Moving to New Zealand, Step 2: The BCVs of Moving Abroad
As anyone who’s ever left their house for any reason will tell you, it’s a little more complicated than putting on a pair of shoes, picking up your bag, and walking out the door. If you’re a shut-in, sorry for taunting you. When you’re moving away from the place you called home, it’s an even bigger process, and when you’re leaving the country, the amount of information coming at you, the strange things you have to consider, and the number of decisions you have to make is truly overwhelming. Luckily, my desire to move to New Zealand outweighs the panic attacks, so I’m moving forward with the plans.
While I’m also pouring over blogs, books, Instagram accounts, and reaching out to people for places to see and things to do in New Zealand (subsequent posts about those topics will follow), right now I’m mostly concerned with the actual logistics of long-term international travel. Everything from bank accounts to phone apps to what exactly the NZ Working-Holiday visa will let me do is consuming me. So, no, that title isn’t a typo. This is what I’ve learned so far:
If you don’t have $10,000-$100,000 to sit in a bank account at all times, give up on finding a bank in the US that will let you transfer funds to a bank in NZ without charging you fees. Initially, I was looking for an international bank that had offices in the US and in New Zealand, like HSBC. Unfortunately, while their customer support team is quite helpful, their bank accounts are not. Even if I did open one in the States, I would still have to open one in NZ, and unless I was an HSBC Premier account holder (which has a minimum $50/mo fee or a minimum monthly balance of $100,000 in combined balances), there’s no seamless transferring. So, since I actually prefer to bank locally, I decided that what I would do is put all my cash into a Bank of America account, open a local account when I get to New Zealand, and transfer the bulk of my savings over in one lump sum to minimize transfer fees. I’m going to be there for a year, hopefully picking up some part-time work, so having a local account is a good idea anyway. AND Bank of America has an international partnership agreement with New Zealand’s Westpac Bank, so I can draw money from their ATMs if needed. In terms of a NZ bank, several people have recommended ASB to me, so I’ll probably go there.
This is what the NZ Working-Holiday visa has to say about banking in NZ:
If you are going to work or open a bank account in New Zealand you will need an IRD number for tax purposes. You can download an IRD number application form (IR595) from www.ird.govt.nz [keyword IR595]. The form has information on what supporting documentation you need to provide.
So helpful! Thanks, NZ!
While I have friends and even family located all around the world, I rarely talk to them on the phone. The phone is reserved for my clients, local calls about plans for that night, and staying in touch with my immediate family members in the States. But how does that work when I’m in NZ? The last time I traveled internationally, smart phones didn’t really exist (yes, it was that long ago), so we got local phones, bought prepaid phone cards, and called it good. Oh how things have changed. A lovely friend who recently returned from her own NZ trip told me this:
You call Verizon and tell them to unlock the phone. Then you put your account on hold. They only do that for six months at a time, so you have to remember to call them back to extend it. Then you visit the i-SIGHT visitor center, get your SIM card, call up 2Degrees Mobile to start a new monthly phone plan, pop in your SIM card, and there’s all your data.
Sounds easy enough!
In terms of calling internationally, I’m using a series of apps to stay in touch with people already. WhatsApp for texting, Skype for calling (I’ve already called NZ immigration a handful of times), and several people have recommended Viber for calling, too. Let me know if you have a cheaper recommendation!
I had a lot of questions about the New Zealand Working-Holiday visa. It’s simple enough, but having just gone through the process, here are the things that weren’t immediately apparent to me:
- I had thought that you had to be 29 and under to apply, but you actually can be 30 and under. There’s some kind of magic that occurs at midnight when you’re turning from 30 to 31 that makes it impossible for you to properly appreciate all that the working-holiday visa has to offer. BUT, if you manage to get into the country while you’re 30, even if you turn 31 while you’re IN New Zealand, you’ll be grandfathered/grandmothered in. Which means, though I turn 30 in August this year, I can leave for New Zealand in September, stay the full 12 months, and celebrate turning 31 in some spectacular New Zealand fashion.
- You can apply for a visa anytime during the 12 months prior to wanting to leave. Let me explain, as that sounds a little confusing. I want to go to New Zealand in September, but I wanted to make sure my visa was approved before making lots of plans. So, I applied in May. When I got the confirmation notice, I thought it said that my visa expired one year from this May, meaning I would be kicked out of the country in May 2016. Nightmare! That meant I was going to lose 4-5 months of travel opportunity! Only I was wrong. It meant that I had until May 2016 to actually immigrate TO New Zealand. Whew! So, once I show the folks at immigration my visa in September and I’m allowed into the country, THEN my 12 month visa begins.
- You do not need to have as much planned as you think. I initially thought I needed to have my plane ticket there, perhaps one round trip, my bank account with loads of cash set up just waiting to be used in New Zealand, etc. etc. Nope. You do have to have your passport and a second form of ID, but the application doesn’t even ask for your bank account numbers. I actually called them up because I was concerned I’d missed something. The call went a little like this:
Me: Hello? New Zealand?
NZ: Yes, this is New Zealand immigration, how can I help you?
Me: Well, I live in the States, and I just applied for a NZ working-holiday visa, and I was wondering if I missed the section where I’m supposed to put in my bank account information.
NZ: Your bank account information?
Me: Yes, the visa requires that I have money in an account proving I can purchase a return ticket. I have the money! Take the money! Let me into your beautiful country!
NZ: Ma’am, please calm down. We don’t need your account information. You’ve completed the application. We’ll check if we need to.
NZ: Have a nice day.
So, that happened. And then they let me into their country anyway. And now I actually get to make ALL THE PLANS!