New Zealand

How To Get A Working Holiday Visa For New Zealand

July 2, 2015
grampians reserve.

When I decided I wanted to travel before settling into a career in the US, I came across the working holiday visa (also called working holiday scheme). I only have experience with applying as a US citizen but you can see if your country qualifies here.  “What is a working holiday visa?” A working holiday visa allows 18-30 year olds to work and travel in the country for up to 12 months (if you meet the requirements, of course). This is a great option for those that want to travel, but also make some money to fund their travels. You won’t have to save for months on end to afford a two month backpacking trip. Living and fully immersing yourself in a different country is the best way to experience a new culture. I have read many different articles and blogs on applying for the working holiday visa and it seems that most people have a similar experience: it’s a piece of cake.

“What are the requirements for a US Citizen?”

  • usually be permanently living in the United States of America – this means you can be temporarily visiting another country when you lodge your application
  • be a citizen of the United States of America and have a passport from the United States of America that is valid for at least three months after your planned departure from New Zealand
  • be at least 18 and not more than 30 years old
  • not bring children with you
  • hold a return ticket, or sufficient funds to purchase such a ticket
  • have a minimum of NZ$4,200 available funds to meet your living costs while you’re here
  • meet our health and character requirements
  • hold medical and comprehensive hospitalisation insurance for the length of your stay
  • be coming to New Zealand to holiday, with work or study being secondary intentions for your visit
  • not have been approved a visa under a working holiday scheme before.

So basically: have a passport, be young, have some money, have insurance, be a good person, and be healthy.

“I’m scared to apply by myself, are there people that can help me?”

The best place to get information is directly from the New Zealand Immigration website. I haven’t spoken directly to the immigration officers but I have read they are very helpful if you have any questions at all.

There are many different programs that can assist you in working abroad. When I was researching, I almost went with Smaller Earth or BUNAC. These programs help you get your work visa, give you access to their job boards, different accommodation options, help with getting a bank account and IRD number (tax code), a “home base” to get any questions answered or print materials, and monthly meet-ups with other people working abroad. Smaller Earth did not have much information online from actual people that used the service, only employees that blogged about their time. Even on social media, people had given them 5 stars on Facebook but there were no comments. After I decided that was a bit sketchy, I looked into using BUNAC. They look like a great company and I have read a lot of good reviews about them. After doing hours of research, I decided that I was going to complete the process on my own. I have a long history of planning trips and felt confident in my abilities to plan the move on my own. Plus I didn’t want to pay to be a part of the program, it was $500-$800 depending on the company and location of where you wanted to go.

“What’s the application like?”

You will need to create a login and then you can start the application. It’s fairly easy, mostly just personal information that you would fill out on other documents. Have your passport available to plug in that information as well. They will ask you about your health and if you have ever been in trouble with the law.

NOTE: I did have to use Google Chrome instead of Safari on my Mac to get into the application.

Before applying I did a lot of research and many people had different things to say about whether they needed to have a job before they applied. Some people said they were required to have a job lined up to even apply for the visa. Others said they didn’t need to have a job lined up, which was the case for me. They asked about my field and profession but didn’t need to provide proof of a job. Many people also had to pay a $168 application fee. I began the application thinking I was going to have to pay this but when I submitted my application it said the fee was waived. My guess is that it was because I applied going into their winter season.

Depending on what country you are currently living in, you may need to get a general health exams and a chest x-ray for Tuberculosis. I was approved within five days. I got an email (best email ever to wake up to) saying I was approved with the work visa attached. This document needs to be printed out and brought with your passport.

You can find all the official information on New Zealand’s immigration website.

Are you thinking about applying for a work visa? Have you had a similar or different experience than I had? I’d love to hear your questions and comments, post them below!

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  • Reply Peter Mockary September 14, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Awesome, thanks! Do you remember how long it took them to process your application? They say 2-3 weeks, was that your experience?

    • Reply Haley Johnson September 19, 2016 at 11:13 am

      I believe it was approved within five days! Super quick process.

  • Reply Peter Mockary September 12, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Hi Haley!

    I love your blog- it’s the first of its kind I’ve come across as I’m working on getting a working holiday visa for NZ.

    I have a question- I’m also from the US- did you have to send your passport over to NZ for them to approve it? The immigration website mentioned that it’s sometimes required (probably for some countries and not others I’m thinking), so I wanted to see if you had to.


    • Reply Haley Johnson September 14, 2016 at 12:17 am

      Hi Peter! Thank you so much :) I did not have to send my passport to New Zealand. I think that is if you apply by mail – not sure though. I applied directly online and needed to enter my passport details but did not need to send it. Hope that helps!

      Cheers, Haley

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