Moving from the USA

Looking for a change? Somewhere more relaxed, in a peaceful country where people look out for each other with services like subsidised healthcare? New Zealand could be just the place you’re looking for.

Find out how New Zealand compares to the USA, and how you can get a visa to experience our lifestyle.

Children walking in green hills of new migration country in New Zealand

How New Zealand compares

There’s lots to make you feel at home in New Zealand including the comforts and conveniences you’re accustomed to. What many US expats find different is a gentler pace of life.

New Zealanders are relaxed, friendly and easy to get along with. There’s always time to treat people as individuals and look out for each other.

Famous work/life balance

The quality of life in New Zealand really is outstanding and the pace is relatively relaxed.

We have a great work ethic and like to get ahead as much as anyone else. But we also believe there’s much more to living

It’s taken for granted by employers and colleagues alike that people have a life away from work. Plus - commuting isn’t a major deal. Even in the biggest cities you’re only minutes from a beach, native park or mountain biking trail.

All of which means more time to do things you want to do away from work - whether it’s getting sweaty running bush tracks or mountain biking, or just chilling with your friends or family by a beach or in your garden.

New Zealand's balanced lifestyle

New Zealand was voted No.1 for Overall Experience, No. 2 for Family and No. 2 Overall in the 2018 HSBC Expat Explorer survey of over 22,000 expats in 31 countries.

Great climate for outdoor living

New Zealand has a temperate climate - in other words, generally warm, dry summers (December to February) and relatively mild, wet winters (June to August).

We don’t get the extremes that some parts of the USA endure. No stiflingly hot summers or months of being cooped up by snow. So year round, it’s easier to enjoy a healthier, outdoors lifestyle.

Scenic beauty

New Zealand is rightly famous for its fantastic scenery: sweeping sub-tropical surf beaches, mysterious native forests, dramatic mountains, bubbling mud pools, braided rivers, deep fjords and more. No wonder we’re so often chosen as the backdrop for epic movies like Lord of the Rings.

Of course, the USA has great scenery too. The difference is ours is all concentrated into an area about the size of Colorado. So it’s all easy to get to and enjoy.

Tourists only ever get a taste. If you come to New Zealand for longer, you’ll have time to explore the lot.

Clean & beautiful New Zealand

Unique culture

You’ll also have time to soak up our unique culture. It’s the result of the strong influences of our Maori and Polynesian people. They inject a distinctive and dynamic ‘Pasifika’ feel to life here.

It’s expressed in excellent arts festivals. It also comes through in everyday life with a spirit of welcome that Maori call Manaakitanga. The basic idea of this concept is that everyone comes out better off through the act of looking after guests.

Upbeat outlook, low-key politics

Kiwis are an easy-going and welcoming people with a generally upbeat outlook on life.

It helps that we’re refreshingly detached from the political turbulence affecting so many other parts of the world. We enjoy a long tradition of relatively calm and polite political debate.

Housing choices

You get lots of choices when it comes to finding a home in New Zealand.

A spacious stand-alone home in the suburbs with a garden and room for children and pets - semi-rural living on a larger plot of land in the countryside, possibly with larger animals - living by the sea - smart urban apartment living with a view - they’re all possibilities here.

Whatever your choice you can usually enjoy it without wasting hours of your life commuting.

Subsidised healthcare

Public healthcare in New Zealand is free or low cost if you are a citizen, resident or hold a work visa valid for two years or more. This is thanks to heavy Government subsidies. Optional private healthcare insurance is also available.

If you hold a temporary visa, you may still be eligible for a limited range of services in certain situations. You can check your eligibility on the Ministry of Health website. 

If you are not eligible for publicly funded health services, or you’re not sure, it is strongly recommended that you take out comprehensive travel insurance which includes health insurance.

Family doctors (known here as general practitioners or GPs) are found in practically every town and suburb. Most Universities have their own Student Health services. Accident and emergency treatment at hospitals is free.

If you’re injured in an accident (even if you were at fault), medical and recovery costs are covered by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). You’re unlikely to find anything like New Zealand’s ACC in the USA - it’s pretty much unique in the world.

Healthcare system & services

Eligibility for health services | Ministry of Health

Am I covered? | ACC

Ready to take the next step?

Complete a short form to tell us about your skills and occupation. We'll provide you with helpful information on finding jobs, and living and working in New Zealand.

Family benefits

If you have family, New Zealand is probably one of the best choices you could make. That’s why, when it’s their time to start a family, so many expat Kiwis return.

You’ll be able to choose a home you’ll all be comfortable in, and you’ll enjoy excellent healthcare and public facilities.

Along with affordable, quality education, your children will be able to get close to nature and enjoy an incredibly diverse range of healthy sport, recreation and adventure activities.

Expats think New Zealand is a great place to bring family, ranking it second overall on this measure in HSBC’s indepth 2018 Expat Explorer survey. A resounding 76% of expats reported an improvement in their children’s health and wellbeing from living in New Zealand.

We also rank second for ‘community’ on the OECD’s Better Life Index covering 40 countries. “In New Zealand, 96% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need,” they report.

Family life in New Zealand

Recreation opportunities

Expat Explorer | HSBC

Better Life Index | OECD

Safe place for families

One of the most important things we can offer families is the luxury of feeling safe. It’s the result of our easy-going nature, and small, cohesive society - but it’s definitely supported by broadly-held antipathy towards guns and robust rules to control them.

Of course we have crime, but the 2019 Global Peace Index comparing around 160 countries for the risk of personal violence rated us the world’s second safest country, after Iceland. USA came in 128th. We count ourselves very lucky.

Safe and secure place to live

Global Peace Index | Vision of Humanity

Solid educational standards

If you’re coming to study, or you have children at school, you can be confident of the quality of New Zealand education.

New Zealand ranked third of 50 leading countries in The Economist’s new 2018 Worldwide Educating for the Future Index, just behind Finland and Switzerland.

We were one of just six countries to earn perfect marks for emphasising future-oriented, 21st-century skills. We also excelled for extra-curricular activities, “fertile ground for developing leadership, team-work and other skills.”

Another study, the Legatum Institute’s 2018 Index, ranked New Zealand 18 out of 150 countries for our education system.

Early childhood education (ECE) is considered a priority, and three and four year olds have the first 20 hours of their ECE fully funded by the government.

Secondary schools usually have plenty of sports and playing fields, often a swimming pool, and provide a safe environment where students stress less and learn more.

New Zealand is well served at the tertiary level too, with eight universities and 16 institutes of technology providing internationally recognised qualifications.

All eight New Zealand Universities are in the top 500 of the 2019 QS World University Rankings, five of them in the top 300. All of them offer at least one subject ranked in the world’s top 100.

Studying in New Zealand

Education & schooling system

Healthcare system 

Educating for the future | Economist

Prosperity Index | Legatum

Expat Explorer | HSBC 

QS World University Rankings | Top Universities

Living costs

Some things cost less in New Zealand, some more - particularly items that have to come long distances. But generally, the costs of living here are comparable to other western-style OECD countries.

Depending on where in the US you’re coming from however you may actually find the cost of living in New Zealand cheaper than you’re used to. For example New York was rated the world’s 9th most expensive city by Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey. LA was 18th while Chicago was 37th.

By contrast, New Zealand’s biggest and most expensive city, Auckland, came in at 89th, close to Detroit, while our capital city Wellington was 114th, a little cheaper than Portland.

Of course, like everywhere else, city living in New Zealand costs more than living in smaller towns.

Cost of living in New Zealand

Working in New Zealand

New Zealand’s job market has been strong over recent years, driven by solid economic performances.

47,000 job opportunities a year

The government expects we’ll need about 47,000 more workers a year well into the 2020s. That adds up to great career opportunities.

Skills in demand

The majority of the new jobs will be in highly skilled occupations, and it’s expected most will have to be filled by people from overseas countries including the United States. Perhaps - people like you.

Job openings will grow for virtually every kind of work. But the largest increases will be in business services, construction/utilities, health care/social assistance and education.

Prospects are particularly strong if your skills are on any of the Essential Skills in Demand (ESID) lists of skill shortages updated regularly by Immigration New Zealand.

If your job or profession is not on a shortage list, don’t be disheartened. There are lots of opportunities in New Zealand for people with skills.

Job market and key industries

Skill shortage list checker | Immigration New Zealand

A little forward planning and preparation will help in your search for a job in New Zealand. 

Finding work in New Zealand.

Getting a visa

If you’re planning more than a brief sightseeing trip to New Zealand - and especially if you want to work here - you’ll need one of the various different types of visa that are available.

If you’re aged 18-30, working holiday visas can give you up to 12 months in New Zealand.

Alternatively, there are work visas that let you live and work here for a set period and may even lead to residence.

Resident visas such as the Skilled Migrant Category let you stay indefinitely and access more state-funded public services.

There are also investment visas for Americans planning to invest at least NZD$3 million.

Visas to live and work in New Zealand

Living in New Zealand permanently

You can live and work in New Zealand indefinitely as a Permanent Resident - you don't necessarily need to become a New Zealand Citizen. 

As a Permanent Resident, you have almost the same rights as a New Zealand Citizen. You are eligible for Government funded public services including healthcare, can vote in local and national elections, and pay domestic fees for education including tertiary education. 

Time for a change

New Zealand’s construction sector needs skilled workers, particularly in Auckland. The opportunities drew Bob Stimson and his wife here from Phoenix, Arizona.

Organising the move

Once you’ve made the decision to come to New Zealand, you’ll have lots to organise. Apart from finding work and getting a visa, your top priorities will be deciding where you want to live and finding accommodation, sorting out money and banking matters and, if you have a family, finding the best schools for them.

Getting your new life off to a good start is all a matter of preparation. To help with the planning try our NZ Ready tool. NZ Ready will help you build a comprehensive plan outlining what is involved in a move, ensuring nothing is missed.

Investor opportunities

There are exciting investment prospects in New Zealand. The land is fertile, the people are generally well off and well-educated and officialdom is actively welcoming. There is lots going on, both in traditional sectors and in ‘sunrise’, export-oriented sectors like ICT, biotech, agricultural research and more.

Strong economy

Over the past 30 years successive governments have transformed New Zealand into a successful and resilient free market, open economy.

We came through the global recession comparatively well, and while we’re nowhere near the economic powerhouse that is the USA, for several years observers described us as the world’s ‘rock star’ economy.

We hit a high point in 2016 with economic growth of around 4% in 2016. In 2018, growth eased back to 2.8% and is expected to average around 2.7% in the years to 2023 - according to the OECD, about the same as the USA.

According to the New Zealand Treasury’s 2019 Budget Update, our economic growth is underpinned by four main factors - migration-led population growth, government spending, an accommodative monetary policy and solid (although slower than in recent years) growth amongst our trading partners abroad.

Global focus

New Zealand enjoys vibrant trade links with the USA - you’re our third biggest export destination behind China and Australia. We have Free Trade arrangements (FTAs) with China, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and Asean Asia-Pacific nations. We’re also part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) cementing links with existing partners and also Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and Viet Nam.

More FTAs are being negotiated with the EU, the UK, India and the Gulf states.

We’re also well connected in terms of international transport and communications - particularly with the commissioning of the new Hawaiki undersea fibre-optic cable, our second such link to the USA, supported by the TGA trans-Tasman cable.

About our economy

Stable and safe for investing

New Zealand is one of the world’s most stable and corruption free democracies where fair dealing prevails and property rights are well protected by law.

We’re the easiest place in the world to do business, according to World Bank rankings to May 2018. They also rank us first in the world for ease of starting a business.

Forbes magazine consistently ranks us one of the five best countries in the world for business.

The International Tax Foundation’s 2018 index puts New Zealand third amongst OECD countries in terms of tax competitiveness.

Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perception Index ranks us the world’s second least corrupt country, just behind Denmark.

The Heritage Foundation in 2019 ranked our economy the third freest in the Index of Economic Freedom, just behind Hong Kong and Singapore.

And the World Economic Forum rated us No.1 in the world for the strength of our institutions and macroeconomic stability.

Investment opportunities in New Zealand

Ours is a mixed and highly de-regulated economy. It’s powered mainly by a highly efficient agriculture sector but also benefits from a flourishing manufacturing sector, a thriving tourism industry, and a strong renewable energy resource base

Economic overview

Tax system in New Zealand

Ease of Doing Business | World Bank

International Tax Competitiveness | Tax Foundation

Corruption Perceptions Index | Transparency International

Index of Economic Freedom | Heritage Foundation

Special visas for investors

The Government is actively seeking international investors. Among other things, it’s offering special visas for investors and business people that make it easier to settle or spend time here.

There are various visa categories: Investor NZ$3m (USD$2.15m) and Investor Plus NZ$10m (USD$7.2m).

There are also special Entrepreneur Visas if you plan to purchase or set up a business.

Read more about the investor visa requirements or get in touch with one of our Investment Market Managers by selecting Invest on our registration form

Want to know more?

Take the first step to your new life by registering to receive emails from Immigration New Zealand.

We’ll send you personalised, practical advice on how to choose the right visa and make the move to New Zealand, and relevant job opportunities from New Zealand employers.

It’s free and there’s no obligation

Interested in coming to New Zealand?

Sign up to receive relevant job opportunities from New Zealand employers and practical advice on how to make your move to New Zealand a reality.


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Page last updated: 22/06/2020

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