Ultimate Guide to New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

Ultimate Guide to New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

So, you’ve completed your working holiday in Australia? Perhaps you even got to level 3? You ask your self where next?

TL;DR – Find backpacker jobs in New Zealand.

Remote, rugged, resplendent.

New Zealand is a wildly popular tourist destination for a reason, and many a traveller has found themselves needing far more time to explore the land of the long white cloud than a standard tourist visa will allow. It’s the sort of place that sucks you in; where a day turns into a week, into a month, and maybe, just maybe, into a working holiday.

Sure, citizens of countries with visa waiver programs can enjoy three months of unencumbered travel in New Zealand (six if you’re lucky enough to be from the UK), while visitors who require a tourist visa will be allowed to stay for nine months out of any given 18 month period.

But if you truly want to experience the beauty and the culture of this remotest of countries, there’s no better option than the New Zealand working holiday visa.

Am I eligible for the New Zealand working holiday visa?

There are 46 countries that share a working holiday visa arrangement with New Zealand. In alphabetical order – no favouritism here, apart from the alphabetical type – they are:

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia*
  3. Austria
  4. Belgium
  5. Brazil
  6. Canada
  7. Chile
  8. China
  9. Croatia
  10. Czech Republic
  11. Denmark
  12. Estonia
  13. Finland
  14. France
  15. Germany
  16. Hungary
  17. Hong Kong
  18. Ireland
  19. Israel
  20. Italy
  21. Japan
  22. South Korea
  23. Latvia
  24. Lithuania
  25. Luxembourg
  26. Malaysia
  27. Malta
  28. Mexico
  29. Netherlands
  30. Norway
  31. Peru
  32. Philippines
  33. Poland
  34. Portugal
  35. Singapore
  36. Slovakia
  37. Slovenia
  38. Spain
  39. Sweden
  40. Taiwan
  41. Thailand
  42. Turkey
  43. United Kingdom
  44. USA
  45. Uruguay
  46. Vietnam

*Australian residents are free to live and work in New Zealand as they wish, and simply get a visa on arrival.

NZ Working Holiday Visa Requirements

If you are from one of the countries above you will be eligible for a New Zealand working holiday visa if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are a young person aged 18 – 30
    (or 18 – 35 for residents of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay).
  • You can prove that you have access to enough money to both buy a return plane ticket and support yourself while in New Zealand (a “sufficient amount” is currently deemed as NZ$350 per month, NZ$4,200 per year, depending on the length of the stay).
  • You can demonstrate that you’re primarily coming as a tourist, with work simply being a means to support your travels (most working holiday visas allow a visitor to work or study for up to six months of the year).
  • You have a passport valid for at least three months after your planned departure from New Zealand.
  • You meet certain character and health requirements.
  • You have not previously visited New Zealand on a working holiday visa.
  • You will not bring children or dependents with you.

How much does the New Zealand working holiday visa cost?

The application process for the New Zealand working holiday visa is relatively simple, and can be completed through the New Zealand Immigration website.

It currently costs NZ$245 to process the application (or nothing if you’re from the US!).

For those who want a little bit of help with their application, as well as the process of setting up bank accounts, accessing Medicare and creating a New Zealand-friendly CV, there are companies who specialise in this sort of help. New Zealand–based Working Holiday Starter, for example, offer comprehensive assistance that even extends to things like transportation from the airport on arrival and job workshops, while Visa First offers more basic help. The price will go up with the level of service, but you can generally expect to pay around $500 – $800 for this support (which will include the visa application fee).

How long will it take to process the visa application?

Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, because your working holiday visa application may take some time to process. According to current Immigration New Zealand figures, 50% of working holiday visa applications are processed within 16 days, 75% are processed within 29 days, and 90% are processed in 43 days.

Unfortunately these timeframes have been getting longer recently, so it’s important to get your application right the first time. Do-overs are costly in terms of both time and money.

How long is the New Zealand working holiday visa?

The length of the New Zealand working holiday visa can vary somewhat by the country of the applicant.

Most applicants will be limited to a 12 month stay. Others, like residents of the UK, can extend their stay for up to 23 months, while residents of Singapore and Malaysia are only permitted to stay for six months in total.

The working holiday visa can also be extended in certain circumstances. If a visa holder has completed at least three months of seasonal work in the horticulture or viticulture industries, be it with one employer or multiple, continuous or in instalments, they are eligible to apply for a one-off application for a three month extension to their trip. So, once you’ve enjoyed 90 days surrounded by some of the world’s finest cool climate wines, you can then earn 90 extra days as a Kiwi! What a deal.

Check the potential length of your stay by clicking on your country’s tab on the New Zealand Immigration website.

Do any restrictions apply to the type of work that I can do while in New Zealand?

The New Zealand government is quite generous with their working holiday visa program, with the only real restriction for visa holders being that you can’t take up a permanent position. If you have certain skills or qualifications you can put them to use in whatever industry you please, provided you do so on a casual or part-time basis.

Because visa holders can’t work in permanent positions, the following jobs are the most popular with working holidaymakers:

Is there any way to stay in New Zealand past the visa (visa extension dates)?

Are you enjoying life in Middle Earth – coveting it like our old friend Sméagol does his precious? (What would an article on New Zealand be without a Lord of the Rings quote? A disappointment, that’s what.) Like really enjoying it? While you can’t extend the working holiday visa beyond the timeframes described above, there’s nothing stopping you from applying for a different visa!

While you will likely need to meet a few more eligibility requirements than you did for the working holiday visa, there could potentially be other work, study or residency visas at your disposal.

Why not explore your options here?

Will I be entitled to a tax refund? How do I claim it?

If you’ve completed work in New Zealand you could well be entitled to a tax refund, which could see you getting some or all of the tax you have paid back.

You can use our Tax Refund Calculator to estimate your return.

It needs to be mentioned that just because you were taxed during your working holiday in New Zealand, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll receive money back. A tax return analyses whether you overpaid on tax, and while this is common for short term and low income workers, it could be that your employers taxed you at the correct rate the entire time, in which case you won’t be eligible for a return.

These are New Zealand’s income tax rates as of 2019:

  • 10.5% tax on annual earnings from $0 to $14,000
  • 17.5% tax on annual earnings from $14,001 to $48,000
  • 30% tax on annual earnings from $48,001 to $70,000
  • 33% tax on annual earnings above $70,000

If you are taxed at a higher rate, or if you claim a deduction that brings your taxable income down, you’ll be entitled to a refund. The average tax refund in New Zealand is NZ$550.

How do I find a backpacker job in New Zealand

Begin your search for Backpacker Jobs New Zealand here at our sister website. If you’ve not already joined our NZ Facebook group and biz page, you can find them here:

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa FAQs

Can I extend my working holiday visa?

There is an option to extend your New Zealand working holiday visa by three months if you meet certain conditions, but thereafter you’ll need to either leave the country or apply for a different visa.

How long does it take to process a visa application?

Currently 50% of working holiday visa applications are processed within 16 days, 75% are processed within 29 days, and 90% are processed in 43 days.

Can I apply for the visa from within NZ?

While it is theoretically possible to apply for a New Zealand working holiday visa while in New Zealand, the reality is that sourcing and submitting the appropriate paperwork, sending your passport away to get the visa added, and getting this all approved within a limited timeframe is not particularly easy, nor is it advisable. It’s perhaps best to leave the excitement of countdown clocks and complex international relations to Hollywood.

Can I apply for a NZ working holiday visa while on a working holiday in Australia

The same answer as above applies here.

Can I apply for a NZ working holiday visa if I’m 35?

While the eligible age range for most participating countries is 18 – 30, residents of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay can apply from ages 18 – 35.