New Zealand jobs: a guide for expats

Gabriela Peratello

Considering a move to New Zealand, to live, work, or settle permanently? You need this guide to jobs for Americans in New Zealand. We’ll cover where to look, what salary to expect, and how to start figuring out the visa or permit you’ll need.

As well as looking at the best jobs in New Zealand for expats, we’ll also cover some practicalities — like how to save money when you relocate, with the Wise Multi-currency Account.

📑 Table of Contents

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Why work in New Zealand as an expat?

It’s safe to say that New Zealand is a pretty popular place for expats the world over. In fact, New Zealand was voted 3rd overall from over 100 different countries in the 2020 HSBC Expat Explorer survey looking at preferred expat destinations¹. That’s as well as coming in 1st for mindset and 2nd for living conditions.

And when it comes to New Zealand versus the US, the New Zealand government makes a strong case for packing your bags — New Zealand shares a common language with the US, and has an equally varied and stunning range of natural scenery. Where New Zealand excels is in offering a strong work life balance, to allow you to get out and actually enjoy the nature on your doorstep, alongside your new, laid back, friendly Kiwi neighbors².

Finding a job from abroad

In most cases, you’ll need a job to get a visa and work permit for New Zealand — and that’ll mean finding a job before you depart. Here are some handy ideas to get your job hunt off to a good start.

Where to find a job?

The best way to find a job will depend to a large extent on the type of work you’re looking for, and your career stage. However, a great place to start would be to browse and search employment websites to get a feel for the positions out there — you can then narrow your search to specific companies, or by using your professional network. Try these sites as a starter:

💡 Tips for applying for a job from overseas
  • Update and tailor your resume to each job you apply to
  • Use your professional network, and get in touch with employers directly to maximize your chances
  • Think about how you can capitalize on your international experience to show the employer what you bring to the role

Recruitment agencies

Depending on the type of position you’re looking for, a recruitment agency or headhunter may be a good option. Good recruitment agents can help you navigate an unfamiliar job market, and offer insights into the local area. See if there are any reputable agencies working in your niche in the location you’ve chosen to settle in.

Regional programs for migrants

The New Zealand government has a range of resources and support for migrants, including regional job search assistance and Newcomer Skills Matching Programs. Take a look at the details for your chosen destination city or region³.

Contact the employer directly

Sometimes the direct approach is the best way to land that job. Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to companies you aspire to work for, to ask if there are any open positions. Job vacancies are often filled before they’re even advertised, so making a speculative application can pay off.

New Zealand work visas for foreigners

The New Zealand government has comprehensive, and easy to digest, information about work visas for expats on their website. Check out the full details online⁴ — here’s a basic introduction:

Work permits

New Zealand work visas are offered on a temporary basis but can lead to residence eventually. Various visa types exist to suit different applicants, including essential skills work visas and work to residence visa classes which expressly let you move in the direction of residence in the long run⁵.

Resident visas

Applicants under the age of 55 can look at residence visas under the skilled migrant or residence from work visa categories. If you have a resident status you can live and work indefinitely in New Zealand and access public services there as you may at home.

Working holiday visas

If you’re aged between 18 and 30 years old, and have at least 4,300 NZD to fund your trip, you can apply for a 12 month working holiday visa⁶. This entitles you to study and work, as well as taking a break in New Zealand.

Wondering if you can apply for the holiday visa? Check our currency converter below

Tip: you can edit the amounts on the calculator.

New Zealand’s skills shortage for foreigners

People with skills and experience that are in demand in New Zealand may find it easier to get both a job and a visa. The list of skill shortage areas is updated frequently, and splits into national, regional and industry shortage areas.

Browse the government website to get a sense for the type of shortfall areas⁷, or use the skill shortage checker tool to look up your own role type and see if it is in a shortage area⁸.

Best New Zealand cities to find work and average salary

If you’re not sure where in New Zealand you’ll move, then starting with a search on the jobs and salaries that are available in different locations is a smart choice. Use a resource like Teleport to review average salaries — and expat reviews and opinions — from a range of New Zealand locations, to help you figure out where suits you. Here are some examples.

Auckland New Zealand salaries

RoleAverage Auckland salary (USD)⁹
Pharmacist62,088 USD
Marketing Manager54,644 USD
Web developer43,579 USD
Teacher39,474 USD
Chef29,825 USD

Christchurch New Zealand salaries

RoleAverage Auckland salary (USD)¹⁰
Pharmacist40,492 USD
Marketing Manager49,180 USD
Web developer31,128 USD
Teacher30,075 USD
Chef20,711 USD

Quick facts about living in New Zealand


Average salary
  • Broad regional and role variations
  • Numbeo users report an average of 4,077.25 NZD/month — net after tax¹¹, which is the equivalent to around 2,900 USD
  • New Zealand dollar — NZD
Main religions
  • Christianity
Government type
  • Parliamentary democracy
  • Constitutional monarchy¹²
Usual work hours
  • 40 hours a week, not including overtime¹³
  • 4 weeks annual leave from work
  • 11 public holidays¹⁴
Income tax
  • 10.5% - 33% based on income level¹⁵

Moving to New Zealand? Send and receive like a local even before touching Kiwi ground

Ready to start making your expat dream a reality? Get a Wise Account — the account for international people.

Open your account for free online with no minimum balance and no monthly fees, and get local bank details for New Zealand before you even make your move. You’ll also have a USD receiving account so you can get paid fee free from both the US and New Zealand, and can hold, manage and spend your money any way you like. Switch between currencies using the real exchange rate, spend and make withdrawals with the Wise debit card, and keep on top of it all, on the go, from your smartphone. Simple.

🎯 Check out these smart features
  • Hold 40+ currencies, send to 80 countries — and manage it all from your computer or mobile device
  • Use your linked Wise debit card to spend globally in 170+ countries
  • Receive NZD, USD — and a range of other currencies like GBP, AUD and EUR — just like a local with your own account numbers

Create your free Wise account

It’s not hard to see why life in New Zealand is so appealing. The beautiful scenery, laid back lifestyle, and friendly people — as well as the sort of balance that lets you work to live instead of living to work. If you’re planning your move already, use this guide as a starter — and grab the Wise Multi-currency Account to let you manage your money across currencies easily, even before you book your airline ticket.


  1. HSBC - Expat explorer
  2. New Zealand Now - Compare NZ/US
  3. New Zealand Now - Regions and cities
  4. New Zealand Now - Visas to work
  5. New Zealand Now - Work visas
  6. NZ Immigration - Working holiday visa
  7. New Zealand Now - Job market, key industries
  8. NZ Immigration - Skill shortages
  9. - Auckland salaries
  10. - Christchurch salaries
  11. Numbeo - Cost of living in New Zealand
  12. NZ Government - Government in New Zealand
  13. NZ Employment - Hours of work
  14. New Zealand Now - Employment rights
  15. New Zealand Now - Taxes

Sources checked on 09.28.2021

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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