Take a look at any list of the best places to work abroad and you’re sure to find New Zealand hovering near the top. And with a healthy employment market, spectacular natural beauty and some of the world’s happiest workers, it’s no wonder. If you have always wanted to work in New Zealand, read on to find out more…

New Zealand has employment opportunities in many industries so you should find lots of possibilities, although competition can be fierce. Many expats may have to take a more junior role or a temporary position at the beginning of their time in New Zealand – but this can often lead onto a more senior, permanent position.

Jobs in New Zealand

The global recession of recent years has been weathered pretty well here, and plenty of industries are thriving. Auckland’s financial district has a wealth of business and IT jobs in the lucrative Asian-Pacific market. Construction workers and engineers are also in demand following the devastating earthquakes of 2011.

Tourism, healthcare, forestry, wine-making, agriculture, and manufacturing are other examples of healthy New Zealand industries. Take a look at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment list of Essential Skills in Demand to find which professions are most sought after.

The famously relaxed lifestyle of New Zealanders is reflected in their work-life balance, with flexible working, typically short commutes and 11 paid public holidays per year. Expats report high job satisfaction, around 6 weeks holiday a year and an average working week of 42.2 hours. Throw in the country’s amazing opportunities for playing in the great outdoors on your days off and you’ve got some of the happiest expats in the world.

On the downside, the laid-back Kiwi approach means some Brits find their new workplaces are a bit more unorganised and old-fashioned than they are used to. Many can also find communication on the sparse side. The atmosphere is often informal and friendly though, so it’s easy to make new friends.

Getting a work visa for New Zealand

Applying for a working visa is essential if you plan on finding work in New Zealand. There are several options, depending on your plans and your occupation.

First up, check whether the job you want to do is on the Essential Skills in Demand list. If your occupation is on the list, then your New Zealand employer will be exempt from the usual requirements that they must try to find a New Zealand citizen to fill the post first. Occupations currently listed include buildings inspector, winemaker and mechanical engineering technician, although the list is regularly reviewed to reflect the changing needs of the country.

If your occupation is on the list and you are made a job offer, you can then apply for an Essential Skills work visa for a temporary period. Your time in New Zealand will not count towards residency.

If you would prefer a work visa that has the possibility of leading on to a resident visa, you have three options:

    • Long-term Skill Shortage work visa: your occupation must be listed on the Long-term Skill Shortage list. You can apply for a resident’s visa after 2 years.
    • Accredited Employer work visa your potential employer must be accredited and your job offer must be long-term or permanent, and fulfil certain criteria, such as a salary of at least NZD$55,000 (£30,500). You can apply for a resident’s visa after 2 years.
    • Skilled Migrant visa: This will allow you to live, study and work indefinitely in New Zealand. You will need to score at least 160 on the points-based system, which assesses applicants on factors such as their age and experience, qualifications, language skills and character. If you do not have a job offer in place, you may be offered a job search visa.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 30, a New Zealand working holiday visa can be a great option. These visas are far simpler to obtain and allow visitors from an approved list of countries (including the UK) to travel and work for up to 12 months. You will have to show you have a return ticket home and that working is not your primary intention.

Summer jobs

Seasonal job hunting in New Zealand tends to focus on tourism and agriculture. The summer season, from November to March, is a great time to find jobs in hotels, restaurants, shops, bars and cafes. The South Island is where much of the tourist industry is based, along with some fantastic summer job opportunities if you have qualifications in adventure sports and guiding.

Fruit picking is a popular choice with seasonal workers, especially if you want to travel while you work. The season lasts from December through to May. The North Island is where you’ll find the majority of New Zealand’s agricultural jobs.

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The best cities for finding a job

New Zealand’s buoyant employment market offers a great range of opportunities, with roles to be found in everything from renewable energy to wine-making.

Auckland, or the ‘City of Sails’, is North Island’s largest city and one of the top business hubs in the Asia-Pacific area. It’s a cosmopolitan metropolis with excellent prospects for those working in business, finance, IT, and software. Construction workers can also do well here, as they can across most of the country!

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, is the place to go for anyone interested in working in arts, culture and the digital industries. It is also home to the most jobs for civil servants, healthcare workers, and scientific researchers.

New Zealand’s construction industry is most under pressure in the area around Christchurch, following those catastrophic 2011 earthquakes. You’ll find lots of opportunities as the area rebuilds, along with some excellent tourism job options.

Tips for job hunting

To move to New Zealand, you will usually need to have secured a job and a work visa beforehand. You can search for jobs online, and posts typically require a CV and covering letter.

New Zealand CVs should be laid out differently to those you might send in the UK. Don’t give a chronological list of all your past experience. Instead, your CV should be skills-focused, giving examples of the ways you have used them.

If you get to the interview stage, you’ll find New Zealanders have a relatively informal and relaxed approach. You can expect to be interviewed by a group of people and behavioural interviews are common, in which you are asked to provide examples of how you have behaved in previous situations. Be confident, friendly and succinct.

The majority of employers will acknowledge UK qualifications as the New Zealand system is very similar. It’s always best to clarify this with potential employers however.