The idea of working abroad always held this mystifying appeal for me – alluring yet eluding.
Part of the reason for wanting to embark on this Working Holiday in New Zealand was to escape the humdrum of work I found little meaning in, to break the routine I had a distaste for.
Another part of me always sought out this unsettling desire to expand my international experience – meet people of different backgrounds and hear about their motivations, visions and walk in the shoes of lives I would never have.
A previous New Zealand road trip I had taken with 3 other friends in May 2016 as part of my graduation trip opened my eyes to the existence of this programme, when I saw service staff of different nationalities converging in New Zealand, each wearing their name badges with their nation’s flag with pride, serving in restaurants or greeting me at the front desk of tourism companies as I signed up for tours.
I could be them, I thought.
It was not only after an opportunity presented itself – a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity – that I decided I had to do it now while I am still in my mid-20s, or I never will.
Little did I know,
It was the start of countless uncertainties I had to face.
Applying for a job in New Zealand before entering the country was next to impossible, as certain legal documents had to be produced during application. These documents could only be obtained upon arrival in New Zealand.
After a month of nerve-racking job search and furious application of jobs through Christmas and New Year of 2017, my fears of depleting the limited NZD5,000 in cash I brought over were assuaged.
With my dual-lingual ability in English and Mandarin, I was hired for the upcoming 2017 Chinese New Year period for a tourism adventure company in the South – Fox Glacier Guiding Co.
This company would settle some of the logistical challenges such as housing, provided uniforms at work, and had a structured onboarding programme.
This included going up on the glacier to hike and ice climb, all while being treated to a birds’ eye view of Fox Glacier while on the helicopters that would serve to be the only means of transportation to the glacier.
Whereas regular customers would have to easily fork out half a grand to experience that, I was proud to call this “part of my job”. What more can I ask for?
There are various job industries you can work in, the most popular ones being farming, horticulture, vineyards, packhouses, ski fields, F&B and tourism companies. Job scopes can range from customer service, sheep-sorting, milking, fruit thinning, fruit picking, fruit packing, to babysitting, landscaping and housekeeping.
Some other work programs include working in exchange for food and accommodation, such as WWOOF and HelpX.
Note though, that most employers would not consider you until you possess all the necessary documents that allow you to work legally in New Zealand, and so the chances of securing employment before arriving New Zealand is low. (More on that below.)
Apart from job search, Facebook groups are also highly used for looking for accommodation, hitching rides, buying and selling of used cars and travel buddies.
There is a dedicated Facebook and Whatsapp group for Singaporeans on a Working Holiday in New Zealand. Read more to find out about it.
I’d faced many uncertainties when it came to whether to apply for a WHV, the conditions for being eligible for it, what to prepare, where to go, what to pack, how to go about job search, buying a car, driving in New Zealand and life in New Zealand,
Then I realized,
I was not alone.
Everyone who went through this path asked similar questions.
So, I’ve compiled this definitive ultimate FAQ guide about doing a Working Holiday in New Zealand specifically for Singaporeans, hoping that it will ease the journey for more Singaporeans embarking on this journey.
These questions and answers are based on previous participants of this programme. Some of the replies are based out of my personal experiences while others were contributed by those who’ve been there and done that.
Because I wanted to make the research easier and more accessible for all who’s interested to apply for this WH, hence I’ve taken almost a year to compile all the information into these articles.
I found the advice of previous participants to be really helpful when I first started preparing myself for NZ, and there is nothing more I want to do but pay it forward and share what a life-changing experience this WH has given me.
They will be broken down into different articles due to the copious questions and information that comes along.
FAQ on New Zealand Working Holiday for Singaporeans
APPLYING FOR WHV
To be eligible for the Working Holiday Visa for Singapore, you need to be:
- A citizen of Singapore
- Either studying at a university or polytechnic, or have graduated from one in the last 3 years
- Have at least NZ $2,250 to live on while you’re here
- Aged between 18 to 30 years
- Arriving New Zealand within 12 months of the date your visa is granted
The maximum duration of the visa is 6 months. Applications open only once every year. Acceptance of the visa is based on a first-come-first-served basis, until the limited quota of 200 is filled up.
To be able to legally work in New Zealand, you would have to possess the following:
- A valid working permit
- IRD number to pay income tax
- A local New Zealand bank account
Can you apply for WHV after 30 years old?
The age requirement is quite strict. Because there is a field where you select your year of birth. You can try filling up the form starting from the date of birth to see if your birth year is listed.
Did you all meet the requirement for the study criteria? It says you must be studying or apply within 3 years after graduation, but I’ve exceeded it.
Frankly, no. Some of the applicants still got it anyway, so give it a shot.
Can we apply for sliver fern visa?
How long does the application period usually open for?
It depends on the demand – some say 3 days, some say less. From my personal experience, it was fully filled in less than 24 hours.
How many available spots are there yearly?
How much does it cost to apply?
Do you have to send documents to prove health, certificates, etc when applying for the visa?
Nope. Just fill up online form and got approved in 2 days.
Do we need to show the return ticket to SG when we enter NZ?
Yes, and show them the visa.
Is it worth applying for the IYTC or ISIC card?
Not useful in NZ. You can save up on the $25 membership.
Do I have to print out my bank statement for proof of money? Will they check it online at the customs?
May or may not. I’ve never heard of them asking anyone to check your account at immigration. In any case, it’s always safer to print before going.
How long does it take for the IRD number to be sent to you? Is it possible to send the registration form online?
Forms and your documents have to be dropped off at the office or mailed to them. It takes about 10 working days in general.
You can call their hotline to ask for your IRD number. That would be faster than waiting for the letter.
What if I move to my next Airbnb while the letter is sent to my previous Airbnb address?
You can call in and ask for your IRD number and they will give it to you once it’s ready. So, the address doesn’t really matter.
“I called on the 10th working day to check, and it was just done up on that day. The CSO amended my postal address and sent it to my new location instead.”
Is it better to buy return air tickets to New Zealand or just one way?
One way unless u have a confirmed date to return. It’s better to buy your ticket back to Singapore closer to your date of return.
Some have booked a two-way upfront and ended up changing their flights twice. Thus, it’s probably cheaper booking two single one way.
Can you buy an open return ticket?
There are no open tickets in the market. When you book a return flight, you have to decide on your return date there and then. Any changes will then incur an admin fee and you will have to top up for any fare difference.
Can I arrive and depart from different airports in New Zealand?
You can book open jaw tickets, arriving and departing from different cities in New Zealand.
How much is the cost of a flight from New Zealand to Singapore? I’m contemplating whether to get a return ticket since it’s much cheaper than one way.
- Jetstar: SGD 390+ one way to Auckland, with a transit in Melbourne
- Singapore Airlines sale: SGD 520 one way
- Qantas/ Emirates: SGD 700+ for one way from Singapore, with a transit at Sydney
You can fly direct to maximize your time in New Zealand. However, airfare might be more expensive.
If not you can consider breaking up your journey into two destinations by flying into Australia then onwards to New Zealand. Airfare could be cheaper, and you get to spend a few days in Australia to explore.
Where should I fly to in New Zealand?
Auckland and Christchurch are the 2 biggest cities where you can find begin since rent would not be as expensive as touristy towns like Queenstown.
Must we get travel insurance before we fly to NZ or can we get it when we are in NZ?
Get insured before you fly to New Zealand. It’s a good idea to buy right after you buy your flight ticket. The entire period leading up to your trip can then be covered. If there are any issues like cancellation or delay, at least you’re covered.
What travel insurance should I get?
I got a regular 6-month travel insurance but many who’ve went for the same Working Holiday recommend Orbit.
“Relieved to have Orbit if not I have to fork out SGD 200+ for medical. I got different insect bites from New Zealand, and my skin get extremely sensitive. The West Coast in the South Island are very prone to sandflies!”
Another option is SafetyWing, which is an insurance specially catered to digital nomads/ long-term travellers.
Is it easy to claim insurance from Orbit?
Yes it is. You can get your claim back within a week.
There are certain activities that are not covered under Orbit, such as WWOOF-ing or manual labour.
They also don’t cover personal items and theft. If you want that coverage, you have to pay an 15% extra of the total premium you will be paying.
Also, you have to declare if you want them to insure expensive items, else their norm coverage is only up to 1k (if I am not wrong). There are add on charges for insuring expensive items.
After claiming insurance, do you have to pay more per month?
Nope. Insurance is one-time payment, so you have to decide how many months you want to buy. They have a 1-12 months selection.
Orbit does a refund for the remaining unused months if you have to leave earlier than how much you paid for after some administrative charges.
Where can I find more information about Orbit?
If I’m here for more than a 1 year, is the Orbit insurance also still valid?
The maximum coverage for Orbit is 365 days.
What if I sprain a wrist due to WWOOF-ing or doing manual labour?
You can claim against New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). Everyone in New Zealand is covered by our no-fault scheme if they’ve been injured in an accident. The cover they provide helps pay for costs to get you back on your feet. It includes payment towards medical bills, treatment, help at home and work and help with your income.
A physical injury is when there is actual damage to your body. This includes:
- sprains or strains – such as ankle, back, knee or shoulder sprains
- wounds – cut, broken or bruised skin
- dental injuries
- hearing loss
- loss of consciousness.
We cover most physical injuries if they’re caused by:
- an accident
- sexual violence
- a condition that comes on gradually because of work.
Is there WiFi available in most places in New Zealand?
Wi-Fi can be found in most I-sites and F&B. Some towns have free WiFi throughout e.g. Nelson, Napier. There is a daily limit though. Don’t count on the stability of the public Wi-Fi.
What telecommunication service and phone plan do you recommend?
- Rumoured to have the best coverage in NZ
- Free daily 1GB WiFi around certain spots in New Zealand
- Free Spotify account
- NZD 59.90 for 6GB data, unlimited calls and text
Skinny is under Sparks too but have cheaper options
- Also have some of the widest coverage around New Zealand
- Free daily 1GB WiFi around certain spots in New Zealand
- more options for data packages
I personally used Vodafone. Vodafone offers a Travel SIM for short term stay:
- NZD 29 – 1GB data, 200 min, 200 texts
- NZD 49 – 3GB data, 200 min, 200 texts
- NZD 99 – 8GB data, 200 min, 200 texts, unlimited NZ mins & texts
From there, I continued with their prepaid bundle. I like that I can just top up according to how much data/ min/ texts I need. You can use a decent amount of data for just NZD12 a month.
I liked this plan best as they offer free unlimited data for social platforms e.g. Facebook, Instagram, etc, and chat apps e.g. Whatsapp, Viber, etc.
Can the Skinny and Sparks booth be found at the international arrival hall of Christchurch?
Skinny cannot be bought at airports. You can either pay online for the SIM card or buy a Skinny SIM from the supermarket.
Ordering online is cheaper. Get them to send the SIM card for free to where you’re staying, and top up when you reach there.
You can’t send it to Singapore.
How do you sign up for the line and make monthly payment? Paperless billing?
You can do it manually – go to supermarket and get a top up code and then subsequently use the app to purchase the plan every month. You can choose to setup some recurring payment method as well
I went to the store to do a manual top up and adjust the kind of plan I want. You can also call their customer service to decide.
What do you guys do about your telco line in Singapore?
For Starhub users, you can get them to suspend your acct, up to a maximum 6 months. Suspension costs SGD5.35 per month.
To suspend it longer than 6 months you need to do a reactivation and suspension again with them or else your acct might get terminated and early termination penalties. It’s a system restriction.
Singtel has a similar suspension service but not M1. Singtel’s suspension service also has a fee to be paid every month.
BANKING/ EXCHANGE RATES
What do I need to open a bank in New Zealand?
- Your New Zealand visa
- Proof of address in New Zealand
- Your home country’s tax number
- Your passport
- IRD (you need to apply for IRD before setting up a bank account, and you need a bank account before applying for a job)
There’s a page on Kiwibank to tell you what documents you need.
If you are planning to stay in a homestay, most of the staff can help you or guide you along, such as by providing the tenancy agreement required as part of opening a bank account in New Zealand, or set an appointment with the bank for you.
If I’m staying at a friend’s place first, can I still apply for a bank account?
You’ll need proof of address.
Would the different bank choices affect the IRD application, or would it not matter?
Which New Zealand bank account should I set up?
There are Kiwibank branches everywhere. Every Post shop (post office) has a Kiwibank.
Kiwibank charges for over-the-counter withdrawal. All over-the-counter transaction or inter-bank ATM withdrawal charge at $2 per transaction.
Deposit is free and ATM withdrawal is free. When you set up an account, they may ask if you want any other accounts.
There is a Free-up and Online account for Kiwibank. Free-up is convenient when doing regular transactions. Online account has slightly higher interest. “I had majority of my money in my Online account, which acts just like a Savings Account). I used Free-up as my spending account.
You can also request for customised ATM card if you’re willing to wait n get it through your mailing address. The default ATM card is an immediate issuance upon the opening of your account.
Most NZ banks exercise a self-service system. So for withdrawal, you can go to any Kiwibank ATM machine or any supermarket (PakNSave, Countdown, New World) to withdraw. With the withdrawal at supermarkets, you have to buy a minimum of 1 item to do a withdrawal.
Kiwibank’s mobile app is super user-friendly.
Kiwibank can help you process your IRD.
ANZ doesn’t charge for over-the-counter or ATM withdrawals.
They have ATMs and branches everywhere, even in smaller towns.
Queues are shorter and faster because it’s dedicated, whereas for Kiwibank, the queue is shared with the post office.
They will issue you a card on the spot for deposit and withdrawal.
ANZ’s mobile app is also user-friendly but it’s only downloadable from the NZ app store.
If your friend has an ANZ account and you plan on opening a bank account with ANZ, to get a proof of address, ask him to do is to write a letter for you stating that he’s staying with you at that address, and that he’s an ANZ customer and state his account number.
I personally chose BNZ (for reasons I forgot). It was free to set up, monthly fee is NZD 5. I was able to set it up immediately at a smaller branch (bigger branches require setting up of appointment). I received my card after about a week through mail. They send monthly statements to my mailing address.
They also have a mobile app which presents very clear-cut information.
Has anyone used ASB? I heard it has one of the higher interest rates recommended by locals.
Yes ASB has a higher interest and you don’t need the monthly NZD 20 deposit.
How do I set up a bank account?
Walk into any branch and the outlet staff that you open your account with can help with the setting up of your IRD. Just present all the necessary documents to them.
You usually have to make an appointment in advance with the bank to do an account opening. With my BNZ account, I was fortunate to be served on the spot.
Is it complicated to open a New Zealand bank account in SG?
Yes, as you need verified copies of your documents (sometimes requiring a lawyer).
Is it better to open a NZ bank account in SG or in NZ?
In New Zealand, you just need to visit the branch and activate it. You can settle it in 1 day.
“I opened the ANZ Go account in Singapore before going over to New Zealand in August. You can either transfer money over while you’re still in Singapore or go there and deposit.
But when you’ve arrived in New Zealand, you will need supporting documents from home such as your bills from the last 3 months, etc.”
ANZ accounts are not linked between SG and NZ. So if you’re using the funds in your SG account in NZ, will there be charges and exchange rates?
Can the bank account you open be used with immediate effect?
Can I do overseas transfer from our SG bank account to our new NZ account?
There will be transfer fee of SGD 25 per transaction fee from POSB to NZ bank and it takes a few days for it to be processed. Open a Multi-Currency Account in Singapore, and go to the Arcade to change cash to NZD, then deposit into your Multi-Currency Account.
Alternatively, you can use TransferWise (a free multi-currency online account which acts just like Paypal but with lesser fees. As a digital nomad, I highly recommend it!) or get an international bank draft.
Do you guys bring full cash to set up an account when you are there, or just pay the transaction fee and do the transfer so you don’t have to handle this much cash around?
Most people brought cash.
It’s a much better idea to just bring cash and deposit all on the first day you reach.
Once you get your Eftpos card (the equivalent of NETS) on the spot, you don’t need to worry about losing cash!
How much cash should I bring to NZ?
I brought about NZD 5000. Others I know brought anywhere from NZD 2000 to NZD 4000.
Bringing NZD 4000 is more than enough. It is even enough to buy a car.
Bring enough to last 1 to 2 months, that is if you’re looking for work immediately upon arriving in New Zealand.
Is the Eftpos card widely accepted? In cafes? Petrol kiosk? Any places you that doesn’t accept it?
It’s what they use everywhere. Even farmer’s markets and second-hand shops. It’s even more convenient than our NETS and EZ-link.
Is the exchange rate better in Singapore or New Zealand?
Did you all bring all yr NZD cash back to SG?
Depending on how much you have left, you can store it in your NZ bank if you think you might return to NZ.
Next up I’ll be sharing more about the move:
- Transport – where & how to buy & sell vehicles, van life, car insurance, road conditions, road fines, vehicle modifications, vehicle breakdown
- Jobs – Where to look for jobs, types of jobs, income, tax return
- Shopping – Where to buy what, second hand shops, where to find the best deals
- Visa – How to extend this Working Holiday in NZ
- Travel tips – Where to go, where to stay, where to hike, where to see the Southern Lights
- Budget tips – Which supermarket is cheapest, etc