New Zealand for a year? Why Not!


Known mostly as either the home of “The Lord of the Rings” or as the “forgotten county on maps,” New Zealand is a picturesque country that begs to be visited. Mostly thanks to “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” films, I knew that I would have to visit New Zealand during my travels. I simply did not know how I’d fit it in my travels, but had a rough idea that it would coincide with visiting Australia, since they are “close” [They are just 1700 km next to each other!]


The last thing I had initially expected though, was to essential “move” to New Zealand for an entire year! Read on to learn more on how this current life experience came to be.


View of the New Zealand landscape, trees on the distant edge of a lake with the Southern Alps in the background. White letters spelling "New Zealand" across the centre of the image.



Back in early 2017, I was contemplating whether or not I should uproot my entire life, sell everything, and travel around the world. Being a realist, and preparing for all the questions I knew would be coming, I was already thinking of various ways to earn money while traveling. One of the most obvious – working abroad! Except, once you get into the actual logistics and legalities, it actually is a LOT harder than it sounds. Most countries required a working visa, which is rather difficult to get. And while some people work “under-the-table” for a bit here and there, I was going to do this properly.


Upon digging a bit more, I discovered there IS a potential exception:



Essentially you are granted a visa that permits you to work while you are traveling around that country, generally for up to 1 year. (Some countries have shorter or longer time frames.) And you don’t need to have a job already lined up in advance – even better! Of course, there is a catch… of the couple countries that offer this to Americans, there are only two that might work for me: New Zealand and Australia. Both of these countries grant the working holiday visa for 18-30 year olds. [I was already either too old for the others, or I was already long out of university.]  Even with these two options, I had to act quickly – I turned 31 that June!


The one advantage I had was that once I was approved for either New Zealand’s or Australia’s working holiday visa, I would have up to 1 year before I had to actually enter the country and start my time. After doing a little bit more research between the two countries and without knowing any of my plans yet – I decided that it was an opportunity I could not pass up, even if I didn’t use the visa. Now – I just had to decide which country to choose! Both offered many opportunities and have beautiful scenery, however in the end, I am a Lord of the Rings fan – New Zealand was hands down the better choice!


So, I submitted my online application for New Zealand in mid-March 2017. I figured it would take at least a few weeks for them to get back to me. Nope – a couple days later, I received my approval email. I could now go to New Zealand for a year AND work while I am living there. Awesome!


In all honesty, I had actually looked at both Australia and New Zealand as possible countries to emigrate to for work back when I lost my job in 2016. While both countries had the option for me to transition my certifications over, neither was a perfect or easy process at that time.


Once I had the working holiday visa secured, I turned my focus towards my major trip of 2017 – my TransMongolAsian trek. In the beginning of planning that trip, I had the crazy thought that I would continue from China down through Southeast Asia and eventually arrive in New Zealand before my March 15, 2018 deadline. Unfortunately, money and being smart won out and I realized that I will most likely return home for a couple months after China. The main reason for this is because I would need to work and earn the min NZ $4,200 I needed upon entry, per my visa requirements.


Skip ahead half a year…


For the latter half of 2017, I didn’t even focus on my working holiday visa in New Zealand. It was something I could use if life sent me that direction, and since I hadn’t actually paid anything for the visa, I was not losing anything if life took me a different direction. Interestingly enough, I almost lost out on coming to New Zealand and briefly gave it up. When I returned home from China in October 2017, I had a much harder time finding a job that not only gave me hours but paid decently. By the end of November, it did not look like I would be able to have enough money upon arrival by my March 15, 2018 deadline. Adding to the personal funk I slipped into during those months, I gave up all hope of making it to New Zealand.


Fate had a different plan, however. In December, I was hired for a much better position and very quickly, I was making money like I was expecting. I sat down and laid out  my potential earnings with the new job – I “JUST” had enough to make the financial minimum work in time! Ecstatic, I started rethinking New Zealand and how I could make that “barely” into a realistic and financially feasible reality. After a few weeks of going back and forth, budgeting like crazy, and working as much as possible, I bit the bullet and decided that even if I was only barely meeting the requirements, I was going. A few days later, I had purchased my one-way plane ticket to Auckland, landing on March 14 – one day before my visa entry expired! As with my major trip in 2017, I was giving my future up into the hands of fate and hoping everything would work out.


Again, the Gods were looking out for me. Despite having to leave a great job, everything very quickly fell into place and before long, I was on the plane en route to Auckland. However, unlike all my other trips, I had literally nothing planned. I had no job lined up. I had one week booked in a hostel in Auckland. Everything else would be planned as I went – for an entire year! I was thrilled and excited, yet at the same time worried and scared because anything could happen.


After a long day & night of traveling, I landed in Auckland, New Zealand without incident early in the morning on March 14, 2018. So far, everything is going great and I’m still trying to figure out my plans. So join me and follow along as this newest adventure unfolds!



View of Queen Charlotte Sound from Picton, with text in white across image "How to Apply for a NZ Working Holiday Visa"


For those interested in following in my footprints, the actual application for New Zealand’s Working Holiday visa can be completed online here:

New Zealand Immigration – Online Visa Application


Please note the following requirements:

  • Be aged 18-30 (at the time of application!)
  • Must have a valid onward ticket to leave New Zealand, or additional funds to purchase one
  • Must have at least NZ $4,200 of available funds (can be from bank statements, checks, credit card statements, et al.)
  • Meet basic health and character requirements
  • Must have full medical insurance coverage while in New Zealand
  • Must have not applied nor been denied a Working Holiday Visa from NZ before

Be advised these requirements might change over time, please visit the New Zealand Immigration site for the most up-to-date information.


The application is rather straightforward to complete, however if you would like additional guidance there are two websites that helped me during my process. Further, they both offer additional resources for those interested or actually doing a working holiday in New Zealand (since I can only give advice for what I’ve done thus far!) Here are the links to their respective pages:

www.BackpackerGuide.NZ – Working Holiday Visa Online Application Guide – Guide to Apply for Working Holiday Visa New Zealand


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