I’ve lived in New Zealand since 2004. Since I decided to leave my homeland, Argentina, I’ve been bombarded with all sort of questions: why New Zealand?, how is life here?, is it easy to adapt?, what is the cost of living?, ….and the list goes on. This article intends to answer some of those questions.
I will leave the economic, geographical, political and other characteristics for your own research. There is no need to write about the beauty of this country, there is plenty documented about it, in articles, books and films. If you are still curious you can start by looking at this site: www.newzealand.com. Alternatively you can leave a message on our forum: www.codespanish.com/forum
Before you continue, I want to make one point clear. The following lines might sound a bit harsh, especially if you are a Kiwi. It is not my intention. I love this country; I don’t regret choosing New Zealand as my adoptive home. But sometimes immigration agencies are a bit too positive. I’m trying to be more realistic.
Don’t believe in everything you read in the brochures
As happens in many other countries it isn’t easy to find a place in the professional world. So, my first advice is to be realistic. Ignore any document that promises a sort of “New American Dream” (well New Zealand dream in any case). You could find yourself coming back home with an unfair view of the country. Immigration consultants and governmental agencies are to a great extent responsible for it.
Although the unemployment rate is at an all time low – as I write this article it is one of the lowest in the developed world – it doesn’t mean that you will easily get a similar professional position to the one you have now. This is particularly difficult for those whose native language is not English. I will return to this point later.
Do your homework
Most countries in the world have requirements to allow visitors to work permanently and temporally. New Zealand is no exception. You are required to have a work permit or to be resident. Let’s take a brief look at some of the permits that the New Zealand immigration service concedes:
- Visitor visa: purely for tourism. Working under this permit is illegal. Although there are illegal workers in New Zealand, it is not worth the risk, especially if you have an IT qualification. You can still come as visitor and apply for a work permit while you are in the country as long as you are not actually working. We will discuss this situation later.
- Working holiday visa: this is granted to people from certain countries aged between 18 and 30 to come to New Zealand to travel and undertake temporary work. The duration and conditions of this visa vary with the nationality of the applicant. It is normally granted to a limited number of people per country. Hispanic countries that are granted this visa are: Argentina, Chile and Mexico.
- Visas for seasonal work in horticulture and viniculture: you can apply for this visa once in New Zealand. It allows working in tasks such as pruning and fruit picking for a maximum period of six weeks. You are not allowed to extend this permit. Holders of this permit are only allowed to work in specific regions of the country in the activities mentioned above.
- Student permits: you are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week. To be granted this permit you need to be a fulltime student of a New Zealand institution. Since fees are not cheap for international students, in order to pay your fees and your expenses you are likely to need more than 20 hours of work.
- Work Permit: this is the type of visa that is needed to work in general. It allows working fulltime for a limited period of time. There are several categories, requirements and limitations They are always changing. However, as IT professionals we are only interested in the Immediate Skill Shortage List category. IT is in high demand and almost all the streams of IT skills are included in the Shortage List. Nevertheless, you need to have an employment offer from a valid employer (here lies one of the biggest problems of this system). Also, if you quit your job, you have to leave the country, unless you have another legitimate job offer.
- Residence – Skilled Migrant Category: the main difference from the Work permit is that is not tied to a particular employer. Not only does it give freedom of choice, it also opens doors to the same possibilities that citizens have: bank credits, student fees at local rates (under any of the other schemes students pay international fees), student loans, business credits, mortgages, etc.
This permit is granted through a pool system in which an applicant fills a form called expression of interest (EOI). The applicant claims a score according with age, English level, skill set, etc. This score is used in the pool. If the applicant claimed 100 points or more, the EOI goes into the Pool. Every fortnight, all EOIs over 140 points are automatically selected for an invitation to apply for residence. After this, lower scoring EOIs with certain factors, such as skilled employment in New Zealand, are selected. Therefore the time it takes to be invited to apply varies considerably from case to case.
- Other permits: there are many other ways to stay in New Zealand to work. For more details visit www.immigration.govt.nz
As you can see, it isn’t easy. I recommend reading the New Zealand immigration service website carefully before making a decision. If I had done that before coming to the country I could have saved lots of money and time. I took my chances and came under a Working Holiday Scheme. Things were neither easy nor cheap for me.
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