So You’ve Made It To New Zealand, Now What?

tim-marshall-154038First off, congrats if you’ve made it to New Zealand!

Now that you’re here, you may be starting to realize that those months of planning and filling out paperwork may not be over just yet.

If it’s all feeling a little overwhelming, here are 5 things you can do within the first few days of arriving. I promise these things will make your life 100x easier and will help with integrating into New Zealand life.

1. Get a Cell Phone

When I first landed in Auckland, I realized I had no way to contact Pete. Before exiting the International Terminal I noticed many phone companies selling traveler’s plan SIM cards at Duty-Free. Unable to research companies, I went with Spark. Why? The lady at their counter seemed the nicest.

For $29 I got a SIM card, 1 GB of data, 200 NZ minutes, 100 International minutes, 200 NZ texts, and 50 international texts. [No affiliation] I have been in New Zealand for a little over two weeks now and have already used all my data. It’s clearly time to upgrade to a monthly plan.

Thanks to a little research (mostly done by Pete when he first got to NZ), I will be switching to the carrier 2 degrees. Their  $55/month plan gets you 10GB of data (that carries over each month) and unlimited calls and texts to NZ and Australia. You can read more about their plan options here. [No affiliation]

Besides the obvious benefit of being able to talk to friends and family, you will be asked for a cell phone number on every application you fill out (and there will be MANY applications to fill out).

2. Apply For An IRD Number

New Zealand’s Inland Revenue (formerly known as Inland Revenue Department) is responsible for issuing IRD numbers. Your 8 or 9-digit IRD number is used for taxes, land ownership, and student loans. It’s basically the kiwi equivalent of a social security number.

You’ll want to get this done ASAP because its required for earning income in New Zealand and for joining KiwiSaver. KiwiSaver is a retirement savings plan for adults working in a full-time or permanent part-time jobs. Benefits include regular contributions from your employer and an annual tax credit paid by the Government. Depending on your situation, your KiwiSaver may also help with a deposit if you’re a first-time home buyer. You can read more about it here.

There have been a few recent changes to NZ tax brackets. Starting in April 2018 the tax brackets will be broken down into 4 groups.

  1. Annual Earning $0-$22,000 –> 10.5%
  2. Annual Earning between $22,001 – $52,000 –> 17.5%,
  3. Annual Earning $52,001 – $70,000 –> 30%
  4. Annual Earning 70,001+ –> 33%

If you don’t provide an IRD number to your employer, you will be taxed at the no-notification rate of 45%. Clearly, this is the worst possible outcome so it’s well worth getting your application in quickly.

To apply, you need a photocopy of your passport page and visa page, proof of your New Zealand address, and the completed IRD application form. They don’t make copies at the office so make sure to bring them with you. Don’t be like me and have to walk 6 blocks to the nearest copy & print ship.

It will take about 10 business days to hear back. I got my first notice via email, then a hard copy in the mail a few days after that.

3. Sign Up For A Bank Account

Coming from America, I honestly thought someone had sneezed the first time they said EFTPOS. It stands for Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale. Many shops will only accept EFTPOS or cash, which can be a bit inconvenient if you planned to pay by credit card.

Even though I signed up for a bank account the day after I arrived, it took about a week for my bank card to arrive. Thank goodness for Pete and Venmo or I’d have had some serious struggles trying to buy a dresser at the local Habitat For Humanity Restore. Most larger stores will accept your international cards, but you will be required to sign the receipt instead of being able to quickly tap and go.

I was torn between Kiwibank and ASB and ultimately went with the latter. They were pretty comparable from what I saw online but I’d heard ASB’s mobile app was really solid. As a new account holder, I qualified for the Streamline Intro account and won’t have to pay any account fees for 6 months. [No affiliation]

To apply for your bank account make sure to bring a copy of your passport, visa, and proof of address. Ideally, you’ll also have your IRD number, but if it hasn’t arrived yet you can still apply and provide that number later.

4. Join The Library

By now, you’ve probably just started keeping your passport in your bag at the ready for applications – joining the library is no exception to that rule. Expect to show your passport, visa, and proof of address when signing up.

If you’re still looking for a place to live or haven’t set up internet yet, you won’t want to burn through your cell phone’s limited data. Cafes aren’t always ideal because, unlike in the States, it’s common for them to set a time or data limit on their wifi. Also, buying a coffee every time you want to check the latest job postings can get expensive real quick. Instead, go to the library for free, unlimited internet.

I also find the library helpful for making copies (of my passport and visa) and for printing jobs. The library has public bathrooms and, obviously, free books. Similar to libraries in the States, you can get hard copies or ebooks. I haven’t started working yet so it’s been great to have the time to read for pleasure. I’m currently working my way through a biography of Sir Edmund Hillary.

5. Enroll With A Local GP

One HUGE benefit of moving to New Zealand is access to public health care. Ciao $211/month insurance plans with a $7k deductible, hello free emergency care and heavily subsidized doctors visits.

Once you’ve found a place to live, start looking around for a local general practitioner. Many doctor’s offices require you to be within a certain geographic radius to be accepted as a new patient. You will need to go to the office to fill out their enrollment form and show them a copy of your passport and residency visa.

Enrolling makes doctor’s visits cheaper and gets you access to lower prescription costs. It’s free to enroll but can take up to three months for the application to be processed, which is why it’s good to get this done sooner rather than later.

If you need a prescription refill in the meantime you can still see a doctor, it just costs more. The Family Planning Clinic is also available for contraception, or help with gynecological issues. A visit costs less than $30 NZD so it won’t break the bank.

If you do these 5 things, you’re off to a good start. Good luck and let me know if there’s anything else you think should be on this list!



Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash



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