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Your Guide to Moving to New Zealand From South Africa

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

The road from South Africa to New Zealand is one well-travelled by migrants! Our team has had a long-standing close association with the country and with thousands of people seeking to make the move.

South Africa to New Zealand: could you make the move?

There’s plenty of data and a multitude of success stories to suggest that South Africans integrate well into NZ society, so it’s not surprising that so many are seeking residence. However, moving countries is never a straightforward process and moving from SA to NZ is certainly no exception.

In fact, it’s almost guaranteed to be costly, stressful, and uncertain; a big commitment to make. For those who are just beginning to consider making this particular move, we’ve put together a straightforward guide to answer some burning questions you might have—and to give you an idea of what you could be in for.

Before we get into it, here’s some good news: It’s fair to say that South Africans are well placed (compared to migrants from many other countries) to obtain employment in New Zealand. While differences obviously exist, there are clear and favourable similarities. The labour markets are comparable, qualifications are generally recognised and elements of shared experience, as a former British colony—similar to that of Australia and NZ—are recognised. It’s also our experience that South Africans are generally recognised as hard-working migrants who fit in well.

Am I eligible to migrate to New Zealand from South Africa?

Perhaps the most important question of all! There is no one checklist you can use to check your eligibility—and if there was, it would be fairly convoluted. The best way to look at it is to consider the various visas or “pathways to residency” available and whether any of them are achievable for you. We’ve outlined the requirements for the most popular one, the skilled migrant pathway, below.

Of course, each person and situation is unique. The best way to get an idea of whether you will be eligible for any type of visa or residency is always to get advice from professionals—like the team at MILNZ.

The Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa

For many people seeking residency in New Zealand, this category is their best bet. New Zealand is looking for migrants with the skills the country needs for economic growth, and if you have those skills you have a much increased chance of achieving residency.

This visa is for indefinite stays and can lead to permanent residency. It is available to those aged 55 years or less and 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 that rewards applicants for things like registration, qualifications, income, NZ work experience, and (crucially) whether or not you already have or have been offered skilled employment in New Zealand.

For many South Africans, there is a catch-22 in this scenario: you can’t get a work visa without employment here, but it’s difficult to get employed without the visa. We discuss that in further detail below and also talk about the “Green List” which includes jobs that are in high demand and will put an immigrant on a fast track to residency.

We have more in-depth information about the skilled migrant or green list pathway here, and other residence visas and pathways available here!

Which jobs are sought-after for moving to New Zealand?

New Zealand makes no secret of which skills the country is in need of. So if moving from South Africa to NZ is in your long-term plans, you should make note of which jobs are in demand (although, of course, this may be subject to change).

The “Green List” on the New Zealand immigration website will tell you which roles are in demand—and if you have employment in one of the professions on the list, you have a better chance of getting residence either immediately or after coming to the country on a work visa and accumulating some NZ work experience. As of 2023, there are many healthcare professions with a “tier 1” or “straight to residence” rating—but the full list has a very wide range of jobs, from crane operators to software testers. As with the Skilled Migrant Category, however, it is important to understand whether you meet the ‘eligibility’ criteria for a role on the list. Often, it is not quite as simple as being employed in a green list profession.

We have another article discussing pathways to residence via skilled employment here.

Quick FAQs

How much does it cost to move from South Africa to New Zealand?

This is a tricky question with no simple or single answer. The truth is there is no set fee, as everyone’s circumstances are different—except for the stated fees for the relevant visa application(s).

We will say this: it’s an expensive process. Once you take into account legal fees, government fees, shipping costs, airfares, and everything else, you’d be lucky to see change out of NZD$50,000 for a family of four.

Can I bring my pets to New Zealand?

Can my children attend school if I am on a work visa and we are waiting for our residency to be processed?

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

Do I need health insurance?

Advice from the immigration experts

As experienced immigration lawyers who have worked with thousands of people and families seeking to work or live in New Zealand, we have come across a very wide range of situations. And while each is different, there are some themes that come up over and over again. Here is one dilemma that commonly arises when it comes to South Africans relocating to New Zealand:

For many migrants a chicken and egg problem emerges, or a catch-22 as we called it earlier. A job is required to get the visa, but many employers require the migrant to have the visa so they can offer them a job! Convincing a prospective NZ employer to support a visa application can be difficult, particularly if all contact is written or over Zoom.

The reason the job is so important is because under NZ’s skilled residence pathways, it’s a prerequisite. Whether it’s the Skilled Migrant category or the Green List pathway the job offer is key, and a residence application can’t proceed without it. This is likely the most misunderstood and frustrating part of the process—for migrants and employers alike—as the common initial perception is that this is illogical.

The majority will need to employ a strategy that calls for real determination and commitment to eventually secure a role. This may entail working with recruiters, applying for dozens of jobs; and in many cases coming through to NZ to pursue the job search here and attend interviews on a visitor visa (which is allowed; you just need to be clear about your intention when applying for a visa to do so).

Moving from South Africa to New Zealand is, demonstrably, achievable for those that are eligible and are prepared to commit to a process that will at times be testing. However, you need to have a clear strategy and understand each of the processes from the outset. Not doing so risks huge frustration and a waste of time and money.


Get the right help

The journey to residency in New Zealand is complex and uncertain. Having knowledgeable people in your corner is a major asset.

As experts in this field, we know what works! We’ve been through this process thousands of times with people from all walks of life. As a first step in this process, we always suggest a prospective migrant have an individual consultation with us. These generally last for about one hour and there is a cost for this of NZ$250. The consultation gives us the chance to assess a person’s eligibility, and where they qualify, outline a pathway that if followed will result in success.

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



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