Are you planning to apply for a work visa? Do you believe you can just hop on a plane, find a job and apply for a work visa? Think again. Did you prepare yourself properly? How long do you think an employer wants to wait for you to get your work visa sorted?

Every day I find at least one message in my inbox from a very enthusiastic person who wants to move to New Zealand as soon as possible and is ready to start a job search so he or she can obtain a work visa. Some of them are still a bit confused about what comes first; the job or the visa but most understand that you need a job offer first before you can submit a work visa application.

Some of them started searching for jobs from their home country. Without much luck. If you cannot put a New Zealand address on you CV or cover letter an employer will toss your application on the rejected pile faster than you can say ‘hello’. The economic climate has not been very kind. Maybe things will change in the future when good qualified personnel gets more scarce.

For now the reality is that you usually will have to come to New Zealand to apply for jobs and attend job interviews. People from countries where a visa waiver applies are lucky. Others have to apply for a visitor visa. But before you rush to the travel agent or go online to book your flights prepare yourself properly.

I’ll give you two real life examples. One client got a job offer at the beginning of March. It took him more than two months to collect and translate the supporting evidence. We just submitted his application and it will be several weeks before his work visa is granted and he can start to work. His employer is patient. He had real trouble finding good qualified personnel, so he is willing to wait.

But how many other employers will do the same? The reason things took so long? He came to New Zealand empty handed. He had to ask his parents and friends to find documents, get certified copies and send them to a translator. He became my client when he already got his job offer. If he had come to me earlier in the process I would have advised him to act differently.

Another example. A couple who started preparing their supporting documentation in February are almost at the point where we can submit his occupational registration application. If it was up to them they would have had their documents ready in a few weeks but they were dependent on others; the translator, his employer, his tertiary education provider. And you cannot influence how quickly they will work for you or if they will be helpful at all. It will still be a couple of months before they can start a job search but at least they will be able to submit a work visa application quickly when he finds a job.