Setting Up Life With a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide

Working and living in New Zealand is a dream; mountains, beaches, every single adventure you can imagine, epic surf and cute little coffee shops – all on tap. Meaning that experiencing life living and working in this country is beyond awesome. Travel, work, travel, work, travel, work… You get the idea. When you first arrive, the life admin side of things can all feel a bit overwhelming and it’s tough to know where to start. Which is why I’ve put together this post to cover everything you need to know about setting up life with a working holiday visa in New Zealand. And the good news? It’s actually really easy and pretty quick too.

In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know to introduce you to a life living and working in New Zealand featuring a really straightforward checklist which you can follow step by step when you arrive. Plus a few other tips about finding a job and a place to live.

The Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand >> Your Life Admin Checklist

#1 Apply for your NZ Driving Licence

You’ll not only need your NZ drivers license for driving, it’s also the only form of ID (excpet your passport) that most places will accept as ID. Your UK drivers license for example, will not be an acceptable form of ID to buy alcohol in the supermarket. If you don’t have a driving license, it’s highly recommend to get one before living and working in NZ. The major cities have OK public transport systems (i.e the bus) but if you’re used to the likes of the London Underground, you’ll have a hard time adapting to taking public transport in NZ. Intercity passenger trains are not a thing here so the only way to really get around the country (besides a car) is by intercity buses. It’s doable, but not as fun!

Once you’ve arrived in New Zealand, go to an AA shop with your valid driving license from your own country, fill in a New Zealand Driving License application form (just ask a member of staff if you struggle to find this) and pay the fee which is $52.10 NZD at time of writing. Then you’ll have your picture taken and be given a temporary paper license. You’ll receive your NZ drivers license within three weeks. With the paper license, you are able to drive, but not able to use this as ID.  Easy as, right?

Find out more about the getting a New Zealand driver’s licence here.


If you’re going to live and work in NZ, you’ll need to pay your taxes. So you’ll need to get a personal reference number from the IRD (Inland Revenue Department). Apply HERE: INLAND REVENUE NEW ZEALAND to get your number. It won’t take a long time to come through (mine took about 3 working days but it could be slightly longer depending on the backlog IRD have to go through).

Although it says on the IRD website that you need a bank account first, you can actually apply for one of these before you set up your bank account. Usually you will need an IRD number to set up your bank account. Which brings me to the next point on the checklist…


Once you have your driving license and IRD number this will be really simple. There are a few banks to choose from but I chose the Free Up account with Kiwi Bank. You can do all your transactions online using an app. It’s free for online transactions and free to withdraw money from ATMs belonging to other banks. Just go into the Kiwi Bank closest to you and ask to speak to an advisor about opening up a bank account. Chances are they will need to see a copy of your visa so make sure you have that, your passport, NZ drivers license (paper or hard copy) and IRD number and they will take you through the process of opening up a bank account. FYI you won’t be able to get a credit card in New Zealand, so be sure to bring one from your home country as a back up if you see the need to have one.

#4 Get an NZ SIM card 

There are a few providers you can check out in New Zealand including 2 Degrees, Spark and Vodaphone. It’s worth shopping around and checking them all out to see what deals are best at the time. They all tend to have shops in major town centres and malls, so it’s usually pretty easy to tick this one off the list!

So to re-cap, here’s your step by step admin checklist for your first week with a working holiday visa in New Zealand:

#1 Apply for your NZ Driver’s License

#2 Apply for an IRD Number

#3 Open a Bank Account

#4 Get a SIM card


While you wait…

Adventures – and the experience of living in New Zealand – are imminent, but in the meantime you’ll need to wait for those documents to come through. But the good news it, there are a few more things you can do to help you find your feet in this epic country while waiting. 



  • How to find jobs in NZ

Most jobs in NZ are advertised on including store and cafe jobs along with office jobs. If you’ve arrived int he place you know you want to base yourself, take a walk into the local town centre and crawl the coffee shops to get your name out there and ask if there are any jobs going.

  • Shopping in NZ for first timers

If you’ve come from the UK you’re sure to feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you arrive in NZ. Although online shopping is fast becoming a thing here, it’s not anywhere near as close to the convenience of the UK (although fun fact, you can shop on ASOS from NZ). Check out Op Shops (charity shops) if you’re looking for furniture for your new digs or kitting out your van or Kmart and The Warehouse for most things other you’ll need!

  • How to start planning your NZ Adventure

When you’re in AA getting you’re drivers license, pick up some of their free brochures which include lists of DOC campsites across both islands. They offer an amazing resource for you to take away with you and create your magical NZ adventure!

  • Where to look to buy a car or van in NZ

Try or local buy and sell pages on Facebook.

  • Best places to live

This is completely up to you (and the funnest part I reckon!). I’d recommend travelling around the country and seeing what place really feels like home, excites you and offers work opportunity. It’s a personal choice, and the best bit is that you get to travel the country in pursuit of your little slice of paradise.

More from New Zealand

A Guide To Road Tripping and Camping in New Zealand

8 Of The Dopest Beaches in Northland, New Zealand

A Guide To Hiking To New Chums Beach, New Zealand

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Feature image >> Alice Hartrick



  1. Kathy
    May 11, 2019 / 5:03 pm

    Hi, do you know what the deal is with working I. NZ if you’re over 31? It seems tricky to get a visa…any advice would be great!

    • Lou Burton
      May 11, 2019 / 9:50 pm

      Hi Kathy thanks for getting in touch! As far as I know, the skilled migrant work visa is the best option for coming to New Zealand over the age of 31 for UK citizens, but there may be more options for you. I understand it’s a lengthy process to apply for the visa, but well worth it once you’ve completed everything. I’d recommend heading over to the NZ Immigration website here and having a good read through all the various visa options. If you are unsure after researching on here then contact NZ Immigration direct. They have always been a pleasure to deal with from personal experience. Good luck. Lou 🙂

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