Tips for IT professionals intending to emigrate to New Zealand

by Pablo Matamoros - 28 April 2008

English skills

So far we hardly spoke about one very important issue: communication skills. If English is your native language you can skip this section.

Many people believe that it is possible to learn a language on the streets. That is absolute nonsense, especially if you are planning to work in IT. When looking for a professional role you not only need to be able to buy your groceries, it is mandatory to have reasonably good writing skills. Can you imagine an analyst conducting an interview or writing the requirements of a system with little knowledge of English? What about a programmer exchanging emails with a client regarding critical errors in a system?

If you are planning to come to New Zealand with little or no English, be ready to have a hard time and eventually come back home empty handed. I’ve seen many South American professionals going back home after months and even years of working in low paid jobs, in some cases illegally.

If you are a Spanish speaker, we aware that New Zealand is not the US, the Latin community is very small. The IT community of Spanish speakers even smaller. I can count with the fingers of one hand the number of IT professionals from Hispanic origins. You wouldn’t be able to find a Hispanic IT company, like you could, for example, in Miami or Los Angeles

My point is, that any language – English is no exception – should be formally learned. You could still do it in New Zealand though. It is actually one way to be granted a Student permit as long the course you take is intensive (around 20 hours a week).

Having good English skills doesn’t warrant success either. My experience (and that of many other immigrants that I know), is that local employers prefer to hire professionals whose native language is English. It makes sense to hire someone who shares your culture, doesn’t it? A strong accent can be a barrier when searching for jobs. Besides, Kiwis speak fast and have a very peculiar accent.

Be prepared to do any kind of work

If you are coming without a job offer, be ready to work doing anything: cleaning, picking fruits, painting, barista, etc. Brush up other skills that you might have learned or that are your hobby. Good carpenters, electricians or mechanics earn good money in New Zealand. In some cases they earn the same or more than white collar professionals.

Some professionals studied IT in their native countries because it was a way of earning better money than working as a tradesman. But they maybe would have preferred to work as a carpenter, mechanic, hairdresser…whatever. For example, I met a Russian programmer that prefers to work as builder in New Zealand. He is still cutting software just as a hobby.

IT skills in demand – what business say and what they actually do

Every year, the New Zealand Immigration Service writes lists of Immediate and Long Term shortage skills. These lists are based on surveys done in collaboration with local businesses. However, what they say and what they actually look for differs or changes rapidly. For example, businesses could say today that they need ABAP programmers but then they could advertise for .NET programmers.


Most of New Zealand employers are very selective (even picky). They complain about the shortage of IT professionals but they are not willing to give a prospective employee the chance to catch up with a particular technology. It is not enough to be a Software Engineer, you have to be a Software Engineer with knowledge in X, Z, N and M technologies. Ah, and with at least 3 years of experience!

There is a reason for this selectiveness. Kiwis are used to changing jobs and moving homes often. Many of them “cross the ditch” to Australia. Then employers don’t want to take the risk of hiring somebody who spends a couple of months to learn a technology and after only a year moves to the next company. Also the local economy is small, businesses are smaller, companies can’t or don’t want to spend money on this type of “on the job training”.

The Jack-of-all-trades approach doesn’t pay off in New Zealand. You have to be specialist in a particular technology. My experience as an IT professional in South America was quite different. I wasn’t an expert in any of the languages I was hired to work with. I learned the ins and outs of them on the job.

I recommend you check the following sites to have an idea of what companies are looking for:

A final comment

Immigrating into any country is never easy. No matter what degrees, qualification or skills you have, the more different the culture of the country you are choosing as your new home is from your own culture, the harder it is to find a job and to integrate in general.

I have a lot other advice and experience I’d like to share. Some slipped out of my mind at the moment, others I prefer to leave for a more “interactive” media. Please feel free to post any questions you might have on the forum.

If you are a Hispanic IT professional that has immigrated into New Zealand or any other country I would love to hear from you. Feel free to open a discussion under the General category of the forum. I will open a category for each country that readers might be interested in.

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257 Comments on “Tips for IT professionals intending to emigrate to New Zealand”

  1. Marcela Says:

    Hola Pablo,
    soy ingeniera en informática egresada de argentina, con muchos años de experiencia en programación de aplicaciones y web (más de 10 – 6 en empresas y 5 de manera independiente), quiero postularme para la Visa de residencia Skilled para NZ. Quería saber si sabés si la gente de inmigración llama a la gente que se pone de referente o a los empleadores antiguos o actuales, porque no sé si se acuerdan de mí x los años que pasaron, y otros solo hablan en español, y si podías contactarme con gente de NZ que busque programadores.
    Muchas gracias! genial el blog y tu trabajo y dedicación!

  2. Pablo Matamoros Says:

    En general, cuando te presentas para un puesto laboral solo se acostumbra a poner en tu CV 2 a 3 referencias a las que se pueda llamar. Calculo que para migraciones sería lo mismo, no me acuerdo como es el formulario, pero estoy seguro que había una sección para ello.

    El sistema de migraciones no es muy consistente, depende mucho de la persona a la que le toque tu caso. En mi caso no llamaron a nadie en Argentina ni en NZ, confiaron en mi CV y cartas de recomendación (todas en inglés) que les dí.

    Te recomendaría que hicieses eso, conseguir cartas de recomendación (en inglés) y dar 2 a 3 referencias con las que puedan hablar.

  3. Marcela Says:

    Muchas gracias por la info y los tips. En el formulario piden todos los datos de cada trabajo que se presente como referencia, por eso mi duda. Voy a presentar toda la documentacion que tenga avalando los trabajos y un par de cartas de recomendación. Sabes si toman emails (en formato papel y/o digitalizados en pendrive) como documentacion valida? he hecho muchos trabajos informales con los que solo cuento con esas pruebas.
    gracias y saludos

  4. Mary Romero Says:

    Hola Pablo. Que bueno volver a leer tus comentarios… Soy de Venezuela. Amigo, conoces a código Level? http://www.codigolevel.com/

    Me lo han recomendado para el proceso migratorio en Nueva Zelanda. Pero lo que no me cuadra es que cobran para poder decirte si calificas o no y con el difícil acceso a las divisas que tenemos nosotros es bastante lo que cobran por lo que no podemos darnos el lujo de pagar algo así para que después nos diga que debemos estudiar mas ingles o que tenemos que buscar otro destino. Jajajaja. No se si me explique bien, espero me hayas entendido.

  5. Pablo Matamoros Says:

    Como te dije, depende de a quien le toque tu caso. Pero te diría que conseguías dos o tres referencias con cartas que se vean oficiales (un correo electrónico no da esa imagen). En esto, hay que dar una imagen lo más oficial y prolijo posible. Cuanto más fácil se lo haces a los de migraciones, menos problemas para ti. Igual, este nivel de detalles se lo tienes que preguntar directamente a ellos.

  6. Pablo Matamoros Says:

    No los conozco. Hay muchísimas de estas agencias y consultores. No se lo que cobran, pero en general se paga la conveniencia y el conocimiento. Mi primer visa la conseguí con ayuda de un agente, de allí en más hice todos los trámites yo. El tiempo es dinero, nadie va a leer toda tu documentación gratis.

  7. Joaquín Says:

    Hola Marcela, yo también soy argentino e Ingeniero informático (Sistemas de información), trabajo hace 4 años especializado en programación java, he obtenido la visa WHS, y estaré viajando en unos meses. Mi idea es trabajar de mi profesión en NZ, mi nivel de inglés es intermedio, hace un año que vengo estudiando para mejorarlo y rindo el IELTS en diciembre como para tener un mejor respaldo. Si has tenido novedades acerca del empleo en nuestro rubro allá en NZ sería genial si lo podemos compartir e ir conociendo gente que esté o estuvo en la misma situación que nosotros. Mi mail es lg.joaquin@gmail.com
    Saludos!

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