Thousands of Brits want to be there
New Zealand might be nearly 12,000 miles from Britain, but that doesn't stop it being a draw for thousands of people who move there to live and work each year, enticed by its mountains, forests and lakes coupled with the dream of a more satisfying lifestyle than seems possible back home. More than 19,300 people from the UK alone were granted a work permit in 2004-5.
But despite these seemingly high numbers, New Zealand doesn't just let anybody in. To get the best chance of making the grade for a work permit or permanent residency, it helps if you are persistent, passionate about moving halfway around the world — and have the right combination of education and experience.
Indeed, perhaps the most critical success factor in landing a job and new life in New Zealand is having skills the country needs.
Do you have the skills the country needs?
Like many countries with an ageing population, New Zealand is facing skills shortages in several trades and professions. It's therefore actively looking abroad to recruit skilled migrants.
The government has identified areas, such as information and communication technology, biotechnology and the creative industries, as immigration target areas. But it doesn't stop there. New Zealand is also on the lookout for people skilled in education, the health and medical field, agriculture and farming, pharmaceuticals and the skilled trades. And recruiters say they're "screaming" for engineers.
Hays Specialist Recruitment, in its July 2006 quarterly forecast, identified accountancy and finance, construction and property, call centres, information technology, office support, and resources and mining as "hotpots". It describes a shortage of candidates at all levels in oil and gas, power, heavy engineering design and construction and mining.
"New Zealand is booming at the moment," says Darren Hatton, managing director of specialist recruitment consultancy Career Engineer. "There's plenty of opportunities for people. They often find that by coming here their careers take one or two steps forward."
The official figures for the economy show modest growth, slowing slightly in 2007 but rising to a healthy annual 2.4 percent in 2008. But it's in the fields suffering skills shortages where most opportunities lie.
Your skills might get you fast tracked
All this means that applicants who are applying for jobs in these fields could have their applications fast-tracked - you could, bureaucracy permitting, have the whole thing sorted in less than two months.
Brigitta Kirsten, a consultant with specialist agency Scientific and Technical Recruitment, says the fastest way to get into the country is to apply for a work visa for one of these in-demand professions.
"If they get employment through an accredited company, they are fast-tracked through the system," she says.
The New Zealand immigration department accredits certain companies and recruiters who are actively seeking to hire people from abroad for certain hard-to-fill roles.
"If an applicant has a specific job and they apply and go through the interview and are offered the job, they have to start their paperwork. This can take 4-8 weeks," she says.
"If a candidate doesn't have a job, it may take longer, because we will interview them and try to market them in New Zealand. That could take 8-16 weeks."
Molly Kallesen, an American speech-language therapist, found her entry into New Zealand was very quick because hers is one of the hotlist professions..
"I went through a specialist kiwi recruitment company. They were extremely helpful and found me exactly the job I wanted. I organized my registration, interviewed, everything before I came over. I arrived, found a place to live, and started work in less than 2 weeks."
Dedicated employment-seekers only
So does this mean all expats can easily get jobs in these fields?
Recruiters sound a note of caution. Potential migrants have to prove they take their move to New Zealand seriously.
"What New Zealand employers need to see demonstrated is that someone has already decided they are coming to New Zealand, either to emigrate permanently or to work for a couple of years until they've made their mind up," says Hatton.
"Literally hundreds of times, people have the very best of intentions from half a planet away, but for one thing or another, things just don't happen. So employers don't get too enthused until they know the person is coming for a face-to-face interview — so they know they are quite serious."
Kirsten agrees: "A face-to-face interview is priceless. It shows how committed you are."
So much for those with skills that match New Zealand’s needs
Unfortunately, for those without these golden skills, it can become tougher. New Zealand assesses applicants for its skilled migrant category according to a points system. In a nutshell — the more employment experience and education you have, the more points you get.
And it helps if you aren't fussy which part of the country you move to. A detailed list of the professions and trades currently most in demand is available at the immigration department's website. It shows, for example, that butchers are sought around Canterbury and Otago, while Auckland is the only place short of dental technicians. (Bizarrely, jockeys are also in demand, but not in Auckland or Wellington.)
If you're under 30 and from countries which have a treaty with New Zealand (the UK is one of them), you can apply for a visa under the working holiday scheme. This can be remarkably quick and easy.
Cathy O'Sullivan, aged 26 and from Ireland, landed a job as web editor with news website Stuff.co.nz with a working holiday visa.
"I applied online and it was granted within 48 hours," she says.
But as with most bureaucracies, the New Zealand immigration process can be tiresome and involves fees — although expats who have experienced immigrating to more than one country say it's one of the better systems. Potential migrants do however require a medical certificate and police clearance certificate from back home before they can move, and these, while relatively cheap, can take weeks to process.
But more importantly, the system requires migrants take responsibility for their own work permit applications, unlike in some other countries where it becomes the employer's responsibility.
Hatton suggests a two-pronged approach: immigration application and job hunt. "We can help them, but they need to make themselves familiar with the immigration process and the requirement as to what's needed before they start looking at moving."
The Immigration Department certainly does its best to help. Its website, at www.immigration.govt.nz is clear and user-friendly, and gives plenty of information about working and living in New Zealand. Candidates are able to create their own profile, and the site includes a service, called NetworkZ Online, to help match applicants to jobs. That tool is currently rather thin on employment opportunities, however.
One thing potential migrants must consider is whether their qualifications are recognised in New Zealand. Fortunately, most of this information is available online from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority www.nzqa.govt.nz.
Where to seek work
So where do potential migrants look for work?
One good place is a recruitment agency. There are hundreds throughout the country, and many specialise in fields such as healthcare, engineering or technology. Good agencies can help open doors to applicants when they arrive, even if the immigration process is left firmly in the migrant's hands. They can also advise on the immigration procedure before the applicant gets on the plane.
Potential expats are also advised to start looking for jobs directly, either on employers' websites, newspaper websites, such as The New Zealand Herald www.nzherald.co.nz, The Dominion Post www.dominionpost.com and The Press www.press.co.nz or through the publisher Fairfax Group's website at www.stuff.co.nz Specialist or generalist employment websites are also good sources — try Seek www.seek.co.nz, Search4Jobs www.netcheck.co.nz or Jobzone www.te.co.nz. Other worthwhile places to try are the government-run Career Services www.careers.govt.nz, or New Kiwis www.newkiwis.co.nz, which aims to match skills to needs.
Rafael Laverde, originally from Colombia, moved to Wellington after six years studying for a marketing MBA in the UK on a visa through his partner, who is from New Zealand.
"It takes a little bit of hard work and investigation to find a job here," he says. Some employers rejected him during his 5-month job-hunt because he was from a Spanish-speaking country and had an accent "like Antonio Banderas".
A combination of tweaks to his CV and assistance from the Job Mentoring Programme in Wellington helped him find employment as a project manager with translation centre NZTC International.
He says attitudes towards non-native English-speakers are changing. While not long ago anyone with an accent was viewed suspiciously, New Zealand employers are now starting to accept workers from all over the world, not just those from the traditional emigration nations such as the UK.
"There are plenty of opportunities now for skilled immigrants," he says.
Life in New Zealand
It's this combination of opportunities and a good quality of life that New Zealand is dangling in front of potential migrants.
"You have a 40 to 45-hour week, time for the family, and you're able to go down the beach after work and have a barbeque," says Hatton.
While New Zealand salaries for engineers aren't as high as, for example, the Middle East, Hatton says they are competitive locally and the quality of life is much greater.
"And in terms of disposal income, it's probably a lot better than people are experiencing in the UK. Buying power is as good, if not better."
Indeed, Auckland and Wellington, at 100 and 105, fare well in the Mercer Human Resource Consulting Cost of Living Survey for 2006, showing they're among the cheapest places to live in the developed world (London, for example, is at position 5).
That, coupled with New Zealand's glorious open spaces and relaxed pace of life, make it a draw, despite its distance from Western Europe.
The weather is at least palatable; the temperate New Zealand climate won't come as much of a shock to anyone moving from Britain. Summer, which is at its height between December and February, sees temperatures in the 20-30C range; in winter (June until August) temperatures hover between 5 and 15C. Expect rain all year, however, especially on the South Island.
The education system is government-funded, with schools having the facilities you would expect from a first-world country. New Zealand also has free and subsidized healthcare, but it's only available to official residents.
Housing ranges in price from around NZ$350,000 (£120,000) for an inner-city, 1- or 2-bedroom apartment to NZ$550,000 (£190,000) for a house in the suburbs. A townhouse with a view of the ocean will set you back NZ$800,000 (£275,000).
You can almost taste the fresh air. As Cathy O'Sullivan says: "I just love the lifestyle I have here in New Zealand. I get to do lots of outdoorsy activities and go on lots of road trips. Even though I am thousands of miles away from home, I really feel 'at home' here."
There are four main options for people who want to come to New Zealand to live and work.
For people who want to live and work in New Zealand permanently. Applicants are scored according to a points system, with being aged under 56, having a tertiary or trade qualification, two years of work experience and a job offer all giving you more points.
Work to Residence
If you have a skill that is in high demand, or have an exceptional talent in sports or the arts, you can use this permit to work temporarily in New Zealand as a step towards permanent residence. You need a job offer from an 'accredited employer' with a base salary of at least NZ$45,000 (£15,500) per year, or an offer of full-time, ongoing employment in one of the jobs on the Long-Term Skills Shortage list.
Temporary Work Visa
For a temporary job in New Zealand, especially if you have a skill that's in demand there. It's also used for people working in connection with a particular event.
If you’re aged between 18 and 30 and come from one of 23 countries (including the UK), this option allows you to travel around New Zealand and take up temporary work. The visa usually lasts 12 months.
Written for Nexus, Expat Network by