August 11, 2018
One thing I can say about immigration for New Zealand is that it’s thorough–painstakingly so. On the plus side, I can now say with utmost confidence that my innards are in pristine condition! I’ve had physical exams, blood draws, urine tests, chest x-rays, and a mammogram. I’ve been tested for things I’m not sure how you contract and have undergone exams for purposes I can only guess. For instance, what exactly IS a cardiac shadow, what does it look like, and how do you end up with one?
If you’ve been offered a job (or you’re young and have a desirable skill set as defined online), you can apply for a work-to-residence visa, which is for 30 months. This allows you to work in New Zealand for the required 24 months before you’re eligible to apply for a residence visa. The work visa is the bigger hurdle, from what others have told me, and it’s a tall hurdle!
So don’t dally, as the visa process takes time. My offer of employment came in mid-May, and it took about six weeks to get my visa. Nothing else can be arranged (like travel, shipping, bank accounts, health insurance, etc.) until the visa is approved, and scheduling all those items takes time, too. If you have a spouse or family to move, be sure and review the requirements for them as well.
The immigration application is done online, and each page often must be filled out completely before the next page is revealed. There’s a LOT of information to gather (such as your employer’s ID number, your entire work history with exact dates and street addresses, and much more), so it took me a full week to finish.
Before submitting, you’ll need a health exam by a designated panel physician. My biggest mistake was thinking “panel” was a NZ term for “board certified.” IT ISN’T! Panel means one of the few certified physicians allowed to do the health exams. Because these panel physicians are rare, they are booked weeks to months in advance. I had to fly from Portland to Los Angeles to find an appointment that worked with my time constraints. Seattle was only a three hour drive away, but they were booked for months in advance. So, you may need to look around for an alternative location to get your exams done.
Once your completed application is submitted, the process takes 4-6 weeks, and the approval reply is an anticlimactic simple email with an attached letter. The letter must be printed and kept with your passport. You’ll need this for all subsequent requirements, such as for getting through Customs, renting an apartment, applying for a tax ID (called an IRD number), and getting a driver’s license.
To apply for residence (which is like green card status in the US, from my current understanding), you need 24 months of work history in NZ, so you have a few months of leeway to get upgraded from work to residence visa. If you don’t have an offer of employment before arriving here, that also provides you a cushion to find a job before needing to apply for the residence visa.
Good luck with your journey, and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them here or email me, and I’ll respond.
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