Working in New Zealand
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
New Zealand suffered during the economic downturn but employment prospects have bounced back and the unemployment rate is below 5%. Vacancies are on the up in all sectors, but especially in construction, architecture and technology.
Your best chance of getting a job is if you can show that your skills and experience match those on the New Zealand long-term and immediate skill shortage lists. The government is actively seeking workers from overseas for these areas and you'll find it easier to get a work or residence visa if you have these skills.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, banking and insurance, and machinery and transportation equipment.
- Recent growth areas: construction and utilities industries. The Auckland and Canterbury regions are expected to be hotspots for job growth.
- Shortage occupations: there are many skills which are in short supply in New Zealand and details of these are available at Immigration New Zealand: Skill Shortage Lists.
- Major companies: Air New Zealand, Contact Energy, Fletcher Building, Fonterra Co-Operative Group, Goodman Fielder (food company), Meridian Energy, Progressive Enterprises (supermarkets), Sky Network Television, Oji Fibre Solutions, Telecom New Zealand, Westpac Banking Corporation.
What’s it like working in New Zealand?
- Average working hours: 37–40 hours per week across five days, with commitment to flexible working practices.
- Holidays: four weeks plus national holidays.
- Tax rates: salary and wages earned in New Zealand are subject to income tax whether you are considered a resident or are in the country temporarily. Income tax is charged on a sliding scale depending on how much you earn, ranging from 10.5% to 33%. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
You can apply for jobs online before going to New Zealand, and may be given a telephone interview as part of this process.
When looking for work, as well as responding to job adverts, it's also a good idea to contact employers directly to ask whether they have any opportunities and to explain your skills and what you can offer their company. You may therefore want to consider going to New Zealand for a short period to dedicate some time to job hunting and visiting companies you're interested in.
Applications are typically made with a CV and covering letter. Rather than listing all of your past jobs, try to focus on the skills you have gained and give some examples of how you got them. The covering letter should explain how you match the requirements of the job. Tips for creating a CV are available at Careers New Zealand.
Interviews tend to be informal and may be led by one to four people. It is likely they'll ask you to give examples of your skills and qualities and you should make sure you have researched the company fully before attending the interview.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
UK qualifications are generally well recognised around the world, but check with the employer or the relevant professional body prior to applying for work. Occupational registration is needed for some careers and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority can help if your qualifications do need to be evaluated.
Details of other various job vacancy and recruitment websites are available at Careers New Zealand.
You can search for recruitment agencies at the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA) and New Zealand Yellow Pages.
Job vacancies are often listed in professional journals. Check the websites of professional bodies on New Zealand Registration Authorities.
It is also useful to attend career expos which feature employers from New Zealand looking to recruit skilled foreign workers. For details of events see Working In events: New Zealand.
It is important to network with potential employers and approach them directly to find out about any job opportunities. You may also find that your professional body or trade association has links and contacts in New Zealand.
Getting work experience
Work placements and internships
Industry training organisations (ITOs) can provide information and advice on workplace training. Details of ITOs are available at Careers New Zealand.
Details of internships in New Zealand can be found at:
If you know what area of work you are interested in you can also search for internships directly on a company’s website.
A working holiday support programme is available to people travelling to New Zealand from a variety of countries including the UK. The programme also sends New Zealanders overseas to the US and Europe. It helps you find a job and somewhere to live and get settled in the country. More information is available at IEP Work New Zealand.
A student-run organisation, AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales), provides international traineeship exchange programmes, which offers work experience for periods ranging from 6 weeks to 18 months.
Trained teachers from outside New Zealand who are interested in teaching in the country can find more information on the TeachNZ website.
Many UK nationals on working holiday visas undertake casual or seasonal work. For example, fruit picking is widely available between January and April.
Useful job sites include:
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
There are a large number of voluntary agencies throughout New Zealand. You can search for voluntary opportunities by type and location on Volunteering New Zealand.
Many people use a working holiday visa to create a gap year in New Zealand. For those who would like more structure, gap year organisations may be able to help. Gap Year New Zealand lists organisations offering gap year opportunities and gives ideas about what you can do during a year out.
Do you need a visa?
UK citizens can get a visitor visa for up to six months when arriving in New Zealand. This can only be used if you don't plan on working in the country.
If you want to work on a temporary basis in New Zealand and are aged between 18 and 30 you can apply for a visa under the working holiday scheme. To be eligible for this, the purpose of your trip must be a holiday with work being a secondary intention to help with funding the trip. The visa will last for either 12 or 23 months but any work you do must not exceed 12 months.
Other temporary work visas are available for a number of situations. You will need to have a job offer from a New Zealand employer and that occupation will need to be on the Immediate Skill Shortage List or the employer will need to prove that no New Zealand citizens are available to do the job. Temporary visas usually last for around three to five years.
If you want to work in New Zealand permanently there are various ways to apply for the relevant visa including:
- Skilled Migrant category: if you have the skills, qualifications and experience that are required by New Zealand employers. You will need to complete an Expression of Interest which gives information about your education and past work. You'll then be scored on a points-based system and if you have enough points you'll be sent an Invitation to Apply.
- Work to Residence category: if you are qualified in occupations that are in demand in New Zealand, for example those that are included on the Long Term Skill Shortage List, or if you have a job offer from an accredited employer.
Find out which occupations are in demand on New Zealand's Skill Shortage Lists. Further information on visas, the various categories and online application forms are available at Immigration New Zealand.
If you are not a UK national, contact the New Zealand embassy in the country where you are currently living about how to obtain visas and work permits. If you are living in the UK, go to the New Zealand High Commission, London.
How do you become a permanent resident?
If you have qualified for the Work to Residence visa, after two full years of working in New Zealand you will be able to apply for permanent residency through the Residence from Work visa. You will have to meet certain requirements including being in good health, earning a certain level of salary and having been offered long-term work. More information is available from Immigration New Zealand.
Living in New Zealand
- Cost of living: the standard of living is high and cost of living relatively low. Cost of living surveys show that major cities in New Zealand are quite significantly cheaper than major cities in Australia, the UK and US.
- Internet domain: .nz
- Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD or NZ$)
- Health: under reciprocal health agreements, UK nationals who are on short-term visits can be treated under the national health system on the same terms as New Zealand citizens. However it is still important that you have adequate health insurance while you are in the country, particularly if you're there for a long time, as treatment can become expensive.
- Type of government: parliamentary democracy and part of the Commonwealth.
- Laws and customs: importing illegal drugs is punishable by 8–12 years in prison. There are also tough penalties for driving under the influence of drink and heavy fines for drug possession. There is an established tolerance towards homosexuality and civil unions for same-sex, as well as opposite-sex, couples have been taking place since 2005.
- Emergency numbers: the number for police, ambulance and fire is 111. Emergency help for UK citizens in New Zealand can also be found through the British High Commission New Zealand.
- People: majority are European 71.2% with smaller numbers of Maori and Asian.
- Major religion: Christianity plus small numbers in Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.