Basically, in order to enter the country, you’ll need to hold a valid passport with the correct visa, proof that you have enough money to get by during your stay and any other evidence you might require to meet your visa conditions (like a return ticket, for example). Generally, visitors need their passport to be valid for at least three months after their intended departure date — or one month, depending on your country’s consular representation (check with your local passport office if you’re unsure). You will also need to complete a Passenger Arrival Card before clearing Customs, so make sure you’re familiar with the regulations around what you can and can’t bring into the country before you arrive.
You can apply for most visas online — and it’s actually quicker and cheaper than going through the old-fashioned paper trail. Before you get started, you need to choose the visa you want to apply for, read the specific guidelines for it, and get all your documents ready to go. If you’re coming from a country where English is not the native language, you’ll need to provide both your original documents and the official translations for them. Some of the things your application might ask for include passport-sized photos, criminal records and health history.
Australian and New Zealand citizens do not need a visa to enter the country. UK residents are exempt from a visa for up to six months, and nationalities on the visa waiver list can roam around freely for up to three months. For those who don’t meet the criteria, a Visitor Visa applies: this visa allows you to explore New Zealand for up to nine months and to study for up to three months (a provision that is more applicable to schoolchildren). Travellers on this visa are not allowed to work under any circumstances.
Travellers aged between 18–30 (or 18–35, in some cases) are eligible for a Working Holiday Visa. This is quite a popular option among backpackers, and typically enables visitors to stay and work in the country for up to 12 months. UK and Canadian citizens get to spend a little longer in New Zealand than most: they are entitled to working holiday visas that last for 23 months.
If you’re eager to spend a semester studying abroad, or to gain an university qualification from New Zealand, the Student Visa will be your gateway to doing so. Most international students require this — exceptions are made for PhD students who enrolled in a New Zealand programme after 2005 and for primary or secondary pupils who are deemed to fit the ‘domestic student’ criteria. Student visas are usually valid for the duration of the course you’re doing and typically allow you to work a maximum of 20 hours per week. Full-time students who gained a New Zealand qualification can transition to a 12-month Post Study Work Visa, and may later apply for a resident visa if their particular field falls under the Skilled Migrant category.
Those who are enticed by the idea of calling New Zealand home will need to look closely at the different work visas and pathways towards permanent residency. Residence from Work visas fall under two categories: Long Term Skill Shortages, where your qualifications and work experience match the current skills on demand, and the Accredited Employer visa which calls for a permanent job offer and employer sponsorship. There’s also the Essential Skills work visa you can look at; while it is a temporary work permit, it may indirectly lead to a longer-term stay if your particular skills happen to be in high demand.