Living in New Zealand

Advice for British people living in New Zealand, including information on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more.


This guide sets out essential information for British nationals residing in New Zealand, including advice on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below.


New Zealand has a reciprocal health agreement with the United Kingdom. Certain services may be publicly funded for people covered by the agreement however there are fees for many services such as GP visits. All visitors get limited medical coverage for personal injury through accident under the taxpayer-funded Accident Compensation Scheme (ACC). However, it is strongly recommended that you have your own comprehensive medical insurance. For further information on the New Zealand health system see the Ministry of Health website.


New Zealand has a good standard of education for all ages. For information on the school system in New Zealand, please visit the New Zealand Ministry of Education website. For information on the tertiary sector please see the Tertiary Education Commission website and the Universities NZ website.

Employment and recognised qualifications

In order to work in New Zealand you need a work visa. Information on how to apply is on the NZ Immigration website. See the sections for temporary work visas and for permanent work visas.

You will need to obtain an IRD number from the Inland Revenue Department.

To check which UK qualifications are recognised for immigration purposes, see the relevant section of the NZ Immigration website.

For many occupations, such as those in the medical, education and architectural fields, you will be required to register with a New Zealand occupational registration body in order to legally undertake employment. Immigration New Zealand has a list of New Zealand occupational registration bodies. Further qualifications, such as those for accountants, can be assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

Entry and residence requirements

You do not need a visa to travel to New Zealand for a holiday. British citizens receive a visa on entry. You cannot work or study while in New Zealand unless you apply for a special visa. On arrival you may be asked to provide evidence of funds to support your stay and a return or onward ticket. If you are a visitor your passport should be valid for one month after the date you depart New Zealand. If you are transiting another country en route to or from New Zealand, you should check the entry requirements for that country.

Detailed information on the requirements for entry and residency are on the NZ Immigration website. There is also a planning website to prepare for coming to New Zealand.


Most state benefits are only available to people with permanent residency or citizenship. Some benefits are available to holders of work visas for two years or more. Details of residency requirements are on the Work and Income (WINZ) website.

For information on getting your UK pension in New Zealand, please contact the International Pension Centre.

Driving licences and vehicles

If you have a UK driver’s licence, or an international driving permit (IDP), you can drive in New Zealand for a maximum of one year. By law you must always have your licence with you when you’re driving. You’ll only be able to drive the same types of vehicles you’re licensed to drive in the UK. The minimum legal age to rent a car in New Zealand is 25 years.

  • in New Zealand, all motorists drive on the left side of the road.
  • the speed limit on the open road is 100km/h.
  • in built-up urban areas the speed limit is 50km/h, although some inner-city streets may be restricted to 30km/h.
  • drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times. There are fines if you don’t.
  • if parallel parking your car must face in the same direction as the traffic is flowing on your side of the road.

If you’ll be in New Zealand for more than a year, you need to obtain a New Zealand driver licence. If your overseas licence is still current or has expired less than 12 months ago you can apply to convert it to a New Zealand licence


New Zealand’s unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZ$). There are $1 and $2 coins, and 10, 20 and 50 cent coins. NZ notes have values of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency you can bring in or take out of New Zealand but if you carry more than NZ$10,000 cash (or its foreign equivalent), you will need to complete a Border Cash Report.

International credit cards and ATM cards will work as long as they have a four-digit PIN encoded. Check with your bank before leaving home.

You can open a bank account very easily in New Zealand. You don’t have to be a resident but you do need to have a permanent address. A hotel or motel is not acceptable.

Guidance on bringing medication into New Zealand

Prescription medicines may only be brought in if they fulfill certain criteria and meet certain conditions. If you need to know more about this, check out Prescription medicines in the Prohibited Imports section of the NZ Customs website.

Sponsoring family members

Sponsoring residence applications is only possible (and required) under certain categories, see the relevant section of the NZ Immigration website.

Social ethics and traditions

New Zealand’s founding document is the Treaty of Waitangi. New Zealand has three official languages: English, Te Reo Māori and NZ Sign Language.

On public holidays in New Zealand all banks and most businesses are closed. Some shops and businesses may open but with shorter hours than usual. On Christmas Day, Good Friday, New Year’s Day and on the morning of Anzac Day (25 April), almost all shops and businesses are closed.

A full list of New Zealand School Holiday dates, Public Holidays and Provincial Holidays for the current year can be found here.

In an emergency dial 111 from anywhere in New Zealand. If your problem is not urgent, look for the nearest police station in the White pages of the telephone directory

For general advice on visiting New Zealand, see the NZ Police website.

You can reduce the risk of losing your passport (and the costs associated with obtaining a new one) by getting a Hospitality Association 18Plus card at an NZ Post Office or Post Shop. This is an accepted form of ID for many services like opening bank accounts or entering licensed premises.

Camping is popular in New Zealand but is only permitted in certain areas. For more details see the Tourism Industry website.

Discrimination on the basis of colour, race, creed and sexual orientation is illegal in New Zealand. Complaints about discrimination can be made to the Race and Ethnic Relations Office, which is part of the Human Rights Commission. There is no fee to make a complaint.

Leaving New Zealand

British citizens are entitled to come to live and work in the UK. They should, however, be aware that British citizens returning to the UK after a long period overseas are not automatically entitled to state benefits, a state retirement pension or assistance with higher education fees. To be eligible for any of the above, a British citizen must meet certain residence requirements and/or make the appropriate National Insurance contributions. See the International Pension Centre website for more information.

If you are returning to live or work in the UK after a period abroad, you will need to tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and sort out your tax affairs both in the UK and the country you are leaving.


This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the High Commission by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British High Commission will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.

We would also recommend you follow us on Twitter @UKinNZ for important consular announcements or information affecting British nationals in New Zealand. In the event of a crisis, we will update you via Twitter.

Published 18 December 2013
Last updated 11 August 2016 + show all updates
  1. Updated driving rules
  2. First published.