I arrived in New Zealand in late September 2015. I had not set-up a bank account yet nor I had made arrangements in securing an IRD number. I did not feel I had to get them early because I thought everything would be smooth-sailing. Even though New Zealand is generally a very efficient country, my experience was not painless.
The banks needed a proof of address, preferably within New Zealand, when opening an account. I did not have any at the time. I brought some utility bills from the Philippines but they did not accept them anyway even if their websites said they did. One of the banks’ process is that they would send you a letter and you could use that letter to open an account in any bank. So I got to open an account but the bank I chose had a policy to ‘hold’ the money first for a few days before finally activating the account. Waiting Part 1.
Then I learned that the Inland Revenue Department was changing its rules in applying for the IRD number (TIN in the Philippines). Starting 1st of October 2015, they required proof of a working bank account as part of the required documentation to assign you an IRD number. How could I provide that if I did not have a bank account yet? It did not help that the banks were also clueless about the changes as well. The IRD also created a new form for non-resident visa holders or non-citizens. The copies of the form I had printed before arriving in New Zealand were rendered useless. When I got access to my bank account and had a bank statement printed, I was able to post my application to Inland Revenue in Wellington. Since they had just changed the rules, they also took a while in giving me my IRD number. Waiting Part 2.
I planned to do both tasks on the same day yet but because of policies and changing rules, I had to wait a while before getting everything working. Imagine the time I would have saved had I processed the bank account before I arrived. It could have been one less thing to worry about. I could have used the time I wasted in finding a job, improving my resume, exploring more of Christchurch, etc.
So to help you not make the mistakes I did, I am advising you to open an account before arriving in New Zealand. Here are the major banks’ migrant banking pages:
ANZ – http://www.anz.co.nz/personal/migrants-travel-foreign-exchange/microsite/en/move-to-nz/
ASB – https://www.asb.co.nz/moving-to-new-zealand
BNZ – https://www.bnz.co.nz/personal-banking/international/moving-to-new-zealand
Kiwibank – https://www.kiwibank.co.nz/personal-banking/international-services/moving-to-nz/
Westpac – https://www.westpac.co.nz/fx-travel-migrant/moving-to-new-zealand/services-for-expats/
You would find that all of them have different processes on how to set you up with a bank account. All of them would not activate your bank account without personally identifying you in a branch though. This is a government policy.
The bank of choice is yours. There is no difference to a bank account opened from abroad and a bank account opened from within New Zealand. My partner and I have accounts in most of the major banks but our most used is our BNZ joint bank account.
After opening a bank account with a bank you like, just visit the branch of account you selected after arriving, withdraw some by using the ATM or by seeking help from the teller then voila! A working bank account.