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Moving to New Zealand for the First-Time Expat

Moving to New Zealand

More than Farms and Sheep in Middle Earth

by Christa Pirl

After my boyfriend had been aboard a navy submarine for five years we were ready for an adventure together. We both wanted to move abroad but felt constrained by language and working visas. So we researched English-speaking countries and decided on New Zealand. The plan was to travel there for one month to investigate obtaining work permits. If nothing worked out, we would move back to the States.

Work and Work Permits

Before leaving the States we spoke with a private immigration consultant in New Zealand and discovered that—other than marrying a Kiwi—the most straightforward way to get a 2-year renewable work permit is to qualify for a job listed on the government Immediate Skills Shortage List (www.immigration.govt.nz). If your skill is on the list, you pretty much have a free pass into the country. Jobs on the list (updated every six months) range from aircraft engineer to florist to ski instructor. The catch is you must have a job offer before applying for the permit.

Hire a Consultant

The application process can be confusing and time-consuming; I highly recommend hiring a private consultant to walk you through the process. The fee is approximately NZ$800 for a couple. Pick a consultant from the list offered on the government’s web site and you know you will get what you pay for. I used Global Visas (www.globalvisas.co.nz), which offers free initial consultations. After a flip though the country’s main daily newspaper, The New Zealand Herald, it seemed there would be no problem finding work. The paper is filled with ads for all the jobs on the shortage list and is available at www.nzherald.co.nz (want ads on Wednesdays). After only a few calls I had interviews lined up. But the process was slow, and patience is required.

Four weeks after arriving I was offered a job, and four days later (with the help of our immigration consultant) I had a work permit in my hands. Then things got even better. New Zealand does not like to split up families, or couples who have been in a “marriage-like relationship” for more than two years, so my boyfriend received a work permit as well.

Settling In

We settled in Auckland, the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the country. It is also the easiset place to get a job (unless of course you are a professional sheep-shearer or wine-maker). The downtown is compact and it’s easy to get around by public transportation or on foot. The Gulf of Hauraki, where the city sits, is filled with sailboats and swimmers every weekend. There is an active arts community with a flourishing theater scene. The New Zealanders are a friendly bunch, always eager to help newcomers and share their unique cultural mix of the native Maoris and English pioneers.

Finding a home in Auckland is easy. A 1-bedroom apartment costs around NZ$250 a week. (The exchange rate is about NZ$.70 to the U.S. dollar, the reverse of the euro/dollar exchange.) A small house or decent apartment currently costs about NZ$250,000.

While work keeps us in Auckland during the week, the real beauty and charm of New Zealand is in its countryside, which we venture into every weekend. Nothing is very far; the countryside is a half-hour drive from the city. A short flight takes you to the South Island with its fiords, rainforests, and even glaciers.

After two years in the country, we can say with certainty that New Zealand should be on the short list for anyone who wants to move to a quiet, beautiful, English-speaking country.