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Working Holiday Visa

Anyone who visits New Zealand and works for payment while in the country must be in possession of a working holiday visa. 'Payment' in this instance also includes all non-monetary benefits too such as free food and accommodation in exchange for working. Arrangements such as this include WWOOFing, certain other work exchanges and even some voluntary work.

New Zealand has a Working Holiday Scheme which is basically an agreement with other countries around the world allowing their citizens to come and work in New Zealand for anything up to a year (or 23 months if you are from Canada or the UK). You can work in any job you're lucky enough to get your hands on whether that be fruit picking or something linked to a career path you wish to follow.

If you don't have a working holiday visa you can enter the country with a visitors visa or under the visa waiver programme which applies to certain nationalities. However, as well as not being able to work with such a visa, your length of stay permitted will also be shorter.

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Who Can Work in New Zealand

The following countries have a Working Holiday scheme agreement with New Zealand:

Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea (South), Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay and Vietnam.

The rules concerning applying for and the criteria for obtaining a working visa are different depending on which country you come from. Some of the countries on the list have quotas such as Mexico and Brazil which means far more people apply than are awarded visas each year. If you come from one of the quota capped countries be sure to get your visa application in as quickly as possible to stand the greatest chance of acceptance.

Despite the 'different countries, different rules' aspect there are some elements of eligibility that are common to all which are:

  • You must have a current passport and that passport's expiry date must be at least 3 months after you have left New Zealand.
  • Be between the ages of 18 to 30 years old (the upper age limit is 35 for some nationalities).
  • Must meet the requirements for health which are imposed to a) protect public health b) ensure you won't be placing excessive demands or imposing excessive costs on the health services and c) you are fit enough to actually do the work applied for. (See below for an expansion on this.)
  • Must meet the requirements for good character.
  • You must prove you have onward travel reservations (typically a return flight) or you must show you have sufficient funds to buy a ticket for departure.
  • You must show you have sufficient funds to support yourself – typically around NZ$350 for each month of your stay.
  • You cannot have previously held a working holiday visa in New Zealand – this is strictly a once-in-a-lifetime deal.
  • You must not have dependent children travelling with you.
  • Your main purpose for visiting must be tourism and pleasure with work being the secondary objective.

Medical Requirements

The medical requirements portion of the eligibility criteria can be a stumbling block for many people who apply for a working visa simply because they don't understand the rules correctly. The most commonly required medical evidence items are a chest x-ray and general medical certificates. Some nationalities will be waived the necessity of providing a chest x-ray unless they wish to stay for more than 12 months.

HOWEVER, even those from a waiver country WILL have to provide medical evidence if they have spent a period of 3 months or more in a non-waiver country. In simple language this means should you be a UK citizen (waiver country) on a round-the-world trip which stopped off for 3 months in Thailand (not a waiver country) you WILL have to provide a chest x-ray.

New Zealand Immigration has produced a leaflet 'Health Requirements (INZ 1121)' which details everything you might need to know regarding the medical evidence requirements and in which circumstances they apply. 

This part of the process can seem a little confusing but should you have missed something during the application process – provided you have answered all the questions honestly – you will be sent an email advising you what you will need to provide.

You can check any specifics pertaining to your country of origin – such as eligibility, maximum stays allowed, whether there are any quotas, whether you must apply while still in your home country and so forth – on the NZ Immigration webiste.

The Working Visa Application Process

The quickest and easiest way to apply for a working holiday visa is before you arrive in New Zealand. For this you must submit an online application which is accessed through the New Zealand Immigration website as you will have to register for online services before you begin.

As the application can take up a little time you can do it in stages rather than trying to rush it in one sitting and make a mess of things.

If the whole process really seems above and beyond you there are various companies poised and ready to do it all for you but you will need to pay them some money (often quite a lot of money) for doing so. Additionally, these bodies must be approved and official. Two such are 'Working Holiday Starter' and 'Work N Holiday'.

Once you have submitted your application online the process is quick. Within five days you will normally receive an email which tells you whether your application has been approved or you might get a message asking you for further information. If your application is approved, your work visa will be issued to you electronically. Details of your approved visa are retained in the immigration's electronic database but you must keep a printed copy of your electronic work visa in your passport

If you are already in New Zealand you can still apply for a working holiday visa (unless you are from one of the countries which requires you to be resident in your own country at the time of application) but:

  • the process takes up to 4 weeks – much longer than applications made from outside the country
  • you must have a New Zealand postal address
  • you may be asked to undergo a chest x-ray and medical examination

This also applies to UK/Canadian citizen wishing to extend a working holiday visa.

Extending Your Working Holiday Scheme Visa

If you are a citizen of Canada or the UK you can apply to extend a 12 month working visa to 23 months while you are in New Zealand. To do this you will:

  1. You will need to submit a manual application form – 'Working Holiday Scheme Second Work Visa Application' at one of the Immigration New Zealand offices BEFORE your original visa has expired.
  2. If you didn't previously supply either a general medical certificate or a chest x-ray certificate you will be required to do so now. See INZ leaflet INZ1121 for full details of how to go about this.
  3. You will need to submit various other documentation along with your signed and completed extension application. These are:
    • evidence of your travel arrangements for leaving New Zealand when your visa expires
    • all evidence for the Canada or UK specific Working Holiday Scheme (which you will be familiar with from your first application)
    • two up to date passport photographs
    • your passport
    • the fee applicable
  4. Check out the NZ Immigration 'office and fee finder' which gives details of the address to send your application form to and any fee you must include. 

If you are not a citizen of Canada or the UK you can't extend the Working Holiday Scheme visa but you might be eligible to stay longer under another temporary visa scheme especially if you have certain skills. See the INZ website for details of other types of work or student visa which may apply to you.

A Few FAQs

What will it cost me?

That depends on the country you hold a passport for. The current cost as of November 2015 for UK citizens is NZ$165. You will be asked to pay any costs during your online application which must be with a Visa or Mastercard which can be your own or a friend or family member's card.

Do I have to have a job offer before I apply?

No, you can look for jobs once you have arrived in New Zealand.

Can I leave New Zealand and still come back and work?

The Working Holiday visa allows multiple entries so yes, you can leave if you like. The visa's first day is counted when you arrive in the country and then runs for however long you have been awarded. Any time you spend out of the country will be lost time however. You must begin the use of your working visa within 12 months from the approval date or it is lost and you can't reapply.

How do I know if I have been approved for a Working Holiday Visa?

You will receive a no-response automated email which will advise you that the status of your application has changed. You can then log into your account on the immigration website and view the outcome.

What kind of questions will I be asked on the application form?

You will need to provide all personal details such as name, date of birth and so on. You will also be asked several questions pertaining to your health, character and any travel plans you have.

If you have missed something or misunderstood what further documentation you might need to submit you will be sent an email asking for the information/evidence/documentation which is needed and given a time frame in which to submit it. Don't miss your deadlines. If circumstances present likely delays contact the department immediately to explain the situation otherwise you risk getting your application refused.

Do I need insurance?

In most cases yes but check what specific rules apply to your country of origin on the Immigration New Zealand website.

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