Emigrating to New Zealand

Steven Grant

Honestly, I thought the opportunity had passed me by. I first set foot in Tauranga, New Zealand on Christmas Day 2003.

My parents and sisters left Scotland on November 15th. I remember the date mainly because Scotland beat The Netherlands 1-0 in the football that evening (before taking a pumping a few days later in Amsterdam πŸ™„).

Mum and dad had talked about moving to New Zealand in my early high school years. Although I did learn just a few months ago that mum and dad had been actively looking to emigrate for years, first to Canada and then South Africa.

As an early teenager, I do remember dragging my heels with them wanting to move country and for whatever reason (might have been me πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ) it didn't happen.

When Leigh - the oldest of my 2 younger sisters - reached the same age, mum and dad decided to go for it.

I was finishing my final year at uni and the plan was that I would join them once that was complete.

My visit in 2003 was a last minute surprise (I used dad's credit card because no student is affording a flight to NZ πŸ˜…) where I turned up to Christmas dinner with none of the family in the loop. It would have been funny to capture that moment on camera for others to enjoy but I often replay that memory in my head and it never fails to make me smile. It's as good a memory as any picture or video.

I was there for 2 weeks. I had never really been a traveller before that trip outside of holidays to Portugal - and later Crete with school friends. Those 2 weeks though did make me realise there was a world that existed outside of the UK. Walking in sunshine, on the beach, on Christmas Day definitely impacts your worldview of how and where you live your life.

Sarah and I had started dating in the September of 2003 and she knew of my intention to move with my family after graduation but was still happy to date me regardless.

Graduation in 2004 didn't happen. I failed my final year at uni resulting in me having to resit some classes of my course and those classes weren't taking place until February 2005. I decided at that point that I'd take an extended visit to New Zealand and so applied for a Working Holiday Visa. With little regard for Sarah at the time, I spent several months in New Zealand from August '04 - February '05. It gave me a real taste for life in Tauranga vs the holiday I'd taken in the Christmas of '03. I worked 2 jobs between client web work (before I even knew the term remote working) and helping out dad's beach bungee.

I was loving life there - but I missed Sarah, and I needed to complete uni and so I returned to Scotland, graduated uni. declared my love for Sarah and that I couldn't possibly visualise a life that she wasn't a part of and I proposed.

Notions of emigrating took a bit of a backseat for a while. It was 3 years between our wedding and seeing my parents and sisters again until we made the trip with Rebecca late in 2008 when she was 9 months old. Sarah and I talked about moving while we were there but it was going to be very expensive for us and more importantly, Sarah didn't fancy moving so far away from her parents.

We had a few emigration opportunities present themselves soon after though. In 2010, 2011 and 2012 we had the opportunity to emigrate to the US which Sarah was more amenable to. However, they all fell through for one reason or another: companies pulling job offers, unexpected expenses, not the right opportunity at the right time.

In 2012 I made the first proper use of remote work. We decided to spend a few months in New Zealand as a family of 4.

The kids loved it, I loved it and, despite being several months pregnant and not enjoying the travel element, Sarah loved it too. I turned 30 when we were there and again, I broached the subject of emigrating. Sarah was open to it and we even went to look at some houses in the area. As we investigated further there were a few problems, we were short on the required points for a migrant visa and property was beyond what we could afford, so it really was a non-starter.

The next 5 years brought Rachel and Levi into our lives and so emigrating seemed to be even further away. That said, in 2017 we did manage to a trip to New Zealand as a family of 6 and again, we explored the possibility. The migrant visa points required again, our undoing. I even had an informal chat lined up with the founders of a Tauranga start-up that were using Laravel and Vue.

Fast-forward to 2023. Rather than do Laracon US, I opted to go a little farther and do Laracon Australia while tacking on a trip to New Zealand to visit the family. Mum and dad visited us in 2022 but - thanks to the pandemic - it had been 5 years since I'd seen my sisters. I had a new niece who was growing fast and hadn't met yet. Emigrating wasn't on my mind really. I was 40 going on 41 and had almost made my peace with not emigrating. However, as I walked around Tauranga, that desire was stirred again.

Seeing where we'd fallen short last time, I looked at the NZ immigration website. The old points system had gone but a new visa type had appeared in the shape of a Straight to Residence visa. All I needed was a job offer with an immigration accredited company.

There's very little information online about this visa in terms of people's experience with its application process. Hopefully this post addresses some of that for those who come after us.

I hadn't discussed any of this with Sarah. I felt I needed something concrete before floating another hypothetical at her.

I had 6 weeks to make something happen while I was in New Zealand. I managed it. It wouldn't have happened without the network support of my parents and sister. I was offered - and tentatively accepted - a job; subject to the employer gaining immigration accreditation and a visa being granted. Even at this point I still hadn't discussed things with Sarah. Some conversations need to be had face-to-face and this was definitely one of them.

I arrived back in Scotland just before Christmas. Sarah and I headed out to do some Christmas shopping and grab a coffee, she noticed I was much quieter than usual. We're in Starbucks and I blurted out "we need to move to New Zealand next year". Silence 😬 "I have an offer that's good for us". More silence πŸ˜–. We left Starbucks and there was definitely an atmosphere. The topic of conversation changed.

We got home and still we hadn't talked about the elephant in the room. As we were settling down for the night, Sarah turned to me and said with smile on her face "let's go for it" πŸ₯³.

We spent the next few hours coming up with a plan that would have us in New Zealand by August or September 2024. The plan was derived from the timings that NZ Immigration had laid out and what would work for us as family. The time for employer accreditation to be approved, all of the things we needed for the visa application itself and then the processing time once we submitted.

We had no plans to tell anyone until such time as our visa was approved but that became next to impossible. The kids needed to know why we took them out of school to go for medicals and as soon as we told the kids, the genie was out of the bottle. I don't think we've ever seen news spread so fast in our church as that Sunday after we told the kids πŸ˜‚

Here's the timeline of our application process:

  • Jan 18th - employer accreditation request (estimated 9 weeks)

  • Jan 19th - employer accreditation approved 🀯

  • Jan 31st - submitted request for UK police checks (estimated 30 days)

  • Feb 6th - undertook family medicals

  • Feb 8th - medical results returned

  • Feb 19th - police checks returned (19 days)

  • Feb 26th - visa application submitted (estimated 5 months)

  • Feb 29th - case officer assigned to application and a query around proposed NZ entry/job start date

  • Mar 7th - visa application approved (10 days)


  • 6 x medicals - Β£1595 with Nuffield in Edinburgh

  • 2 adult police checks - Β£61

  • straight to residence visa application - Β£2392.52 (non-refundable)

  • 6 x passport processing - Β£84

So it's official. The Grant family will be emigrating to New Zealand later this year πŸ₯³.

We now have plenty of time for kids to round out the school/exam year, sell the house and spend time with friends and family this summer.

I'm 41 - we have a pretty comfortable life here in Scotland and we're giving that up to move our family to the other side of the world. Granted we have family there to help ease the transition. I'm usually the guy that plays it safe. This is a gamble for us - somewhat of a calculated gamble mind you. Life is short. I couldn't have a "what if" hanging over me for years to come. This is something I needed us to pursue. We'll try our hardest to make it work. If it doesn't, we can say we tried.

We'll have some challenges ahead. Property in New Zealand remains some of the most expensive in the world. We will miss family, friends, church and Rangers FC. Only 1 of those 4 things will be missing in New Zealand and it's only me that will care πŸ˜… I'll just need to console myself with being able to play golf for 12 months of the year πŸ˜‚.

We're excited though.

I'm still stunned that at 41, a 21 year old dream is becoming reality.