A Definitive Guide to Moving to New Zealand from the US

Posted Country Guides / April 19, 2021
Kate Holland

A true grunge and rock music fan born in Seattle, Kate has moved across the country and started writing about her experience.

Deciding on moving overseas doesn’t come on a whim, as it takes many preparatory steps to pull it off. But to those of you that plan on moving to New Zealand from the US, this place offers breathtaking landscapes and a great work-life balance. It’s an open nation for people wanting to take their career elsewhere, students looking for opportunities to study, or for those joining their families.

The Land of the Long White Cloud, or Aotearoa in Maori, has also been called “incubation nation” because it’s the ideal testing ground for different innovations that are later accepted worldwide. If you are an entrepreneur with a vision, this is the perfect place to be living in. That’s why if you want to become a Kiwi, check out our guide that will provide you with some useful information about NZ. After reading our article you will be ready to create a relocation checklist.

Learn About the Pros and Cons of Moving to New Zealand From the US

NZ consists of two separated landmasses Te Ika-a-Māui or the North Island, and Te Waipounamu or the South Island, and it is home to 5 million people and 30 million sheep. Impressive, right?

Also, by means of scenery and nature, NZ is amazingly spectacular. It is rich with rainforests, glaciers, fjords, vast lakes, and even a desert, and almost one-third of the land is a national park. It is perhaps a small looking land, but its coastline is the 9th longest in the world. This is something that even the best European countries won’t offer you. The weather here is temperate, without extreme temperatures. Although the Pacific ocean can bring sudden changes in a day, from a warm summer to a blast of cold and rain, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the outdoors.

But what NZ got famous for, besides All Blacks and their internationally known haka, is the fact that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed here, everything but one scene. Tourists from all over the world have visited the locations where it was filmed, and it brought over $200 million into the economy.

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Why Are Many Americans Moving to New Zealand? – There Are Many Pros of the Island Life

NZ has three official languages, and since one of them is English, emigrating to New Zealand from the USA won’t require breaking the language barrier. The other two languages are Maori and sign language.

With a low crime rate and high religious tolerance (around 50,000 people have listed their religion as “Jedi” in the 2001 NZ census), it was ranked second on the 2020 Global Peace Index. So, instead of looking for the best places to retire in Europe or anywhere else, you should turn your gaze to NZ. Especially for the fact that no matter where you settle, you will be no more than 80 miles away from the seaside.

Also, NZ is a laid-back place with a generally relaxed lifestyle (it’s perfectly normal to see people walking into a store barefoot), and the residents, or Kiwis, are really friendly and easy-going. It’s a place rich with history, and Maori culture, dating from the 13th century when the East Polynesians set foot on it. If you are looking forward to all of this, moving internationally will invoke less relocation stress.

The Cons of Living In New Zealand Shouldn’t Be Deal Breakers

While many people who are thinking about how to emigrate to New Zealand are already aware that the land here is sparsely inhabited, some may find it a bit lonely. This can be especially hard for those coming from busy cities in the US.

While adjusting to a new country such as NZ doesn’t include cohabitation with snakes (they have literally none), it comes with many mosquitoes and sandflies. Another thing you should watch out for when moving abroad to this place is the hole in the ozone layer, so staying away from the UV rays should be a top priority.

Learn How to Move to New Zealand – First Figure Out Where You Will Be Living in NZ

This stunning and gorgeous nation is one of the best places to live abroad with family. It has the majority of its residents located on North Island, where you can find the world’s southernmost capital Wellington, and also the largest city Auckland.

If you’ve managed to find a job in one of NZ’s cities, one of the relocation questions to ask the employer should be if they are willing to cover the cost of the efficient move. Keep in mind that the costs of shipping with an international moving company might be pricey, and this would be the way to save up. Also, before you actually start packing up your bags, research the cities and find the one that suits your needs the best.

Auckland – Reasonably Crowded

This is NZ’s most expensive and densely populated urban area, but it also has the most entertainment options. This is probably the best place to look for expat communities. It offers employment in almost every industry and is a multicultural hub. Auckland is an impressive mix of urban surroundings and natural wonders that sits on top of volcanic hills (50 of them) and holds twin harbors. The tallest man-made structure in the southern hemisphere, called the Sky Tower, is just here in this city. It has a lot of restaurants, including those for vegans, so be sure to put it on the list if you are looking for the best vegan cities to settle in.

Wellington – The Windy Capital

The government departments and head offices of many large companies are located in “the creative capital,” as many call it, and that’s just one of the reasons why it has the highest salaries. It’s a great place for building a business and also pursuing a creative career. It offers opportunities for quality education, so it’s a great choice for students or those who are relocating with kids but like to be in an urban area.

Christchurch – The Most English City

The largest city of Te Waipounamu was considered “the most English city outside of England” before the earthquakes in 2011. Nowadays, it’s undergoing a rebuilding process, and it is striving to be one of the most modern places in NZ. In terms of business, it offers excellent opportunities for engineers, especially in the construction industry. From surfing to snowboarding and getting around by bike, it’s great for those who love to be active as well. Since it has distinctive seasons, bringing different types of clothes must be among the things to pack when relocating abroad to reside here.

Tauranga – There Is No Winter Here

A perfect, sunny, and warm resort town, in terms of development, is second to Auckland. It offers opportunities in various sectors, mainly tourism, and the property prices here are still reasonable. But also, if you’re relocating to another country for love, this could be a perfect match for you and your significant other. There’s a variety of water sports, entertainment options, but also beautiful nature and friendly residents with rich culture, that make this whole place one the friendliest in the world.

Work Opportunities and How People Apply for a Visa

Relocating across the world for a job is probably the number 1 reason why people apply for visas. But, if you have already dreamed about the beautiful and amazing NZ but haven’t looked at work opportunities it offers, here are some industries and positions you can check out:

  • Carpenters,
  • Tilers,
  • Architects,
  • Electricians,
  • All types of engineers,
  • Agricultural workers,
  • Healthcare workers,
  • And many more.

There are plenty of career opportunities in every area and at every level, especially within the construction industry. There’s a high demand for many of these positions, so gather the documents needed to travel abroad and apply. One of the main relocation tips is to search for work before leaving your country.

Types of Work Visas to Consider

You’re probably asking yourself, “Do I qualify to immigrate to New Zealand?” Applying for a Working Holiday Visa is actually an exceptionally easy task, and it requires you to be aged 18-30, to open your browser, pay a certain fee, and answer some questions. After you obtain it, hire movers and their packing services, and you’re set to move with an overseas moving company and start working for a year in NZ.

Besides the Working Holiday Visa, you can apply for a Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa, which is suitable for those who wish to live and work in NZ indefinitely. For this Visa, NZ is looking for skilled workers that will contribute to the economic growth with their technical, specialist, or management expertise. As an applicant, you must send an Expression of Interest to NZ Immigration with details of experience, qualifications, and employment status.

You’re probably wondering can foreigners live in New Zealand? If you have one or more skills required and listed on the government immigration website, you can apply for the Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa. This is a good option if you want to experience living and working in NZ for a certain period of time (for 30 months, to be precise) and an excellent option if you’re wondering how to move to New Zealand.

Know The Cost of Living in Aotearoa

While relocating to another country like NZ is an extraordinary experience, it probably won’t come as a surprise to you when we say that renting and buying a new home here isn’t cheap. It also may be worth mentioning that homes don’t offer the same commodities as the ones in the US and don’t come with washers and dryers included or air conditioning. So think about what you will store in storage units and what you will ship with you with an overseas shipping company.

Buying a home in Auckland is similar to the cost of a residence in the San Francisco suburbs, but it’s also not possible to buy unless you are a resident. The rent is also paid a bit differently, and it’s due in weekly installments, and the cost in Auckland is about $600 per week. The deposit is usually four weeks’ worth of rent. Of course, both the cost of real estate and the rent are lower in smaller cities and towns, which also offer plenty of working and business opportunities.

So, how much money do you need to live comfortably in New Zealand? As far as monthly costs go, we’ll start with a downside – the internet is slow and expensive, and it may be a problem if you’re trying to keep in touch with friends. Keep in mind that most of the goods and retail items have to be shipped from somewhere, and that’s why they tend to be pricier, too. They have subsidized public healthcare, and it is offered to residents, but also to expats whose visa is valid for two years or more. Overall, the amount of money you’ll need will depend on your habits and lifestyle, so if you want to save up, settle in smaller areas and try to buy locally grown products.

Can I Move to New Zealand Without a Car? – How to Emigrate to New Zealand With One?

If you were planning to use overseas vehicle shipping, it is probably a good idea. While larger cities have public transportation, it doesn’t function perfectly since it’s not a densely populated place. So, shipping a car overseas may be a good choice, as you will use it to get around. If you plan on being more active and enjoy the outdoors, a great solution would be to move around on a bike whenever possible.

Emigrating to New Zealand From USA Soon? Here’s How Much Money You’ll Need

Planning a budget is one of the essential steps in organizing and relocating to live in another country. Every move is an expensive process, especially when you plan to relocate to a faraway place, such as NZ. But, reputable and reliable movers will base their estimate on your inventory list, so everything you are paying for is transparent. While you’re searching for some tips for learning a new language like Maori, let the professionals lift the heavy stuff for you and organize everything, from packing to unloading into your NZ home.


What Are the Visa Requirements for Moving to New Zealand?

For up to 6 months, you can enter New Zealand as a visitor without a visa, but you must first obtain a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA). If you use the dedicated mobile app to apply, it will cost you NZD $17; if you complete it online through the Immigration NZ website, it will cost you NZD $23.

How Do I Find a Job in New Zealand Before I Move There?

Just like when you are relocating to any other country, first research more about the jobs in New Zealand. Update your CV before applying for suitable positions. You can attend various job interviews and try to network before leaving the USA.

What Is the Cost of Living Like in New Zealand?

For one individual in a big city, the monthly expenses in New Zealand are between NZ$3,000 and NZ$4,000. A family of four will likely require between NZ$5,000 and NZ$6,000 per month to get by.

What Is the Healthcare System Like in New Zealand?

New Zealand has a publicly funded healthcare system that provides comprehensive and universal coverage to all citizens and permanent residents. The system is mainly funded by general taxation and provides access to medical services at little or no cost, including consultations with doctors, diagnostic tests, and hospital care.

Primary healthcare is typically delivered by general practitioners (GPs) who act as gatekeepers for specialist care. Patients can choose to see any GP they want, and fees for primary healthcare are often subsidized by the government.

How Do I Find a Place to Live in New Zealand?

To find a place to live in New Zealand, you can start by looking for properties on real estate websites, such as Trade Me Property, Realestate.co.nz, or Property Press. You can also check local newspapers, community noticeboards, and social media groups for listings. Real estate agents and property managers can help you find suitable properties and arrange viewings. Additionally, you can consider using a relocation service, which can assist with finding accommodation, as well as other aspects of moving to a new country.

What Are Some Cultural Differences I Should Be Aware of When Moving to New Zealand?

Moving to a new country like New Zealand can be exciting, but it’s also important to be aware of cultural differences to help you adjust and integrate into the local community. New Zealanders are known for their relaxed, informal, and egalitarian culture. They tend to be friendly, welcoming, and open-minded, and often prefer to use first names instead of titles. The indigenous Māori culture is an important part of New Zealand’s identity, and you should be respectful of their customs and beliefs. New Zealanders value punctuality. New Zealand’s natural beauty and outdoor activities are a significant part of its culture.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Visa to Move to New Zealand?

The time it takes to get a visa to move to New Zealand depends on the type of visa you’re applying for and your individual circumstances. In general, the processing time for a New Zealand visa can range from a few days to several months. For example, a visitor visa can typically be processed within a few weeks, while a work visa or residency visa may take several months. It’s important to apply for your visa well in advance of your planned travel date, and to ensure that you meet all the visa requirements and provide all necessary documentation. You can check the estimated processing times for different types of visas on the New Zealand Immigration website.

How Do I Transfer My Belongings to New Zealand?

To transfer your belongings to New Zealand, you can either ship them or bring them with you on the plane. If you’re shipping your belongings, you can choose between air freight or sea freight, depending on how much you need to transport and how quickly you need it to arrive. It’s important to research different shipping companies and obtain quotes, as well as to check the customs requirements for importing your belongings into New Zealand.

Can I Bring My Pets With Me When I Move to New Zealand?

Yes, it is possible to bring pets with you when you move to New Zealand, but there are specific requirements and regulations that must be followed. The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) oversees the importation of animals, and the rules can vary depending on the type of animal and where it’s coming from.

In general, dogs and cats must have a rabies vaccination and meet specific health requirements, including being treated for internal and external parasites. They also need to be microchipped and have an official veterinary certificate. Additionally, some dog breeds are not allowed to be imported into New Zealand.

Other types of pets, such as birds, reptiles, and rodents, may also be imported into New Zealand, but the rules and requirements can differ from those for dogs and cats.

How Do I Get a New Zealand Driver’s License?

If you are visiting New Zealand as a tourist or a temporary resident, you can drive with a valid USA driver’s license for up to 12 months from the date of your arrival in New Zealand. After 12 months, you’ll need to obtain a New Zealand driver’s license if you plan to continue driving.

It’s important to note that your USA driver’s license must be in English or be accompanied by an accurate English translation. If your driver’s license is not in English, you must obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you arrive in New Zealand. An IDP is a translation of your driver’s license and is recognized in over 150 countries worldwide, including New Zealand.

It’s also important to comply with New Zealand’s road rules and regulations while driving, including following speed limits, wearing seat belts, and driving on the left-hand side of the road. If you’re unsure about any of the road rules or regulations in New Zealand, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them before you start driving.

What Is the Education System Like in New Zealand?

The education system in New Zealand is generally of a high standard and is based on the principles of inclusivity, equity, and the importance of cultural diversity. All children in New Zealand are required to attend school from the age of 6 to 16. New Zealand has a strong focus on early childhood education, and children can attend kindergartens, playcentres, and other early childhood education services from birth to the age of 5. The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the main qualification that students work towards in their final years of secondary school.

Do I Need to Speak English to Live in New Zealand?

While English is the primary language spoken in New Zealand, it is not a requirement to speak English to live in New Zealand. New Zealand is a diverse and multicultural country, and there are many people who speak languages other than English.

However, being able to speak English is important for many aspects of daily life in New Zealand, such as finding a job, communicating with healthcare professionals, and dealing with government agencies. English is also the language of instruction in most schools and universities in New Zealand.

What Are the Job Prospects Like in New Zealand?

New Zealand has a relatively strong job market with a low unemployment rate, and there are opportunities across a range of industries. Some of the major industries in New Zealand include agriculture, tourism, IT, healthcare, education, and construction.

If you have skills and qualifications that are in demand in New Zealand, such as in areas like healthcare, IT, and construction, you may find it easier to secure a job. Additionally, New Zealand has a skills shortage list, which identifies occupations that are in demand in the country and for which there is a shortage of skilled workers. If your occupation is on the list, you may be eligible for a work visa or a resident visa.

What Is the Weather Like in New Zealand?

The weather in New Zealand is generally mild and temperate, but it can vary widely depending on the region and time of year. New Zealand experiences four distinct seasons, with summer (December to February) being the warmest and winter (June to August) being the coldest.

In general, the northern and central parts of the North Island tend to be warmer and more humid than the rest of the country, while the South Island is cooler with more variable weather conditions. Some areas of the South Island, particularly in the Southern Alps, can experience very cold temperatures and heavy snowfall during winter.

How Do I Make Friends and Meet New People When I Move to New Zealand?

Join a club or group that aligns with your interests, such as a sports team, book club, or hobby group. This can be a great way to meet like-minded people. Attend events in your community, such as concerts, festivals, or art shows. Look for volunteer opportunities at local organizations or events. If you are learning English or another language, attending language classes is a great way to meet other language learners and practice your skills.


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