Moving to New Zealand from the UK

Looking for a change? Somewhere beautiful and more relaxed, where clean air and clear skies encourage healthier living?

Find out how living in New Zealand compares to living in the UK, and how you can get a visa to experience our lifestyle. 

How New Zealand compares

New Zealand and the UK have a lot in common, like similar values, a shared history, and the English language.

People who have moved here from the UK say that Kiwis are relaxed, friendly, and easy to get along with.

Many UK expats find that New Zealand has a friendly atmosphere, an easy going way of life and great work life balance.

New Zealand was voted No.1 for future outlook, No.2 for lifestyle, No.3 Overall in the 2021 HSBC Expat Explorer survey of expats in 46 countries.

Envied work/life balance

The quality of life in New Zealand really is excellent compared to many other countries.

New Zealanders have a strong work ethic but we also believe in having a good work-life balance.

Even in our biggest cities, you are never too far from a beach, bike trail, or national park.

We love the outdoors, and like to make time for rest and relaxation with our friends and families.

Balanced lifestyle

Children from United Kingdom exploring NZ bush

In the biggest cities you're only minutes from nature

Otari-Wilton Bush, Wellington

Great climate for outdoor living

Migrant stories

A new quality of life

The Newman’s move from the UK has let them and their teenage sons enjoy new careers and a new pace of life.

Read their story

New Zealand has a temperate climate, which means we have relatively warm, dry summers — December to February — and mild, wet winters — June to August.

We don’t get the extended periods of extreme weather that some parts of the UK do, so you’ll find it easier to enjoy a healthy, outdoors lifestyle all year round.

As in the UK, New Zealand weather is different depending on where you live.

Here, it’s warmer in the north, cooler in the south.

For example, Queenstown near the bottom of the South Island gets winter snow, but that is very rare in a North Island place like Wellington.

Famous scenery

New Zealand is famous for its beautiful scenery — from scenic surf beaches, attractive native forests and snow covered volcanoes in the North Island to the great Southern Alps, braided rivers and deep fjords in the South Island. This is why we often feature in movies with dramatic landscapes, like The Lord of the Rings.

Our dramatic scenery spans the whole country and you can see it in just a matter of weeks. If you move to New Zealand, you can use your annual 4 weeks of holiday to explore the whole country.

Clean & beautiful

Unique indigenous culture

New Zealand has a unique culture with strong Māori and Polynesian influences. 

Māori tikanga (protocols and customs) runs deeply through New Zealand's culture.

One of the most important Māori customs is 'Manaakitanga'. This means hospitality, kindness and generosity. As a multicultural nation, we welcome everyone.

Māori culture

Peaceful and democratic

In New Zealand, we are geographically distant from political issues troubling many other parts of the world, but we still take a strong interest in world affairs.

We are active voters in our own country and enjoy a long tradition of calm and polite political debate.

Our constitution

Many housing choices

If there is one major difference between UK and New Zealand housing, it is space. New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of high-density developments like so much of the UK.

When you are looking for a home here, you have plenty of choices.

Whether you want a large home in the suburbs with a garden and room for children and pets, open space and land in the countryside, or a smart downtown flat in the city, New Zealand has options for the lifestyle you’re looking for.

Unless you settle somewhere particularly remote, you can expect to enjoy your home without wasting hours of your life commuting.

Housing in New Zealand

Subsidised healthcare

Public healthcare in New Zealand is free or low cost — if you are a citizen, resident or hold a work visa valid for 2 years or more.

The New Zealand Government pays for some of our healthcare fees, which means you only have to pay a part of the fee when you see your local doctor — also known here as general practitioner or GP. Accident and emergency treatment at hospitals is free, but you may need private healthcare for elective procedures.

Healthcare for temporary visa holders

Even if you hold a temporary visa, you may still be able to get a range of services in some situations. Check your eligibility on the Ministry of Health website.

If you cannot access publicly-funded health services, we recommend you get comprehensive travel insurance that includes health insurance.

Medical care for accidents

If you are injured in an accident, a big proportion of your medical and recovery costs will likely be covered by our Accident Compensation scheme (ACC) — even if you were at fault.

ACC is a form of insurance. It’s funded by levies that all employees and employers pay.

Because of ACC, we don’t sue for injuries in New Zealand.

Healthcare

Guide to eligibility for publicly funded health services | Ministry of Health

Injuries we cover | ACC

Great environment for families

New Zealand is a great place to start and raise a family. Along with affordable, quality education, we give children the opportunity to get close to nature and enjoy a diverse range of healthy sport, recreation, and adventure activities.

Expat families find New Zealand has a great sense of community. We rank 8th for this on the OECD’s Better Life Index covering 41 countries whereas the UK ranks 22nd.

Families can feel very safe here. The 2021 Global Peace Index — comparing 163 countries for the risk of personal violence — rated New Zealand the world’s second safest country after Iceland. The UK ranked 33rd.

Family friendly

Better Life Index | OECD

Safe & secure

Global Peace Index | Vision for Humanity

High-quality education

New Zealand's education system is ranked as the 12th best in the world according to the 2021 Legatum Institute Prosperity Index out of 167 countries, the UK is ranked 16th.

Education here is very focused on preparing young people for tomorrow’s world. We ranked third out of 50 leading countries — just behind Finland and Sweden — in The Economist’s 2019 Educating for the Future Index (EFFI).

Education and schooling system

Prosperity Index | Legatum Institute

Educating for the Future | The Economist

Childhood education

In New Zealand, the government subsidises early childhood education (ECE) for children under 5 years old.

State primary and secondary schools are free for domestic students. However, they can ask for donations towards their running costs and parents usually need to pay for things like school uniforms, stationery, exam fees and some course-related costs.

State-integrated and private schools usually charge parents compulsory fees.

20 Hours ECE | Ministry of Education

The school system

Higher learning

New Zealand also offers top quality higher learning. We have eight universities and 16 institutes of technology that provide domestic and international students with internationally recognised qualifications.

All of our universities are in the top 500 of the 2023 QS World University Rankings — five are in the top 300.

QS World University Rankings 2023 | QS Top Universities

Comparable cost of living

New Zealand’s cost of living is similar to other western OECD countries. Depending on where in the UK you come from, the cost of living in New Zealand may be either cheaper, similar or more expensive than you are used to.

For example, London was rated the world’s 15th most expensive city in Mercer’s 2022 Cost of Living Survey.

New Zealand’s biggest and most expensive city Auckland ranked 95th. Wellington, the capital was 120th. Smaller New Zealand towns are less expensive.

Both Auckland and Wellington were ranked less expensive cities to live in than Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Birmingham.

Cost of living in New Zealand

Cost of living | Mercer

Job opportunities

New Zealand’s job market has been strong over recent years, with many people from the UK finding good jobs and careers here. 

Notwithstanding the pandemic, because New Zealand has remained relatively unaffected, workers continue to be needed to fill posts in a range of highly skilled occupations, particularly (but not solely):

  • healthcare and social services
  • construction, trades and infrastructure
  • education
  • engineering
  • ICT, electronics and telecommunications
  • agriculture and forestry

Currently if your skills are on the official critical skill shortage list, you may still be able to find a job and get a visa.

Job market & key industries

Skill shortage list checker | Immigration New Zealand

Finding & applying for jobs

Economically sound

New Zealand has a successful and resilient free market with an open economy.

Annual GDP growth reached 5% in 2021.

As with other countries around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed economic growth in New Zealand. 

The OECD predicts GDP growth will ease to 3% in 2022 and 2% in 2023.

New Zealand Economic Snapshot | OECD

Global orientation

International trade makes up around 60% of New Zealand’s total economic activity. With trade so important, our economy is very outward looking.

We have Free Trade arrangements (FTAs) with China, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and Asean Asia-Pacific nations including Indonesia and the Philippines.

We’re also part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), cementing links with existing partners and also Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and Vietnam.

More FTAs are under negotiation with the UK, the EU and other trading partners.

Stable and safe for investing

New Zealand is one of the world’s most stable and corruption-free democracies. There are exciting investment prospects here, both in traditional sectors and in ‘sunrise’, export-oriented sectors like ICT, biotech, agricultural research and more.

  • the International Tax Foundation’s 2021 index puts New Zealand third amongst OECD countries for tax competitiveness
  • Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranks us first equal with Denmark and Finland as the world’s three least corrupt countries out of 180
  • New Zealand was rated the world’s fourth most free economy in the Heritage Foundation’s 2022 Index of Economic Freedom.

Money & tax

International Tax Competitiveness Index 2021 | Tax Foundation

Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 | Transparency International

2022 Index of Economic Freedom | Heritage Foundation

Getting a visa

if you are interested in moving to New Zealand, or to come here to work for a while, there will be different visa options you can consider.

  • if you’re aged 18-30, a working holiday visas can give you up to 23 months in New Zealand.
  • work visas let you live and work here for a set period and some can lead to residence.
  • resident visas, like the Skilled Migrant Category, let you access more state-funded public services and stay indefinitely.

Visas for New Zealand

Living in New Zealand permanently

You can live and work in New Zealand indefinitely as a Permanent Resident - but you don't need to become a New Zealand Citizen.

As a Permanent Resident, you have many of the same rights as a New Zealand Citizen. You can

  • get government funded public services, including healthcare
  • vote in local and national elections
  • pay domestic fees for education, including tertiary education.

Organising the move

Once you make a decision to come to New Zealand, there will be a lot to organise. Your top priorities after finding work and getting a visa will be deciding where you want to live and finding accommodation, sorting out money and banking matters and, if you have a family, finding the best schools for them.

Our NZ Ready tool can help you with your planning and ensure you don’t forget the most important things.

NZ Ready planning tool | Immigration New Zealand

Interested in coming to New Zealand?

Take the first step to a new life by registering your interest with Immigration New Zealand. We’ll send you personalised emails about job opportunities in your profession, life in New Zealand and choosing the right visa.

It’s free and there’s no obligation.