Jobs Abroad

How to Get a Job in New Zealand

Elen Turner

Elen Turner is a travel writer and editor based in Kathmandu, Nepal. She has a PhD from the Australian National University, which examined feminist...

New Zealand is a highly desirable travel destination, and many people from other countries find the environment and way of life here very appealing. Beautiful nature is never far away, the population is small so few places are crowded, there's a generally good climate, and there's government-subsidized healthcare and education for residents and citizens.

But because it's such an appealing destination, it's not that easy just to walk into a job here. Working in New Zealand isn't necessarily as straightforward as applying for a job and getting the correct visa. There are various categories of work visa, and not all are available to all applicants or professions. Read on to find out how to get a job in New Zealand.

Things to Consider Before Starting Your Hunt for Jobs in New Zealand

The two most important questions you need to ask yourself before looking for work in New Zealand are:

  • What kind of work do you want to do?
  • How long do you want to stay?

The answers to these questions will determine which visa category is right for you, and therefore how you go about looking for jobs.

If you want to work in New Zealand temporarily while traveling around the country, a working holiday visa would be best. If you want to migrate more permanently to New Zealand, you'll need a different kind of visa.

Another point to consider is your English ability. If you're coming from a predominantly English-speaking country (such as the USA, Canada, or UK) then this won't really be an issue. But many visa categories require applicants to pass, and get a certain grade in, the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test.

Working Holiday Visa applications from several countries (including China, Philippines, Turkey, and others) must take an English-language test. Even if your nationality doesn't require you to take a test, it's important to know that most jobs in New Zealand will require a high level of spoken English ability.

Visa Types & Requirements for New Zealand

Working Holiday Visa

If you're under 30 years of age (35 for some nationalities) and want to divide your time in New Zealand between working and tourism activities, the Working Holiday Visa is a good option. Only citizens of some countries are eligible for this, and you must have adequate funds for a return ticket and to support yourself in New Zealand. You must also be able to prove that your main reason for coming to New Zealand is tourism, and you're just planning to do a bit of work to support your travels. That is, this is not a visa category for professionals who want to settle in New Zealand.

The intake from some countries is restricted by a quota; once that quota is full, applications will close until the following year. It's a good idea to get your application in early during the calendar year if you're from a country with set quotas.

Most Working Holiday Visa holders do casual work in bars, cafes, hostels, or orchards during the peak tourism season.

Find out more about New Zealand Working Holiday Visas in the following article: Everything to Know About Planning Your New Zealand Working Holiday

Work Visa

There's no single 'work visa' in New Zealand, as work visas are broken up into different types according to profession/industry and current need. Some work visa categories are:

  • Post-Study Work Visa. If you've studied an approved course in New Zealand, you can apply for this.
  • Skilled Migrant Visa. This is a good option for skilled professionals (doctors, teachers, engineers, etc) who work in professions that New Zealand needs. This operates on a points-based system.
  • Essential Skills Visa. This is intended for workers in non-professional jobs who are filling a need in the work force that can't be met by New Zealanders. These visas are only temporary.
  • Global Impact Visa. This is designed for entrepreneurs and investors. After three years, holders of these visas can apply for residency.
  • Talent (Arts, Culture, Sports) Work Visa. This is intended for individuals with an exceptional talent in arts, culture, or sports who are supported by a New Zealand organization.

In contrast to the Working Holiday Visa, many of these work visa categories allow you to apply for residency after a few years. These are the best option if you want to stay in New Zealand long-term and have a skill that's considered desirable by New Zealand authorities.

Be aware that the rules surrounding each of these visa types changes periodically. A skill that's sought after one year may not be the next, as needs are filled. If you want to work in New Zealand and see your profession is in demand, don't wait around as this may not be something you can put off until the future.

On the other hand, if your profession isn't sought after right now, check back in a year or two, when the situation may have shifted.

Partnership Work Visa

If you're in a long-term relationship with a New Zealand citizen, you may find that applying for a Partnership Work Visa is your best option. This is especially so if you don't meet the requirements for any of the other visa categories, such as if you're over the age limit for a working holiday visa, or don't work in a profession highly sought after in New Zealand.

Applying for a Partnership Work Visa can be a laborious process, as you'll need to provide documentation for the duration of your relationship. While you don't need to be legally married, you're only eligible if you've been living together for at least a year (in most cases—some exceptions are made for 'culturally arranged marriages').

The waiting time can be several months, and you should expect to be thoroughly scrutinized by immigration officials. But, this visa type is a good option for people in genuine relationships with New Zealand citizens who have the documentation to prove it.

How to Get a Job in New Zealand

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as this very much depends on your profession and the type of visa you're applying for.

If you've got a Working Holiday Visa, in most cases you'll want to wait until you're in the country to apply for jobs. Staying in a hostel is a good way to get a feel for the job market, as you'll likely see posters on noticeboards advertising for seasonal staff. Word of mouth between travelers is the best resource here. In towns with a lot of tourists, you'll also see signs in shop and restaurant windows seeking staff during the busy season.

The exception is if you're seeking a job in seasonal adventure activities, such as skiing or white-water rafting. Jobs in these industries generally need some skills and experience, and you'll need to contact employers a few months before the start of the season, as jobs tend to fill up fast.

If you're in a professional career, such as teaching, there will be different ways to apply for jobs, and you'll usually want to have a job lined up before making the move to New Zealand. Schools are responsible for employing their own staff, so there's not a centralized government agency or anything like that. You should apply to the schools directly, responding to online job vacancy announcements. The same applies to most other skilled professions.

The Go Overseas Work Abroad Programs & Jobs page is a great place to start a New Zealand job search. Here you can find a huge range of jobs advertised in many fields, from au pairs to software developers, healthcare providers to camp counselors.

New Zealand Resume and Interview Tips

In New Zealand, resumes are generally called CVs, or a Curriculum Vitae. Aside from that, you probably won't be in for too many surprises. Follow best practices in your field of work and you'll probably have a CV suitable for a New Zealand job application.

Read more: How to Write a Resume for Anywhere in the World

New Zealand tends to have a very informal work culture. Clearly this varies by profession (lawyers work in a more formal setting than bar tenders of course), but in general it's not uncommon to address your work 'superiors' by their first names, and to simply wear smart-casual clothing to a professional job (suits and ties would be considered overkill for many professions). This can especially come as a shock to Americans in New Zealand: at university in New Zealand we wouldn't dream of calling our professors 'Professor.' Hi Tony! Err on the side of formality for your interview, but don't be surprised if you're addressed as 'mate' by an interviewer wearing casual clothing.

Kia ora, New Zealand!

Whatever brings you to New Zealand, your time there is sure to be filled with outdoor adventures, welcoming locals, and unique experiences. Even though working in a different country can be a daunting prospect, the various visa options that the New Zealand government provides makes it much easier to find a path that works for you. And when it comes to the actual job hunt, you just have to be persistent with your research and make sure you're regularly checking job boards.

In no time at all you could be saying "kia ora" to New Zealand!