How to Emigrate to New Zealand

How to Emigrate to New Zealand

Originally published in January 2016

Welcome to A Place in the Sun's in-depth guide to emigrating to New Zealand, it has been written to help you decide whether moving to the other side of the world is right for you

Below are listed the main areas that we have covered within the guide in order that they are likely to be considered - if you wish to skip to a particular section, simply click on subject of interest.

Why move to New Zealand?


Character and health requirements

Visa waiver

Working visas

– Skilled migrant visas

– Occupational registration

– Expression of interest

– Invitation to Apply

– How the points add up

– Work to residence

Business and investment visas

Family visas

Buying a property

Where to live and work in New Zealand

Other useful information

Five Reasons to Emigrate to New Zealand

1. Quality of Life

New Zealand comes third in’s global survey of quality of life, behind Switzerland and Germany. The survey estimates quality of life based on purchasing power, pollution, house price to income ratio, safety index, health care, average commuting times and climate.

2. It’s healthy

In the OECD Better Life Index, New Zealand came top out of 34 industrialised countries for health. Across the OECD, 68 per cent of adults said their own health was good or very good. In New Zealand the figure was 90 per cent.

3. The economy

The New Zealand economy has been growing faster than most European countries, including the UK. It grew by 3.6 per cent in 2014 and more than 2 per cent in 2015. This is despite the slowdown in Chinese growth, which has been a major export market for New Zealand commodities. As Asia-Pacific becomes the world’s global economic powerhouse the future looks very rosy for New Zealand.

4. People care

The OECD also measured “civic engagement” – how involved folk were in their own community, turning out to vote for example, or taking part in consultations. In this New Zealand came third out of 34 countries.

5. Room to run

New Zealand has 17 people per square kilometre compared to 267 in the United Kingdom. All that space and the mild climate encourages a sporty culture that has seen it consistently in the top three nations for global sporting success per head of population (although it dropped to 4th in 2015). Great Britain was 26th! (source:

6. Room to breathe

While the average new British home is 76 square metres and shrinking, and 150,000 children are in a single bedroom partitioned into two (according to a report in 2014), in New Zealand homes are getting bigger. In 1980 the average new New Zealand home was 142 square metres but by 2011 it was an astonishing 205 square metres. The typical home is detached and with a garden.

7. You will probably love it

A survey of migrants to New Zealand in 2008 found that after 18 months in the country, more than nine out of ten were “satisfied" or "very satisfied" with life there. More than 80 per cent felt “very safe”. Nearly half were already home-owners and 82 per cent were enjoying their job.


The requirements for emigration to New Zealand are a little lower than to Australia. You can be aged up to and including 55 years old, and the list of occupations in demand by New Zealand includes more manual labour, such as bakers, scaffolders, roofers and parachute trainers. It also welcomes more creative and artistic careers alongside the more professional and managerial careers.

The process of applying is similar, with most applicants for residence and work visas first making an Expression of Interest from which the immigration authorities, which we will call NZ Immigration, can give you a points tally. NZ Immigration then choose the ones with the most points and invite you to apply for a visa. As in Australia, having a firm offer of a job in an occupation New Zealand wants is your best chance of being successful.

New Zealand has two useful immigration websites: which is a more welcoming and user-friendly, or which is more detailed and technical.

Character, health and English language requirements

All applicants must show they are in good health and of good character. Most will also need to prove they can speak English. Whatever your eligibility on other grounds, you will usually be declined a visa on character grounds if:

– You have any criminal convictions that involved a prison sentence of over five years, or over 12 months if within the past ten years.

– You have ever been deported from any country

– You have been known to be involved in any criminal activity or terrorist group, or the authorities think you may be a threat to security or public order.

New Zealand will refuse any visa applicants who are deemed to be a health risk or will “impose excessive costs and demands on our health and special education services.” The website has a long list of conditions and disabilities that will normally prevent you getting a visa, including TB, HIV, haemophilia, dementia, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, uncontrolled epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, conditions requiring dialysis and any disabilities that will require full-time care or care in the community.

It also includes blindness and deafness. You must also be physically able to do the work of the job for which you are applying for a visa.

If you have any of these, don’t panic straight away as there are often exceptions or work-arounds. A assessor will decide if your condition is likely to cost New Zealand more than $41,000 within the next five years. In deciding that they will consider such factors as whether you, your family, employer or a charity can pay any of it.

Being able to speak English is a requirement for most visas. Unfortunately, for the British, there are no extra points awarded for it, you just won’t be allowed a work visa if your English isn’t up to it. Anybody who has spent more than three years in British education automatically qualifies.

Visa waiver

If you want to just try living in New Zealand for a while without working, United Kingdom passport holders are allowed to stay in New Zealand for six months (from some other countries it is three months) without a visa.

You will need to show a return ticket, evidence of sufficient funds to live on (at least $1,000 per month without accommodation, $400 per month if accommodation is prepaid) either in the form of cash or travellers cheques, or bank/credit card statements showing sufficient credit.

Any children traveling with you must also have return tickets and funds.

You will not be able to spend more than six months in any 12 in New Zealand, but that does allow you to see if you like the lifestyle. You can also buy a property without becoming a resident, enabling you to spend every English winter enjoying New Zealand’s summer.

Working visas

There are two categories of work visas:

Skilled Migrant Category

Work to Residence

Skilled Migrant Category visas

This will allow you to move to New Zealand and live their permanently. The basic requirements are:

You must be 55 or under

You must be healthy and of good character

You must speak English

You will stand a much better chance if you are skilled in occupations that New Zealand has identified it needs, known as “future growth areas”. Briefly, these are biotechnology, information communications technology and creative industries. This last category includes advertising, software computing services, publishing, TV, radio, film and video, architecture, design, designer fashion, music and performing arts, and the visual arts.

You also stand a good chance if your occupation is listed in “absolute skills shortage” lists. These include careers such as:

  • Agriculture and forestry, with qualifications at degree level
  • Construction, with qualifications to degree level plus at least three years experience
  • Engineering
  • Finance, such as procurement
  • Health and social services
  • Chefs, with qualifications and experience
  • Geographers and environmental scientists
  • Mechanics
  • Electricians
  • Ships officers

Some occupations are listed in the “immediate skills shortage list’ which offers faster processing. This list includes:

  • Agriculture and forestry: beekeepers, tree surgeons, cattle/poultry/pig farmers
  • University lecturers
  • Accountants
  • Tandem parachute jump-master (you’ll need to have done a thousand jumps)
  • Baker
  • Scaffolder
  • Upholsterer
  • Jockey

Some occupations are on the “regional skills shortage list”, in high demand but only in certain areas, such as:

  • Horse trainers in Waikato and Bay of Plenty
  • Winemakers in South Island
  • Medical photographers in Auckland
  • Oil and gas professionals in Wellington

The Canterbury region of South Island, which incudes the city of Christchurch, was devastated by a series of earthquakes in 2010/11. It has a large number of occupations on its regional list, mainly in the construction industry and at all levels from drain layers to roofers.

Occupational Registration

If you do see your job among the lists – and even if you don’t, because you can still get a job outside these industries – you will need to get your qualifications recognised. This even applies to some careers where in the UK we don’t need qualifications, such as estate agents. Applying is quite simple.

Under the “occupational registration” section of the website is a list of the careers that require registration and the details of the relevant authority in New Zealand that you need to contact.

Expression of Interest (EOI)

New Zealand uses a points system based on factors such as age, qualifications and employability. There are various quick-check online questionnaires that will give you an indication of whether you will be granted a visa but at the time of writing, January 2016, you require a minimum of 100 points.

If you think you will qualify, fill out an Expression of Interest (EOI). The EOI form is long but straightforward, with checkbox questions, alongside more detailed queries about previous employment and qualifications. It takes around two hours to complete but you do not have to send in any evidence at this point. You can fill it out online or print off a paper version, which you send along with your fee (for skilled migrant, $530 for online or $680 for hard copy).

If your points add up to over 100, then your EOI will be accepted by the immigration department and put into a pool. From this pool, every two weeks the immigration department automatically selects the EOIs with 140 points or over. Then it looks at EOIs with 100 to 139 points and selects those with a job offer first, up to that fortnight’s quota. If the quota still isn’t filled it picks out even lower scored EOIs.

For the EOIs selected it sends an Invitation to Apply. If your EOI is not selected after six months it is discarded – your fee is not returned.

Invitation to Apply

NZ Immigration send you another application form, but this time with the information you gave on the EOI already filled in. You check the information is still correct, provide evidence to support your claims and send it all back with the fee within four months.

If you miss the deadline you need to start again – so it is worth getting all your information ready before you start the process if you think there may be any delays. The cost of the Skilled Migrant Visa application is £1,420 ($3,126 at time of press)

When your form is processed it will either be accepted and your residence granted, declined or deferred. If deferred you will be offered a Skilled Migrant category Job Search Visa which allows you to go to New Zealand and look for a skilled job. You can stay for up to nine months and work for any employer while you look for a skilled job.

How the points add up

On the website there is a comprehensive set of questions that will allow you to check your likely points. It is worth going into this in great detail as the answers are not always obvious, and there may be ways to easily, but honestly, boost your points tally. For a full list of points, see the side panel. Here are some of the more obvious point scorers:

Skilled employment: 50-60 points for a job or job offer in a specialist or technical industry. There are extra points for industries in the skills shortage lists.

Work experience: Extra points are granted if you have worked in that industry in New Zealand already. There is a clear advantage for those who have already had temporary visas.

Recognised qualifications: 40-60 points. For a masters level degree you would get 60, for a bachelor degree 50 and for a diploma 40.

Age: 5 to 30 points. The younger you are (over 20) the higher the points.

Close family: 10 points if you have close family in New Zealand.

Points and bonus points

100 points will get your EOI into the ‘pool’, but the more points you have, the more likely you are to be selected.


30 points: 20-29 years

25 points: 30-39 years

20 points: 40-44 years

10 points: 45-49 years

5 points: 50-55 years.

Close family

10 points for close family in New Zealand.

Skilled employment

50 points: job offer

50 points: working in a skilled job in New Zealand for less than 12 months

60 points: working in a skilled job in New Zealand for more than 12 months.

Bonus points

10 points: work in an identified future growth area

10 points: work in an area of absolute skills shortage

30points: work in a region outside Auckland

20 points: if partner has a skilled job or job offer.

Work experience in skilled employment

10 points: 2 years

15 points: 4 years

20 points: 6 years

25 points: 8 years

30 points: 10 years

Bonus points for work experience in New Zealand

5points: one year

10 points: two years

15 points: three or more years.

Work experience in future growth area

10 points: 2 to 5 years experience

15 points: 6 or more years experience.

Work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage

10 points: 2 to 5 years

15 points: 6 or more years.


40 points: recognised trade qualification or diploma

50 points: recognised bachelor degree, bachelor degree with honours

60 points: recognised post-graduate qualification (masters degree or doctorate)

Bonus points for qualifications

10 points: two years full-time study in New Zealand completing bachelor degree

10 points: one year full-time study in New Zealand completing post-graduate qualification

15 points: two years full-time study in New Zealand completing post-graduate qualification

10 points: qualification in an identified future growth area

10 points: qualification in an area of absolute skills shortage

10 points: if your partner holds recognised trade qualification or diploma

20 points: if your partner has a degree

Work to Residence

Your chances of getting a residence visa are improved if you have already lived and worked in New Zealand. To do that, if you have skills required by New Zealand employers you can apply to live and work there under the Work to Residence category. The usual health and character rules apply.

You have a number of options. Firstly, you can apply for a job with a New Zealand employer. If the job offer you receive is for an occupation on the Long Term Shortage List you can apply under that category.

If your job offer is not in an occupation on that list you might still get through under the Talent (Accredited Employers) Work category if your potential employer is accredited to recruit from abroad. You could also apply under the Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports) Work category for people who New Zealand feels would enhance the country’s reputation, or the Entrepreneur Work Visa category if you are setting up a business.

To apply, which you can do from within New Zealand if you are already there legally, get your supporting evidence ready in pdf form first, then make an online (or paper) application which takes around 15 minutes. The fee is $298.

Business and Investment visas

If you have money to invest, New Zealand will roll out the red carpet to you. Or at least, give you a much snazzier website, Your visa options include:

Investor: A permanent residence visa. You must be 65 or under, speaking English, with three year’s business experience and investing $1.5million for four years, with another $1million in settlement funds

Investor Plus: A permanent residence visa with no English, age or experience requirements, but investing $10million in New Zealand for three years. Health and character requirements must still be met. The fee is $4,745.

Temporary Retirement Category: A two-year visa for visitors aged over 66 who are investing in New Zealand and need to stay longer than for an ordinary visitor. Financial requirements are that the applicant invests at least $750,000 in New Zealand for at least two years, has $500,000 in maintenance funds and an annual income of at least $60,000.

The visa does not allow for any dependent children and you must be covered for health and travel insurance.

Entrepreneur Work Visa: Valid for three years, after which it can be changed for a permanent residence version. This is intended for someone buying an existing business or starting one up. It comes in two stages. The Start-up stage is a work visa lasting 12 months that allows you to come to New Zealand and buy/set up the business.

If you can show that you have taken steps to establish the business you are then granted another two years, called the Balance stage. There are a number of requirements:

- Minimum investment of $100,000

- Earning at least 120 points. This is not the same as the Skilled Migrant points scheme, but one based on your own experience and the likely benefit to New Zealand of your planned business.

For example, employing 10+ New Zealand citizens earns you 80 points. $1m turnover or capital investment earns another 80 points. Opening a business outside Auckland can earn an extra 40 points.

- The application costs $3,920 and takes around three months. As well as all the character and health requirements (you need to provide medical certificates and chest X-ray certificates) you will need evidence of your capital investment, a self-assessment of your points tally and a business plan.

Family visas

Parent of New Zealand resident or citizen

This is a permanent residence visa for parents of people who have been residents of New Zealand for at least three years. You must fill out an EOI and then be invited to apply. The visa is in two tiers.

Tier One requires the sponsor (your adult children who are resident in New Zealand) to have an income of at least $65,000 and you, the applicant, to have a guaranteed lifetime income of at least $27,319 (or $40,084 for a couple) via settlement funds of at least $500,000.

Tier Two has much lower financial requirements – your sponsor must earn at least $33,675 per annum – but you must prove that all your adult children live outside your own country of residence. There are special Expression of Interest forms for these visas, however applications do get oversubscribed and there is often a queueing system in operation.

Parents’ and grandparents’ multiple entry

This does not require an EOI. It allows parents and grandparents (and their partners) of New Zealand residents a three-year visa to come and go to New Zealand for not more than six months on each occasion, up to 18 months in the three-year period. They must be sponsored by the child or grandchild, who must be in New Zealand when the parent/grandparent visits. The application fee is a hefty $3,620.

Buying a Property in New Zealand

Buying property in New Zealand is generally efficient and safe. Agents must be licensed, so check on the Real Estate Agents Authority website that yours is legal. Following an Anglo-Saxon model, the legal processes are relatively cheap, generally costing no more than $3,000 including your legal costs, survey and registration.

Foreigners can buy property, and although that doesn’t grant residency rights, it can go towards the “acceptable investments” category for investor visas, if the property is brand new or off-plan.

Homes costing more than $10million and on a plot larger than five hectares (or 2,000 square metres on the coast) must be approved by the Overseas Investment Office.

Property Buying Process

There are three usual ways to buy residential property:

Sale by Private Treaty: much like the UK system, the house is offered at a price which the buyer may haggle over before making a non-binding verbal offer. If accepted the seller provides a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) covering similar information as a solicitor’s search would in the UK.

The buyer’s lawyer or conveyancer checks the documents and prepares a sale and purchase agreement. When ready to go ahead, the buyer signs the contract, which is now binding, and pays a 10% deposit into the agent’s trust account. The deal is completed usually three weeks later and the balance of money transferred.

Tender: The seller offers a guide price, closing date and tender documents. Prospective buyers fill in a sale and purchase agreement and send it with a cheque for the 5 or 10 per cent deposit. The seller decides which offer to accept, if any, and the process continues to completion.

Auction: The LIM is provided and prospective purchasers may get a building inspection/survey before the auction. The successful bidder must pay 10% immediately and the balance on completion.

Where to work and live in New Zealand

New Zealand is a country divided into two main islands, North Island and South Island, and many smaller ones. There are many more people on North Island, around 3.2million compared to the one million on South Island, and hence more economic activity and a better chance of finding a job.


Curiously for such an empty country, with 17 people per square kilometre compared to 267 in the UK, a third of the population squeezes into Auckland, on a narrow strip of land at the top of North Island. Here, despite house prices rocketing to eight times average earnings, the city has been judged third best city in the world to live by Mercers and ninth best by The Economist. Virtually surrounded by water, it is nicknamed the City of Sails.

While it isn’t the capital of New Zealand, it is the wealthiest and biggest city, with nearly 1.5 million people. Most of the global corporations with a presence in New Zealand are based here now and as a major business centre it has a large immigrant and expat population. A quarter of the population are of Asian origin and 60 per cent European.

The authorities are keen to encourage newcomers to live in parts of New Zealand other than Auckland, and give extra points for visas in other areas, but the Immediate Skills Shortage List nevertheless includes shortages in poultry farming, construction surveyors, pharmacists, chemists and weavers, among others.

The nearby area of Waikato is also an employment hotspot, always famous for its dairy industry but increasingly with businesses serving Auckland. Skills shortages here include dentists and horse trainers. The biggest city here is Hamilton, population 188,000.


The capital of New Zealand, with a population approaching 400,000, Wellington is at the southern end of North Island. The Lonely Planet refers to it as the “coolest little capital in the world”.

Skills shortages specifically noted here rather than generally in New Zealand include oil and gas technicians and engineers, dentists and chemists. However Wellington’s economy also leans towards tourism, IT, culture and the arts. Dubbed “Wellywood” for its movie production industry, Lord of the Rings and Avatar were among many filmed here.

Central North Island

Between the two cities are some 600 kilometres of countryside and mountains. Skills shortages identified here in particular are in the oil and gas industry, rural tourism and ski instructing.

South Island

With a population of one million, South Island is larger, wilder and cooler than North Island, with even more space. Skills in demand include viniculture (specialist knowledge, not picking), tourism, dentistry and skiing.


The largest city in South Island, Christchurch has 382,000 people and could be the most English city outside of England. It has 84 per cent European heritage, a climate much like southern England and sits on the river Avon with districts including Brighton and St Albans. No wonder that 30 British people arrive here to start a new life every week.

It was hit by a series of earthquakes that killed 185 people. The violence of the earth shaking was judged the strongest ever in an urban environment which, unsurprisingly, caused some recent arrivals to pack their bags. Also unsurprisingly, therefore, there are many jobs in construction and has a separate occupations list (Canterbury Skill Shortage List) covering it.

There are also jobs in tourism, manufacturing, retail, business services and education (especially in its universities).

Other Useful Information

Passports must have at least three months remaining after the date of your departure.

Driving: your UK licence will cover you for a year, after which you must take a New Zealand driving test and carry your licence all the time. One good thing, in New Zealand they drive on the left.

Health services. If you have an accident in New Zealand you will be covered by the Accident Compensation Scheme. However the government still advises you to have adequate private health cover.

Plug sockets in New Zealand are not the same as in the UK.