The Ultimate New Zealand Working Holiday Guide

Lake-Wanaka

Our New Zealand Working Holiday Guide is a comprehensive guide that is broken down into 3 sections. We will detail how to apply for a working holiday visa, what to do once you arrive, and how to start looking for work. 

To get started, let’s define a New Zealand working holiday visa and the requirements:

  • Allows you to work and travel in New Zealand for up to one year, beginning on the day you enter the country
  • You can only apply for a working holiday visa once
  • You have exactly 1 year to enter the country from the day your visa gets approved
  • You must be between the ages of 18 and 30
  • You must meet the character and health requirements

Part 1: Applying for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

Applying for a New Zealand working holiday visa is an extremely easy and straightforward process. There are a lot of services out there that will do it for you for a price, but it is completely unnecessary. For citizens of the United States, it is completely free to apply for a New Zealand working holiday visa.

  1. Go to the New Zealand Immigration Website and click on the country that matches your passport
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click login page
  3. Create a new account under the new users section
  4. Once you register and login, click Working Holiday in the left column under online services
  5. Complete the online application and click submit

The application takes a mere 10 minutes to fill out, and you should get an answer through email within 3 weeks. Both Robert and I heard back within 4 days that our visas were approved. Once you get an email saying your visa was approved, log in to the New Zealand immigration website and click my application in the right column. Click view details and print out your New Zealand working holiday visa!

Buying Your Plane Ticket

Since you have a whole year to use your visa, you can be flexible on the day you fly to New Zealand. Being flexible allows you to find the best deals and what day is the cheapest to fly. New Zealand’s seasons are opposite of North America; their summer is from December to February. We flew to New Zealand in January, and took a month long camping trip to enjoy the last month of summer before starting to look for work.

Once you know what month you want to travel in, head over to skyscanner and see what day has the cheapest flights. We suggest buying your ticket from a reputable source such as Expedia, in case of delays.

Part 2: Arriving In New Zealand and Getting Started

What to Bring

  • 2 printed copies of your Visa
  • 2 front and back copies of your driver’s license
  • 2 copies of your passport photo page
  • copy of your bank statement with proof of funds

The New Zealand working holiday visa requires that you have $4200NZD when you enter the country in order to support yourself while looking for work. You are not required to have an onward ticket, as long as you can show that you have sufficient funds in order to purchase a ticket out of the country. We were not required to show proof of funds, although it is a good idea to have this printed out because immigration might ask.

Where to Stay

We found that Airbnb was a great option when we first landed in Auckland. It was way cheaper than staying in a hotel, and since we were staying in a home, we could use both the kitchen and washer/dryer. We were able to go grocery shopping and cook most of our meals, which saved us a lot of money on eating out. We found that 2 weeks was the perfect length, as it allowed us to get our bank account and IRD numbers set up, as well as find a car. If it’s your first time using Airbnb, don’t worry, we were nervous too! However, we found that kiwis are super friendly, and can give you tips for your trip.

New Zealand working holiday

Outside our first Airbnb home in Auckland

Hostels are another great option, although as a couple it was cheaper to rent a room through Airbnb.

Opening a Bank Account

You’ll need a fully functioning bank account in order to apply for your IRD number, so best to get this done as soon as possible. Even if you aren’t planning on working just yet, it’s easier to just get it out of the way. You never know when an opportunity can strike.

Every bank will require you to have a proof of address in order to open an account. This can be a little tricky if you have just arrived, since most people won’t have a permanent address yet. Don’t panic like we did. ASB, one of the major banks in New Zealand, has a solution. When you go in to the bank to set up an account, they will send a letter to the address you are staying at, and all you have to do is bring this letter in to show proof of address. We’re not sure if other banks have this option, but you can always ask.

Once you get your account all set up, make sure you ask them for a letter showing proof that your account is fully functional, as you’ll need this when you turn in your IRD application. Also go online and change your statements to the paperless option. 

Getting a Phone Number

You will need a New Zealand phone number so employers will be able to get ahold of you, and it’s also required if you want to set up a TradeMe account (which is a good idea!). We went with Vodaphone’s $29 carry over plan, which comes with unlimited texts, 200 min, and 1GB data. Pretty much the best your’e going to get over here, and most accommodation will have free internet anyways. We had an Iphone on a Verizon phone plan in the US and had no problem switching out the sim card in New Zealand. 

Applying for an IRD Number

In order to work in New Zealand, you will need to have an IRD number, which is your unique tax number. You can pick up an IRD application, along with an envelope to send in the application, at any Post Shop in New Zealand. 

The following documents will be needed along with your application:

  • A copy of your Passport
  • A letter from your New Zealand bank saying that you have a fully operational account or a bank statement with several withdrawals and deposits
  • Proof of Address (you can use your bank statement for this as well if you are sending to the same address)
  • A copy of your work visa

Once you have all your documentation and your application filled out, simply put it in the mail. Your IRD number should arrive by mail within 8 to 10 business days.

There is an option to have your IRD number sent to a different address out of the country. We chose to have our IRD number sent to our parent’s house since we wouldn’t be at the address we were staying at by the time it was sent out. In order to send it to an address out of state, you will need to include a copy of a driver’s license showing that address.  

Part 3: Finding Work

The New Zealand working holiday is supposed to allow you to earn extra income while you travel, not necessarily find permanent work. That being said, it does limit the jobs available to you since you can only work for 1 year. You certainly won’t get rich on a working holiday, but it does allow you to replenish your travel fund.

New Zealand working holiday

Auckland city skyline

So What Work is Available?

Retail

The retail industry has such a high turnover of employees, that many retail stores are willing to hire you even if your visa expires in one year. The only downside is you probably won’t be getting very many hours each week.

Temp Work

Temp or recruitment agencies will place you in different roles, depending on your skills and background, for different lengths of time. There is a variety of temp work available, from manual labour, to office and administrative work.

Temp Agencies to register with include:

  • Adecco
  • Ranstad
  • Tech5

Seasonal Jobs

Seasonal jobs in New Zealand are mainly within the agriculture or tourism sector. Agricultural jobs include fruit picking or working in packing warehouses, and can pay either by the hour or by how much work you do. There is a chance, especially for those that aren’t as physically fit, that you might ended up making less than minimum wage (currently $14.75/ hour). Keep in mind that fruit picking is also a weather dependent job, and it can rain quite a bit in New Zealand.

Ski resorts are a big draw in the winter, and backpackers can find work for the season if they start looking a couple months ahead of time. Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, there are jobs at restaurants, ticketing, rental places, and much more.

Exchange Work

You can also work in exchange for accommodation and meals instead of cash. WOOFing is a popular option that allows you to work on farms for a couple hours a day in return for a place to rest your head. You can also try nannying or working at a hostel.

Get Organized

Before you start looking for work, get all your documents organized so they are easy to find and readily available. Sometimes an employer or recruiter will call and want you to come in right away. You don’t want to be scrambling to find all the paperwork they are asking for. Make a desktop folder with the following documents:

  • Resume/CV
  • Work Visa
  • Passport
  • Any Degrees or certifications you have
  • Driver’s License

You should also be aware that the standard paper size in New Zealand is A4 , which is slightly longer than the standard in the US. Format your CV correctly so you don’t leave a large amount of unused space at the bottom of the page.

Where to Look for Work

Online

There are a lot of job listing sites to utilize in your job search, but keep in mind there will be a lot of people vying for the same job. Make sure to write a cover letter tailored to each job you are applying for when you send in your CV. Check out some tips for writing an awesome cover letter here.

If you see a contact number listed, call them instead so you can separate yourself from other candidates that are just emailing in their CV.

Job listing sites in New Zealand include:

  • Trademe
  • Seek
  • Backpackerboard
  • PickNZ
  • Gumtree

In Store

This makes us think back to being in highschool walking around the mall applying for our first job. It’s effective in putting a face to your resume, and you might even get an interview on the spot. Just make sure to look polished and always ask to speak to the manager.

So How Did We Find Work?

To put it quite simply, putting in effort and being patient. We applied for work through online job boards, and we received a handful of generic rejection emails. We applied for about 7-8 jobs a day for 2 weeks before hearing back from anyone. Robert went on an interview, but didn’t get a second interview once they found out he was on a working holiday. The key is to keep at it and not get discouraged.

We saw a posting for Tech5, a temp agency specializing in construction, and he decided to give the number a call instead of just sending in his resume. They asked him to come in the next day for a meeting, and by next week he started his first job. Christchurch is still rebuilding from the earthquake, so there is a lot of work to be done.

Now What?

Congratulations, you have all the information you need to start a New Zealand working holiday! In the next post we will be going into detail on how to buy a car in New Zealand, which makes it so much easier to commute to work each day.

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