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Winning (and losing) the Visa lottery

Reflecting back on getting our New Zealand Visa’s, it proved to be quite the experience that we definitely underestimated!

For those who may not be familiar with New Zealand’s Visa process, they offer these ‘special’ Visa’s once a year for young, highly skilled professionals looking to gain work experience in New Zealand. The Silver Fern scheme, as they call it, is quite similar to trying to buy tickets to see the Rolling Stones. Basically the opportunity comes up once a year, and if you’re not logged in and ready to enter your credit card at lightning speed – well you’re out of luck in about 8 mins. Jordan and I thought we were well prepared to snatch up two of these ‘special’ Visas (in hopes of cutting some of the stringent corners to get an unrestricted work Visa) but made the mistake of watching Netflix right before go-time.

Unfortunately (for some unknown reason) every time we turn off Netflix, it completely messes with our internet, kicking off all of our electronics temporarily. Despite leaving a good 30mins before the deadline, we managed to face significant technical issues, resulting in my computer not being able to connect (yet Jordan’s had).Jordan being the great guy he is, ‘threw himself on the sword’, offering to reset the router, in hopes it would help my computer connect – with just 10mins to spare. Unfortunately the restart created the opposite problem where now my computer was connected and his was still struggling when the clock struck 6pm.
The next 8 mins would prove to be the most stressful 8 mins of our lives. With the website crashing due to the flood of young, aspiring professionals hoping for their golden ticket to New Zealand, we must have hit that ‘refresh’ button a thousand times.

By some miracle I managed to get in and secure a spot at about the 7 mins mark, however there was no cheering or celebration as I watched Jordan frantically struggle to get the green light to enter his credit card. The final refresh displayed the dreaded message ‘The Silver Fern Visa quota has been filled for 2013’.

My heart sank

Very quickly we felt our hopes for moving to New Zealand and starting this amazing adventure had been dashed with that rejection. We actually video tapped the whole process, expecting to capture our excitement of successfully winning the ‘Visa Lottery’, but the video was too painful to watch. The animation below sums up how we were feeling that day….

After a few tears (and some thrown objects) we pulled ourselves together and began researching our options. Luckily being a Canadian makes it extremely easy to submit and receive a 12month Working Holiday Visa, which Jordan received within 24hrs.

My so-called ‘Golden Ticket’ required a slew of paperwork, including a detailed medical examination, chest x-ray, background check and proof of my education. After forking out a couple hundred dollars to get all the documentation (and questioning why we didn’t just go the easy route the entire time) I rushed to Canada Post to expedite my application in hopes of receiving my Passport back in a few weeks.

Word to the wise – just because you pay a premium to expedite a shipment – doesn’t mean Canada Post pays any more attention to ensure it gets delivered.

After a week of daily checking the tracking information, I was happy to see by Friday it showed it was out for delivery. However on Tuesday when I checked again just to ensure there was proof of delivery, I was surprised to see it was still showing out for delivery. A bit concerned I immediately called Canada Post in hopes of getting confirmation it had been delivered as guaranteed.

Following a series of frantic (and unsuccessful) calls to Canada Post and the Washington Immigration New Zealand office, I was told by Canada Post an investigation had been opened and that they would get back to me in 6 weeks.


I needed to know NOW if they had lost my passport as the process of replacing it, and having to redo all the paperwork, would completely ruin our timeline.

Luckily within another week or two I received an email notification from Immigration New Zealand indicating they had in fact received my application and 5 mins later received a notification it had been APPROVED!

Phew! I could finally get some sleep….

Now, I just hope this piece of paper actually gets him in the country…


Jordan’s Visa vs Mine


    Comments ( 9 )

  • Netflix will get you every time…<br /><br />Loved this post, especially the animation 🙂

  • Paula

    Jenna hi again!

    Sorry to ask but I’m not sure I understand: how do you get a working visa without a job offer? We’ve been doing lots of research about this, my husband(to be) is an Industrial Engineer and our plan was to get his degree validated in Engineering NZ while we are in our honeymoon there, since we are planning to get the skilled migrant visa for him (and a partners visa for me). For what we’ve read you must have a job offer.. but is it possible to get any working visa without a job offer? I think we cannot apply for a W&H visa for his age and in Argentina it’s quite difficult…
    I’d really appreciate any comments, info, whatever that can help us, I’m losing my mind with all this Visa stuff!!

    Thanks again for all your help!!! Regards,


    • Hi Paula
      I was lucky to get one of the 300 Silver Vern Job Search Visas they issue once per year to the first 300 applicants. That gave me a job search visa so I could enter new zealand and search for a job up to 9 months and as soon as I got an offer could get it switched to a full work visa for another 2 years. I believe other work visas you need an offer, but I’m not sure.
      Hope that helped and good luck with it all!

  • […] missed out by probably a minute of it filling up. You can read all about that experience on our ‘Winning and (and losing) the visa Lottery’ blog. Once you’ve been ‘accepted to apply’, there’s a large amount of paperwork […]

  • Mike

    Hi, thanks for this post. May I ask how did your WHV turned out to Silver Vern Job Search Visa? I was wondering what was included on the packages that you sent to Canada that made them gave you the Silver Vern Job Search Visa.

    Appreciate it much if you can share.


    • Hi Mike
      I only applied for a Silver Fern Visa and that’s what I was given. Jordan just missed out on the Silver Fern visa (so he wasn’t able to apply) so he went ahead with the Working Holiday Visa. Once I got a job in New Zealand, Jordan was able to apply for a Partnership Visa connected to my Silver Fern Visa.
      Hope that helps!

  • Shawnee

    Hi Jenna.
    Did you have to get your police checks and medical exams before applying for your Silver Fern Visa or was it done after your application was accepted?

    • Hi Shawnee

      When I applied (back in 2013), the process was you just apply with your name and credit card to start, and if you are one of the lucky 300 to get in to apply, and then are approved to complete the application, you then send in all those details. The process may have changed since then but that was what I did.

      Best of luck!


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