Moving from the USA

If you’re like many people who move to New Zealand from the USA, you’re probably looking for a relaxed pace of life, in an unspoiled country where people are friendly and look out for each other.

Find out how moving to New Zealand delivers in these ways and more, and how you go about getting a visa so you can join us.

Walking in hills of new migration country

How living in New Zealand compares

We speak the same language and share a lot culturally, which will help make you feel at home. The pace of life is laid back, and we’re fortunate to live in what many people say is the cleanest and most beautiful country in the world.

Migrant stories

A quieter, easier pace of life drew these Californians back to New Zealand – and into some exciting career steps.

Read their story

A great lifestyle

New Zealanders are relaxed, friendly and easy to get along with.

Doing well at our job is important, but we make sure we balance that with time to do our own things too. Commuting isn’t a big hassle and even in the biggest cities you’re only 30 minutes from a beach, native park or mountain biking trail.

It’s these reasons and more that help us score at or near the top of so many international work/life balance surveys.

New Zealand's balanced lifestyle

Temperate climate, superb scenery

New Zealand has a temperate climate - in other words, generally warm, dry summers and relatively mild, wet winters. We don’t get the extremes that some parts of the USA have to 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.

Then there’s the scenery. New Zealand really has a lot to offer in this department - glorious sandy beaches, great native forests, mountains, lakes, rivers and fjords. Because we’re a relatively compact country, they’re all easy to get to and enjoy.

Clean & beautiful New Zealand 

Bush walks in Wellington New Zealand

Year round, it's easy to enjoy a healthy, outdoors lifestyle

Otari-Wilton Bush, Wellington

Spread out and make yourself at home

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.

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.

A healthy difference

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 (although you can still choose to take out insurance for private healthcare).

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. It is also strongly recommended that people in New Zealand who are not eligible for publicly funded health services hold comprehensive travel insurance, including health insurance.

Doctors here are usually easily accessible and accident and emergency treatment at hospitals is free.

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

Eligibility for services | Ministry of Health

Am I covered? | ACC

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.

Similar standard of living

New Zealand is a developed country and people here enjoy a standard of living that compares well with what you expect in the USA.

Of course things are different. But generally, you can expect pretty much all the conveniences of modern living without so many of the hassles.

How cost of living compares

Healthcare in New Zealand is free or low cost.

You’ll find some things cost less, while others are more expensive. But overall, it will probably cost you about the same to live in New Zealand as it does to live in the USA.

To put it into perspective (at least as far as city living is concerned) - New York was rated the world’s 9th most expensive city to live in by Mercer’s 2018 Cost of Living Survey, while LA and San Francisco came in at 23rd and 30th respectively. Our biggest city, Auckland, came in at 61st and our capital city Wellington at 86th.

Cost of living in New Zealand

Family life in Auckland New Zealand

If you have family, New Zealand is probably one of the best choices you could make.

Red Beach, Auckland

Family benefits

If you have family, New Zealand is probably one of the best choices you could make.

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.

Nearly 70% of expats say their children are more confident and well-rounded from their time spent living in New Zealand.

Expat Explorer Survey | HSBC

Schooling in New Zealand

If you’re interested in an education in New Zealand, either for yourself or your family, you can be confident it’s a good choice.

Compared to 15 year olds in the USA, teenagers in New Zealand actually perform slightly better on maths and science according to an OECD report in 2015. 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 20 institutes of technology providing internationally recognised qualifications. All eight New Zealand universities appeared in the top 500 (five of them in the top 300) QS World University Rankings 2018.

New Zealand's strong education at all levels is furthered by its rank of seventh in the Global Human Capital Report 2017 for preparing people for future work.

Education and schooling

Global School Rankings | BBC

QS World Rankings | Top Universities

Global Human Capital Report 2017 | The World Economic Forum

New Zealand workplaces

Working in New Zealand

New Zealand was less affected by the global recession than most developed countries, and has seen strong growth in recent years. As a result many people from the USA are finding good jobs in New Zealand, especially in ICT, healthcare, construction and engineering. There are many other opportunities for skilled migrants, particularly if your occupation is on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortages lists.

Most US technical and professional qualifications are recognized here.

Job market & key industries

Skill shortage list checker | Immigration New Zealand

Visa options to live and work in New Zealand

To work in New Zealand you’ll need one of the various different types of visa that are available.

Working holiday visas give people from the USA aged 18-30 up to 12 months in New Zealand.

An option for people older than that is a temporary work visa that lets you live and work here for a set period.

Alternatively, if you’re considering New Zealand for the longer term you may be able to apply for a skilled migrant visa that lets you live and work here indefinitely.

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 and Christchurch. The opportunities drew Bob Stimson and his wife here from Phoenix, Arizona.

Bob Stimson (03:19)

Bob Stimson

My name is Bob Stimson and I’m originally, most recently from Arizona. Phoenix Arizona in the US and I’m a structural engineer working in Christchurch , New Zealand now.

Yeah, I spent most of my life in Phoenix, Arizona, uhm, but I’ve lived also on the West Coast of the US – Portland, Oregon, and ah ah I was in Las Vegas working on some very big construction projects when the US economy uhm got into some pretty, pretty sad shape. Following that I was looking for some new opportunities, I was looking for a change from the position I was in, and saw that there was a very big need for structural engineers in New Zealand, following the Christchurch uhm earthquake.

Yeah my wife and I had never been to New Zealand before, but it’s reputation is known throughout the world. We, we knew that it was a beautiful country and we’d heard so much about how friendly the people were here.

There seems to be a much better work/life balance than what we found in the US. We found that people work just as hard as anywhere that we’ve seen, but yet people are encouraged and enjoy having a life outside the office. In the US, y’know, we’re used to a kind of culture where you’re expected to work an excessive amount of hours and if you have a life outside of the office, you’re almost made to feel guilty and keep it a little bit secret so they don’t know you’re not working when you’re outside of the office. But here in New Zealand we see that outside activities are encouraged, in fact even promoted. I know our company, Opus, does a lot of ah, you know. . organises a lot of events to encourage people to get to know each other, to get to know each other as people, not just co-workers. And that’s quite refreshing, that kind of balance, and to really, you know, you know. . and it puts a lot more humanity into the workplace than what I’m, what I’m used to.

Now. . now what I really like about New Zealand, ah probably number one on the list is the people.  We have found that the people are very friendly here. They’re very welcoming that, coupled with being in one of the most beautiful corners of the world, with a tremendous variety of activities to do. . . You know, there’s skiing in the winter, there’s mountain biking, kayaking, tramping in the, in the summer . . . It’s, it’s amazing the variety of different places you can go, all within just a couple of hours drive.

The one thing that I would ah urge anybody that’s interested in coming to New Zealand, is to really do your home work, . . uhm. .  don’t underestimate the amount of time that it might take to get some of the details through. For example: ahm. . . there’s a lot of paperwork that you need to put together when you’re going to get, to apply for a your work visa. The more homework you can do the smoother your transition will be.

I guess if I had to sum it up in ah just a few words I’d say that for me and, and, my wife, New Zealand is the next frontier.


Hot tip

Tips for finding work

Here you'll find practical information to help you find a job in New Zealand. As you'll see even if you're not yet in the country, there's lots you can do to get started

Finding work
New Zealand workplaces

Live and invest in New Zealand

For the prospective investor, New Zealand offers many interesting opportunities. There’s lots of new activity in innovation-led sectors like ICT, biotech and agricultural research as well as in more traditional businesses.

Strong economy

The New Zealand economy came through the global recession well. While we’re nowhere near the economic powerhouse that is the USA, for several years observers described us as the ‘rock star’ economy. By December 2014, annual growth had risen to 3.3%, one of the strongest performances in the OECD.

While New Zealand's economic strength is furthered today, with annual growth for 2018 forecast at around 3%, and 3.3% for 2019. Unquestionably, New Zealand's economy matches opportunity with resilience.

Open for business

One of the most stable and corruption free democracies in the world, New Zealand is a safe place to invest your energy, skills and money. It was recently named the easiest country to do business in the World Bank's 2017 Doing Business report.

The government has simplified taxes and company rules to make it easier to get started with your investment.

Investment opportunities in New Zealand

Economic overview

Tax system in New Zealand

Dedicated investor visas

The Government is actively pursuing 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 two visa categories: Investor NZ$3m (USD$2.15m) and Investor Plus NZ$10m (USD$7.2m).

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.

Interested in coming to New Zealand?

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Page last updated: 23/01/2019

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