New Zealand travel information Tourleader New Zealand

Immigration to New Zealand

New Zealand ranks high when it comes to quality of life, the abundance of space and the healthy environment are a drawcard for many people who don’t just want to come on holiday but live here. Immigration numbers still keep rising, about 23% of people living in New Zealand were born overseas.

If you can make a contribution which benefits New Zealand - for example with sought after skills or the ability to make a big investment - then immigration can be relatively easy.

Tips for your immigration to New Zealand

If you want to live in New Zealand there are basically three options to start with:

  • Follow the official immigration website and process your application yourself
  • Ask a specialised immigration consultant or lawyer for help
  • Get a job offer first and your employer may help with your immigration

For specific immigration advice you can contact Immigration New Zealand directly or refer to a specialised immigration consultant. When you choose an immigration adviser be careful to avoid incompetent or unethical practices. Since 2009 immigration advisers need an official licence (excempt are lawyers and a few other groups). The Immigration Advisers Authority has a register of all licenced advisers

There are a number of official government websites with a huge depth of information for migrants:

Employment in New Zealand

Job search

New Zealand Immigration: catching a job comes firstLocal job search websites can best be found via It depends on your profession which channel might be the best for your search, no single website can give you an overview of all vacant positions. Contact the local job agencies where you can register your CV, most advertise jobs online. Specialised jobs can be found via international employment agents. You can target New Zealand employers directly and search for vacant positions on their websites. When in New Zealand you can also visit a Work and Income job centre or a Career Services office, they can help you optimise your CV for the Kiwi environment.

Employment law

Employers often don’t take the time to explain work contracts, make sure you are certain of the contents and ask for help. The employment law is explained on  and For example, employees are entitled to...:

  • a minimum of 4 weeks' paid annual holidays after being in the job for a year.
  • 11 paid public holidays if they fall on days they would normally work.
  • 5 days' sick leave after being in the job for six months.
  • equal pay rates between genders.

Employment tax

Most people pay their taxes as they earn their income (pay as you earn - PAYE). Employers deduct tax on salary and wages, your tax will be taken out of your pay during the income year by your employer.

People who do not pay tax on all of their income as it is earned are required to file tax returns at the end of the New Zealand tax year (31 March) to work out their tax liability. You can find explanations, current tax rates and much more on the official Inland Revenue website, with contact phone numbers depending on the issue.

A 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST) is included in most prices, only small businesses under a minimum turnover don’t have to charge GST. If you order goods abroad then most suppliers can drop the local tax, but you might have to pay GST here depending on the value. There is no cash refund for GST when you leave from New Zealand.

There is a “temporary exemption from tax on foreign income for new migrants”, which may apply up to 4 years for your overseas income. Check with Inland Revenue or on their website if your country has a double tax treaty with New Zealand and if you are eligible for a refund of taxes. These countries may also allow you a refund of source tax paid on the liquidation of pension funds, interest or other earnings.

New Zealand culture at work

In New Zealand the best (or only) way to integrate is networking! When Kiwis meet they will soon try to find out who knows who and via whom they might be connected or even related - they often are because New Zealand is such a small place! This happens even at the workplace and relationships and events are often widely discussed at work. The more people you know the easier it is to meet others.

Tourleader New Zealand tips:

  • Kiwis are egalitarian and informal, it’s normal to use first names. There is no class hierarchy to be followed, dress is mostly casual.
  • Be honest and ask questions when things are done differently than you are used to - maybe there is a good reason for it.
  • If you think New Zealanders are shy and reserved then it’s up to you to make the first step. Develop your humour, be as open, welcoming and direct as you can.
  • If you make a mistake a quick apology is recommended .
  • Try to learn the Kiwi way first, then you can make helpful suggestions about changes.
  • If you make a promise then keep it.
  • Don’t miss meetings and arrive on time.
  • Be proud of your own culture and heritage but never look down on Kiwi culture, embrace it with a positive mind and find its advantages for yourself.

Opening a bank account

Download the Tourleader New Zealand website!Wages and salaries will be paid directly into your bank account, usually fortnightly or monthly. You will need to have a bank account with a New Zealand bank. Ask for an additional Online Call account where you can park all your surplus cash at better interest rates, this is like a term deposit with flexible balance and interest. EFT/POS (Electronic Funds Transfer at the Point Of Sale - debit cards), online shopping and internet/telephone banking are widespread. Some credit cards are free (check the credit interest rate first).

Banking services are available at registered banks, credit unions and building societies. Many have specialist immigration banking teams and staff who can speak languages other than English. You may be able to open your account before you come to New Zealand. The timely transfer of funds to New Zealand can be a requirement, depending on which immigration category you applied for.

For some migrants New Zealand prices might be lower than where they come from. However the fluctuations of the exchange rate are quite big, even within months a major shift is possible. New Zealand has some of the highest interest rate levels of the OECD countries, so sometimes the currency gets an unwanted boost from ‘Carry-Trade’ activities (see Money, cost and prices), whereby people invest in the NZD because of its high interest rate (they think the interest difference outweighs the currency risks). This is of course bad for New Zealand’s export industries - and tourism. Then again just the opposite trend can push the dollar down to very low levels, making all imports more expensive.

New Zealands financial system is healthy. According to The Global Competitiveness Report 2009/2010, where New Zealand enjoyed 20th rank, “the environment is extremely conducive to business, supported by efficient goods (8th, up nine places) and labor (11th) markets, and by one of the soundest financial systems in the world (3rd).”

Retirement pension and KiwiSaver

New Zealand Immigration: ready for the plunge?New Zealand Superannuation provides a retirement income for people who have reached 65 years of age. Future pension payments are not guaranteed, but Parliament needs to approve any significant change made. New Zealand has had a form of state-funded retirement income for over one hundred years. Eligibility, payment levels and other conditions have changed many times. The changes have reflected different political views as well as changes in New Zealand's society, economy, the labour market and other factors. See The fund is administered by the New Zealand Treasury (

KiwiSaver is a voluntary, long-term savings initiative to help set New Zealanders up for their retirement. Most KiwiSaver members will build up their account through regular contributions from their pay. The Government will help you save with KiwiSaver by giving you a kick-start, a tax credit, a fee subsidy and, if you qualify, a first home deposit subsidy. You'll be able to access your savings when you're eligible for New Zealand Superannuation (currently 65) or after five years' membership, whichever is later. See for more information.

A traditional way for Kiwis to save for retirement has often been to pay back the mortgage on their house, maybe even buy more property to generate rental income, then at retirement age sell up and move into a smaller property. Lifetime savings were often invested in financial companies involved in the property market, but after the collapse of many such companies it will take a while for their reputation to recover.

The rules for getting overseas benefits and pensions paid into New Zealand can be complex, depending on the regulations of your home country.

Culture shock

Maori Language Course New Zealand is full of many cultures and even for the English speaking there is potential for many challenges and misunderstandings.
After you’ve been through your immigration process you will probably experience the three following acclimatisation stages:   

  • First comes the ‘honeymoon phase’ when everything seems fantastic and beautiful: the easy-going people, exotic vegetation, the promise of a completely new and great lifestyle, moving into a new house, different climate etc.
  • Followed by a downward curve when all the differences and problems become evident: the family is so far away, the weather is different than expected, permanent residence uncertainties, some prices are higher than expected, most time is spent at work and not on the beach etc.
  • And finally you adjust and differences are accepted.

Tourleader tips:

  • Invite the neighbours for a glass of wine to say hello or a house warming party (if you like challenges, make a hangi in your garden).
  • Get into sports or at least go on a fun walk.
  • Join a club or community organisation.
  • Volunteer for something useful that interests you.
  • Buy jandals and gumboots for some Kiwi spirit, get into DIY (do it yourself) or buy some gear and go fishing.
  • Do a course to meet people with similar interests.
  • Cook Kiwi style with a local cook book.

Other New Zealand immigration tips

  • Citizenship: If you want to apply for citizenship later you need to have had permanent residence in New Zealand for 5 years. See the Department of Internal Affairs ( for more information (not Immigration NZ).
  • Driver’s licence: You need to change to a New Zealand drivers licence within one year, failure to do this means you might have to resit both your theory and practical test, including taking driving lessons - an expensive option! Your home country driver’s licence may be valid in New Zealand for one year after your arrival, depending on your country. See (Driver Licensing - Overseas drivers).
  • Buying a car in New Zealand: The goverment has set up a special website to help you get the right information about fuel consumption and running costs: Shop around for insurance. Get a certificate of your no claims bonus from your home country insurer that proves an accident or claim free insurance history and you may get a big discount. For more information see Getting around New Zealand.
  • PO Box: It is necessary to have a New Zealand address when you sign up for many services (library, discount cards etc.). Alternatively you can rent a PO Box at the most convenient Post Shop by filling in an application form, show identification and pay the annual fee in advance.
  • Electricity: The voltage in New Zealand is 230 Volts and the frequency is 50 Hertz. 220 Volts appliances also function well but 110 Volts is too low and it will soon cause damage. Transformers are expensive, depending on the wattage. You can buy New Zealand plugs to replace the original plugs that don’t fit and attach them yourself instead of buying many expensive adapters (beware of law changes to DIY regulations!).

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