Moving to New Zealand from the UK: A starter guide

Zorica Lončar

Considering making a new home in New Zealand? It’s easy to see why you might be tempted, as New Zealand has staggeringly beautiful scenery and a relaxed way of life.

New Zealand is a popular destination for British expats looking for a much sought-after lifestyle. Brits also find it easy to integrate into New Zealand life, due to the shared language and historical ties with the UK.

But how do you relocate there? Our complete guide to moving to New Zealand will help get you clued up on all you need to know. This includes the basic requirements needed to immigrate, how to find a job and home, and get settled. We’ll even cover what’ll be needed if you’re hoping to retire in New Zealand too.

First off, a handy tip to help make your move both easier and cheaper. Open a Wise multi-currency account, and you’ll be able to quickly send money to and from New Zealand for a tiny, upfront fee. With this powerful account, you can also get a Wise debit card and spend in the local currency, like you would at home, from the moment you get there.

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Next, let’s take a look at what life is like in New Zealand.

Living in New Zealand - what you need to know

To begin with, here are some quick facts about New Zealand:

  • Population: approx 4.8 million¹
  • Number of UK expats: 215,000²
  • Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD)
  • Official languages: English and Maori.

What’s the weather like?

New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, so its winter season is June through August, and summer is December through February. So, Christmases are often sunny occasions!

The weather in New Zealand can be mixed, but you’re never far from the coast wherever you are. This makes for an ideal climate of warm summers and mild winters.

Cost of living in New Zealand³

Before your move, you’ll need to factor into your plans the cost of living in New Zealand. This is on average a bit higher than in the UK, although salaries are 6-7% higher too. Groceries are about 28% more expensive, while a meal out is about 3-4% cheaper.

To help you get some idea of how far your money could go, we’ve picked out some common items and compared their prices for you:

ItemAvg. UK costAvg. New Zealand cost
Milk (1 litre)£0.92£1.36
White bread loaf (500g)£0.98£1.31
Meal, inexpensive restaurant£12.00£9.85
One-way ticket (local transport)£2.50£1.75
Petrol (1 litre)£1.26£1.10
Rent one-bedroom city centre apartment£745.32£817.59
Pre-school/kindergarten full day, private, for 1 child (monthly)£939.81£551.73

This table provides a general guideline, as prices in both countries obviously vary from region to region, so it depends where you live.

Moving to New Zealand - what you need

Finding a visa

If you want to live in New Zealand for longer than 6 months, you’ll need a visa. Getting one is usually easier if you plan to work, as the immigration system aims to attract people who’ll fill employment skills gaps in the country. It’s best to check the skill shortage listingsright away, so you can get an idea of where the current gaps are and where your skills might fit.

There are several temporary visas available which allow you to stay for a fixed period. These can sometimes be used as a step towards gaining permanent residence. They are:

  • Working holiday visa⁴ - if you’re a British citizen and aged between 18 and 30, you can travel and work in the country for 23 months on this visa.

  • Work to residence visa⁴ - if you’re aged 55 or under, this visa allows you to live and work in New Zealand for 30 months. To meet the eligibility requirements you’ll need to have a long-term job offer on the skills shortage list. (Then, after working for 2 years you could apply for a permanent residence from a work visa.)

  • Entrepreneur work visa⁵ - allows you to move to New Zealand for 12 months initially, to buy or establish a business, and work as self-employed for an additional 24 months. You could be eligible to apply if you’re an experienced businessperson with investment capital.

If you’re looking for a visa which lets you live in New Zealand indefinitely, then there are a couple of options:

  • Skilled Migrant visa⁶ - available for those aged 55 and under, it lets you live, work and study in New Zealand permanently, and allows your partner and dependent children (aged 24 and under) to do the same. It’s a points based visa, assessing your skills, qualifications, work experience and whether you have a job offer.

  • Residence from work visa⁷ - if you’re aged 55 or under, and you’ve been living and working in New Zealand for 2 years on a work to residence visa, you could be eligible to apply for this permanent residence visa.

  • Entrepreneur Residence category⁸ - gives successful entrepreneurs permanent residence. You may be eligible to apply if you’ve established a high-growth business in New Zealand, over the course of 2 years, on an Entrepreneur work visa.

These are just some examples, but you can also find details of other visas, along with fees, processing times and how to apply, by visiting the New Zealand immigration website.

Finding a job

New Zealand has, like much of the world, seen employment suffer as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The good news is that the unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in December 2020 from 5.3% in September 2020⁹.

If you’re looking to work in New Zealand, it’s best to use the skills shortage lists as a guide to find a job that can help secure you a visa. Once you’ve decided on a suitable career, it’s time to update your CV and begin your search.

A good place to start is the job websites and recruitment agency listings oncareers.govt.nz, which can help you get a foot in the door of the New Zealand jobs market. The website is also full of useful tips and advice for your job search.

Finding a place to live

If possible, it’s a good idea to visit New Zealand before your move, to get a sense of different places and communities. Doing this should give you a better idea of where you might want to live.

Usually, only permanent residents and citizens can actually buy property to live in, but renting is also a good option if you’re on a temporary visa or want to get a feel for a place. You can find somewhere to rent by contacting letting agencies or checking the popular TradeMe website for property listings.

Rental prices do vary in different regions. For example, in 2018 Auckland’s prices averaged at 600 NZD a week for 3-4 bedrooms (equal to about £312). Whereas, the national average for 3-4 bedrooms (excluding Auckland) was 460 NZD (equal to about £240)¹⁰. Cheaper alternatives to Auckland, also popular with expats, include Wellington, Queenstown and Hamilton.

Accessing the healthcare system

New Zealand has a publicly funded healthcare system, which is available to permanent residents, or those with a work visa for 2 years or more.

UK citizens staying in New Zealand temporarily may also be able to access emergency healthcare for free or at reduced costs, as part of the reciprocal healthcare arrangements between the two countries¹¹.

Otherwise, you’ll need to arrange comprehensive travel health insurance to cover the costs of your medical care. One exception is costs of injuries from accidents, which are covered by the accident compensation scheme, ACC, available to citizens and visitors alike.

Moving to New Zealand from the UK to retire

Can I get a retirement visa in New Zealand?

Yes, New Zealand welcomes retirees on a number of visas. Options available include the Parent Retirement Resident visa, designed for those with an adult child who’s a permanent resident or citizen of New Zealand¹². This visa lets you stay for 4 years, during which period you’ll invest 1 million NZD (approx £520,000) in New Zealand.

After the four years is up, you can apply for permanent residency. Even though it’s a retirement visa, you’ll have the freedom to choose to continue to work or study when staying on this visa.

Or, if you haven’t got family connections to the country and you’re over 66 years old, consider the Temporary Retirement visa¹³. This visa allows you to stay up to 2 years in New Zealand, before renewal. To be eligible you’ll need to invest 750,000 NZD (approx £390,000) in New Zealand for the 2 years.

You can read more about how to apply for these visas here.

How to access your pension from New Zealand

You’ll be able to claim your UK state pension in New Zealand through the International Pension Centre. To transfer your personal pension funds to New Zealand, use a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS).

Save money on your relocation to New Zealand with Wise

So, finally, what about those savings on money transfers? Well, if you normally use banks to send money overseas, you’ll often find that you get hit with high charges and unfavourable exchange rates.

Open a Wise multi-currency account, and you’ll be able to move the money you need to New Zealand quickly and securely, for a low, transparent fee. With Wise, you can be assured you’ll always get the real, mid-market exchange rate too.

With your account you can get the Wise debit card, and spend like a New Zealand local from the moment you land. You won’t need to worry about converting your currency, as the card lets you make easy, convenient, contactless payments in NZD, all for a very small fee.

Join Wise and start saving today


So there you go! Whether you’re planning a move to travel, work or retire, we’ve hopefully got you ready for your big move to New Zealand.

Take your time to decide where you’d like to go, and maybe visit a few cities before settling on a place, if you can. Don’t forget to organise your insurance, including health cover, so that you’re well prepared for any costs that may arise. Best of luck on your new venture!


Sources used for this article:

  1. Worldometers - New Zealand population
  2. iExpats - living in New Zealand
  3. Numbeo - cost of living in New Zealand compared to the UK
  4. New Zealand Now - work visas
  5. Immigration.govt.nz - entrepreneur work visa
  6. Immigration.govt.nz - skilled migrant category resident visa
  7. New Zealand Now - residence from work category
  8. Immigration.govt.nz - entrepreneur resident visa
  9. Careers.govt.nz - employment in New Zealand
  10. New Zealand Now - renting property
  11. Gov.uk - healthcare in New Zealand
  12. Immigration.govt.nz - parent retirement resident visa
  13. Immigration.govt.nz - temporary retirement visitor visa

Sources checked on 07-May-2021.


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