A guide to a working holiday in New Zealand

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Now, who hasn’t dreamed of quitting their desk job, packing all their belongings and jetting off to foreign lands? Well that dream can quickly become reality for those wanting to work and travel in the land of the long white cloud. A working holiday in New Zealand is possible for residents of lots of countries around the world, with a visa allowing you to work and explore this epic land.

New Zealand is small, diverse and home to more sheep than people. FACT!

It’s easy to make your way around both islands and finding a job during your backpacking adventure shouldn’t be too tricky as there are plenty of options. Requirements and application costs do vary depending on your home country, so it’s always best to check the Immigration NZ website before packing your bags.

So, if you’re ready to get your fellowship on, then follow this simple guide to a working holiday in New Zealand.

working holiday new zealand castle point lighthouse north island

📍 Castle Point Lighthouse, North Island

What is a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa?

A New Zealand Working Holiday Visa is a permit that allows you to work so you can pay for your travels around the country for 12 months (or 24 months if from the UK or Canada), with a possible extension visa if you complete 3 months of the required horticulture/farm work. If you plan on working in New Zealand during your travels, then you will need a Working Holiday Visa. Immigration NZ is the best place to start as they have an easy step by step guide, all you need to do is enter your details (age, nationality etc.) and it will give you your application options. Complete the forms, pay your dues and expect it hot in your inbox within 21 days if you meet the criteria. Processing times do vary from country to country, but sit tight, it’s coming.

The visa is available for citizens of Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal,  Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA, Uruguay and Vietnam.

What are the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa requirements?

  • The age range for UK citizens is 18–30, but it’s 18-35 in a select few countries – check yours here
  • You must have a valid passport
  • You can’t bring any children or a partner with you
  • You must be in good health
  • You must have sufficient funds – that’s right, New Zealand would like to see that you have sufficient funds of NZ $350 for each month of your stay (or NZ$4200 altogether) in your bank to sustain your trip, plus a ticket out of the country or the funds to book one later.
  • You’ll need to get insurance when you arrive in New Zealand.

But what if I’m over 30?

Don’t you worry. From the time the visa lands in your inbox you will have a year to activate it. So, if you apply when you’re nearly 30 you can still enter the country within 12 months. However, if you’ve passed the big 3-0 then BUNAC have you covered. You can even apply for this visa if you have previously completed the working holiday. The BUNAC visa allows you to stay up to 12 months and work, but these visas are limited amount to give out each year so don’t wait.

How much does a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa cost?

The Working Holiday Visa costs £124 GBP (NZ$245) at the time of writing, however fees are subject to change. This covers your 12-month visa, including multiple entries in and out of the country. You’ll also need to prove that you have NZ$4200 for your stay during your application. Around NZ$5000 would. be ideal to bring along, as you’ll need to consider living costs while you find a job.

Giving yourself enough cash to explore and get set up in New Zealand takes away any money-related stress when first arriving. A copy of your bank statement is sufficient evidence of your available funds for your application.

working holiday New Zealand Milford Sound

📍 Milford Sound, South Island

How long does it take to get a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa?

The New Zealand Immigration website gives a time frame of around 14 days, but this can widely vary. It’s best to apply for the visa no later than 2 weeks before you intend to depart. You must enter the country within 12 months of the visa being approved.

New Zealand Working Holiday Visas are valid for 12 months, after which you have the option to extend for an extra 11 months. You can also apply for the 23-month visa straight off the bat if you know you’re planning to stay more than a year and are from Canada or the UK. You will have to provide medical certificates if applying for the 23-month visa.

On a Working Holiday Visa, you can’t:

  • Get a permanent job
  • Work illegally
  • Work for more than 12 months

When working in New Zealand you’ll need to pay tax, so you’ll need to get a NZ bank account and an IRD number (like a UK national insurance number) which you can apply for online. Make this a priority when you arrive!

Can you extend a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa?

If you are from Canada or the UK, you can apply to extend your stay to a total of 23 months if you’ve worked in the horticulture or viticulture industry (picking fruit, planting crops etc.) for 3 months on a regular basis. The application costs around NZ$285 and has a processing time frame of 27 days. After this you’ll have to return home, unless you are eligible for a different type of visa.

If you fall in love (like many do) with Kiwi life, you do have options to stay. If you get a legendary job and a good boss, then a work visa is your next step. You can work for up to a year for the same company. If you choose to quit your job, you will have to get sponsored by another company or leave the country.

You could even potentially become a resident of New Zealand. If you have a trade under your belt such as builder, chef, hairdresser etc. then you may find yourself on the skills shortage list, which means New Zealand needs you! You can apply for residency, work the point system, save up, get a good agent and apply. Agents such as New Zealand Shores will provide you with all the help and support you need during the process.

working holiday New Zealand South Island lake tekapo mt cook lupines fields

📍 Picturesque view featuring Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook and Lupines Fields on the South Island

What types of jobs can you get with a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa?

  • Horticulture – fruit picking
  • Farm work
  • Retail
  • Working in a hostel
  • Bar work/hospitality

Finding a job for backpackers is fairly easy. With the constant rise in tourism in New Zealand, companies are calling out for workers to help businesses boom. Anything from café work to bartending, labouring and retail is up for grabs. You can expect to get paid anything from $16.50 an hour to $25 depending on the job role. If you have a trade, expect to be paid well for your skills and secure frequent work. Big tourism towns like QueenstownWellington and Auckland CBD rely on backpackers to fill roles in all aspects of tourism. You could be working for one of the many campervan companies or making coffees for the masses as you lap up the stunning surrounds.

People on the Working Holiday Visa tend to get a job in horticulture or farm work (depending on the country you’re from, if you do this for 6 months you could get your visa extended!) Working in retail, hospitality or for a hostel is often popular work too.

If you’re taking up the popular working holiday job of picking fruit, you might be paid either per hour or per bin filled. This could be anywhere from $17-26 per hour depending on the type of fruit picked.

  • Minimum wage: NZ$17.70
  • Tax deduction (for fruit picking) is around 10%

working holiday New Zealand Franz Josef Glacier

📍 Franz Josef Glacier, South Island

How to find a job for your Working Holiday

You don’t need to have a job to apply for this visa, and it is often easiest to find a job after you arrive. If you’re arriving in one of the cities, print out lots of copies of your CV/resume and give it to local bars, pubs, restaurants, shops and hostels.

Keep checking websites like Indeed. Many hostels also have job noticeboards for people on working holiday visas. There are also recruitment websites for the agriculture and horticulture industries, but you may have to pay a fee. Websites like NZ Pocket Guide have regular job listings for people with working holiday visas. Also, explore Facebook groups like Brits in New Zealand. These can be great for job leads, but also for adjusting to Kiwi life with others in similar situations to you.

working holiday New Zealand Cardrona Mountain ski resport

📍 Cardrona Mountain Ski Resort, South Island

Where to stay on a Working Holiday in New Zealand

Hostels are the best starting point for when you first arrive in New Zealand. You can ask about jobs in the area (or even at the hostel) and always meet other travellers on the Working Holiday Visa.

Explore our hostels in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington to find the right fit.

Jailhouse Accommodation in Christchurch is in a great location near the arts district, with a large kitchen that’s key for saving money. Ask the staff about jobs, or head into the city to explore.

If you need a bit more space to adjust to your new location, check in to The Marion in Wellington, where plush, comfy and spacious dorms await. Their café is a great place to spend the day with your laptop and job hunt on the web.

Some farm, horticulture, and hospitality jobs might actually provide accommodation, but if they don’t, look at websites like nzflatmates and Trademe to find some legendary flatmates and a fun place to live.

Compare all hostels in New Zealand

working holiday new zealand Bay of Islands

📍 Bay of Islands, North Island

How to get a tax refund from your working holiday in New Zealand

The boring (but important) stuff. When you get home, you’re gonna want that extra cash that was ripped away from you when you paid tax in New Zealand. The good news is that you can get it back. Woo-hoo!

New Zealand’s tax year runs from 1st April to 31st March, and you’ll be able to apply for the tax refund after the 31st of March if you worked in New Zealand during that period.

To get this extra cha-ching back, you’ll need your final payslip or a summary of earnings. You can choose an external company to do your tax refund for you. This takes away the stress but will cost you. Otherwise, you can do it yourself through the Inland Revenue Department.

working holiday new zealand, sunset by a bay

📍 White’s Beach, Auckland 📸:@kylemyburgh

The smart stuff: essential things to know before going on a Working Holiday in New Zealand

Here are a few things to think about before you leave the motherland and arrive safely in New Zealand:

  • Pack for the climates

New Zealand experiences all four seasons. In summer it’s beautifully warm countrywide, while in winter you may see some epic snowfall depending where you’re based. The South Island will reach minus temperatures, so make sure you pack for all seasons. Woolly hats and jandals (flipflops) are good staples.

  • Travel insurance

Without sounding like a nagging parent, do yourself a favour and make sure you get decent travel insurance before you jet off. It could save you a whole lot of hassle if your bag decides to go on a solo mission at the airport or worse. It’s also a requirement for the visa now too.

  • Spending money

Like we mentioned, you’ll need to have some dollars saved before you start your epic New Zealand trip, so save accordingly and enjoy.

  • Print your documents

Always a handy tip. Print your documents before you depart, so if you get stopped on arrival you’ll have all the proof you need to sail on through customs. Visa, travel insurance and bank statements are normally what the officers like to see. Also, if you have booked accommodation for your first few nights, they would like to know where. You can also show your return flight if you’ve booked it – this way they won’t need to see your bank details.

  • Book a tour

The perfect way to make some friends and see the country before you set off in search of work. Kiwi Experience, Stray and Haka Tours offer group trips for those aged 18-30. You can cover all corners of the country and then return to your favourite destination for work.

  • Book your hostel

Avoid the stress of trying to find a place last minute by pre-booking a nice comfy bed in a sociable hostel. There you’ll meet people who are either in the same boat or those who have travelled New Zealand and can give you some top tips. I’m a believer in the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” after finding my first job in NZ through a new hostel buddy. Socialise, meet new people, extend your network and you never know what opportunities might arise!

Compare all hostels in New Zealand

working holiday in new zealand, person standing on Roys Peak, South Island

📍 Roys Peak, South Island 📸:@paulamayphotography

What to do when you arrive for your Working Holiday in New Zealand

  • Apply for an IRD number

A tax number that you will need to start getting paid from your employer. You can either pick up a form at your local post office or apply online.

  • Set up a bank account

ANZ, BNZ, Westpac, the possibilities are endless. Just pop in to the bank with proof of your visa status and your passport. The bank will have you set up in no time.

  • Get a sim card

Skinny mobile offers excellent rates for backpackers. They’re also pretty cheap and give you ample amounts of data, so you can make all your pals jealous at home with your ‘gram updates.

So, you’re ready, visa in your inbox, saving well underway… it’s time to book that flight. Booking your flights is easy as 1,2,3, right? A one way ticket is always a good start – it may be daunting, but at least you can choose later when you want to leave.

Now, plan the adventure and enjoy your time in the long white cloud!

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