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PhD in New Zealand

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I have recently embarked on a trip to New Zealand, to pursue a PhD for three years. Sometimes, you just have to make the leap and trust that the net is there. During my time in NZ, I will try to document some of the differences I notice that could be useful to other people.

So, the reason for writing this is to hopefully help prepare others in the hurdles involved with a person wanting to do a PhD in New Zealand, from the UK. Hopefully this can save somebody time and money, but worst case it’s good practice to make backups of memories and thoughts whilst they are fresh, lest they be forgotten.

NOTE: Please, please, please, check this process for yourself. This is meant to be advice from personal experience - processes change and can be different for different people.


There are many! Prepare for death by process. This section will try to list in order the preparations you should make.


You’re going to need about £2.5k to go through the process and live through the first month. Here is an approximate breakdown of what you can expect to spend:

  • Medical check ~£300
  • Criminal background check ~£100
  • Visa ~£200
  • Plane ticket ~£800
  • Rent money for first month ~£600
  • Food/living money ~£500

Register as a Student

You will need to register as a student at the course you want to be on in New Zealand - this will be important later as the visa process requires that you have proof that you will be accepted once you go out there. This is likely to try and prevent people getting a student visa and then working on it for a number of years instead of attending a respectable University.

Check Visa Requirements

Check your visa requirements. Start going through the process of filling in the gaps on the immigration website. The rest of what you see here will be a follow on from what is seen there.

Book Your Medical

Book your medical now! It’ll take at least a week to get a booking and it takes a while to get the results back. There are some important notes:

  • There are only a handful of medical places that can do your New Zealand medical. You need to get the latest list from the New Zealand immigration website. If not, you may have your visa rejected and waste time and money.
  • Make sure you start taking vitamin tablets. A lot of people are iron deficient without realizing because British diets tend to be bad.
  • You may have to travel some distance to get seen by some medical people.
  • They’re going to be doing a full check. Urine samples, x-rays, blood samples, genital inspection, etc. They’re trying to make sure you won’t kill over during your stay and you won’t cause somebody else to kill over either.

Criminal Background Check

You will need to get a background check, but be careful - there is a particular type you need which is specifically for visas and not for employees. You will need to provide a series of documentation, wait a while and will get a lot of documentation in return. It’s not worth getting express delivery on this as the medical will almost definitely take longer to complete.

Education Credentials

You will need to provide proof of your education. There are two scenarios:

  • You haven’t completed your current education yet - In which case you will need to request the transcripts from your University.
  • You have completed your current education - In which case you will be able to use the credentials given to you at the end of your course.


Once you have collected all of this information, feel free to apply for the visa! It certainly takes a while to complete - they say 20 days currently which was pretty accurate. Don’t sit on your hands, start looking at the next part of the process.


Once the visa has been approved, the accommodation can now be requested. You’ll probably want to go through the University to do this and it will take about a week to get an offer. Once this stage is complete, you’ll need to prepare to act fast as you will now know a move-in date.

NOTE: Try and pay this bill as much as possible up front, otherwise the costs will become quite large.


This can usually be done last and with just a week to spare using an online booking service, for a relatively cheap price (assuming non-peak times and nothing in the world changes too drastically). This is actually one thing that can’t be worried about too much.

In New Zealand

Wow, you finally made it into New Zealand. What next?


Make sure you keep your supervisor and University department up to date with the fact that everything is now done and you have entered the Country. Be sure to keep them up to date with your progress and they are sure to be able to help you out through the process of becoming a PhD student.

Course Enrolment

You’ll need to enrol on the course as quickly as possible, before you do this nothing else can be done. Likely they will want paying, so at this time you should pay the tuition fee or use your scholarship to pay for the course.

Bank Account

This needs to be setup ASAP, but can only be done once you have been enrolled. You can still book the appointment with the bank of you choice, but leave several days between in order to allow the enrolment process to complete. You will need your passport and proof of address (your enrolment letter at the University seems to be sufficient).


Hopefully this has been informative for you - if so please leave a comment. If there is part of the process missing, please let me know and I will look to update it.