Working in New Zealand on a Visa: What You Need
Are you planning on extended travel through New Zealand and want to earn some money along the way? Taking some time to work abroad while traveling is a fantastic way to supplement your income and stretch your budget and your time abroad even further.
We recently travelled and worked in New Zealand for just under 3 months. Here’s a list of everything you need to know.
#1: Have a valid work visa.
New Zealand has a very strict working holiday policy. Most reputable employers will require a valid work-holiday visa and ensure you have one during your first hiring steps.
Unless you have pre-arranged, under the table, work plans with friends or family while overseas it is not recommended to try to work without one. Even working under the table can be risky without a proper visa, and if caught could result in deportation from the country, future travel ban, and repercussions for your employer.
All visa applications can be found on New Zealand’s government website. Make sure you apply a few weeks to months ahead of time to give your application plenty of time to process.
NZ E-Visa Application Website: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas
#2: Get a New Zealand bank account.
In order to get paid you must have a proper New Zealand bank account. It is recommended to try and set this up before you start working as New Zealand does not provide pay checks as an alternative to direct-deposit. No bank, no money.
Most New Zealand banks do not offer same day walk-in appointments to open new bank accounts, either. If you do walk in or call, they will most likely direct you to their website to complete an online application. Once you apply online it can take 7-10 days for your account opening to be approved.
When applying they will ask for your contact information. You are not required to have a New Zealand phone number but are required to list the address for where you are staying in New Zealand. You may list a hostel or hotel address.
You will then be set up with an in-person appointment where they will issue you a bank card and help you set up your pin and online login.
When you go to your in-person appointment you will need a few things:
- Your Passport
- Your New Zealand Visa
- An Official Proof of Address Letter dated and signed.
The first two you should already have before entering New Zealand (it’d be quite impressive if you somehow made it to the country without them). Your Proof of Address form can be obtained from the reception desk at the hostel or hotel you are staying at. I personally had the job of printing out the forms and signing them while working at a hostel in downtown Auckland. It is a very easy process but can sometimes cost a fee. Haka Lodge’s location charged $5.00 per form.
Even if you and another person are getting a joint account you BOTH need your own individual form.
Do not panic if you change hostels after your appointment, you just need an address to ensure you’ll get the bank account. If you find a more semi-permanent residence it can be changed via your online portal later.
Popular New Zealand banks for travelers are ANZ, BNZ, and Kiwi Bank. We personally used ANZ: https://www.anz.co.nz/personal/
#3: Request an IRD number.
This step must come after you’ve had your bank appointment. You can request an IRD number by going to: https://www.ird.govt.nz/managing-my-tax/ird-numbers/ird-numbers-for-individuals/new-arrival-to-new-zealand—ird-number-application
The IRD website will prompt you to import your information including:
- Visa number/information
- Current address
- Home address in the U.S.
- New Zealand bank account information
Once you have successfully completed your IRD application form it can take up to three days for processing. I received my IRD number the next day, Lawrence received his on the third day.
It is possible to be granted an IRD number without a bank account. However, it is a lot more work than simply acquiring a New Zealand bank account before applying. You must prove you own land or property, or provide a bill like a utility, rent, or phone bill from a New Zealand residence.
You MUST have your IRD number before you are able to be properly paid. I suggest applying for a bank account and IRD number in that order before you are offered or start working a new position.
If you start working first (like I did), your employer can’t input your hours without your bank and IRD information. Which means that you will have a couple weeks’ worth of backpay you will not receive until it’s done. For us this was not a huge deal since we had a good chunk of money saved up, but if you plan on your working visa to exclusively provide funding for your travels this can mean up to a month with no pay. Don’t give your employer any reason to manipulate your hours simply because it was too long ago for you to remember and claim your correct pay.
#4: Have a reference list and resume or CV at the ready.
New Zealand employers value references when applying to work. In America a reference list is something that is usually optional or specifically requested when applying for entry level positions.
If you don’t already have a reference list do not fret: the truth is everyone cheats a bit on this. Ask a trusted coworker, friendly ex-manager, or enlist the help of friends and family to take on the role of your past employer. Just make sure they are in on it before you post their information! If you have formal references that you are on good terms with, re-confirm their information is still correct and that they are still willing and able to provide a work and character reference if necessary.
As for your resume, otherwise known as a CV in New Zealand, make sure it is up to date and accurate. If you have a long working history create a shortened version highlighting the positions that are most relevant to the job you are applying for. As a rule, unless otherwise asked, your resume should never be over a page long. It should only be double sided if your references are printed on the back.
Resumes are mostly getting scanned for buzz words before they ever make it to the eyes of a person now a days. When reading over the job description you are applying for take the skills and qualifications they are looking for and include those words throughout your resume. This can only increase your chances of making it to the hands of a human who can more accurately gage your skills and assets.
#5: Know which positions to apply for.
New Zealand is currently in a position of opening back up after an intense Covid-19 lockdown.
With tourists flooding to the country for long awaited holidays the country is overwhelmed with hospitality related positions.
Much like the United States, during quarantine most hospitality workers were let go and found work outside of customer service then never returned to the industry. Hospitality is a brutal industry without much moral rewards. This means there are plenty of vacancies for overseas workers to fill as the locals simply don’t want them.
Examples of jobs in hospitality are:
- Working front desk at a hotel or hostel
- Housekeeping for a hotel or hostel
- Reservations team for tour companies
- Bus and van drivers
- Serving or working a cash register at a restaurant
Other popular positions are working in manual labor focused jobs. Since different crops flourish in different seasons harvest workers are needed for a few weeks to a few months at a time to get a little down and dirty and pick and harvest crops. Again, these are jobs not typically popular with resident Kiwi’s so employers rely on working-visa holders to help. Their unwillingness is your gain! The more difficult the position the better the pay typically is.
Examples of manual labor-focused jobs include:
As many visas come with limits to how long one can work, jobs with high turnover, or seasonal positions are an ideal fit for the employer and thus: you! You’re probably not going to find your dream job working overseas—and that’s okay. Focus on finding the work that pays what you need without being overly strenuous.
When you apply specifically to work in New Zealand they will email you their very own government-run job hunt website which is a neat feature.
Otherwise, checkout Seek.com which is another popular job searching site. If you do use this website, do not do the “quick apply” option powered by Seek as employers rarely check these. Make sure you follow the links in the post provided and instead apply directly with the company on their official website. Employers use Seek more as a job posting platform rather than an actual application.
#6: Know the best way to apply.
I’m a firm believer in always putting a face to the name and turning your application in in person. However, New Zealand mainly operates in hiring over email. While I still think it could benefit you to stop in and inquire, giving you the option to later reference the in-person meeting when you send your email, it’s not always possible. Especially if you are coming to work from overseas and are hoping to have a job lined up before you arrive, technology-focused applications are the way to go.
When applying via email make sure you read over the application requirements closely. As someone who ended up working a managerial position at a hostel that accepted working visa applicants, I can’t tell you how many poorly constructed emails I would receive that I would need to reply and say “Hello, please include your CV, cover letter, and work-holiday visa and I will pass this along to my hiring manager.”
It’s not a great first impression. In the email make sure to either tell a little bit about yourself or include a well written Cover Letter as an attachment. If you are applying for a position in a country where their official language is your second language try to get your translation double-checked by a pier, use Google Translate, or at the very least include a brief explanation along the lines of: “I apologize for my Spanish, as it is my second language.” Most employers are understanding of differing cultures, especially if they are looking to hire those holding visas. But they want to see that you are trying to show you desire the position.
Use basic email etiquette as follows:
Dear Employer Name,
My name is Your Name, and I am interested in applying for the Insert Position at Insert Employer Location.
(-Either tell a bit about yourself here or-)
Attached is my CV, Work-Holiday Visa, Passport, and Cover Letter.
Please do not hesitate to reach me at: Insert Your Email AND Phone Number.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Make sure you also attach all chosen files in PDF format, so they look the same no matter what platform they are opened on.
Make sure you brush up on your interview skills as well. Typically, by the time you reach the interview stage at an entry-level, temporary job it is only yours to lose. By this I mean so long as you don’t say or do anything egregious during the interview you will most likely be offered the job.
It is still a good idea to use basic interview skills such and include the following:
- Your work history.
- Why you are interested in the job.
- An example of a time you went above and beyond while working.
- A “fun” question about the company for which you are applying. (This can be about the history, culture, location, or even name of the company to name a few examples.)
- Your ACTUAL questions. (i.e., hours, pay, leave, start date, etc.)
When working abroad in hospitality or manual labor roles it is not as important that you are overly qualified, rather than you are willing and able to work hard in the short time allotted to you. Let your resilience shine!
I hope this article helps with a few of the more tedious steps to a New Zealand working holiday. I know it felt like a lot of little, time-hogging steps when I first started. With these tips you can cross off your to-do list pre-departure and enjoy all New Zealand has to offer stress-free once you arrive.