Whether you saw The Lord of the Rings fifty times or you’ve never even heard of the All-Blacks, the opportunity to live in New Zealand is almost too good to pass up. Here is a step by step guide for how you can apply and spend a year in the land of Bilbo Baggins.


How to get a working holiday visa in New Zealand:


1. Where are you from?

Your eligibility for working holiday visas varies based on your passport country — you can find a complete list of available countries, with individual guidelines and requirements, here. Pick your home country and get started. As a general rule, working holiday visas last for 12 months, but if you’re lucky enough to be from Canada or the UK, you can have 23 months. Some home countries have quotas — a total number of visas per year allowed to be handed out for those passport holders — so check the website carefully for your application deadline.

2. Check the age range.

Like most working holiday visas, New Zealand’s has an age restriction: from 18-30. However, a select few passport holders can apply past that… until age 35. These countries are: Argentina, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay. So if you hold a passport from one of these countries, don’t worry, you still have a few more years to pack your bags for Aotearoa.

3. See if the guidelines match your needs.

Before you apply, see if the guidelines apply to you:

  • You can work at any job you want, so long as it is legal, not permanent, and you are not providing commercial sexual services.
  • You also may not invest in or run a business that provides commercial sexual services, although you may work in an establishment that provides those services (as a bookkeeper or receptionist, say.)
  • You can do some study or training over the course of this visa, so long as it does not last for more than 6 months.
  • You may not apply if you have already received a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa before.
  • You must have $4200 NZD to live on while you’re in New Zealand.
  • You must maintain medical insurance while in New Zealand, which may mean taking out a private policy if you are not eligible for the socialized healthcare system.
  • You must have either an onwards travel ticket out of New Zealand, or sufficient funds to purchase one at the end of your trip.
  • You apply and pass entry permission requirements when you arrive in New Zealand. You do this by applying for an arrival card. You may not be issued an arrival card if:

  • You don’t meet the character requirements.
  • Your circumstances have changed since you applied for the visa.
  • You refuse to provide an entry photograph, fingerprints, or iris scans, if requested.
  • You’re unable to provide evidence of onward travel or sufficient funds to purchase onward travel.

4. Get your data together.

Have all your paperwork in order and it will make the application process much faster. You will need:

  • A passport valid for at least 15 months from the time you enter New Zealand. Depending on when you apply for your visa, this could mean renewing your passport before you apply. Once you are issued a visa (assuming you are), you must travel within 12 months of the issue date. Do some math and figure out whether your passport is valid as it is.
  • Proof of medical fitness.
  • If you are applying for your visa from INSIDE New Zealand, you will need to provide a chest x-ray and general medical certificate. If you are from Singapore, Austria, or Malaysia, and you have been in New Zealand less than 6 months, you only need to provide the chest x-ray.
  • If you are applying for your visa from OUTSIDE New Zealand, you only need to provide a chest x-ray and general medical certificate if you have spent more than 3 months in countries with high incidence of TB, unless you are from Canada or the UK. Because Canada and the UK are the only countries whose passport-holders may stay for 23 months, citizens must always provide chest x-rays and general medical certificates.
  • Proof of good character. If you have ever been convicted of a crime for which you received a sentence of imprisonment for 5 years or more; if you have been convicted in the last 10 years and received a sentence of imprisonment for 12 months or more; or if you have ever been deported from any country, you may not enter New Zealand. If you have been charged with a crime but not yet been convicted; or committed any kind of immigration-related offense, you may require a special waiver to be granted a visa.
  • Proof that your application is bona fide. This means you must provide all supporting documents requested. If you knowingly provide misleading information on your application, or it seems obvious you plan to break the terms of the visa, you will be denied.
  • Proof of medical insurance for the duration of your stay. You do not need to provide this on the application, but you may need to provide it when you arrive in the country and apply for your arrival card.

5. Apply online.

All applications are made online. There is no cost to apply. The time frame for processing can vary, but for US citizens it takes 20 working days. You need to start by making an account.

The New Zealand Immigration website allows you to check your eligibility requirements, your possible fees, and your time frame for processing based on your country of citizenship and where you are while applying for the visa. Please double check your requirements and fees before applying as data may change.

6. Working Holiday Extension Work Visa, if you love New Zealand so much you want to stay.

You can make a one-off application to extend your working holiday visa by three months if you are already in New Zealand and have completed three months of seasonal work in the horticulture or viticulture (fruit, vegetable, or flower-growing) industries over the term of your visa. Seasonal work is defined as planting, maintaining, harvesting, or packing crops.

To apply for this extension, you must meet all the criteria of your original visa, as well as:

  • Either your original passport or a certified copy of your original passport.
  • 2 acceptable photos of your head and shoulders.
  • You must currently be legally in New Zealand when you make the application.
  • Proof that you completed 3 months of seasonal work — this can be pay stubs, tax records, or letters from employers.

7. If you have a UK passport, and you are over 30, or have already gotten a Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand, consider the BUNAC IEP visa.

BUNAC offers one-off work exchange visas for UK citizens who have already had a Working Holiday Visa from New Zealand. This visa is exclusive to BUNAC, and applications are very competitive.

The BUNAC IEP visa is good for another 12 months in New Zealand, for applicants between 18-35. It costs £650, payable to BUNAC. You can only have one in a lifetime. This visa includes some benefits totally unrelated to NZ immigration, such as:

  • Insurance booking through a reputable agent
  • A Lonely Planet guidebook for NZ
  • Orientation packet and job-finding help
  • Bank account and tax (IRD) number
  • SIM card
  • Mail holding and forwarding service
  • 24-hour hotline