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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was recently told that my trade (electrician) is considered to be in high demand in NZ and that being under the age of 30 is even more desirable. I have spent the past few weeks going through information and trying to wrap my head around everything to do with the culture of NZ, and honestly, it seems perfect for me. The few complaints I've read are not major issues for me. I've determined that Wellington may offer the most in terms of my personal hobbies and lifestyle, while Christchurch seems to have the highest need for electricians. I'm a little confused on how to qualify with the NZ board of electricians and take the plunge of actually moving.

I am from Tennessee, USA. Here, we do not have official licensing for electricians the way many other states do. So, I do not have an official certification because I work under the license of my employer. I have 7 years of experience and can probably manage some sort of writing from past employers to verify my experience. It seems like this situation would be more easily worked through after setting foot in NZ. Should I apply for a 12 month working holiday visa, and while in the country start the process of determining my eligibility to qualify as an electrician, find a job offer, then apply for an unlimited work visa? Does this seem like the best route to get into the country and eventually become a permanent resident?

I am a single male that leads a minimalist lifestyle, so there's very little issues with logistics of bringing personal possessions to bring to NZ. I will likely sell everything, and bring only my clothes and personal necessities, then bring an irreplaceable guitar and bicycle. I am a musician and a hobby BMX rider, so the bike is also a great way to commute when the car isn't necessary. I have a special traveling bag that the bicycle fits into neat and compact when taken apart, so I could bring it as luggage or even ship it. I am 28, two months way from turning 29. So I have about one year to work everything out, save the money and get into NZ if this turns out to be a real possibility.

The process seems too simple to come to NZ. I have wanting to leave the USA for many years, but due to my work and lack of university education, many places I've been interested in make it very difficult to get a visa. I keep expecting to discover a roadblock in my research about New Zealand, but there hasn't been any. It seems like all I need to do is save up the required amount (around $3000 USD), have proof from a bank statement, apply for a visa, and get on a plane. I have looked into hotels, hostels, Air B'n'B, etc for temporary places to stay on arrival and that doesn't seem complicated either. It seems like things regarding employment and permanent places to stay will be more easily arranged while in the country than from overseas.

So, I have a some questions that aren't 100% clear to me. I would especially appreciate talking to an expat who is working as an electrician in NZ. The EWRB website is very helpful but doesn't answer every little detail for someone coming from another country.


1 - Can I come to NZ on a working holiday visa, and later switch that to a skilled migrant visa after working out my experience and qualifications with the EWRB (NZ electrician board)? Or will a working holiday visa be a serious restriction when looking for employment and residence in NZ?

2 - Is bike a reasonable method to commute in Wellington or Christchurch? I prefer to live in inner city environments, and commuting via bicycle and public transportation would be a serious help so that I can push back buying a vehicle until I am settled into a job and place to permanently live. Also, do public transport like buses or trams have bike racks to place a bike on while you ride? This is common in major USA cities, but occasionally I see some buses that do not have racks and will not allow you to bring a bike onboard.

3 - I keep reading comments about New Zealand's improved "work life balance" compared to other western countries. But, what exactly does this mean? I see the phrase but nothing has really explained what about NZ culture or lifestyle makes it have a better work life balance than anywhere else. It seems to have more vacation times and such than the USA, more similar to European countries, but in daily life it seems very similar in hours worked, shift times, etc. What makes NZ have a better work life balance than somewhere else?

3 - I have a few more questions that apply more directly to becoming an electrician in NZ, which might be a long shot on this message board. Is there any chance anyone here is an electrician, particularly if they came to NZ from being an electrician in the USA?

I will probably think of more questions that escape me at the moment...
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I have another specific question that I didn't really think about before I made this thread.

How does NZ culture perceive tattoos? I have quite a few very visible tattoos. While in the USA that used to be an issue with some employers, that is quickly vanishing and it's becoming normal to see people in all walks of life with visible tattoos. This is really never been an issue for me in the electrician/construction trade, but I am not certain if tattoos still have that "taboo" associated with them in New Zealand. I can cover most of my work in a nice dress shirt for a job interview, but the exposed bits of my wrists will show, and there is a tattoo on my neck. It is all nothing offensive, and all nicely done pieces of art, not cheap scratches. I wonder if this could be a major obstacle when looking for work in New Zealand that I didn't initially anticipate?
 

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Hey,
Welcome to the forum.
I'll start from the top and then get to your questions.

Yes electrician is a trade skill that is very much sought after in NZ. I'd agree the Christchurch area is possibly the place that needs more and then maybe Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, Hamilton.
Yes, being under 30 is also very desireable as it means you have many years of work in you.

Just reading your post, your work experience, non registration in the US and no mention of formal qualifications, your biggest hurdle will be the EWRB registration and actually having the ability to work in NZ.
To work on your own - i.e. unsupervised in NZ as an electrician (also applies to a number of other trades here) you MUST be registered with the EWRB and hold the license. To get registered with the EWRB you have to apply for them to assess your formal qualifications and your work experience in return for some dollars. The EWRB will then let you know your position and what you will need to do in order to gain registration in NZ. They may also offer you an interim restricted license that means you can work here so long as you are supervised. If not then it's not the end of the world but you'll be considered an apprentice on apprentice training salary. You're only gonna be able to earn the highest dollars when you are fully registered and licensed and can work unsupervised, however if you have experience then you may be able to fast-track. NZ work experience is the key to the trades here as they are very different to what you may expect.
A link for you :-
https://www.careers.govt.nz/jobs-database/construction-and-infrastructure/construction/electrician/

1. Defo the best route for you.
You are under 30 and yes, it is as simple as it sounds. You meet the criteria, you apply, prove the funds and you're off.
To come any other way you'll need a written job offer and even though you have 7 years US experience I'd expect that will count for sweet nothing here so I'd expect a job offer will be difficult for you to get whilst still overseas. You will have a much better chance if you are here and physically cold calling employers and begging for a job.....so long as you remain within the conditions of your visa.
It is possible to then transition to a visa that allows you to stay longer but it is not straightforward. The ability to do so will be dependent on a written job offer and all the criteria being met by you and your employer and of course Immigration being happy with it all.
Depending on the offer you could go for a temporary work visa - i.e. Essential Skills that will allow you to stay for up to 5 years or a Work To Residence visa where you have the intention of applying for Residency within two years or even going straight for a Resident Visa via the skilled migrant category if you have sufficient points
Yes the WHV is a bit limiting but only in that you cannot accept a permanent job and you'll be on the clock to get a job offer so you can apply for a visa that will allow you to stay longer.
I'm not going to paint a rosy picture for you. The EWRB may be an issue for you since it appears to me you only have work experience and no previous registration or qualifications ?

2. Wellington....Yes and No. All depends where you live. If you are down at CBD level and in any of the suburbs surrounding the city and even out over to the bays around the airport etc then all good. If you are in the Hutt Valley or up in the Northern suburbs then No as it's a pig of a commute on a push iron. The Hutt Valley is simply a long ride to Wellington and back. Ok a couple of times a week but every day - no chance. There's a stretch where you have to use state highway 2 and play chicken with the traffic.
If you are in the Northern suburbs you have huge hills to climb to get home.
i've done both as I lived in the Hutt Valley initially when we moved there in 2012 then moved up to Churton Park then Tawa later on and I used the push iron when I could. Ride to work from Tawa/Churton Park was awesome most of the time as it's very much down hill but coming home after a 10hr shift....killer!!! The weather can also play havoc with you on a bike. Wellington is the windy city and not called that for nothing.
Christchurch is very much more commutable by push iron.
Some of the Wellington buses have a bike rack on the front (outside). The trains certainly do but more likely people will be sat in the single seats where the racks are if you are commuting at peak times so you may not be able to carry it ?
No idea about Christchurch buses but the city does have a high population of bike users. There is no train service.

3. I personally think NZ literature tends to try to imply that employers here are more concerned about your work / life balance being well more balanced than in other countries but it all depends on your employer and how they treat you. It certainly isn't guaranteed or a given. My work life balance is much better here but then again a friend who came out here in a different industry was worse off so when back home???
From what I have seen, trades here seem to have a good craic at work and Fridays is usually knock off early, back to the depot for bbq and beers paid for by the company. They always have a break around 10am (morning tea) and in the arvo maybe 3pm (afternoon tea) with 30 mins lunch and when on the job they've got a radio on and flask of coffee/cokey cola on the go.
You'll only get 4 weeks annual leave and often you have to take 2 weeks of that over Christmas/New Year as the company will shut down for the summer break.
One thing we have going for us though is you're never more than 75kms to the sea and the bush is always next door so it's easier to just go do something sporty straight away after work.

4. (you're second number 3). Nope. I started off as a cable jointer in the UK then went into Operational/Transmission Outage Planning and Transmission Real Time Control for 20 years and now I'm a Power System Co-ordinator managing the National Grid of NZ in Real Time for Transpower System Operator. Did a bit of electrician stuff but have never been an electrician.

Cheers
 

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I have another specific question that I didn't really think about before I made this thread.

How does NZ culture perceive tattoos? I have quite a few very visible tattoos. While in the USA that used to be an issue with some employers, that is quickly vanishing and it's becoming normal to see people in all walks of life with visible tattoos. This is really never been an issue for me in the electrician/construction trade, but I am not certain if tattoos still have that "taboo" associated with them in New Zealand. I can cover most of my work in a nice dress shirt for a job interview, but the exposed bits of my wrists will show, and there is a tattoo on my neck. It is all nothing offensive, and all nicely done pieces of art, not cheap scratches. I wonder if this could be a major obstacle when looking for work in New Zealand that I didn't initially anticipate?
Ha Ha!
Nah you'll be sweet. No worries so long as they aren't over your face and the visible ones aren't gang related or can be perceived as gang related. Nothing offensive.
Just wait till you see the Maori boys at work here. Usually covered in traditional tats. Just have a look online at the NZ All Blacks rugby team boys.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the detailed response, escapetonz!

I do not mind accepting a restricted license or even accepting an apprentice position again, since there are bound to major differences between code in the US and NZ. I've already been looking into some major differences to get an idea. It would take me at least a short time to adjust, and working under supervision would be helpful. If I'm able to fast-track to a full license due to my experience in the field, that would be excellent at some point. I do not have any "formal qualifications" outside of my work experience. I assume you mean by this, is university? I unfortunately did not have the opportunity here in the states but didn't happen to come across any education requirements to apply for a visa. I am very quick to learn and reasonably skilled with my work, so if I have a year to impress a company enough to extend a permanent job offer so that I meet a skilled migrant visa requirement, I am confident I should be able to do that. I actually largely work in controls and instrumentation, so my abilities go beyond simple construction and services. I would like to think I can prove myself worth offering a permanent job within a year and switch visas to something that allows a longer stay.

Once again thanks so much, it's a major help!
 

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Thanks for the detailed response, escapetonz!

I do not mind accepting a restricted license or even accepting an apprentice position again, since there are bound to major differences between code in the US and NZ. I've already been looking into some major differences to get an idea. It would take me at least a short time to adjust, and working under supervision would be helpful. If I'm able to fast-track to a full license due to my experience in the field, that would be excellent at some point. I do not have any "formal qualifications" outside of my work experience. I assume you mean by this, is university? I unfortunately did not have the opportunity here in the states but didn't happen to come across any education requirements to apply for a visa. I am very quick to learn and reasonably skilled with my work, so if I have a year to impress a company enough to extend a permanent job offer so that I meet a skilled migrant visa requirement, I am confident I should be able to do that. I actually largely work in controls and instrumentation, so my abilities go beyond simple construction and services. I would like to think I can prove myself worth offering a permanent job within a year and switch visas to something that allows a longer stay.

Once again thanks so much, it's a major help!
Hey no worries.

Ok then if you're prepared to start at the bottom you shouldn't have a problem finding an employer who will offer you work when here on the Working Holiday Visa. You can try beforehand but I doubt you'll be able to land a job here from overseas.
A mate of mine came over as a gas fitter/plumber from the UK a couple of years ago due to a job offer from an employer in Auckland and while on site doing his thing an electrician pestered him with a job offer daily promising him the same salary but also that he'd train him up and get him through the EWRB registration etc....the guy was that desperate to get some help with his electrician work.
Just make sure you are aware of the conditions surrounding any visa you do get.
You will not be able to gain a Resident visa until you have sufficient points to submit an Expression Of interest that will be selected from the pool (current minimum is 160) so to get up to that level on your own as a single applicant you'll need adequate academic qualifications, adequate work experience and a permanent job offer plus you'll need to be at least working towards the full registration and licensing through the EWRB.

Yes there are huge differences between US and NZ code since there are huge differences between the supply of it in both countries. It is something you'll have to work through but there are PDF documents available online that you can read through. I expect the job here is very different than in the US although I don't know to what degree.
Qualifications wise I'm not really meaning as far as University where you'd be doing a bachelors degree or a masters degree. If you have qualifications like this you shouldn't really be working as an electrician. I'd consider that a waste unless the money as an electrician was so good it wasn't worth going in to a higher level of the industry.
So the qualifications I am meaning are the trade ones specifically for the trade you are doing so like City & Guilds Of London or National Vocational Qualifications and the like - whatever the equivalent is in the US. The kind of qualifications you would do during a period of training or an apprenticeship.
Without some form of trade qualification I doubt you'll get far. You may get a job offer here as an apprentice - as I've mentioned but it will be essential for the job, for your longer term visa prospects and for Immigration that you study and pass some sort of trade qualification/'s plus the usual regular health & safety courses. Get with the right employer and they may sponsor you though all this.

If it was me, I'd go for the Working Holiday Visa, get out here and go visit all the electrician companies in person with your concise CV and a cover letter. Maybe ask if you can have a little of their time and explain what your intentions are. Maybe even offer to stay with them for the day and volunteer your services in the hope they offer you some work and then you can take their advice on the best way to get the qualifications or even what qualifications you will need and then advise you about the EWRB.
 

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I am interesting in any information about the move to NZ too. I have received offers to work in NZ and I am honestly thinking about it. I'm a little afraid of moving, but my salary will be much higher. I am an electrician and I have five years of experience. I used to work as a working in construction and then I decided to change my job profile and I'm very happy about it. I thought it would be very difficult, but I was lucky to find good training programs. For example, I started with these programs online electricianclasses. In just one year, I was able to become an electrician and now I get a good salary for my work and even think about moving.
 
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