Discovering the wonders of wander

Everything Malaysians Need To Know About The NZ Working Holiday Visa

About this time last year, I quit my job to heed the call of adventure – a Working Holiday stint in New Zealand. It was a mission that hit all my wanderlust muscles in the right direction. Since then, I’ve been getting a buttload of questions about the application process and job prospects, so I figured the most effective way to help the most people is with a QnA blogpost.

Without further ado, here’s everything you need to do know about applying for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa for Malaysians, and what to do when you get there.

You’re welcome.

One of my favourite nights in New Zealand, on the way to a ski trip.

The basics

What’s the deal with the New Zealand Working Holiday visa (WHV)?

It’s a pretty sweet deal. With the Working Holiday Visa, you’re allowed to work legally, study, and travel New Zealand for 6 full months (for Malaysians). You don’t need to get a job offer first to be qualified for the visa, so you can look for one job, two jobs, or no jobs after arriving in the country. Besides that, you can switch jobs and travel in and out of the country freely. Being able to earn NZD$ makes travelling the country so much more affordable.

Am I qualified to apply? 

Are you 18 to 30 years old? The criteria for Malaysian citizens are simple – age aside, you should have a valid passport, be healthy and have no criminal records. You’re also required to prove with a bank statement that you have NZD$ 2,250 during your stay.

Application process

Is it easy to get the visa? 

It’s easy to get approved but the competition is tough. Every year, Malaysia gets a teeny quota of 1,150 applications. You’ll be fighting with thousands and thousands of other Malaysians to be one of the 1,150 lucky applicants. The visa application opens only once a year, usually at the tail end of January. During the application day, thousands of hopeful Malaysians will flood the NZ immigration website to apply; the site becomes very difficult to access, often even crashing, you’re lucky if the page loads. The application closes as soon as the quota is filled, which takes as little as an hour.

It’s like trying to buy Coldplay concert tickets but worse because you have to wake up at an ungodly hour.

Application for 2017 New Zealand Working Holiday Visa for Malaysians opens on 20 January at 10AM New Zealand time / 5AM Malaysian time.

How and where do I apply for the visa?

Do it online at the New Zealand immigration website. Just follow the instructions, it’s easy. You’ll need to register for an online service account on the website beforehand and login to your account when you apply. During the application, you’ll be asked to declare any health problems and criminal records. You don’t have to show any proof at this stage but they may contact you later for a medical examination and such (I didn’t get any such request from them).

Once you’ve successfully submitted your application, the NZ immigration will let you know within a week whether your application is approved or rejected via email (check your junk mail!).

The New Zealand immigration website looks like this.

How many days will the application be open for?

ONLY ONE DAY FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS. You gotta be on the ball if you really want this. Like I said before – there are only 1,150 visas available and they get snatched up in the blink of an eye. So do not oversleep or think that you can do it later. Because ‘later’ will mean waiting for another year.

What do I need to prepare before applying? 

  • A loud alarm clock
  • The best internet connection in the world
  • Lots and lots of patience
  • A valid Visa or Mastercard – the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa for Malaysians costs NZD$208, you’ll need to pay this during the application
  • Luck

Any tips to ensure we get our application approved?

Log in to the NZ immigration website early and make sure your internet connection is strong. Your application is likely to be approved as long as you are in good health, have no dodgy past, and your payment goes through.

I got the visa!

Totally random, but I went to a rodeo in Wanaka.

OMG MEI my visa is approved! What do I need to prepare before I fly to New Zealand?

  • A passport that isn’t going to expire anytime soon
  • Print the visa approval letter that was emailed to you
  • Return flight ticket, or proof that you have enough money to purchase your return flight. I bought a return flight with flexible date change.
  • I also brought bank statements showing that I have the required NZD$ 2,250 though I was not asked to show them at immigration

Note: Make sure the Immigration Officer at the airport gives you the correct Working Holiday Visa stamp in your passport. They gave me the regular tourist visa which would mean I could only stay for 3 months and I’m not allowed to work. Luckily I spotted it immediately and was able to request a change.

If I apply for the visa this year (2017), is it possible to only go during the following year (2018)? 

The WHV is valid for 12 months from the approval date. If your application is approved in February 2017, you must travel to New Zealand by February 2018 or else the visa will expire.

6 months is short, can I extend my visa?

Yes! If 6 months is not enough of adventuring for you, you can extend it for another 3 months. The only criteria is that you must work for 3 months or more in agriculture, farms or orchards. You can only be granted one extension. Application and info here.

I didn’t apply for an extension but I stayed for an extra 3 months by doing a visa run. A few days before my visa expired, I travelled to Tonga and returned on a tourist visa. I wasn’t allowed to be employed anymore but I could still travel and volunteer.

Work

Sending off a friend at the hostel I worked as housekeeper and dishwasher.

What kind of jobs can I get?

You know those ‘dirty’ jobs you don’t want to do in Malaysia so companies hire Bangladeshis and Indonesians to do the job? Those are the kind of jobs that are open to you. It’s a humbling process and one that I am grateful to have experienced.

There are plenty of jobs catered to WHV holders, most of which are within the hospitality and agriculture industry. The easiest jobs to get are farm work like fruit picking, restaurant work, housekeeping, factory, and other labour jobs.

I tried applying for a couple of content/writing jobs but no one wanted to hire me for only 6 months. So I spent a few months fundraising, which is another popular traveller’s job. I also worked as a cashier for a short spell and lastly spent two wonderful months making beds, scrubbing toilets and washing dishes in a hostel for free food and lodging. It was tough work but I loved every moment of it.

How much can I earn? 

The minimum wage in New Zealand is NZD$14.75 an hour. Some employers may pay more but you shouldn’t get anything less than that unless you are working under the table. Apparently, fruit picking is one of the better-paying jobs but they also make you work really hard.

Some jobs, especially in agriculture and hostels, pay the minimum wage and also offer accommodation and/or food for a small fee. These are really great deals but it’s often in remote places. Some employers don’t offer a wage but give free food, accommodation, and/or tours.

What do I need to get a job? 

You’ll need to open a bank account and register with the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) to get your IRD tax number. Yes, you’ll be paying tax.

Is it easy to find a job? Where can I find a job?

It’s easy; you are cheap labour and everyone loves cheap labour! You can find it displayed in shop windows or online.

Do I have to apply for work here before going or can I apply when I get there?

You can apply when you get there. I think you shouldn’t bother applying from here as they often ask for your IRD number, bank account number, handphone number, face to face interview, etc.

What’s the minimum period for working on a particular job? Does it differ from job to job?

It differs from job to job. Some places will need you to stay for a whole Winter/Summer season.

What if I can’t get a job?

Then make sure you have enough money in your savings or have a kind friend to freeload off so you don’t starve. You won’t be sent home, you just won’t be making money. If you can’t get a paying job I suggest working/volunteering for free food and accommodation, also called WOOFing. You can find WOOFing opportunities on Backpacker Board.

Money

New Zealand roadblock

Am I able to save money to travel around the country?  

Yes, if you don’t spend all your money on booze and fancy restaurants. It’s really easy to live cheap in New Zealand especially if you cook your own food and find cheap accommodation. For more tips, check out this post on how to live and travel New Zealand cheaply.

How much money should I bring?

It might take you a couple of weeks to a month to secure a job, so you should bring enough money to tide you over until your first salary. The NZ immigration website recommends you to be able to show that you have a minimum of NZ$350 a month. A copy of your bank statement may be sufficient evidence of your available funds.

Travel

Do I HAVE to work? Can I just travel?

Nah mate, you can just travel. You have 6 months to do whatever you want with your life there, live it.

Is it safe to travel New Zealand? 

Bruh, New Zealand is MADE for backpackers, hikers and hippie campervan-ers. It’s so easy to travel New Zealand it’s ridiculous. Women travellers shouldn’t be too worried as Kiwis are amazingly friendly and super helpful. On the flip side, some of them enjoy binge drinking and can sometimes get aggressive. Even New Zealand has seedy parts of town and impoverished areas. I know a couple of girls who got in trouble with the men they hitchhiked with, so take the usual precautions.

The biggest danger to note is the unpredictable weather – heavy snow, earthquakes, relentless rain. If you are adventuring outdoors during the off-season, make sure you take all the safety precautions. Check the weather, follow the safety warnings, don’t get lost, and don’t do something stupid like climbing onto a glacier without proper supervision.

What are the best places to hike/camp that you’ve done?

When you are in New Zealand, you will be living in a postcard. I camped my way around the country using the Department of Conservation campsite and every spot was like a frickin’ calendar shot. If I must choose one, my most memorable campsite was Cobb Valley but it was one hell of a bitch to get there. Though its remoteness was exactly what made it so special for me. My favourite hikes are the trails along the Milford Road – Key Summit, Lake Marian, Gertrude Saddle. That stretch of mountains will forever hold a piece of my heart.

You, my friend, are gonna have so much fun in Kiwiland. Good luck with the application, may the odds ever be in your favour!

Getting a little too excited over a sad, melting patch of snow.

Read more from my Working Holiday Experience in New Zealand:
34 Truly Unforgettable Moments In New Zealand
Conversations With Strangers In New Zealand
How Did 9 Months Travelling New Zealand Change Me?

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