Moving to New Zealand: the Xe guide for expats

If you’re looking to make the land of Kiwis your new home, then we think you’ll find this guide very useful!

Xe Consumer APAC

November 5, 2020 8 min read

Woman overlooking Auckland

If you’re not from there, living in New Zealand feels like living on another planet. The air is fresher, the scenery is jaw-dropping, and the lifestyle is more active.

And that’s not all.

The country has a brilliant education system and an excellent quality of life. It is world famous for its national rugby team and its indigenous Maori culture. If you’re looking for a better quality of life, New Zealand is a great destination. 153,900 people moved to the country in the year ending June 2020. New Zealanders open their hearts to newcomers. They are friendly, hospitable and inclusive.

But before moving to this island nation in the Southern Hemisphere, there are a few things you should know. We cover them all in this guide.

New Zealand quick facts

  • New Zealand uses the New Zealand dollar (NZD).

  • English is the main language. However, all students are required to learn Maori. All public signs are in English and Maori.

  • The largest cities are Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Hamilton.

  • New Zealand has a population of 5 million and is one of the world’s least populated countries. Its population density is 15 people per square kilometer. The UK’s population density is 275 people per square kilometer.

  • The country has 4 major industries: agriculture and horticulture, mining, forestry, and fishing.

  • Skilled workers who are in demand include fabrication engineering trade workers, electricians; plumbers, glaziers, plasterers, and animal attendants.

  • New Zealand has an unemployment rate of 4% and quickly bounced back after the recent global recession.

Step-by-step guide to moving to New Zealand

1. Get a visa

New Zealand welcomes people from all over the world. Those with Australian passports can enter the country freely while UK passport holders can stay for up to 6 months, so long as they don’t work. People from countries with a visa waiver agreement can enjoy a 3-month stay without a visa. However, if you want to move to New Zealand to work, you will need a visa.

The Working Holiday Visa is popular among people aged between 18 and 30. It gives you 23 months to work and live in New Zealand. If you’d like to live and work in the country for a longer period, you must apply for a resident visa: a Skilled Migrant Visa or a Residence Work Visa. The Skilled Migrant Visa uses a points system to determine eligibility. The system is based on your qualifications, age, work experience, and employment offer. To get a Residence Work Visa, you must have held a work visa for 24 months.

New Zealand has over 80 types of visas and their application processes are different. Visa costs range from a few hundred dollars to over $3,000 NZD (for an entrepreneur visa).

2. Set up your finances

It is wise to open a New Zealand bank account before you move. You’ll find it easy to make cash and credit card withdrawals when you arrive. If you decide you need a credit card, compare your options to find one that's the best fit for you.

If you decide to open a New Zealand bank account after you arrive in the country, you may not have all the documents needed to open one right away. And while you can always withdraw money from ATMs, the fees may be high. Do not use ATMs that offer to dispense money in your home currency because they may have high conversion rates. Simply withdraw your money in New Zealand dollars.

Another way to make sure you access your money once you arrive in New Zealand is to use an Xe money transfer. It allows you to send money to your New Zealand bank account at a competitive exchange rate.

3. Find accommodation

Finding accommodation in New Zealand is easy. The housing market is well regulated and you can easily find short-term and long-term rentals. Buying a house only takes a few weeks.

Rent is calculated weekly, so remember that when you're looking at houses. The average rent is approximately $400 NZD a week for a small home with one bedroom or two bedrooms. You’ll pay $530 NZD for a 2-bedroom or a 4-bedroom apartment or house.

Rental costs in New Zealand vary depending on the region. Auckland is the most expensive city and the rent price ranges between $600 NZD and $850 NZD a week. Wellington is New Zealand's second most expensive city and the average rent is $900 NZD.

Most rental properties in New Zealand are unfurnished and the more bedrooms a property has, the more likely it is to be unfurnished. Most furnished properties are 1-bedroom apartments as they are preferred by travelers, students, and people in need of short-term accommodation.

4. Understand the healthcare system

New Zealand is known for its high-quality healthcare and you won't have any trouble finding fully equipped hospitals with well-trained doctors. The government-funded health insurance scheme covers almost all accident-related injuries--whether or not you have insurance.

New Zealand offers both public and private healthcare to its residents. However, the line between the two is a bit blurred and you may get confused if you’re new to the country. For example, residents who hold a visa that’s valid for 2 years or more can access subsidized public healthcare. However, they may still have to pay fees for prescriptions and appointments. They may also have to take out private health insurance for optometry and dental appointments.

5. Find schools for your kids

One of the reasons you may have decided to move to New Zealand with your family is because the country has one of the best education systems in the world. It consistently ranks high on the UN's Human Development Index, outranking both the United Kingdom and the United States. The Human Development Index takes into consideration education, life expectancy, and per capita income.

New Zealand's school system is well funded and many parents send their children to public schools. The citizens are well educated and many hold degrees. However, state schools are only free if you have permanent residency. If you don’t, you’ll have to pay.

What are the top banks in New Zealand?

The financial services sector is one of the top sectors that powers the country’s economy. New Zealand has over 30 registered banks with thousands of employees. The biggest are ANZ Bank New Zealand, ASB Bank, Kiwibank, Bank of New Zealand, and CooPerative Bank.

TSB Bank has the highest customer satisfaction rate among the top New Zealand banks and is closely followed by Kiwibank. The best banks for online banking are ASB Bank, ANZ, BNZ Bank, Westpac, and Kiwibank. They also have no-fee bank accounts.

For a stress-free move, open a New Zealand bank account in advance and transfer money to it before you move. In fact, most relocation experts recommend this because you’ll pay less fees to transfer funds from overseas to your new account than you will if you do it in New Zealand, and get a better exchange rate to boot.

How to find a job in New Zealand

One of the best ways to find a job in New Zealand is to search online. There are many websites designed to connect expats with New Zealand employers. Most employers who list jobs on the websites have more experience in hiring migrants. Some of the best websites to find jobs are Working in New Zealand, Workhere, Seek, and TradeMe.

There are occupations that are always in demand in New Zealand as they help the government  to grow the economy. Most of the jobs are for specialists in sectors such as IT, medicine, and engineering. However, there are also opportunities for other skilled workers. You can check the NZ Immigration Skill Shortage List to see if your skills are needed in New Zealand.

To increase your chances of getting a job, you can use a recruitment company or contact employers directly about job openings. It is perfectly acceptable and legal to apply for jobs before you get a visa. Most employers understand the situation, and when you get a job, may help you with your visa application. However, you won’t be able to start working until your visa is approved.

Some interesting facts about New Zealand you might not have known

  • “Aotearoa” is the Maori name for New Zealand. It means “land of the long white cloud.”

  • The people of New Zealand refer to themselves as Kiwis. The name is also used internationally. But unlike many demographic labels, it is not considered offensive. Rather, New Zealanders see it as a symbol of pride and endearment.

  • New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote. The law was passed in 1893.

  • Rugby is the most popular sport in the country followed by golf.

  • New Zealanders love cars! The country’s car ownership rate is one of the world’s highest. There are approximately 767 vehicles for every 1,000 people.

  • New Zealand has 2 national anthems: “God Save the Queen” and “God Defend New Zealand.” The second is more widely recognized.

Moving to New Zealand is a no-brainer if you want a fresh start and a work-life balance. Some expats actually relocate for good. And if you want to avoid hefty bank costs when moving money between your bank accounts, use Xe. We look forward to helping you with your move!