Getting a Kiwi Working Holiday visa: A step-by-step guide.

Work and travel is, in my humble opinion, a fantastic phenomenon and by far the best way to experience a new country. Off the tourist trails, you get the chance to actually get to know a place and its people on a daily basis. Find the shortcuts, the superior espresso shop and the hidden gems. My only wish is that there were more countries that offered this opportunity!

Last year I set of to explore New Zealand on their Working Holiday scheme. As the home country of the flat white, rugged coastlines, palm trees AND glaciers - it is fair to say, you would struggle to find a country that has so much to offer in such a compact scale!

The general requirements to obtain this visa include that you are

  • between 18-30 (18-35 for a select few countries)
  • in good health
  • of 'good character', i.e. any serious criminal offense on your record might be a bit problematic.
  • and that you have a savings equal of NZD4'200 on your account OR a booked return ticket home
    Find out the deal for your nationality HERE.

Sounds like something for you? Then keep reading!

waterfalls in franz josef

waterfalls in franz josef

Before departure

1. Applying for the visa itself.

While there are agencies offering to help you through the process of applying for your visa, it is a pretty straightforward procedure to do on your own online. Visit the immigration webpage for visas, find your country under "available schemes", make sure you fit the criterias, click "apply now" and start entering your data.

In the application form, you will be presented a list of countries where the risk of tubercolosis is considered LOW. Observe this list carefully for have you, in the last five years, spent an amount of time that exceeds 3 months in any country/ies NOT on the list, you will be required to perform a chest x-ray to prove that you are in good health. Note that this means 3 months all together, rather than 90 consecutive days.
You can find the full list of countries here.

The waiting time for them to process your application is estimated to 20 days, but most of the time it will be faster than that. The application cost is NZD208.

(1,5). Book any neccessary medical appointments.

If you already know that you will need to provide the results of an x-ray, you may well book your doctors appointment ASAP. Once the application is completed, you only have 10 days to complete it with any requested documents. That is 10 consecutive days, not working ones.

The x-rays can only be done at certain clinics that are approved by the NZ government and connected to a system called eMedical. In Sweden, this means private clinics found in either Stockholm or Gothenburg. As they are private, you will need to pay a fee to regiser at the clinic along with the cost of the actual x-ray.

2. Plan of Action.

It is a good idea to start planning your year already before setting off towards New Zealand. Do you want to work first, or start by travelling? What kind of work would you be interested in? If you are gonna buy a car to drive around the country - it will be advisable to arrive as the backpacker crowds flee around May/June. You can get some pretty decent deals as most people will be desperate to get rid of their wheels.
Peak season to travel around New Zealand is obviously during the summer, aka European winter, and the country gets well crowded. This of course reflects itself on accommodation prices, jobs available, queues, rental car availability.
Simply consider when it would be best for you to arrive!

3. Get your driver's license translated.

If you are to drive whilst on the islands, and your driver's license is not already in English, you will need to get a translation to complement it. This is basically a folded piece of paper with a passport sized photo of yourself glued on, yet very essential! While it is possible to get a translation of your license while in New Zealand, you may as well do it before leaving so it arrives safe and sound to your post box.
From Sweden you can do this via Motormännen, at a cost of SEK400.

4. Book your first night's accommodation.

When filling in your arrival card at whichever New Zealand airport you disembark at, you will be required to fill in an address of where you are intending to stay the first night. Without this, you could be denied entry into the country... even though you are already at the airport!

Once in Kiwiland

In order to start working (or rather, in order to receive those $$$) there are a few things you need to get in order.  A bank account, an IRD number and, in order for any of this to happen, a proof of address.

Proof of address.

This essentially needs to be an official document with your name on it, like an utility bill or similar. Of course having just arrived in the country, you are not very likely to have many of those.  The easiest way to go about it is to ask your hostel to help you out. They can print out a letter with an official stamp, something along the lines of "Dear whomever it may concern, this is to confirm that so-and-so resides at this place, as of *insert date of arrival*".

Set up a bank account.

With your proof of adress and passport in hand, make an appointment at your bank of preference to set up a new account. I chose to go with KiwiBank (for obvious and adult reasons, aka THE NAME!). The process took no more than 20 minutes; where I walked away with my new debit card in hand.

Get an IRD-number.

An IRD (Inland Revenue Department) number is essentially what NiNo is in the UK or personnummer in Sweden. It is your unique tax file number and working without this, 46,7% of your earnings is automatically taxed each month. A pretty darn important number to obtain, eh!

I got help from KiwiBank with my IRD application as I set up the new account, but it is also possible to apply for your IRD online. People claim that this is faster, but I needed not wait longer than 3 days tops.
For more information, visit the IRD website here.

Get a kiwi mobile number.

To make yourself contactable for potential employers, you will obviously want a local mobile number. The best option would be a pay-as-you-go, to avoid a set charge each month. Spark is a popular operator, and they also provide 1GB free internet daily through phone booths located a bit all over the country. Download the app to find the nearest one. A real life saver for those of us who tend to get lost!
For more remote areas on the South Island, most of the locals seemed to prefer Virgin.

West coast, best coast for epic sunsets.

West coast, best coast for epic sunsets.

Time to find a job!

Now you are all set to start your first job in New Zealand! It is an expensive country to live (and more so, to travel) so getting those extra bucks flowing in will be much appreciated by your wallet. Now where do you find a job?

Hand out CV's. 

In the bigger cities, I find the most efficient way to find a job is the good old door to door, CV-in-hand tour. Drop off a CV anywhere you find a sign in the window that might be suited for yourself!

Go online.

Most job listings will be found on websites such as


While the latter two are similar to Gumtree/Blocket of Europe, Backpacker board is - as the name suggests - mainly for common backpacker jobs. Fruit picking, waitressing, work for accommodation, receptionists, sheep farming... That is where I found my job at the Pancake Rocks.

bon voyage!

Alas, that's a wrap of the most useful things you will need! I will also do a post on what to pack (and what not to pack) at a later date! If you have any other questions about the WH visa, drop me a line and I will try my best to answer!


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