Moving is usually a big event and takes some adjustment in order to settle in to life. Now moving to another country, even an English speaking western country, takes even more adjusting. Having only moved around the United States, I wasn’t used to needing to apply for visas and the processes surrounding obtaining a visa. Thankfully I have a partner who has lived around the world and was able to help with my first work visa application. I felt like I was doing a school research project again and good thing I am an organizational freak so putting together the application probably took me a little bit longer than it might for others. For one, I felt I needed to number every single page and have a table of contents that reflected all of those pages correctly! And each subsection had its on little listing as well. Such as the photographic evidence had it’s own listing and descriptions to correspond with each numbered picture. Since I was applying for a partner sponsored visa, I had to probably supply more evidence of the partnership than otherwise would be necessary for another type of work visa application. When I was done putting together the application, it was thicker than many college textbooks and wouldn’t fit in the drop box at immigration!
Some of the things I learned about applying for a visa:
- Keep everything! I learned this the hard way. When I first moved here I couldn’t figure out why Nakul was keeping all the envelopes for every card I had sent him (they were postmarked). So I recycled them not knowing there was a reason for it. Come to find out he had more foresight than I did and the purpose was to have evidence of communication while apart. Having postmarked envelopes with addresses on them helps to prove this. So now in preparation for my residency application next year, I have been keeping all pieces of mail and packages that come to me, especially ones that are addressed to both of us.
- Have important documents such as passports, etc copied and certified as a “true copy”. Usually immigration keeps any paperwork sent in to them, so it is not a good idea to send in originals unless they specifically ask for them. Having a certified copy gives immigration the evidence they need without worrying about getting originals back. This was the case with our application because one of the proofs required was that we weren’t related. So I gave certified copies of our birth certificates. Plus, since your passport is usually required to be submitted so they can put the visa in it when finished processing, it is important to have a certified copy of the ID page as well as any applicable visas contained in the passport in the case you need that ID evidence for other things while immigration is still processing the application or the passport is somehow lost.
- Keep in mind all proof requirements that immigration requires and organize all paperwork according to those proofs. I believe my application was processed very quickly in part to how organized my application was. (Note my slightly OCD obsession with making sure everything is organized just right and has several different description pages, etc).
- Get immigration advice as needed. Thankfully the people at Immigration New Zealand are incredibly friendly and helpful. I even had one immigration person remember who I was the next time I called in as she said I didn’t have a common name they see often applying for immigration! I had learned in the states that you don’t admit much to immigration there but here, being open and honest about final intentions has them willing to give the best pointers on what to apply and timeline. We didn’t need to even get an immigration advisor because the wonderful people at INZ gave us advice on how long they would want to see me living here with my partner prior to applying for a work visa and they also gave suggestions on when to get a medical examination done and when to submit proof of character based upon how long those are kept on file once submitted. If there are some tricky immigration issues, I would advice either asking immigration or in the case of countries that don’t want to hear the final intentions, to get some professional advice.
- Organized, organized, organized! This I couldn’t stress more. I spent weeks trying to organize and try to get paperwork to get copied or printed. Now that I am going to be applying for a PR in a few months, I have a dedicated folder for anything that will be needed for my next application so that I don’t waste the time like I did before searching for everything.
Visa Approved…Now what do I do??
After my work visa was approved I was so excited! But then it sank in that I needed to start looking for work! Ugh!!!! Looking for work is one of my least favorite things ever. And living now in a foreign country and looking for work seemed to amplify those fears! Since I started to look for work, I have learned quite a few things about myself and also the job search process. While some of the things I learned are probably true no matter whether I was still in the states, they seemed to hit home more so now that I’m somewhere that is a different country. Finding a good recruiter seemed to be the best thing I could have done for myself. I went through several recruiters before I found one that gave me a background on the accounting industry in New Zealand, different job titles, salary ranges, and how my skills translated here and what job title would best describe what I did in the states. I had spent countless hours applying for jobs on the most popular job site here and was getting tired of rejection e-mail after rejection e-mail. Plus I was tired of meeting with different recruiters and then never hearing back from them! It was getting a bit disheartening and frustrating!
While looking through job postings, I wasn’t sure exactly what my position in the states would be called here. Not knowing that made the job search a bit more confusing that it probably should have been! Also, most my rejection e-mails stated “your CV looks fascinating but we don’t see how your experience can translate here.” Last I knew, debits and credits were used the world over and honestly all it takes is learning the intricacies of each company and a slight learning curve of picking up on new standards and tax forms. I figured coming from a US tax job that learning NZ tax would be a lot easier! Like one interviewer said (and consequently my future employer), “has anyone figured out the US tax code?” Plus, once Nakul became a sole trader here, I have been doing all of his GST and income tax returns. Doing those hasn’t been that taxing (get it, taxing haha) or that complicated to really understand.
Once I learned a few things, I received a job offer within a week in a half after changing the things I was doing wrong!
- Create a CV or resume that is accepted in the country you are living or looking to live in. My old resume was in the more accepted US format. Thankfully my dear fiance looked at it and had me do a major overhaul in to a snazzy CV prior to sending it out.
- Unless the role is very niche and known world over (like what my lovely fiance does), don’t expect anyone looking at a CV to know how international skills translate to a new country. After weeks of job search, I was sick of getting rejection e-mails saying they didn’t see how my skills could translate. So I created a cover letter. This cover letter made a world of difference! Out of 8 applications I sent off one day, I got 6 calls back! While some of the recruiters didn’t think I would be a good fit for the job I applied for, they still had other possible jobs or interest in representing me. Keep in mind these were recruiters that sent me blanket rejection e-mails before! And one of these calls was straight from an employer interested in an interview.
- Make recruiters work for you! I met many recruiters and some I found to be quite useless because they didn’t seem to understand the skills or how certain designations quite transferred to this country. And so those recruiters really didn’t bother keeping me in mind during their job searches. After meeting with many recruiters, I finally found two that have been fantastic in helping me out and getting me interviews. The first gave me great background of the NZ market, job titles and then discussed how my experience fits here and confirmed what job title best fit what I had done. He was also excited to have me as a candidate and kept thinking of clients he thought would find me appealing. This recruiter got me a fantastic interview with a large accounting company and had several others interested and discussing my CV. The recruiter that got me an interview with the company I received an offer from quickly gave me fantastic career advice and did a wonderful job of finding out where I would best fit company culture wise and whether that company would find me a good fit as well. Neither of these recruiters was discouraged by my international experience, in fact both knew what I had done and how it translates here and were excited about representing me. The last recruiter I met explained to me what a “qualified” accountant was here and how I definitely would be considered a “qualified” accountant here and that some of the recruiters that didn’t realize that were a bit daft (my words).
- With free time, make sure to read up on job qualifications such as different softwares that are used in the country prior to going to interviews. I also spent time getting textbooks from the library so I could read up how some of the accounting and taxes were here so I could discuss in meetings/interviews as to what I saw was different and how quickly I could pick up in a work setting. Most accounting software that was “required knowledge” was very similar to the accounting software packages I had used in the states but just had different names. Plus unless the company is large and complex, how different can basic accounting software be?
- Confidence! Having not worked in a while, I seemed to have lost the confidence I needed for interviews. One of the best things I had was a fantastic cheerleader who helped me remember my most important qualities and also coached me through interview questions and polish answers. So one thing I would say is to find someone you trust to cheer you on. I was elated when the feedback from recruiters after interviews was that the interviewer found me to present well, professional, articulate, and a great fit for the company in such they wanted to pursue more interviews. What a great boost!
- This may be a no-brainer, but I made sure to have facts about the company memorized or at least familiar and also to have some good questions that aren’t on the website. I even stumped one interviewer with a question I had about the company! Some companies didn’t have much on their website so I just found something on their website that I could mention and then ask for further information regarding that bit of information. It is also a good idea to ask what the goals of the company are in 5 -10 years. They ask it, so only fair to turn around the question on them! And I found the interviews to go better when I became sincerely interested in the company and finding out more about the company. And asking good questions helps to know whether that’s a company I would want to work for anyway. The past few interviews I had I found I actually enjoyed them and really enjoyed talking to the person interviewing me. It was an interview but felt more like a mutual interview!
Thankfully, after changing things about my search such as having a cover letter and the job title, I finally got a good job offer that I have accepted. I had thought that since I’m in a new country I would take that opportunity to totally change my career track. But I found that doing that set me outside my comfort zone and also really put me in a bad position to find a job here. My last recruiters didn’t expect me to stay unemployed for long now that I had decided to stick with a role similar to what I had done in the states. And they were right, two weeks after submitted an interest in the job I received an offer, I will be starting work! I’m glad I didn’t get too discouraged and kept trying to figure out what I might be doing wrong in my search. This is probably true for many people looking for work. While having a bad economy doesn’t help with a job search, I have also found it may take moving away (gasp!) and lots of fine tuning! And not being afraid to ask for help and advice. I wouldn’t have been able to find a job without some great advice and help from a couple of good recruiters and also from my sweetie.
After almost a year of being unemployed, I am nervous but also excited to be working again! I know I thought not working would be so much fun and that I wouldn’t want to work again. But it does get boring after a while and I personally was starting to feel like everything I had studied and had gained experience in was starting to get rusty. Plus my brain hasn’t enjoyed not having the mental stimulation that comes from a work atmosphere and I have missed the interaction with people as well.
And now what’s next??? Well, Nakul saw this and he says “getting married”. So guess that’s next 😉 Well that is one of the few things that is next in this great adventure. But first what is next is to start work!