country. If caught breaching these laws, an on the spot fine is issued.
Getting a Visa and Finding Work
There are a number of different visas that can be applied for when moving to New Zealand depending on your status, ethnicity, job and wealth. Care needs to be taken when applying for a visa. If a person uses the incorrect form, there is a high probability of being denied the visa, thus making it more difficult for them to obtain another visa.
New Zealand has good working relationships with a number of different countries (if your country is on the visa waiver list you are exempt from needing a visa for 3 months to 1 year, depending on your nationality).
All visitors to New Zealand over the age of 16 must the health and character requirements of New Zealand immigration.
Common visas issued to people relocating to New Zealand include:
- Skilled migrant: to be eligible for residence under this category, applicants must be under the age of 55, in good health, and able to speak English to a certain level. Evidence of English knowledge is necessary – for non-native speakers, this is typically proved in the form of a diploma such as IELTS or TOEIC. This visa is granted on a points system; points are awarded based on an applicant’s age, qualifications, and work experience. There are two steps when applying for a skilled migrant visa:
- You are required to send off a letter of interest, which includes your personal information, work experience, and family history
- Immigration will review the letter – if you have sufficient points they will accept your letter of interest and send you an invitation to apply. To gauge whether or not you are eligible, try the NZ Immigration Points Indicator.
- Family category: people wanting to immigrate to New Zealand can be sponsored by a family member who is already a New Zealand resident or citizen if they are their partner, dependent child or parent. To be eligible to sponsor a family member the sponsor must be at least 18 years old. All family members must be of excellent health, and have sufficient funds to support themselves while in the country (if a partner is being brought over, evidence of the relationship must be supplied – e.g. proof of communication, shared responsibilities, and/or shared accommodation). Photographic evidence also needs to be submitted.
- Samoa quota scheme: Samoans are eligible to apply for visa to New Zealand through a ballot system. Eligibility is based on age, status, job, health, family, education and financial situation. A set number of ballots are drawn annually and then they are invited to apply for a residence class visa.
- Pacific access category: each year New Zealand immigration grants up to 75 residence visas for citizens of Kiribati and Tuvalu and 250 citizens of Tonga. Applicants need to be citizens of any of three countries and aged between 18 and 45 years. After ballots are drawn, applicants are then invited to apply for a residence class visa.
- Work to residence category: another way moving towards getting a residence class visa to New Zealand is through the work to residence scheme which allows applicants to temporarily work in New Zealand and use it as a stepping stone to be granted full residency. If an applicant has a skill or talent that is needed in New Zealand they may be eligible to work towards residency. After working in New Zealand for two consecutive years candidates are eligible to apply for a residency visa through work.
- Working Holiday Scheme: applicants from a certain list of countries are eligible to apply online for a temporary working holiday visa (allows holders to relocate to live in New Zealand for a period of one year, for seasonal or temporary work). All applications are done online – if accepted, the applicant will be notified by email about when to carry out their medical examinations (usually 20 days after the first letter of acceptance). Proof of sufficient funds also needs to be submitted.
- China Free Trade Agreement category: the FTA entitles skilled migrants from China to enter New Zealand under the conditions of temporary employment. Under this category labor market testing is not necessary but evidence of qualifications and experience is required for the following jobs: traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, Chinese chefs, Mandarin teachers and teacher aides, martial arts instructors, and Chinese tour guides.
Obtaining Residency & Citizenship
- Permanent residency: holders of temporary residency permits are eligible to apply for permanent residency (provided they have a clean criminal record). Applicants must have held a resident visa for the last two consecutive years and they must not have breached any of the conditions of their visa status. Applicants also need to have evidence of their commitment to New Zealand. Examples of proof of commitment:
- Have been present in New Zealand for 24 months
- Have tax residence status in New Zealand
- Having established a “base” in New Zealand (with all immediate family, and in own home)
- Owning and operating a business in New Zealand
- Hold at least a 25% stake in an existing business, or have invested at least $1,000,000 NZD in the last 2 years
- Citizenship: applying for citizenship or naturalization is done through the Department of Internal Affairs. To be eligible, applicants must have lived in New Zealand for 5 consecutive years or more, and have proven their intent to remain indefinitely in New Zealand. Applicants must also demonstrate their knowledge of English and be able to communicate freely in everyday situations (tested through an English language interview). Applicants must also meet a level of good character – one is required to have a clean criminal record, as well as clearance from major government agencies (including the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Tax Office). All applicants are required to take an oath promising that they will obey the laws of New Zealand, register to vote, pay taxes, and be a responsible law-abiding New Zealand citizen.
Starting a Business in New Zealand
According to the World Bank Survey 2012, New Zealand is the easiest place in the world to start your own business. Anyone has the right to set up a business in New Zealand given they have an IRD (Inland Revenue) tax number.
There are three business structures typically used in New Zealand:
- Sole business trader: sole ownership and management of a business. Sole traders are responsible for paying their own taxes. Generally traders do not have to follow any formal or legal processes to set up a business, and may employ others to help them run the business.
- Partnership: partnerships do not pay income tax (incomes are distributed amongst the various partners. who then pay taxes on their personal income).
- Limited liability Company: considered to be a legal entity, separate from its owners and shareholders. All parties are protected under this category and shareholders are only liable for losses from their share of the company.
The most typical path that immigrants follow when trying to set up a business is through the Long-term Business Visa. If a person is an experienced and successful businessperson and interested in being self-employed in New Zealand, this is probably the best option. This visa allows businesspeople to move to New Zealand and either buy or set up their own business. To be considered for this visa, applicants must prove that they have business experience, sufficient funds for investment, a business plan, sufficient settlement funds ( ~$60,000-100,000 NZD), knowledge of the English language, and be of good health and character. Additionally, applicants must submit business plans with their application to demonstrate their knowledge of New Zealand’s work ethics and business environment, prove that their new venture will be of benefit to the country, and provide evidence of experience in a relevant post or industry.
Recommended Reading & Resources
- How to Move to New Zealand in 31 Easy Steps
- Immigration New Zealand – official website
- Trade Me Jobs – job listings in NZ