So, you want to work in New Zealand! That’s great. As a US citizen under 35 years old, there are two ways you can get a visa to do this:
- If you are 18 to 30 years old, get a traditional New Zealand working holiday visa
- If you are over 30 years old, get a working holiday visa through BUNAC
We’re going to assume you have already received your working holiday visa for this post. Several big international travel planning steps may have been included in the visa application process, such as:
- Making sure your passport is valid at least 6 months after you plan to return home
- Purchasing a flight to New Zealand
- Arranging international travel insurance
- Saving money for your trip
Beyond these big steps, there is still a lot to do. The specifics will vary for everyone depending on the timeline, personal preferences, and plans. I have slowly but surely been crossing things off a long to-do list to prepare for my New Zealand move.
Here are some of the important things I have done (or am in the process of doing) that are relevant to anyone who is preparing for a working holiday in New Zealand.
Prepare for a New Zealand Working Holiday
1. Check on vaccine requirements
Just routine vaccinations are needed to enter New Zealand for US citizens, but will you be visiting any other countries during your travels?
I have a layover in Fiji on my way there. It’s a long enough layover to leave the airport, so I looked into Fiji’s visa and vaccination requirements. I also researched the most practical thing to do with the amount of time I have on my layover. The internet is full of useful information if you look in the right places. I think I have a nice little afternoon planned for myself!
This layover led me to consider whether or not I might want to visit other countries during my year in New Zealand. Or perhaps I will want to plan a trip somewhere on my way home. I made a list of potential places and have done the same research and preparation. I don’t have any plans set in stone, but I will be ready if I feel strongly about any particular country.
2. Figure out your finances
First of all, make sure you save up a sufficient amount of money to live on while job searching and exploring. Having a good financial cushion for the first few weeks of your new life in New Zealand will make the transition much easier and less stressful.
Proof of at least $3,000-$4,100 USD (depending on whether you purchase a one-way or round-trip flight) is required if you’re participating in the BUNAC IEP Work New Zealand program.
Tip: Make sure to bring a copy of an up-to-date bank statement as proof of funds to show while going through customs and immigration.
The second step is to ensure you have easy access to your funds once in New Zealand. One huge perk of the BUNAC program is that they help set up a New Zealand bank account for you, ready upon arrival.
If it’s not ready when you get there, ensure you’re not spending a chunk of your savings just on bank fees. Check on international transaction fees and ATM withdrawal limitations of your home bank and credit cards.
Also, research how to do international wire transfers from your home bank so you can deposit money locally once your New Zealand bank account is ready. You can also bring cash to exchange when you get there, but it might not be at the best exchange rate.
Jackie has written about how an online Charles Schwab bank account has helped her avoid paying ATM fees. Just be sure not to wait on looking into this if you decide to go this route, as it takes a couple of weeks to go through the process of setting it up and getting your ATM card, which you cannot do once you’re overseas. I just got my account set up, and it took me three weeks.
Read more about New Zealand:
- New Zealand Working Holiday Visa (podcast)
- Travel New Zealand By Bus: Everything You Need to Know
- 6 Cheap or Free Things to Do in New Zealand
3. Renew anything that will expire while you’re away
Check the expirations dates of the credit cards, debit cards, and state identification cards you plan to bring with you. If they expire while you are out of the country, get them updated early.
I easily renewed my license online (I live in Massachusetts), and my bank was more than willing to give me a new debit card that they made on the spot when I explained to them I would be out of the country when my card would expire.
Also, check the expiration date of any prescription medications you need and get those renewed. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, get updated copies of your prescriptions to have on hand in case you lose your glasses or run out of contacts while you’re abroad.
Travel Tip: Take photos of your prescriptions and save them in an email folder if you lose the paper copies.
4. Cancel subscriptions and turn off auto-payments
I’m thinking of Netflix, Bark Box, Blue Apron, Birchbox, Stitch Fix – anything like that. Don’t wait for another second to cancel these subscriptions! Do it as soon as you decide to go on your WH, and put that money toward your travel savings instead. You’ll be able to enjoy more fun stuff in New Zealand!
Also, remember to cancel any automatic bill payments. I made this mistake when I moved to California after college and paid over a hundred dollars in fines accrued in just a week. Not worth it! I plan to keep my US account open, but I will use my NZ account to pay bills, etc. So, if you also choose to do this, be sure to change payments over to your new bank account as soon as possible.
5. Stop worrying about what you’re going to pack
Instead, take care of these important things and perhaps focus on creating your ultimate New Zealand bucket list! Remember, New Zealand will have anything you forget to pack or realize you need. Making the logistics of your trip happen as smoothly as possible will put your mind at ease.
Explore New Zealand:
- New Zealand: Christchurch City Guide
- Things to Do in Queenstown for the Less Adventurous
- Wanaka, New Zealand City Guide
- Rotorua, New Zealand City Guide
- 5 Best Day Hikes in New Zealand + Helpful Hiking Tips