how it is when you and your significant other are out shopping and you
both see something you both like…so you buy it right away because that
so rarely happens, even if you don’t need it? It was sort of like that.
as a consultant with a large corporation was coming to an end. At
about the same time my work with a large corporation was about to come
to an end as well. My mega-company employer had merged, yet again,
with another mega-company and this time I was given an option…did I want
to stay or take what was behind door number three – a decent severance
package? Staying meant working in an even bigger company and
relocating to a less-than-desirable part of the U.S. where they have bugs
the size of dinner plates and 100 percent humidity when it’s not raining.
Tough decision I know, but I chose door number three.
This all happened
at about the same time that we took a couple of weeks vacation to visit
a country we had heard about (my wife had been there once before) but didn’t
know too well. We’d seen the beautiful landscape in the Lord of the
Rings movies and thought, “Wow! What an incredible place! We
knew a couple of people from New Zealand and they seemed to be pretty well-rounded
and nice. They spoke highly of their homeland too. So we thought
“Let’s go there!” so we did. Once we arrived we weren’t really
prepared for the conversations that followed. Our wide-eyed talks
included words like “unbelievable, beautiful, astonishing, unpolluted,
happy, blue skies, peaceful, friendly, fresh air, even that over-used term
‘nice’!” And one thought that began to creep ever so slowly into
our talks was “Hmmm, how lucky the people are that live here, wouldn’t
this be a great place to live?!”
that thought took over our lives. We were out of work and had
some money saved. We had family to consider, but we’d never had children
(and probably would have moved to avoid paying for their college even if
we did so good thing we didn’t) and we found ourselves with the time to
think about what we really wanted to do when we grew up. Our roots
were pretty deep with good friends, our church and things to do, but the
call of the wild was ever present. We’d considered all sorts of options;
finding more work where we lived; moving to other parts of the country
and doing the same thing, starting a new business somewhere…or really making
a new life for ourselves. We did a lot of comparison research, listed
options, the pros and cons of different cities, states, even countries.
New Zealand kept coming out on top. Plus we were becoming more
disenchanted with things in the U.S. daily. The more we thought about
it, the better New Zealand sounded. Don’t get me wrong, we’re
still proud to be Americans, but it’s getting harder and harder to live
the American dream in the United States. We ultimately decided to
take things to the next level and find out what it would take to move somewhere
totally new and start a new life.
We both spent
endless hours on the Internet finding out everything we could about New
Zealand. We came across an immigration consulting site that caught
our eye. About two weeks after our New Zealand vacation there was
an expatriate trade show of sorts in Los Angeles. (I told you the
planets were aligned) and a representative of the consulting agency was
going to be there. We rang them up and made an appointment.
Consultants from countries around the world were there. A lot of countries
(including New Zealand) have what’s called “brain drain”. That is,
a lot of well-educated locals tend to leave their country for greener pastures,
meaning mostly higher wages. That leaves a shortage of people to
fill the jobs that need doing at home. Enter the immigration consultant
whose job it is to find people that may want to move to their country…and
probably make less money. To make up for lower pay they tout the “lifestyle
benefits”. I’m sure the consultant from Lapland has his work cut
out for him, but in New Zealand’s case, they are right. There are many
lifestyle benefits. Besides the wonderful people and countryside,
taxes are lower overall including no capital gains tax and housing is very
affordable, particularly in comparison to most large U.S. cities.
The weather is mostly mild; sub-tropical on the North Island. Crime
is low overall and guns are basically illegal except for hunting.
Many people living in the countryside still don’t lock their doors.
There is little or no pollution and even Kiwi teenagers tend to mind their
Of course the
immigration consultants are not there out of good nature or as patriotic
representatives of their countries…there’s money to be made. The
one we met from New Zealand was very honest and straight forward with us.
He was clear that New Zealand’s immigration laws are fairly strict.
We were surprised to find that out of all of the emigrants; only about
4% come from the United States. We still have yet to run into another
American here! The majority, about 35%, come from Great Britain (probably
longing to get away from the grey skies and Margaret Thatcher look alikes)
and the rest come from all over the world. The NZIS will
allow up to 50,000 people under the immigration programme this calendar
year. Certainly small by comparison to the U.S., but with a population
of only 4 million people, it’s a fairly high percentage. The consultant
spelled out the details of the various categories under which you can emigrate,
about five, and those for which most people like us qualify which is about
three. Approximately 60% of the total immigration will be allowed
in under these three categories; Skilled Migrants, Long Term Business and
Investor. If you’re over 55 the last two are your only choices
unless you already have relatives living in New Zealand.
I won’t go
into too much detail about each of the categories here because one, I’m
not an expert and two, by the time you read this the rules may have changed
once again as today starts with an “S”. In the period of
six months we endured three different NZIS application processes.
The NZIS seems to spend a lot of time fine-tuning things. If
you’d like to know more about the options have a look at the NZIS website:
U.S. government websites, the NZIS site is fairly easy to use…although
you may miss all of the typical “government speak”. It’s a great
resource and the place to start for anyone considering immigrating to the
land of the Long White Cloud.
decided that although we’d miss friends and family something awful, New
Zealand would be a great place to grow old together and that opening a
business was the way to go. We hired the consultant we met in Los
Angeles to handle things because getting a Long Term Business Visa (LTBV)
was a bit complicated and we wanted a professional by our side with
such a big move. However he suggested that since Sandy was going
to continue working in New Zealand anyway it might be easier for her to
apply as a skilled migrant. A couple of the requirements for a
LTBV are that the business has to be “beneficial to New Zealand” and
that the books are to be reviewed by the NZIS after 24 months showing profitability
in order for the owner to eventually obtain a Permanent Residence Visa
(PRV…I didn’t say the NZIS didn’t like acronyms.) As a skilled migrant
you can obtain a PRV much sooner and then you don’t have to deal with our
friendly “nemesis”, the NZIS in the future! Her chances of acceptance
were apparently good based on previous I.T. experience. This experience
gave her additional “value” under a special section of the Skilled Migrant
Category (SMC) called the Priority Occupations List (POL…I know, I know)
which are jobs that the NZIS says companies have a hard time filling here
due to the previously mentioned “brain drain”. Armed with that
information Sandy became the “principal applicant” under what eventually
was the NZIS’ Skilled Migrant Category.
is based upon a point system which calculates your work experience, education,
age, etc. and assigns points to each bit. The lower your age, higher
your experience and education (you will need a university degree minimum
for the SMC), the higher your points total. The NZIS sets the points
pass mark every two weeks, or “fortnight” as they say here, and pulls applications
meeting or exceeding that number for consideration. They can raise
or lower the pass mark as they see fit. Recently it’s been lowered
a great deal from where it started in March, but that could change at any
time. There’s a quick SMC points calculator on the NZIS website which
helps you calculate if you have enough points to emigrate.
interested in emigrating as a skilled migrant you begin by filing an Expression
of Interest (EOI…crazy isn’t it?) with the NZIS. The EOI asks
all kinds of questions not only about your work experience, but about any
police record you may have, your relatives, if you’re a terrorist (I’m
not making this up) as well as your medical history (NZ has a nationalized
health program making moving here worth it alone these days!).
There are any number of things that might disqualify you from getting a
Permanent Residence or even Work Visa, particularly if you ever have been
or ever will be a terrorist, but it can be done! The EOI application
can be completed on line (and of course there is an associated fee).
You will be given a point total and it will be included in a “pool” with
other applications. Your EOI is good for 90 days. If it
isn’t pulled during that time it will lapse and you will need to file a
new one (and, yes, pay another fee.) When your EOI points
meet or exceed the pass mark your application will be reviewed and you
will be asked to provide supporting documentation for everything (yes everything)
you’ve listed. Plus you’ll be required to submit a completed NZIS
medical report (basic physical exam) along with an FBI record (even if
you don’t have a police record, and hopefully you don’t, you can send in
your fingerprints and they’ll send them back with an official stamp saying
you don’t have a record…for a fee). Your employer may be contacted
as well as your doctor, family, friends and possibly your first grade teacher.
Remember when she told you everything you did would go on your “permanent
record”? Who’s laughing now smarty pants? If and when the NZIS
is satisfied that you would be a good, upstanding Kiwi they will extend
an official Invitation to Apply for Permanent Residence.Once you have
a PR Visa you can come and go as you please and no longer have to worry
about dealing with the NZIS ever, ever again (unless you become a terrorist
in which case I’m sure there’s a form to complete).
that will get you a lot of points instantly is having a job in New Zealand.
Of course most NZ employers naturally want a prospective employee
to hang around for a while. Funny I know, but that’s just how they
are here. That generally means that they want you to either have
a Permanent Residence or Work Visa. Welcome to “Catch 22”.
How can you get a job if you don’t have a PR or Work Visa and how can
you get a visa if you don’t have a job? Good questions. You can
send CV’s (resumes) to potential NZ employers and hope for the best.
It might work as the New Zealand economy is humming right along and the
unemployment rate is at a 17 year low, but you never know and you could
end up waiting for a long time.Many people come to New Zealand on vacation
and end up “finding” a job. It goes something like this… “Wow
honey; look at all of those sheep! Say, what’s that shiny thing
over there? A job? For me? Well, certainly I’d like a
job, thank you! Honey, grab the kids, we’re staying!”
A U.S. Passport
allows you to stay in New Zealand for up to 90 days and can be extended
a while longer upon application with, you guessed it, the NZIS.
However you cannot tell the nice immigration man or woman at the New Zealand
airport that you’ve come here looking for work. Everyone knows it
happens, but no one admits it.They won’t let you in if you confess to your
real goal and you’ll have to spend the night on one of those
comfortable airport chairs waiting for a 13 hour flight back home!
consulting firm we used also has an employment division that connects prospective
emigrants with potential employers. These employers are a little
more receptive to hiring someone without a visa because of your association
with the consulting company. Consultant’s fees are not cheap so the
employer figures you must be serious. With that credibility Sandy
found her current job and couldn’t be happier. I’m happy too because
when one party receives a Work Visa the spouse also receives one.
So I am free to work here as well and am doing so as a business consultant
currently. Mind you, you don’t have to have a job to meet the Permanent
Residence Visa requirements, but if you do your application will be considered
before those that don’t.
mind that not everyone needs a consultant. If you have the time
and patience, you can do everything on your own. Being control freaks
we wanted some feeling of control over something that was really out of
our hands for the most part. Plus we wanted a safety net and someone
to ask lots of questions and they have certainly been a Godsend.
word to the wise though; at this time anyone can call themselves an “immigration
consultant” or “employment agency”. Thankfully regulation is
in the works. There are some horror stories about people being ripped
off out there. So be very careful if you decide to utilize a consultant.
Make sure they are legitimate, get references, etc. Some are more
expensive than others but like all things, you generally get what you pay
arrived in New Zealand on Work Visas but just before we left the passmark
came down to our number and we’ve been extended an invitation to apply
for Permanent Residence. Woo hoo! We’ve supplied all of
the required documentation along with a note from our parents. Hopefully
we’ll gain permanent residence in the near future. If all goes
well it will have been about one year since we started our “official paperwork”
journey to gaining PR.
There are a
lot of good resources about New Zealand on the web. (Just type
in New Zealand Immigration on Google or Yahoo and see how many pages pop
up!) After taking a look at the NZIS website, you might want to look at
Emigrate New Zealand. It’s a site that specializes in NZ Immigration
(surprise!) and has an excellent reader forum where we found some great
information from others both in the U.S. and other places that were interested
in moving here too.
We still read
it and contribute regularly. If you’re interested in finding out
more about businesses ownership in New Zealand, have a look at this website:
That’s it for
this instalment. We’re slowly overcoming the challenges that the
NZIS have put in front of us. We’re not complaining…well maybe a
little. But we understand their need to protect this exceptional
place and want to do our best as American ambassadors to assist.
I hope some of this information helps you with your quest to find out more
about moving to Godzone (God’s Own as some appropriately call it here).
Apologies if this particular article was a bit “dry”. In the
beginning I think you need to know the ground rules before you can play
the game. Again, New Zealand is not for everyone but Sandy and I
fell in love with it. And that’s the other part of this story…our
romance with a new country.
purchased a home on the sunny shores of the Bay of Plenty. It’s
blessed with ocean views, a temperate climate and near a friendly, beautiful
beach town filled with great restaurants and lots to do. I’ll
plan on telling you what it’s really like living here soon. Also
if you decided to move here I’ll try to cover what you should and shouldn’t
plan on bringing and why. If you can’t wait, bring your lawnmower
and solid stick deodorant…I’ll tell you why later. I’ll also
do my best to give you an insider’s look at working here, shopping, playing
and everything else that makes this place so special. And who knows?
Maybe we’ll have that puppy soon…providing our cats approve!
is Rick's first article for the magazine:
On Emigrating To New Zealand
To contact Rick
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