Moving to New Zealand from the USA

Moving to New Zealand from the U.S.

Are you thinking about starting a new life and moving to New Zealand from the U.S.? You’re not alone — thousands of Americans move to New Zealand every year.

As of the 2018 New Zealand census, immigrants made up 23% of the population. Of those, 16,245 people identified as American expats, so you can certainly find a home away from home in New Zealand.

While New Zealand shares a lot of similarities with the U.S., it’s important to remember that this is still another country with its own culture and customs. Moving to another country is no small decision, but moveBuddha is here to help you plan every step of the moving process.

Check out this guide to learn more about life in New Zealand and learn some tips to help make your move as smooth as possible.

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How to move to New Zealand

Before you hop on a plane for a move across the globe, follow these tips for a hassle-free moving experience.

1. Submit your visa application before anything else

First things first, you’ll need a visa to enter New Zealand.

For short-term visits

If you’re just passing through New Zealand or you’re visiting as a tourist, all you need is the NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority). This is a virtual pass you can apply for online that grants you a stay of up to 90 days per entry and is valid for two years.

For long-term stays

To stay long-term in New Zealand, you’ll either need a work visa or a permanent resident visa.

Several types of work visas are available through Immigration New Zealand:

  • Working holiday visa: This is a temporary visa for people between the ages of 18 and 35. It’s only valid for up to 12 months for U.S. citizens, but it allows you to hold a part-time job in the country.
  • Accredited employer work visa: This is valid for up to three years, but it only applies to people who’ve found full-time employment in New Zealand.
  • Work to residence visa or skilled migrant visa: These visas are for people 55 or younger who’ve found full-time jobs in New Zealand. They can be valid indefinitely depending on your situation.
  • Student visa: If you plan to be an international student in New Zealand, you’ll need to apply for this visa at least eight weeks before your intended travel date. You’ll be required to provide an offer from a New Zealand school and proof that you can financially support yourself while living in New Zealand.

If you can’t get a work visa, you can request a New Zealand visa if you have family in the country or special circumstances such as refugee status.

The good news is that there are plenty of jobs to be found in New Zealand. To support its growing economy, the country needs to fill nearly 40,000 jobs each year. These are some of the most in-demand job fields in the country:

  • Hospitality
  • Nursing
  • Engineering
  • Finance
  • Science
  • Social sciences
  • Education
  • Food services
  • Business services
  • Retail
  • Construction

We recommend connecting with employers via Working in New Zealand, WorkHere, and New Kiwis to find job openings that fit your skill set.

The Auckland and Canterbury regions have the biggest shortages of skilled labor. If you apply for a work visa in these areas, keep in mind that your New Zealand employer will first need to prove they can’t find a local employee before hiring you.

2. Explore the best international moving options

Once you have your job offer or acceptance letter in hand, it’s time to consider exacly how you’ll move to New Zealand from the U.S. You can choose from international moving, container, sea freight, and shipping companies for your move.

International moving companies

These companies function similarly to your typical interstate moving companies and local movers; the only difference is they arrange relocations between countries.

International moving companies understand the various laws that pertain to international relocations. They’ll help you move your stuff to New Zealand while managing every step of the process.

Every mover is different, so try to get several free quotes to choose the best, most affordable option for you.

Unfortunately, the international moving industry (and the local moving industry, for that matter) is full of scammy movers. Do your homework to protect your belongings and your finances. (Psst, our list of top international movers is a great place to start.)

Company Price Vendor Type Quoting options Storage Minimum Move Size
JK Moving Services $$ Carrier Phone/virtual estimate Yes 1 bedroom
North American Van Lines $$$ Carrier Phone/virtual estimate Yes 1 bedroom<
Allied $$$ Carrier Phone/virtual estimate Yes 1 bedroom

International container companies

Container companies allow you to:

  • Pick a shipping container
  • Load your furniture and household goods into said container (or hire labor to do the heavy lifting for you)
  • Ship your belongings to New Zealand

International container companies are cheaper than international moving companies, but you’ll have to be willing to do more of the work yourself.

Sea freight companies

Sea freight companies allow you to ship your goods overseas from port to port. With this method, you’ll need to take care of packing on your own or hire a third-party mover. You may also need to pay to transport your packed goods to a warehouse for storage before moving them via sea freight.

These companies will charge you based on the weight and volume of your belongings, and while this method is relatively affordable, it’s definitely the slowest option on this list. It can take anywhere from two to four weeks to ship your stuff to New Zealand by sea.

Shipping companies

Shipping companies are like sea freight companies, but with more customer support. They offer add-on services like packing and storing your belongings in their warehouses. They can handle anything from a single box to an entire house.

But while they offer better service than sea freight companies, you’ll pay extra for the convenience.

3. Make plans to sell or ship your car

If you have a car in the U.S. that you’d like to take with you to New Zealand, you’ll need to make plans for transporting that as well. All car shipping happens via sea freight, but the company you choose might offer different container options.

To ship your car, you’ll need to:

  • Receive import approval
  • Clean your vehicle for biohazards
  • Choose an approved NZ port

Shipping your car overseas is no small feat, so be prepared and plan accordingly.

If that’s too much of a hassle, make a plan to sell your car in the U.S. before you leave. Many areas of New Zealand require a car, so be ready to buy a car ASAP if you’re relocating to a rural area without a vehicle.

4. Estimate your moving costs

All move comes with their own set of expenses, but international moves are particularly tricky. The good news is you don’t need to navigate this by yourself.

Check out our moving cost calculator for a free estimate of how much your move will set you back.

What’s it like to live in New Zealand?

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you already know about New Zealand’s natural beauty. But there’s a lot more to love about this island nation than its gorgeous landscapes and climate.

New Zealand is a multicultural country with a much slower pace of life than the United States. Kiwis believe in a healthy work-life balance, so if you’re sick of the American rat race, you’ll enjoy the more laid-back vibe.

With a population of just over five million people, New Zealand is less densely populated than the U.S., which has a population of more than 331 million.

New Zealand has a crime rate of 42.88, making it the 77th most dangerous country in the wordl. By comparison, the U.S. crime index is 47.81, making it the 56th most dangerous.

Although it’s an island nation, the cost of living in New Zealand is 22% cheaper than in the United States. So rent and food are cheaper, although average salaries tend to be lower.

Bonus: If you’re granted permanent residency in the country, you’re actually allowed to vote, access subsidized healthcare, and use the country’s public education system even without citizenship. Nice, right?

Why are people moving from the U.S. to New Zealand?

Alongside Australia, the UK, and Canada, New Zealand is one of the most popular options for Americans setting their sights on life abroad.

While everyone has their reasons, many Americans are moving to New Zealand because:

  • They want to retire abroad.
  • They want a better quality of life or more job opportunities.
  • They want to live near family.
  • They want to take advantage of the country’s popular education system.
  • The country has a solid public healthcare system and great private health insurance options.

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Which area of New Zealand is best for you?

If you’re set on moving to New Zealand, you’ll first need to decide where in New Zealand you’d like to live.

New Zealand has two islands: the North Island and the South Island. Neither is definitively better than the other; it just comes down to your preferences.

The North Island:

  • Is warmer
  • Has more cities
  • Has white sand beaches
  • Has geothermal springs and mud baths

The South Island:

  • Is cooler
  • Has virgin terrain, like mountains and farmland

If you’re relocating to New Zealand on a work visa, your job will probably determine where you live. But if you happen to have your pick of the litter, these are some of the best areas  to move to:


Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand and also employs the most foreigners. Located on the warmer upper side of the North Island, Auckland is near mountain ranges, parks, and beaches.


Wellington is the capital of New Zealand because of its central location. Wellington is on the southern tip of the North Island, connecting it to the South Island. It’s surrounded by forests, parks, mountains, and a long coastline.


Rotorua is in the central region of the North Island. Located next to Lake Rotorua, the town is 10 miles inland from the coastline and flanked by mountains. In Rotorua, you can enjoy geothermal springs, mud pools, and the Māori culture.


Christchurch is on the eastern side of the South Island. It’s the largest city on South Island and includes lots of attractions, such as hiking, gondola rides, botanical gardens, and a zoo.


Queenstown is located on the lower half of the South Island, on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. Surrounded by mountains and rivers, Queenstown has access to adventure sports like skiing and snowboarding, but it’s also popular for its wine trails, hot pools, and skyline gondola.

Relocating to the beautiful country of New Zealand

Whether you want to live a slower life or you crave being surrounded by natural beauty, moving to New Zealand from the U.S. can be a rewarding experience.

Not only is living in New Zealand cheaper than living in big cities like New York or San Francisco, but you’ll likely enjoy a better work-life balance along with a high quality of life.

It’s exciting to move to a new home (and a new country!), but it’s important to have all your ducks in a row first. Check out our guide to international moving costs to make sure you budget appropriately.


Can you move to New Zealand as a U.S. citizen?

Yes. You can apply for a range of visa options, largely for temporary, part-time, or full-time jobs. You can also apply for a residence visa if you want to move near family in New Zealand or if you’ve worked in the country for a while and want to settle there permanently.

Is it easy for an American to move to New Zealand?

It’s easy for an American to move to New Zealand if they have professional skills that are in demand by New Zealand employers.

If you don’t have a criminal record, there’s a good chance you’ll breeze through the New Zealand immigration process. But keep in mind that it can take months to receive your visa, so plan accordingly.

Can a U.S. retiree move to New Zealand?

Yes, but you need to meet the New Zealand government’s financial requirements: You’ll need to be able to invest 750,000 NZD into the country for two years, and you’ll need to have an annual income of at least NZD 60,000.

Do I qualify to immigrate to New Zealand?

Maybe. The best way to check your eligibility is to consult the New Zealand immigration website.

How long does it take to move to New Zealand?

Different visas take different amounts of time to process — most take 30 to 75 days. But shipping your belongings will take about 30 days, and planning the move will take you anywhere from one to three months. All in all, it’s completely reasonable for your move to New Zealand to take six months or so.

What are the requirements to move to New Zealand?

To move to New Zealand from the U.S., you need to be eligible to work a job on New Zealand’s “Green List” of in-demand jobs. You can also move there if you have a partner or family who’s already living or working in the country.

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