Boasting an unspoiled landscape of rolling green hills, pristine beaches and towering glacier-glad mountains, the ‘other land down under’ has long been popular with expats.It’s not just the landscape that is attractive to New Zealand’s international residents. There is also an open, welcoming multinational culture and a celebrated Maori heritage. Sports fans are just as welcome as culture vultures, with the country’s legendary love of rugby pervading every level of society. Surfers, cricketers, climbers, hikers and runners are spoiled rotten for chances to test themselves against both the landscape and the ultra-fit Kiwi competitors. New Zealand has an enviable work-life balance and is frequently heralded as one of the most family-friendly nations.
However, challenges exist for budding expats, not least of which is getting permission to move to New Zealand in the first place. In a time when many countries are tightening the rules on immigration, New Zealand has long had strict set of criteria for moving into the country.
New Zealand is a vast, rugged country, but has a tiny population. Whilst this is great for protecting the pristine environment, it’s not great for keeping the economy growing. The easiest route into the country is to have a set of sought-after skills.
That’s not to say you need to be a brain surgeon or multi-millionaire to earn a visa, but there is a list of job titles that eases the way for a move to a new life in the country. Engineers, software developers and business executives are all in demand to boost New Zealand’s growing economy; but then so are teachers, hairdressers and vehicle mechanics.
As with most countries, there is a vast array of visas available, all with their own rules and application procedures. New Zealand has made the process of applying for these visas easier than many other nations, allowing applicants to complete most of the application process online. While some documents need to be sent to an embassy for checking, the process is fairly streamlined. Around three-quarters of applications for the skilled migrant visa, for example, are processed within 80 days.
For expats who need the right to work in New Zealand, visas fall into one of two categories: temporary or resident. Temporary visas are exactly as they sound; time-limited permission to live and work in the country, with conditions placed on the terms of that work. The exact terms will depend on what country you come from and the skills you have.
Temporary working visas system can be further divided into two sub-categories.
The essential skills visa is there for those who know their time in New Zealand is limited and do not intend to stay long-term. You must have a job offer and qualifications that match the skills shortage lists. These lists are updated regularly to reflect the most in-demand professions for expats. If you have experience and qualifications, for example as a butcher, you may be in demand one year and out of favour the next. This is reflected in the terms offered for an essential skills visa.
Ultimately, the essential skills visa is there to fill an immediate gap in the Kiwi economy, rather to than attract long-term expats. If you want to get a taste of New Zealand life, but aren’t sure about a permanent move, a work to residence visa may suit you. Again, certain skills, job offers and qualifications are needed to qualify, but as the name suggests, time spent on a work to residence visa can lead to permanent residence.
These visas are also tied to a list of skills shortages, but the skills on this list reflect longer-term needs for development in the country. If you can fill one of these jobs for 24 months and you meet a host of age, income and good character requirements, you have the right to apply for permanent residence.
The work to residence visa can be earned either by filling a specific role in the country, or by getting a permanent job offer from an accredited employer.
For expats who are looking for a direct route to life in New Zealand, the skilled migrant visa is likely to be the smoothest ride. Again, this visa considers the expertise you bring to the party and decides on your eligibility based on that. The strictest rule is that you must be under the age of 55 to be eligible.
Individual circumstances have an impact on your chances of success, but the starting point for any visa application should be the New Zealand Now website, www.newzealandnow.govt.nz which has all the latest information about in-demand jobs. The most valuable feature on the website is the eligibility calculator, which allows you to quickly work out if your circumstances qualify you for a Kiwi visa.
If the calculator spits out a positive result, the website has two more invaluable tools. The first of these can be found by clicking on the ‘Get ready for New Zealand’ link. After filling in a few details, the tool generates a comprehensive ‘to do’ list, helping you to ensure you have all the documents required at each stage of the application. The tool also offers helpful hints on researching the Kiwi job market and managing the move.
The second secret weapon on the website is a list of approved immigration advisors. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the process of moving overseas, so many expats employ advisors to lend a hand and an expert eye. Unfortunately, this advice isn’t always worth the paper it’s written on, let alone the cash you spend on it. The approved list reflects the advisors who can offer a quality service, with information that accurately reflects current New Zealand policy.
Although the rules for expat entry to New Zealand might be tighter than in many other nations, the process is easier than most, with the government investing in a user-friendly system. Be sure to check out the visa options that are open to you and do your research into the job roles you might be able to fill, as this will give you multiple routes through the paperwork.