Silver Fern Visa or how I got work in New Zealand in 10 days

Silver Fern visa is designed to bring young skilled people to New Zealand. Silver Fern quota is available once in a year via special web site and allows holder entering New Zealand for 9 months to search for skilled employment. Only 300 places are limited per year. As soon as you get job offer you have to apply for Silver Fern Practical Experience visa which allows you to work in New Zealand up to two years and apply for residency or don’t apply and just work, live and travel. Actually, there should be a native New Zealand Silver fern picture, but unfortunately I haven’t managed to shot a good one so I have just put a photo of typical New Zealand forest!

To be eligible to apply for Silver Fern visa you need:

  • be outside of New Zealand
  • be aged between 20 and 35 inclusive
  • have recognised bachelor degree (Level 7) or higher or a recognized trade qualification with a minimum of two years of work experience in that trade
  • have an IELTS certificate 6.5 overall
  • have enough founds to stay in New Zealand for 9 month (4200NZD minimum)
  • meeting medical requirements
  • meeting good character requirements

And yes, you can’t apply for Silver Fern visa more than one time. OK this is a theory, and what about some practice?

Here comes Ivan, tester from Minsk who have lived and worked in St Petersburg for a long time. Last 5 years he worked in Yandex, Russian web search giant or as we say, Russian Google. Ivan has arrived in New Zealand two weeks ago:

In my opinion, moving to New Zealand has few preparation steps:

  • The first, most important and the longest step is learning English
  • The second step is getting visa and other related problems
  • Third step – searching for job and adaptation in new place

Actually the first step is part of the second one, with one exception: knowing English to pass an exam and knowing English for real life is a totally different thing.

Learning English

First time I thought about moving to New Zealand 6 years ago, but I always had some excuses or difficulties which prevented me from start doing things. Some of my friends who already knew about our plans even started kidding about us but I remember one day I decided that’s it, it’s time! Since that day I started improving my English as hard as I could. That happened early summer last year, six month before applying to Silver Fern. As result, I got IELTS 7.0 overall from first attempt and very easy. I passed my exam in St Petersburg. Exam fee cost me 9000RUB. I think you can find out what listening & reading level of English you have with help of Cambridge Practice Tests. After I’ve done two qualification tests using timer I understood that I got enough level of English and focused on speaking part with a tutor.

Getting a visa and other problems

Why did we choose Silver Fern? Because my wife hasn’t finished Uni so we couldn’t claim points for her education and couldn’t get enough points to apply for Skilled Migrant Category visa without job offer. You should be a very talented software developer or very lucky guy to get a New Zealand job offer being in St Petersburg. So we had two options: win Silver Fern or get student visa and try to get job offer here in New Zealand. The second option consumes lots of money and time – you have to buy some courses, arrive into country, find accommodation and most important not every employer wants to give you a sponsorship.

Silver Fern is a some kind of US Green Card, with only one difference it is not granted in random order, but only first 300 entries. Also it doesn’t give you a residence automatically but give you an opportunity to enter New Zealand and search for a job during 9 months. Then, when you get job offer, you have to apply for Silver Fern Practical Experience and then you can apply to Work Visa or Skilled Migrant Category.

The problem of Silver Fern is despite you have prepared morally and physically before registration, you can’t do anything because the website is down! I had computer 1 with 5 opened browsers, one of them used Australian proxy; I had my wife sitting on computer 2 with different VPN and also we had an iPad with mobile internet.

Participating in Silver Fern consists of two parts – filling a web forms (reminds me Expression of Interest in two pages) and making a payment of 230NZD. After you have paid and your money deducted from your account you may drink champagne because you have got a right to apply for Silver Fern visa and collect your documents. Registration was at 10AM New Zealand time or 12AM St Petersburg time. I heard that usually all places were occupied in 3-5 minutes. I got mine in 1hour and 10 minutes and all this time we were waiting and trying to see that web form. Because I didn’t know how this form looks like, I got prepared and made notes of everything I saw in EOI pretyped in a txt document: diploma number, birth certificate, driver license, almost everything was ready to be copied and pasted in web form. Some guys use robo-script but it is prohibited by law.

Then I had routine of collecting my documents and getting different certificates:

  • Police certificate (I had to provide both from Russia and Belarus
  • IELTS certificate
  • Bank account statement
  • Translation of different documents
  • Medical certificate

They have changed medical examination since last year so now you don’t have to receive all the documents and resend them to Immigration services – all results are stored in database now so Immigration can access them via your reference number any moment. We collected my documents, sent them in London and started waiting. Some people sent their documents in Moscow but I got a letter with checklist saying all documents should be delivered in London. I have collected all documents listed in checklist sent them and I wasn’t asked to provide any additional document at all. A month later I got an approve of my Silver Fern visa so I started negotiation how I can get my documents back. Citizens of Belarus have only one passport so I had no passport with me during that time.

Right after I got my documents back I bought fastest and cheapest one way ticket on aviasales for 900-950USD. My flight route was St Petersburg – Seoul – Auckland with three hours stop over in Seoul. I haven’t spent much time searching for accommodation, frankly speaking the accommodation has found me! I’ve just registered on couple of websites ( and another one I don’t remember) and I was contacted by some Russian guys. They wrote: arrive in New Zealand and stay with us! Also I have applied for IRD, opened bank account and got my driver license translated as soon as I arrived.

Job search and adaptation

New Zealand job market has one feature: most of candidates are found by networking or are found by recruitment agencies. It is very seldom when a position is directly advertised by a company itself. I didn’t have lots of friends so I decided to search through the agencies. I contacted a Russian speaking recruiter and she gave me a few useful advices about job interview, what people are keen to hear from candidate and so on. Also, she told me (and Ivan did same thing) that candidate should have very good looking view, so I bought a shirt and black colored jeans which looks like a trousers. Also she recommended prepare a speech about myself for 10-20 minutes. This speech should be about my work: what I was doing, what I have achieved and so on. I think that was the most important advice, because if I just came onto the interview and I were asked ‘tell me about yourself’ I wouldn’t be ready and could make bad impression about myself. Also she warned me about very slow hiring speed in New Zealand because people prefer keep work-life balance and don’t rush, so I was expecting to spend at least month or maybe two or even three month having rare interviews.

But, unexpectedly right after few days I got a call and was told about a tester position which is opened in some company and a job interview which is going to be hold on tomorrow. During my first interview which took approximately one hour I spoke with a manager and he told me about a project, about a team and processes and I told him about myself and my experience. I should mention he has a very strong kiwi accent in my opinion. I couldn’t get some of his phrases and words at all. Next day I got a call saying the second interview is going to be tomorrow. Well.. OK 🙂

The second interview was with team members. I was slightly nervous so I’m not sure if I got their positions right but I think they were: product manager, developer and tester. Second interview remind me the first one but was focused more on me rather then they. More detailed questions were asked: how I would do something, have I ever had this or that situation and so on. To my knowledge I always know have I passed interview or haven’t, so I left second interview in a very good mood. When I heard from my ex-colleagues about references there were asked to provide I became very calm – that meant process is going to be finished soon. So I wasn’t surprised when few days later they called me and said welcome aboard.


You might think it was easy. But people are different. We have different life situation, experience, level of English, different luck which are multiplied into quite complicated puzzle. My advice to you is: do not hope you’ll get it the same way. Life is a pain and suffer, you should understand it, be realistic and prepare to spend several month for getting an offer. But it definitely worth it! In addition you need lots of money to live 9 month during your job searching process, at least $10,000 to rent a room and have moderate spending on food. I was extremely lucky, because company were looking for a new employee in terms of my last experience and how I will fit the team but not in terms of stupid interview questions. I mean I had a task to be liked all interviewers and I successfully did it. I spent 10 days to I get offer starting from day I arrived to New Zealand. I had only 2 job interview in one company and did it in one attempt! Total expenses including my English classes, medical certificates, IELTS exam, translation of documents, plane tickets and accommodation rent are at least $4000.

P.s Good luck to you all, believe in yourself and try! ;Ъ

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Ivan Grigoryev's Blog
Living in New Zealand. Blogging about the country, beautiful places, everyday life.
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