It’s hard to meet someone who’s been to New Zealand and didn’t love the place. The spectacular scenery offers an outdoor lifestyle and a sense of space that few other countries can match. And the country is consistently voted one of the friendliest and best in the world, in yearly ex-pat surveys from the likes of HSBC.

So it’s not surprising that more and more people want to move there and that SnowSkool itself runs various ski and snowboard instructor courses in New Zealand. There was a massive spike in interest after the Brexit vote in the UK. But NZ is a place to emigrate to from any country, for any reason.

SnowSkool provides ski instructor courses in New Zealand and for a (fortunate) few this is a path to moving there permanently. Read here why you should do your ski instructor course in New Zealand. Here’s the lowdown on how to do it, with a case study from one of SnowSkool’s ex-students. 

Step 1: Ski or Snowboard Instructor Course

Unless you’ve already qualified as an instructor (go to step 2) then the journey starts with a ski instructor course or snowboard instructor course in New Zealand. You can take an instructor course on a visitor visa, which you don’t have to apply for if you’re from a waiver country like the United Kingdom.

It should take around 11-weeks to qualify to NZSIA Level 2 (if you’re skiing) or SBINZ Level 2 (if you’re snowboarding). Both qualifications will enable you teach in NZ ski resorts like Cardrona. And both will meet the minimum requirements for skilled visas, which will be needed to stay after qualifying.

Courses generally include accommodation and meals, ground transportation and training etc. so all you have to do is to make sure you’re prepared, can cover the course fees and meet the minimum proficiency requirements, which are:

  • Skiing: 6 weeks’ experience, comfortable on intermediate runs, parallel turns
  • Snowboarding: 6 weeks’ experience, comfortable on intermediate runs, linking turns on both edges.


SnowSkool 11-week ski instructor course in New Zealand

SnowSkool 11-week snowboard instructor course in New Zealand

Visa waiver countries

How to become a ski instructor in New Zealand 

Step 2: Working Holiday

Once you’ve qualified as a ski or snowboard instructor, then it’s time to get a job and stay in New Zealand pending residency. A working holiday visa is the easiest way to achieve this and will also allow you to gain experience for the skilled visas that will be needed after the working holiday expires.

There can be a lot of competition for positions. But doing an instructor course with a provider that is affiliated with a ski school can be a huge advantage towards landing a job after the course. SnowSkool is affiliated with the Cardrona Ski & Board School.

There are age restrictions on the visa though. The conditions vary slightly, per country, but are typically for 18-30-year-olds and for 12 months. Some countries are allocated a limited number of visas; others are given an unlimited supply.

The conditions are pretty good if you're from the UK: you can get a working visa for up to 23 months and there’s no limit on the number in supply.

But if you’re over 30 then you can’t get one and you’ll need to explore other options after you qualify - like a job offer and an essential skills work visa (see next step).


  • You can check visa eligibility and apply online here

Step 3: Skilled Visas & Residency

When a working visa sadly expires - or if you’re not eligible for one - then a skilled visa is needed to stay and work in New Zealand. There are two main routes.

1. Essential Skills Visa

Fortunately ski and snowboard instructors are listed as skills with an ‘immediate shortage’, meaning essential skills visas are available.

To get an essential skills visa you'll need two years’ experience (officially) or sometimes just a year’s experience. You will need a job offer (or a renewal from your working holiday employer) but because ski instructors are in shortage it's not so difficult to get a job offer.

The application process is also fast - and there are few restrictions on applicants and employers. So it's not so difficult to get the visa.

The essential skills visa is a good option for those who have gained enough post-qualification experience in New Zealand on a working holiday visa - or those who have arrived with a lot of teaching experience under another recognised system, like BASI or the CSIA.

If you’re over 30 and can’t get a working holiday visa, then this visa is your best bet of working - although you’d need to arrive in New Zealand with enough experience to get a job offer and meet this visa's conditions.

While this type of visa doesn’t lead directly to a residency application, you can stay in NZ for up to five years and gain valuable experience and explore other residency options. You can also renew the visa once it expires.

Instructors with many years’ experience on an essential skills visa (or with other relevant skills) can also apply for residency with an expression of interest application. It works on a points basis and is worth a shot, we've included the link below.

2. Work to Residence visa

The harder option: this type of visa is normally ‘sponsored’ with a job offer from an accredited employer (e.g. a ski school).

There are many restrictions on employers and applicants for these visas though so it can be very difficult getting one. And practically impossible without at least a few years’ post-qualification experience in NZ (or under another recognised system).

The Work to Residence visa leads directly to a residency application once you’ve been in the same job for 24 months after sponsorship. At this point, more or less, you’ve made the move by becoming a permanent resident!

While these visas are difficult to get, those on other visas (like the essential skills) can get sponsored on this visa after gaining more experience and moving onto more advanced roles that are covered under this visa's criteria.


Temporary Work visas

Essential Skills visas

Skill shortage checker

Expression of Interest form

Case Study: Liz Nelson

Liz trained as a ski instructor as part of a gap year after university with SnowSkool in Big White, Canada. That was back in 2007/08 and when she was invited back to Big White for the following season, she decided to extend her gap year by one year to fit in a season working as a qualified ski instructor.

The season went well: so much so that the Ski & Board School Director implored her to come back for the 2008/ 09 season. And so the story goes on until this day.

Today, with a total of sixteen seasons under her belt, Liz spends the southern winter working as a ski instructor and managing the U5's kids centre at Cardrona in New Zealand.

Liz started off in NZ with a working holiday visa and then she got sponsored to work at Cardrona because of her previous teaching experience. She has just bought a house in Wanaka with her husband, pending her full residency application.

Getting sponsorship at Cardrona is pretty easy if you impress after your first season but I wouldn't bank on getting sponsored your first season, definitely best to source a working holiday visa if you can… on reflection, choosing SnowSkool had a very dramatic influence on the direction that my life has taken

Liz spends the northern winter working in Courchevel in France’s Three Valleys.

Previous Students:

We’ll leave you with this, and some Instagram images from previous year’s ski and snowboard contingent in Cardrona…

Maybe the reason some of us stay up all night and sleep all day is because we were meant to live on the other side of the planet.

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