Guy – one of my best friends in this world – is now a New Zealand resident. He’s been there for a while but is currently back in the UK for a couple of weeks visiting family and friends.
We always keep in touch on Facebook and Skype but it’s so cool to see him in the flesh for a man-hug and a beer and to catch up properly. He’s always got something new and exciting to tell me. He’s living the dream.
And who’d blame him? New Zealand is home to, arguably, the most picturesque landscape on the planet.
The Land of the Long White Cloud has been on my radar for some time now. Even more so since Guy decided to make it his home.
With my 30th birthday breathing down my neck – I know, I look so vibrant and youthful – I’ve decided that I’d best pull my finger out and get my New Zealand WHS Visa… before it’s too late!
You’d think it would be pretty straightforward. Well, it is, if you’re under 30 and only applying for the 12-month version.
Here’s how I got my 23-month New Zealand WHS Visa and why pushing 30 makes it that little bit more difficult.
What Is A New Zealand WHS Visa?
The Working Holiday Scheme allows foreigners to work in New Zealand for a period of 12 or 23-months.
It’s a specific type of visa for temporary visitors who wish to experience the working culture and supplement their travels.
The last time I needed a WHS Visa was back in 2011 when I took a trip to Australia. I was a mere slip of a man back then at just 25. I had no reason to believe that my age would be an issue and it wasn’t.
I’m Now Pushing 30. What’s The Big Deal?
This is where it gets a bit tricky.
In a recent email, the New Zealand Visa Bureau said:
“You have until your 31st birthday to apply for the visa. Once the visa is approved, you then have 12 months to make your way out to New Zealand and activate the visa.”
To me, it sounds like they’re saying something along the lines of:
• apply before you turn 31
• enter New Zealand before you turn 32
• leave by the time you turn 33
Then, that’s your lot! The New Zealand WHS Visa is available to all those aged 31 and under. Skilled workers can extend their time in the country but that’s a completely different story.
The idea here is to make sure you apply when you’re 30 – at the very latest – to give yourself the maximum amount of time available to get to New Zealand, activate your visa and enjoy your 12-months.
So, that’s 12-months sorted. But, what about 23-months?
23-month New Zealand WHS Visa
With a 23-month visa comes a few more requirements – good health being one of them – and at a slightly higher cost. Each applicant who intends to stay in New Zealand for more than 12 months needs to prove that they are fit and healthy.
It came as a bit of a surprise though to find that I would need to arrange for a full general medical exam – including a chest x-ray and blood tests – at my own expense. Typically, there are a select few doctors on their list that perform these visa medical examinations and they don’t come cheap.
The visa application itself was £98.
The visa medical with one of their approved panel physicians is, wait for it… £325!
I know what you’re thinking… “You crazy son of a mum!”.
£423 spent before I’ve even been approved to enter the country. But, I respect and understand the need for the medical entirely. In the words of Immigration New Zealand:
“To be able to enter New Zealand as a student, worker, or visitor we need to be assured that you and any family members with you have an acceptable standard of health. We impose this requirement to protect public health in New Zealand and to ensure that people entering New Zealand do not impose excessive costs and demands on our health and special education services. We also want to make sure that people who enter New Zealand are able to undertake the work or study for which they have been granted entry.”
Which Bridge Did I Have To Cross?
Having decided to apply directly to Immigration New Zealand, I filled out an initial online application. This is pretty much just a formality to register your details and give them an indication as to what it is you’re looking for.
I immediately received an automated email from “onlineservices@…” with a document attached outlining the following requirements. “Too good to be true”, I thought. “It HAS to be bad news.” But, why? I’d hardly been given a chance to show them how much of an upstanding – albeit, temporary – New Zealand citizen I would be.
Just to add to the suspense, the attachment wouldn’t open on my iPhone. They had mentioned this in the email as if to build upon my anticipation.
No worries, though. My initial application had been noted – so it was in fact, good news. However, it was only then that I found out what the damage was. I now had just 15 consecutive days to get the money together, arrange the medical, and send them my completed documents. Yeah, the ones that had to be signed by their approved panel physicians.
I had to take it on the chin. I’m pushing 30. If I didn’t just go for it and get on the working holiday scheme then I may never have the chance to do so ever again.
And so, I searched for my local panel doctors and booked an appointment for the following Thursday.
About two hours prior, I had printed out all of the forms I thought I would need to take to the appointment. It turns out that the UK is part of eMedical so everything is done digitally on the day anyway.
The Funny Thing Is
I’m convinced that I’ve actually SAVED myself money. By going directly via Immigration New Zealand and booking the medical myself, I am well on the way to getting my 23-month New Zealand WHS Visa.
The New Zealand Visa Bureau quoted me £189 for just 12 months. I’d expect the extra 11 months to also include a medical if I were to have applied through them and – more than likely – at a greater cost than Immigration New Zealand. Having said that though, their working holiday visa package includes access to the Platinum Programme, which features over NZ$700 worth of exclusive discounts.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve used the Bureau service before for Australia and didn’t find the programme all that useful – in all honesty – so I was happy to forfeit that.
As I sit here typing up this post, I’m also thinking of my trip into London tomorrow morning for my medical. I’m quietly confident that I’ll breeze through without a worry. Time will tell.
Providing all goes well, I hope to come back to you very soon with a shiny New Zealand WHS Visa.
Keep checking back for an update!
Have you done your 12 or 23-month working holiday stint? How was your visa experience? Leave a comment and let me know.