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Moving to New Zealand from Southeast Asia

Plenty of migrants make the move from Southeast Asian countries to New Zealand, often seeking a lifestyle change for themselves and their families. In our experience with helping many Southeast Asian citizens apply for visas, we have found that a better work/life balance is a primary pull factor. Better working conditions in New Zealand compared to the long hours and cramped conditions in their home countries is a major drawcard.

Additionally, SE Asian immigrants to NZ cite the natural beauty and relatively untouched environment, the high-quality healthcare, relative safety, political stability, and multicultural society as reasons they want to make the move. It’s true that there is a high level of diversity, particularly in the urban parts of New Zealand, with plenty of opportunities to succeed. However, the immigration process is challenging and requires careful planning to ensure success.

Am I eligible to migrate to New Zealand from Southeast Asia?

This is a tricky question with no straightforward answer! Whether you’re from Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, or any other part of the region, you certainly won’t be excluded from consideration due solely to your nationality. However, you will have to meet the same high standards as just about anyone else trying to gain residency in New Zealand.

One of the hurdles that prospective immigrants will face is that of English language proficiency. This is both part of the official requirements (a score of 6.5 or more on the IELTS test unless you have a recognised qualification from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, or the USA) and a major benefit when it comes to the most crucial aspect of gaining residency: getting a job in New Zealand. So, if you have plans to migrate, brushing up on your English is a great place to start.

The best way to decide whether moving to New Zealand is a possibility for you (and your family) specifically is to take a look at the various pathways to residency (types of visas) available and whether you feel you can follow any of them to completion. Below we have some information about the most popular one, the skilled migrant pathway. You can find more about other residency visa types here.

Every prospective immigrant has unique circumstances. If you are unsure of how to proceed, you should seek advice from professionals like the MILNZ team.

The Skilled Migrant Category

Filling skill gaps is one of the best ways to successfully attain NZ residency! A Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa offers an indefinite stay, possibly leading to permanent residency for the applicant and their family. Here are some things to note:

  • This visa is available to applicants aged 55 years or less.

  • The application process can cost close to NZD$5,000 just for the government fees.

  • Partners and dependent children can be included in an application.

Applications are assessed according to a points-based system, and expressions of interest are considered in batches. From the 9th of October 2023, it goes something like this:

  • Applicants need six points, and these are assigned according to a NZ occupational registration, qualifications, or the income from a job offer.

  • It is only possible to claim points from one category; you cannot combine, for example, points from your qualifications and your offered income.

  • The only exception to this is that they can claim up to three points for skilled work completed in NZ (one point per year), which can be combined with others.

There is an evident catch-22 in this situation for Southeast Asian people wishing to come to New Zealand: it’s almost impossible to get a work visa without employment here, but equally tricky to find employment without a work visa. We’ve elaborated on that dilemma and talked about some strategies to tackle it in another blog post: Navigating the Catch-22.

If you are skilled in a “Green List” profession, one which is in high demand in New Zealand, your chances of gaining residency are higher. Find out more about the green list and skilled migrant pathway here, and other pathways to residence here.

Southeast Asia to New Zealand: Which jobs are preferred?

If there’s one aspect of immigrating to New Zealand that’s not a little unclear, it’s which jobs need filling. Immigration NZ makes no secret of that. In fact, it publishes and updates the Green List to let people know.

The list should be the first point of call for anyone hoping to migrate to New Zealand from Southeast Asia. If your profession is on the list, and especially if it is listed as “tier 1”, your chances of obtaining residency are much higher. There are many healthcare jobs listed, but a wide array of others too, in many industries.

Quick FAQs

How much does it cost to move from Southeast Asia to New Zealand?

Unfortunately, there’s no one answer for this! Each person will have a different journey and different costs; airfares, moving costs, and more will depend on the prices in your country of origin, exchange rates, and other factors.

In addition to the fees paid to the government during the visa application fees, there may be legal fees. Although good immigration advice can be pricey, it will also greatly increase your chances of success.

The very basic costs are the visa fees which, as an example, amount to almost NZD$5,000 for those applying under the Skilled Migrant category from Southeast Asian countries. It is slightly cheaper if you are applying from New Zealand.

Can I bring my pets to New Zealand?

If I am on a work visa waiting for residency to be processed, can my children attend school in NZ?

Can my partner also get a work visa if I have one?

Will I need health insurance in NZ?

Thoughts from NZ immigration experts

We have helped many prospective immigrants from countries across Southeast Asia to make the move to New Zealand, and there’s a common theme running throughout our conversations: people are seeking a lifestyle change and better balance. Safety, quality healthcare, and the natural beauty of the country are also very popular reasons to seek residency.

While nationality should not make a difference to the visa application process, we do find that citizens of some SE Asian nations tend to have more success than others, and this is likely due to the variance in labour markets. For example, the market in a country like Singapore has more similarities to New Zealand, especially (in our experience) in engineering, ICT, electronics, and communication. This makes the job search simpler and brings skills in line with what is sought after by NZ employers.

If your plans to move to New Zealand are in the early stages, we would suggest getting advice on how to best direct your career to increase your chances of success in the years to come. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, you can work towards a long-term migration plan by brushing up on your English language skills.

Obtaining a work visa and residency in New Zealand will require commitment and determination. It will be expensive! You may have to work with recruiters, apply for a huge number of jobs, and even come here to attend interviews on a visitor visa (which is permitted). With a solid strategy, it is achievable.

Get good help

As a first step in the process of applying to work and live in New Zealand, we always suggest an individual consultation with us. These generally last for about one hour and there is a cost for this of NZ$300. It allows us to assess a person’s eligibility and options, plus begin to create a plan to get them where they need to be. Knowledge is power, and it always helps to have expert guidance right from the beginning.

If you’re ready to take that first step, get in touch with our team.



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