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7 Surprising Skills That Could Qualify You For A Kiwi Visa

New Zealand is famed as a rugged, rural and utterly stunning landscape. The scenery is so magical that it was the backdrop for the visual extravaganza of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.

But the country is more than just a film set; its mountains, grasslands, beaches and forests are only part of New Zealand’s charm. The untouched landscape is home to a rich, varied culture which celebrates its native Maori heritage alongside that of European settlers and later arrivals from Asia.The country is not only welcoming but also safe, with some of the lowest crime rates in the world as well as boasting some of the best rates of environmental protection. And it’s not just the countryside that Kiwis look after; they are an active, sporty bunch that enjoy making the most of life.

Any expat who enjoys the great outdoors knows New Zealand to be an adventure playground. There are mountains to climb and snowboard down, canyons to bungee jump into or raft down, reefs to dive, waves to surf and trails to mountain bike. For the less adventurous, cricket, rugby, hockey and netball make sure that sport is a key part of Kiwi life. The standard of living is high and the cost is reasonable, comparing favourably to nearby Australia, the UK and USA.

New Zealand is an attractive prospect for potential expats, offering a good work-life balance, great healthcare and education as well as a little adventure. But the island nation has a small population and only a few cities, limiting the opportunities for work for new arrivals.

Consequently, it’s one of the more difficult countries to gain the right to reside. Most long-term expats graduate from a working-holiday visa, through a temporary working visa, and then earn their right to stay. It can take years to graduate up through these ‘work to residence’ visas, ticking boxes and gaining points toward your right to reside.

But there is a short cut, meaning you arrive in New Zealand with your partner and kids, looking forward to a secure life in the country, without ever having to reapply for another visa.

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Thanks to the country’s small population, New Zealand sometimes finds itself short on workers with specific skills. Every country needs its quota of doctors, firefighters, scientists and teachers in order to thrive and survive, but New Zealand also needs to fill a number of surprising vacancies, offering Skilled Migrant Visas to anyone fulfilling the requirements.

Expats hoping to qualify under the scheme must be under the age of 55, of good character and have the offer of a job in one of a number of listed industries. The Long Term Skills Shortage list outlines the jobs and qualifications needed to win a Skilled Migrant Visa.

Whilst there are hundreds of jobs listed, there are a number of jobs on the list that might surprise you.

Forest Scientist

This probably isn’t a job title many people have heard of. Anyone with a job title that includes the word ‘scientist’ is usually presumed to be tied to laboratory bench and sporting a white coat.

Forest scientists are just as likely to be found in hiking boots, walking through the undergrowth than messing about with test tubes or spreadsheets. This branch of conservation science is dedicated to studying and preserving the health of woodland ecosystems. They may study the growth of particular trees, come up with ways to battle diseases or invasive species, or analyse the effects of human activity on the natural world.

The role also looks at the best ways to manage natural resources, inventing new products or advising on more efficient logging techniques. Someone working in this field can earn up to GBP£52,000 a year but salaries of GBP£91,000 can be paid for teaching the subject at New Zealand universities.

Of course, not anyone can call themselves a forest scientist. The New Zealand government require applicants to hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher in specific science or engineering subjects and a knowledge of conservation issues.

Simeon Smaill work for Scion, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute that protects the environment whilst developing new products. He told the New Zealand careers service, “I spend quite a bit of time at the greenhouse watering and weeding the saplings, and taking measurements of their growth. This will ultimately help us find the best and most cost-effective way of establishing new forests.”


Engineer is a job title almost everyone has heard of, but it can actually apply to a range of jobs. From building giant bridges to designing the next generation of tiny technology, engineering covers a huge array of roles. New Zealand needs them all.

Still rebuilding after the devastating Christchurch earthquake, New Zealand has multiple large scale construction projects underway, keeping engineers and project mangers busy for years.

But the country is also crying out for material engineers, experts in the petro-chemical field, and people to develop electrical systems. There are even jobs waiting for expats who are experts in building factories for producing food.

So whether you’re an expert in bridges, buildings, bromine or biscuits, there’s an engineering role to suit you. On building sites, in factories, in industry and even underwater.

Again, the visa requirements involve appropriate qualifications, and chartered status for a number of specialised roles. Along with engineers, there are opportunities for surveyors, construction managers and technicians, with many of these roles also requiring a period of several years of work experience in order to qualify.

Procurement Manager

Procurement managers enable a business to find the best deal on the goods, services and supplies it needs to do what is does best. They hunt around for bargains, leverage relationships and negotiate complex deals that make sure the business is getting the most out of every penny it spends.

Unsurprisingly, these roles are in high demand by businesses all over New Zealand, hoping that their strategic thinkers can save money and maximise profits.

These experts are highly sought after, but in order to qualify for a visa they must boast a qualification from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply along with five years of experience.


New Zealand might not be the largest country on earth, but its long thin islands can mean a lot of mileage when driving from place to place. Which mean a lot of businesses are reliant on hard-wearing heavy trucks to keep them operating and communities need supplies brought in by road in order to keep themselves fed. So the humble mechanic may be the unsung hero of Kiwi life, making sure delivery trucks reach even the furthest-flung family.

The country is offering visas to anyone qualified to an appropriate level in the nuts and bolts of diesel truck maintenance or automotive electronics.

Both roles will earn around GBP£16 an hour and involve troubleshooting problems with vehicles and making them ready to go back out on the road. If working as a senior supervisor in a large organisation, this money can rise to nearly GBP£52,000.

IT Support

Every office had a problematic printer or a misbehaving monitor, which is why every office needs an IT expert to fix troublesome technology.

New Zealand is no exception; the country holds high regard for anyone with expert knowledge of computers and the sector is rapidly growing. For the first time in 2014, there were more than 10,000 businesses in the ICT sector, driven by a growth in new technology products and interactive gaming.

But there are still thousands of opportunities on IT help desks for anyone who can fix a lazy laptop or pesky PC or set up an office network. Offering day-to-day help for small to medium businesses makes up the bulk of IT jobs in New Zealand, quickly setting up new machines and gadgets or fixing those on the blink.

Paul Thornley, a support technician for Christchurch architects Warren and Mahon, enjoys the challenge of problem-solving. “It’s a good feeling when you figure out a problem, especially when it’s one that has taken you a few days,” he told careers.govt.nz, “occasionally there will be a bigger project, like implementing a new system or software program.”

The money isn’t bad in these roles either, with experienced technicians earning up to GBP£32,000 a year after just a few years of experience. The visa criteria too are fairly appealing, meaning a wide range of computing and technology qualifications are accepted with applications.


Everyone needs to eat, but there’s a demand for fine dining in New Zealand that is whetting its appetite for more chefs. The kitchens of Christchurch stand ready for foodies to come along and cook up a storm.

Kiwi food hasn’t always been an exciting, succulent dish, more a stodgy serving of reheated bland British dishes. But that’s all changed now that the New Zealand foodie revolution is in full swing. Menus abound with fish dishes from the Pacific islands, ethically-sourced home-grown ingredients and Maori-inspired recipes, all washed down with some new-world wines or artisan coffee.

With so many delicious dishes to prepare, New Zealand is crying out for an influx of chefs to oversee its kitchens. The visa offer doesn’t apply to any old cook wielding a frying pan, only those with formal training and experience in the finer side of culinary arts.

Chefs can be expected to fry up a feast, but also to train new staff and to plan seasonal menus or cater for special events, as well as balance the books and manage supplies.

Of course, this all involves long hours, plenty of paperwork and still keeping a cool head in a hot, busy kitchen. And often for only GBP£13 an hour.

Film Animator

For a country made famous by its photogenic scenery, it might be surprising to find that one of the most in-demand roles is for people to create make-believe landscapes.

The job asks for arty types who can also turn a hand to the hi-tech. Even if skilled with pencils, paints or pottery, the visa requires applicants to also be adept at using 3D animation software to bring their creations to life. Hobbits, dragons, mountains and epic battles can all be created in these cinematic programs.

Bizarrely for such a new skillset, the number of people resident in New Zealand fulfilling this role is going down. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s latest data shows that on only 615 people in the whole country are working in the job. This means an expat’s chance of finding work as an animator is pretty good.

There’s no set route to find your way into this role, with visa applicants arriving armed with qualifications in Art, Graphic Design, and Digital Communications. One thing is needed by all, and that’s a love of the job.

Despite the need for creative types in New Zealand, such roles aren’t always well paid. After five years of working in the industry, a 3D animator may be earning as little as GBP£21,000, so the love of bringing characters to life on the big screen has to be a big motivation.

And the creative process can be hard work, requiring thick skin and dedication. Simon Dasan works as an animator for a New Zealand computer games company, and he told the New Zealand careers service about his experience starting out in the role. “The key to getting animation right is working as a team,” he said. “You get lists of everything that is wrong! But it’s for the good of the project. Animation is hard and timing is everything. But I love animation – starting off with a character and getting him doing something, bringing him to life. When I’m working, time just disappears.”

Animators might not have the most glamorous jobs in the entertainment industry, or the highest paying, but they can work on a wide range of projects. Combine creativity with the inspiring landscapes of New Zealand and let yourself get carried away by the free-flowing creative juices.

Article by Andy Scofield, Expat Focus International Features Writer

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