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Arriving to New Zealand: My first Working Holiday

Disclaimer: I am an American citizen under the age of 30, so my advice will reflect my experience specifically for New Zealand.

I found out about the visa the first week of March. Applied March 14th . Received an approval email March 19th and Landed in Auckland April 23rd. By no means do you have to do everything as hastily as I did. If you have read my other blog post (I’ve Never been…) you know that before applying for my visa, I was already “prepared” to leave the country.

I was getting the heck out of Dodge, I just didn't know to where.

Once you are granted the Working Holiday Visa you have one year to enter the New Zealand. Your visa doesn’t start until you actually arrive to New Zealand. Once you arrive, you have one year permission to stay and work in the country. This is great for those of you who want to plan and research a bit more before arrival. I hadn't expected such a quick turn around, but I had applied for the visa during a slow period time...

I probably could have done with some more planning time, but at the time my mentality was “now or never”. I’m not sure where exactly I had a gap in calculation, but somehow I arrived in New Zealand a day early. My Homestay reservation didn’t start until the next day. Luckily for me, the airport had 30 minutes of free wifi and I was able to book a hostel for the night. Not a travel horror story (those are for another time), but an avoidable dilemma.

My plan was to hit the ground running in New Zealand. The visa process was so quick, I assumed that the getting settled part would be just as easy. I’d have a job, a place to stay, and a routine within two weeks. I’m hilarious, I know.

As my first experience abroad I hadn't realized how much red tape there is. Having a visa wasn't the only thing i needed to work in a new country.

Before you can apply for jobs, you need to have an IRD number which is the NZ tax identification number (similar to a Social Security number in the US). Before you can get an IRD number, you must have a domestic Bank Account. For you to get a NZ bank account, you must have proof of address.

Luckily, my Homestay hostess was used to Working Holiday Visa holders and she took me to the bank one day to show her ID and I was able to open a bank account using her address. After that I applied online for an IRD. All of this took about a week, which is really quite quick when you think about it… just not as quick as I had planned for.

Then I began the job hunt. My plan was to get hired at a staffing agency so that they would do the leg work for me. No need to stress myself out looking for jobs all over town. Man, oh man. Prior to coming to New Zealand, I had spent my entire adult career with the same company. I took for granted the network and reputation that I had established. With all of my work experience being in the USA, many companies didn’t want to check my references (and I had some great references).

Understandably, a lot of agencies emphasized NZ experience and being fresh off the plane, I didn’t have any. Unwilling to give up, I interviewed more aggressively than I did even during post grad. The stakes are so much higher now. I was burning through my savings and was fast approaching my 'pull in case of emergency' marker. I didn't want to go home after only a month away. After about a dozen interviews I was ultimately was placed about a month after I arrived.

And so begins my year abroad.

Until Next Time,


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