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Many years ago I'm sure Aussies and Kiwis were free to live and work in each other's country without special visas or complicated paperwork.

And I believe that some decades ago that changed to make it just a little harder for the Kiwis to work in Australia, but not vice versa, as the numbers were tilted far in the NZ->AUS direction.

My question is about the AUS->NZ direction today in 2018. Can I just show up in NZ as an Australian and get a job? Or has it all changed? (Also I might've been wrong about how it used to work in the first place.)

I did a quick bit of Google searching and it looks like I don't need a visa to go there or to work there. But maybe I need some other stuff that might not be totally trivial?

In any case it doesn't look like the question has been asked on this site before so having some info here would be a good reference for others looking for this in the future.

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I Googled it for you and came on these two great government websites: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas/apply-for-a-visa/about-visa/australian-resident-visa and https://www.employment.govt.nz/starting-employment/right-to-work-in-new-zealand/

From the image I took a screenshot below, you basically just need to rock up at NZ immigration with your Australian passport, fill in a landing card and let the immigration officer know that you intend to become a resident. It appears you will be able to work immediately thereafter.

From the help text,

"You can only apply for this visa when you arrive in New Zealand – you can’t apply for it before you travel."

Also important if you want to apply for a Permanent Resident Visa or New Zealand citizenship down the line,

If you leave New Zealand your resident visa will expire - you can apply for a variation of travel conditions to allow you travel without affecting your New Zealand residence status.

Note that if you do leave and re-enter, you will be entitled to the Australian Resident Visa again, just that the timer is reset to 0.

Process for Australians to enter NZ

3

Aside from the resident visa (essentially automatic for Australian citizens as detailed in another answer), you will also need an IRD number to actually start working. You can apply for this online after you arrive in NZ and you will just need your Australian passport details.

Depending on the nature of your employment, you may also need a local bank account so your employer can deposit your pay.

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