Moving to New Zealand from the US

Many people move from the United States to New Zealand for job opportunities, to retire, to study or just to raise their children.

New Zealand is a relatively small country – roughly the same size as the state of Colorado. Despite its size many people are attracted to New Zealand by the promise of an easier pace of life.

Most of New Zealand’s population live in urban areas, but the opportunities to get out in the great outdoors are significant. Its rural scenery is stunning, with its forests, mountains, lakes, rivers and fjords.

Even when you are in one of the country’s biggest cities, you will be within 30 minutes of a beach, native park or mountain biking trail.

And you’ll find yourself spoiled for space as New Zealand’s population density is just 18 people per square kilometer, compared to 36 people in the United States, according to the World Bank.

If that sounds good to you, we can offer you free quotes for shipping your possessions. Just fill in this quick form, and you can see how much moving your life to New Zealand would cost.

The idea of moving to an island paradise is pretty tempting

New Zealand cities vs US cities

New Zealand and the US share a great deal culturally, so you should have relatively few difficulties adjusting.

New Zealand doesn’t experience the same extremes of climate as the US. Its temperate climate means summers are generally warm, mild, and fairly wet. The north of the country is warmer than the south, but it’s rarely scorching hot or uncomfortably cold anywhere in New Zealand.

In a 2020 survey by Mercer, New York was the 6th most expensive city in the world in which to live, while San Francisco and Los Angeles ranked 16th and 17th respectively.

In contrast, Auckland ranked 103rd and Wellington came 123rd, which is a significant difference.


Before your big move to New Zealand, it's wise to think about medical cover for when you're out there.

That way, you'll be prepared when you arrive.

Working in New Zealand

In the US, there is no legal requirement for companies to offer their staff any annual leave. In New Zealand however, all employers are required to give you 20 days annual leave, and there are also seven paid holiday days each year.

And many companies in New Zealand give their employees more than 20 days of annual leave.

HSBC's 2020 Expat Explorer survey ranked New Zealand first in the world for work-life balance, while the US came 37th out out of 40.

Becoming a citizen of New Zealand

If you have lived in New Zealand for five years with indefinite leave to remain, you can apply to become a citizen.

Applying for citizenship by grant costs $337 for adults and $169 for children under 16. Renouncing your US citizenship will cost more than $2,000.

Once you become a citizen of New Zealand, you’ll find public health care is much cheaper than in the US.

Accident and emergency treatment is free, though you will have to pay for appointments with family doctors, prescriptions and dental care for adults.

the auckland skyline

New Zealand has breathtaking skylines to go with its stunning landscapes

Transferring money to New Zealand

If you’re thinking of moving to New Zealand, you’ll probably need to convert some of your American dollars into New Zealand dollars.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Wise, an easy-to-use online international money transfer service which uses the real exchange rate, and charges low fees.

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New Zealand is not a major world economy like the US, but it escaped a lot of the damage from the 2008 financial crisis.

There are great employment opportunities in ICT, healthcare, construction, science, finance and engineering, amongst others, as the country is still experiencing skills shortages.

Unemployment is 4.9%, according to government data, which is pretty low, while construction, retail, and telecommunications are fast-growing employment sectors.

House prices and renting

New Zealand has a number of areas where you can buy relatively cheap properties. Homes in Wellington and in the Canterbury region, including the large city of Christchurch, tend to be cheaper than the national average.

However, prices in Auckland can be very expensive. The average house in Auckland costs more than $860,000, compared to a national average of $585,366.

This is well above the US's average price of $277,000. Even San Francisco and New York have (some) significantly cheaper homes than Auckland.

In this respect, New Zealand can be more expensive than the US, where the average rental price usually hovers around $1,100 per month.

However, rental prices in San Francisco and New York are usually around $4,500 per month, considerably more than anywhere in New Zealand.

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The quality of education in New Zealand is very high.

It’s compulsory for children to start primary (elementary) school from age six, although it is possible to enrol them at age five.

The public (state) school system is only free to citizens and permanent residents of New Zealand.

If you are a newcomer on a temporary visa, you will need to apply for a separate student visa for your children, and you’ll need to pay fees towards their tuition, which could amount to around $7,000 per year.

Private schooling is also funded by the central government, up to 25%.

Here are some differences you may notice in New Zealand schools:

  • There may be a greater emphasis on physical education
  • New Zealand schools may promote thinking and application over learning of knowledge, e.g. multiple choice tests are less frequent
  • They may also be less keen on teaching the rigors of spelling and grammar

There are eight universities in New Zealand, as well as 18 polytechnics and further education colleges specializing in vocational tertiary education.

The University of Auckland is consistently ranked as the best in the country. It came 147th best in the world in the 2021 Times Higher Education rankings.

Food and drink

New Zealand is proud of its home-grown lamb and fish dishes and fine wines.

The country doesn’t have many restaurants offering international cuisine, but it should be possible to find good Indian, Chinese, Thai and other Asian dining establishments in the larger cities.

A cheap and cheerful dining option in New Zealand might be fish and chips for around $4, but a restaurant main meal might cost from $14 to $26.

If you eat at one of the country's top restaurants, like Auckland’s Kazuya or The Grove, a main course could set you back around $35.

The best vegetarian restaurants include Authentic Vegetarian Restaurant in Auckland, Aro Café in Wellington, and Dream Garden Vegetarian Café in Christchurch.

Some of the best vegetarian dishes can be found in Asian restaurants, while Green Time in Auckland and Boquita in Wellington are highly-rated for vegan dining.


For the best choice of nightlife in New Zealand, head for the big cities. The city with the highest proportion of young people is Auckland, so it makes sense that it's the best place to party.

If you’re seeking a more relaxed night out, try a smaller city such as Queenstown or Taupo.

Most cities have one or two LGBT nightspots, but most of the country’s LGBT-friendly scene can be found in Auckland, home to New Zealand’s biggest LGBT festival in the shape of Big Gay Out, held each February.

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