So, you want to work in New Zealand! That’s great. As a US citizen under 35, there are two ways you can get a visa to do this:
- If you are under 30, get a traditional New Zealand working holiday visa
- If you are under 35, get a working holiday visa through BUNAC (this is what I did)
For the purpose of this post, we’re going to assume you have already received your working holiday visa. There are several big international travel planning steps that 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
- 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 in preparation for my own move to New Zealand.
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.
Preparing for a New Zealand Working Holiday
1. Check on vaccine requirements
For US citizens, just routine vaccinations are needed to enter New Zealand, 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 what would be 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 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 if I feel strongly about any particular country, I will be ready.
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 a requirement 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 make sure you have easy access to your funds once in New Zealand. One huge perk of the BUNAC IEP Work New Zealand program is they will set up a New Zealand bank account for you, which should be ready upon arrival. In case 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, do research on how to do international wire transfers from your home bank so you can deposit money locally once your New Zealand bank account is set up. 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, and you cannot do this once you’re overseas. I just got my account set up, and it took me three weeks.
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 will be expiring 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 was set to expire.
Also, check the expiration date of any prescription medications you need and get those renewed. If you wear glasses and/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.
Tip: Take a photo of your prescriptions and save them in an email folder in case 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 to cancel these subscriptions! Put that money toward your travel savings instead, and enjoy more fun stuff in New Zealand.
Also, remember to cancel any automatic bill payments. I made this mistake when I moved to California and ended up paying over a hundred dollars in fines. Not worth it! I will keep my US account open, but I will use my NZ account as my working account for paying 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. This is a work in progress for me, and I will update this with any helpful information as I figure it out in New Zealand.
5. Stop worrying about what you’re going to pack
Instead, take care of these important things, and then 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.
Some New Zealand bucket list inspiration:
- 6 Cheap or Free Things to Do in New Zealand
- New Zealand: Christchurch City Guide
- Things to Do in Queenstown for the Less Adventurous
- Travel New Zealand By Bus: Everything You Need to Know