So, you want to apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa to travel and explore the land of the long white cloud.
Awesome choice. New Zealand is as diverse in culture, as it is rich in stunning landscapes. If you have a craving for the outdoors, stunning landscape diversity or hunger for nature, you’re definitely coming to the right place.
Plus if you have a hunger for anything else, the food here is amazing too. And don’t even get me started on the awesomeness of the coffee.
How to Apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa: A Step-by-Step Guide.
First I’ll go over what a New Zealand working holiday visa is, who can apply for one and explain some of the benefits of deciding to have a working holiday in New Zealand.
Then I’ll cover how you can meet the visa criteria and the visa requirements. Before finally going over the application process.
It’s a relatively simple visa process but there are a few important things to remember when applying for any visa. So follow this step-by-step guide on how to apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.
What is a New Zealand working holiday visa?
A New Zealand Working Holiday Visa (or WHV) is a visa available to young people, that allows you to live and work in New Zealand for up to 12 months. (Or 23 months if you’re a Canadian or UK citizen).
This working holiday visa was created so that young travellers can experience the culture of New Zealand and fund their travels by being able to get a job in New Zealand.
So effectively, you are having a ‘working’ holiday in New Zealand.
The purpose of a New Zealand working holiday visa as defined by New Zealand Immigration is:
“You should be coming mainly to travel, with work being a secondary intention”.
So keep that in mind that you are expected to spend most of your time travelling, and supplement that travel with work. You can’t use an NZ working holiday visa solely as a work visa.
Although once you’re there — because there is no restriction on how long you can work for one employer — technically there is nothing stopping you from working for 99% of the 12 months. Or finding yourself in circumstances where you work more than you travel.
It’s just not what the visa is designed for — so it’s a bit of a grey area.
Why have a working holiday in New Zealand?
Having a working holiday in New Zealand can open you up to a whole new culture, enables you to live that laid-back Kiwi lifestyle and gives you the chance to explore New Zealand’s North and South islands for a whole year.
You can try out working in a different industry, learn new skills, and experience a diverse work culture.
And working, travelling and navigating your way through a new country for a year can lead to you developing valuable life skills and creating lasting friendships.
I worked in some unique places whilst I was on my working holiday visa, with The New Zealand National Library in Wellington being the most interesting job that I had.
And when my partner and I travelled around New Zealand, he got a job at Hobbiton movie set in Matamata, which was really exciting at the time.
I also went on some awesome road trips and made some amazing friends who I still keep in touch with now.
New Zealand is full of stunning landscapes and provides the potential for endless road trips. And for outdoor enthusiasts, it’s an absolute haven with heaps of mountains, lakes, beaches, waterfalls, glaciers and volcanoes to explore.
Who can get a New Zealand working holiday visa?
New Zealand Working Holiday Visas are available to anyone between the ages of 18 and 30, but also to anyone between the ages of 18-35 in some select countries like Canada. The age of eligibility depends on your nationality.
Some countries only offer a limited quota of New Zealand working holiday visa applications per year. These are offered on a first-come-first-serve basis. You can check if your country has quotas, the opening time for quotas and each country’s scheme criteria on the New Zealand immigration website.
Now that we’re all mostly in post-covid times, New Zealand Immigration has announced it’s increasing its caps for working holiday schemes and is extending the visas of working holiday makers already in New Zealand. So, if you missed out on getting this visa for New Zealand, you might now be in luck.
New Zealand has working holiday visa scheme agreements in place with 45 countries. You can apply for a New Zealand working holiday visa if you are from any of the following countries:
New Zealand Working Holiday Visa Schemes
How long is a New Zealand working holiday visa for?
A New Zealand working holiday visa allows you to work and travel in New Zealand for up to 12 months. Or up to 23 months if you’re from the UK or Canada.
- So if you’re from the UK or Canada, you can get an NZ WHV for up to almost 2 years. For all other nationalities, you can only get one for 12 months.
- You can apply upfront for the whole 23 months before you go, or you can apply for the 12-month visa first and then apply for the balance of 11 months once you’re there.
- If you apply for your 2nd-year extension whilst you’re on your first 12-month visa, don’t worry you won’t lose any remainder of the visa you’re on. The 2nd year will start when your 1st year finishes.
Meeting the Criteria and Visa Requirements
Once you’ve found out if your nationality is eligible for an NZ working holiday visa, the next step is to check if you meet the criteria and visa requirements for holding this visa.
Don’t worry too much about phrases like ‘meeting the criteria’. For most applicants, it’s just the usual process of proving your identity, that your intention to visit New Zealand is genuine, that you can financially support yourself and that you aren’t a sketchy character who could put New Zealand at risk
The criteria below provide you with the information to meet the visa requirements for holding this NZ working holiday visa:
You must provide proof of your identity. You’ll need to provide your passport details when you apply online and your passport must be valid for at least 15 months after you first arrive in New Zealand.
Or 26 months if you’re applying for the entire 23-month New Zealand working holiday visa.
Check your passport expiry date before applying for any visa, it’s amazing how many people get tripped up by this — even I did once.
NOTE: If you later apply for the balance of the 23-month period, you’ll need to provide proof of your identity then too.
You must be in good health.
The Immigration NZ website states, “If you are applying for a working holiday visa you may need to have a chest x-ray or medical examination as proof of your good health. What you need to provide depends on your situation”.
So in general, it depends on things like, how long you can stay in NZ, whether you’ve spent time in countries with a low incidence of TB or whether you’ve previously had a medical examination.
For some passport holders (including mine- the UK) when you apply for the 12-month working holiday visa, you do not need to provide a medical certificate — this is the case most of the time.
However, some passport holders will be asked to provide a medical certificate, and New Zealand Immigration will let you know if you require one when you apply. They might even email you afterwards and ask you to provide one.
If they don’t ask, then you don’t need to.
TIP – If you are from the UK or Canada and you’re applying for the full 23-month New Zealand Working Holiday visa in your first application, you most likely will be asked to provide a full immigration medical with your application.
Here’s what I did:
Immigration medicals in my country (the UK) are expensive and take a long time to get, so my advice is to:
- Apply for a 12-month working holiday visa (no medical required)
- Then apply for the second-year extension once you’re in New Zealand
- Then just provide your medical when you’re applying for the second-year extension.
Doing this makes the application process to get the first one, much faster.
You must be of good character.
When you apply online, you will answer questions about your character and depending on your situation, NZ Immigration may ask you to provide police certificates.
If you have any serious character issues, they may decline your visa application. In a nutshell, if you have been convicted of a crime resulting in serving prison time, you pose a risk to national security, or you have been deported in the past, your application is likely to be declined.
In these cases, you can contact an immigration agent to take on your visa application.
You must genuinely intend to meet the conditions of your visa. This just means they check that your reasons for coming to New Zealand are genuine and that you will obey the law, only intend to stay temporarily and are able to leave New Zealand at the end of your stay.
As long as you say that you are intending to travel around New Zealand and supplement that travel with work whilst behaving yourself — that demonstrates genuine intentions.
New Zealand Immigration states that it is a requirement of a New Zealand working holiday visa “that you have at least $350 NZD to live on for each month of your stay in New Zealand”.
So aim to save around $4,000 – 5,000 NZD to be comfortable and to satisfy visa requirements. This amount is sometimes different depending on your nationality, so make sure you check your country of citizenship requirements.
REMEMBER: There is a chance New Zealand Immigration can ask you to produce evidence of the required funds when you arrive in New Zealand. Whilst it’s important to be prepared, I have never known this to happen to anyone I know — nor has it happened to me.
But it’s always important to follow all immigration rules and requirements as I don’t think it’s ever worth jeopardising your travel freedom.
NOTE: When you apply for the extension for the 2nd year (for the UK and Canadian citizens only), you will definitely be asked to produce evidence of funds.
I was working in NZ and earning money so I sent a photocopy of my bank statement with the visa application, which they accepted. It’s a good idea to have as much money as possible in your bank account when you apply, it just looks better.
Due to New Zealand’s strict onward flight requirements, when you check in for your NZ flight, you must have an onward ticket to leave New Zealand. Or have enough money to buy one, in addition to the funds you are required to have to support yourself.
You will definitely be asked for proof of an onward flight when you check in for your flight to New Zealand at the airport. I have been asked every time I’ve flown into New Zealand, on every visa I’ve entered on.
WHY? The airline has a duty of care to ensure you have a return or onward flight ticket before they’ll even let you check in for your flight. This is because if New Zealand Immigration refuses your entry, it’s the airline’s responsibility to fly you home.
What is the cost of applying for a New Zealand working holiday visa?
The price of a New Zealand working holiday visa depends on the country you’re from. To give you an idea, here are a few examples of application fees for the first 12-month NZ working holiday visa:
- Canada – $350 CAD
- United Kingdom – £230 GBP
- Germany – €260 EUR
- U.S.A. – $ FREE (currently U.S. citizens don’t have to pay an application fee and only have to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) of NZD $35)
These prices do increase every couple of years so always check current New Zealand working holiday visa fees on the New Zealand Immigration website.
How long does a New Zealand working holiday visa take to be approved?
There’s no definitive answer to this. How long it takes to get your visa approved, is dependent on which country you’re applying from. It also depends on if your country has a visa quota and if you’re applying for a 12-month or 23-month working holiday visa.
If your country has a quota, you will know if the quota has already been filled for that year, by checking the NZ Immigration website.
NZ Immigration has a great visa fee finder tool on its website. Simply select the working holiday visa scheme for your country, and your nationality, then select the country you’ll be living in when you apply.
This fee finder then gives you the exact cost or fee and the processing time.
To give you a rough guideline, if you’re from the UK or Europe and applying for the first 12-month New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, the processing time is around 50 working days.
Some people have received theirs even faster — I received mine within a week.
TIP – For a faster application, make sure you provide all the information they’ve asked for. Then your application will be considered ‘application ready’ and this always speeds up visa processing times.
What You Need to Apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa Online
You can apply anytime for this visa and it’s a reasonably simple process. To apply online for your New Zealand working holiday visa, you will need the following:
- at least 15 months validity on your passport
- your full name as it appears in your passport
- your passport number
- full postal address where you can be contacted in your country of residence
- a valid email address
- an Online Services NZ Immigration account (see below on how to get this).
The Application Process
The process for getting a New Zealand working holiday visa is relatively easy and for most countries, you can apply online.
You’ve already read how to meet the criteria for the visa requirements, so filling out the application should be easy based on what you have learned.
The three main steps for applying online for your New Zealand working holiday visa are:
- The first thing you need to do is set up an account with NZ Immigration Online Services. This is a section of the New Zealand Immigration website where you can apply for visas online, plus you can also use it to check the status of your application.
- Once you’ve registered, log in to your Online Services account and you’ll see a few options.
- Select the ‘Working Holiday Schemes’ option, apply and make payment.
After you have completed your application for a working holiday in New Zealand, what do you do next?
Once you’ve applied for your New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, all you have to do is wait to receive confirmation.
You’ll most likely be emailed your notification of the visa grant, so keep an eye out for an email from New Zealand Immigration Online Services.
Whilst you’re waiting, you can think about booking your flight to New Zealand or check out these other New Zealand posts:
Booking your accommodation in New Zealand
How to open a bank account and get your IRD number (you need this before you can apply for jobs)
Planning your trip is always the fun part!
To get some inspiration check out my Travel Resources page where I share all the best websites to use when booking flights, and accommodation, or when buying travel gear.
Don’t forget travel insurance, you need peace of mind you’ll be covered when you’ve booked your trip. I use World Nomads Travel Insurance and I just find them the best for comprehensive coverage anywhere in the world.
Think travel insurance isn’t worth it? Read my post on travel insurance here get all the facts and make an informed decision.
Spoiler — it’s always worth it.
Happy and Safe Travels and Kia Ora!