Migration to New Zealand: my experience

Life is full of paradoxes. For example: when I was offered my upcoming role at the University of Auckland, there were a few trajectories available to me to get the paperwork required to take up the role:

  1. A Work-to-Residence work permit (7 days processing)
  2. A Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident permit (1-3 months processing, with a job offer)
  3. Residency via my Australian citizen spouse (4 weeks processing)

With my Aussie passport wielding husband, #3’s a no-brainer, right? Well, except that he would have to bein New Zealand to sponsor me…and he won’t be able to join me for several months. Therefore both inconvenient and unfun.

That leaves two options. One might be tempted to go with #1, but I wasn’t. I’m not 25 years old and I wasn’t keen to move all the way to NZ, settle down and then find myself ineligible for permanent residency in a few years’ time. Given I have a couple of manageable but chronic health conditions, this was a legitimate concern: NZ Immigration has some of the toughest health standards in the world.

NZ Immigration is also incredibly transparent. Even compared to Canada. In fact, Transparency International (cue May Day socialist anthem) ranks NZ #1. Numéro un. Ichi-ban.

SMC, yeah you know me

So SMC it was, is and shall be.  The process is linear: if you can write a long report or fill out a detailed form or application it’s entirely self-doable. The stages are as follows:

Hunting and gathering: discern what sorts of evidence you’ll need for your application (proof of employment, education/credentials, criminal records checks from every country you’ve lived in for more than one year since you were 18 and any countries whose citizenships you hold: I got 3, plus I lived in Australia for 3 years).

Medical: find out who nearby can do your detailed immigration medical. Best to pick someone who does these regularly. Ideally they should be able to refer you to a clinic for the blood and x-rays. My medical cost me $400 out of pocket, of which more than half was for lab and x-ray work.

Expression of Interest (EOI): the EOI is really the application to migrate. What the clever folks at INZ do is have you complete it online, submit it (with some fees, biensûr), and they pre-assess it. If what you’ve claimed for points is enough to be selected (the threshholds vary over time), your EOI is “selected”. If it passes muster you are “successful” and are then “invited to apply”. You have between 3 and 6 months to submit, depending on whether you have a job offer or not.

Invitation to Apply (ITA): The ITA is mostly the pdf version of your EOI, with some additional forms and directions. Your task is to gather all the required evidence, cross check to make sure your dates align pefectly, make any edits (hopefully only minor ones), and send the ITA with your evidence, your payment of the application fee (over £1000!) and completed medical report (the doctor usually gives it back to you and you can open it up and read it if you wish) to whichever office of INZ you’ve been assigned.

Review of ITA: once received your ITA is reviewed to make sure everthing required is submitted. If you’ve missed something minor you may be asked for the supplemental content only–but INZ has the right to send the whole thing back to you for resubmission. After the completed application is reviewed you’ll be advised about whether your medical needs to be referred for a panel doctor’s opinion (more about that below). Once everything is considered to be in order, your Case Office asks a colleague to review the application one more time to ensure everything is copacetic. And then…

Approval In-Principle (AIP): you are approved in-principle. All you need to do know is send in your passport, pay your final migranty levy (around £150 plus an courier charges to send your docs back to you), and you get your “blue sticker”: a resident visa.

I submitted my EOI in early April, and it was selected a couple of weeks later. Within a week I was issued my ITA. Since I had already started gathering my documentation, I would have been able to submit the ITA within days…except the bloody Yanks took 8 weeks for my police certificate! Grrrrr! Rather than submitting in mid-May it was received in London on 15 June. Acknowledgement was the next business day (18 June); after requesting some additional info I received AIP on 07 August. My passport is en route to me from London currently: I should have it on Monday or Tuesday of next week. Two months from submission of ITA to visa in hand, in other words. Not bad at all.

Once I arrive my resident visa allows me unlimited entries and departures for 2 years. I must start the job named in my SMC application within 3 months and must stay in it for at least 3 months. After 2 years I can convert it (automatically) to permanent residence if I’ve met the “commitment to NZ” requirements: if I’ve actually lived and worked in NZ, in other words. 3 years later I can apply for NZ citizenship.

NZ residents who’ve lived in the country one year or more can vote too!


While my chronic conditions aren’t terribly interesting, I expected they might raise a red flag and they did. But thanks to the counsel of folks from awesome online communities like ENZ, Move2NZ and (to a lesser extent) Ex-Pat Forum, I was able to secure a specialist letter to include with my medical.  My medical referral took less than 2 weeks to be cleared and I’m confident the letter made the difference.

About John P Egan

Learning technology professional.
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