How to Get a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa
Do you want to visit New Zealand for more than just the standard 90 days given to most tourists? Do you want to see the whole country but might have to work to supplement the expenses of travel? Are you between 18-30 years old? Then I know the perfect thing for you: the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa (WHV) scheme.
When to apply for a WHV does differ from country to country so be sure to check the immigration website for when (and how) to apply. For instance, I know that Americans and Germans can apply online at any time, whereas Chinese citizens only have a few days in June when applications are accepted and Argentinians have a few days in October, etc.
You may find that there are websites that offer to fill your WHV application for you. I chose not to use one of those sites because I personally think they are a rip-off. The online forms for the WHV are actually pretty straightforward - and for US citizens specifically, it costs nothing to apply. Why spend any extra money? That being said, if English is not your first language or you want someone to take care of your visa and set you up with job opportunities all for one packaged cost, you could consider paying someone like this company. However, it truly is not difficult to take a DIY approach to a Working Holiday, though, believe me - I've done it.
Besides being between 18 and 30 (or 35 for a select few countries) there are a couple other requirements of getting the WHV:
Besides buying your plane tickets to NZ and any other pre-trip expenses, you'll need at least 4200 NZD to enter the country. They may ask you for proof of funds when you arrive, so be sure to print out your bank statement before you leave.
While I highly recommend travel insurance for any international trip, New Zealand Immigration requires that you have some before arriving. Again, they may ask you for proof of insurance upon entry, so bring a printout with you.
My Personal Experience with NZ Immigration
Applying for and getting my WHV was incredibly easy. I filled out each page of the online form, letting them know when I thought I would be arriving in NZ, attesting that I did not have a terminal disease nor a criminal record, etc. Then I clicked submit. About five days later, I got an email from New Zealand Immigration saying that I was approved. It was surprisingly that simple. Beyond that, though, everything else it took was a little more work: saving up the money, booking flights, buying travel insurance...
Once You've Got Your WHV...
Get a New Zealand Bank Account
One of the conditions of working in New Zealand is to get a NZ-based bank account. The best way to get this process going - especially if you want to work right away in New Zealand - is to open a bank account in New Zealand from your home country. I recommend Kiwi Bank, because that's who I personally bank with. Not only do they have a variety of good & affordable options for checking and savings accounts but Kiwi Banks are located in every post office in the country. This means that no matter how small a town is, you should be able to find a bank or ATM.
If you're already in New Zealand or you don't want to open a bank account beforehand, it is doable. In fact, that's what Emmett & I did. However, it took us a while to qualify because we didn't have a verifiable New Zealand mailing address since we are living in a hostel. The only other options we had to prove our (temporary) residency were a note from a primary physician or an employment contract. We used the latter - we both signed up with an employment agency and used that contract to get our bank account immediately.
Get an IRD / Tax Identification Number
An IRD number is an Inland Revenue personal tax identification number. (Similar to SSNs in the U.S., NINOs in the U.K., & SINs in Canada). Paperwork for your IRD can be completed upon arrival and has similar proof of residency requirements to getting a bank account. In fact, like when applying for our Kiwi Bank account, Emmett and I used our employment contracts as proof of residency.
You can find everything you need to know about getting your IRD on the Inland Revenue site. Then, the best way to apply is to fill the paperwork out in person and bring it to the nearest Kiwi Bank/Post Office or Automobile Association (AA) Office. The staff at both of those places are trained to help you put your application together and can answer any questions you may have about getting your IRD Number.
Something worth noting: it took almost exactly 10 business days before we received our IRD numbers via text message.
Join BBH and Get a Card
If you plan to visit more than a few hostels in New Zealand, a BBH membership will pay for itself. Pretty much every hostel in New Zealand is a member of the network. If you don't want to buy the membership online, though, you could join the network at the first member-hostel you stay at once you're here.
New Zealand is a pretty awesome country to explore. From the miles of gorgeous coastline, to the glowworm caves, to the alpine peaks, to the thermal springs, to the bungee jumping, to the good-natured locals, there is something for everyone. If it's at all feasible for you to come here for a whole year on a Working Holiday, then you should definitely take the plunge and apply!