Our New Zealand Story: Episode 1: Student VISA Woes

In my previous post I explained a bit about the high level goals we set out to get us to New Zealand. You can see that here.

In this post, I’m going to explain how it all went to shit and what you can do avoid the mess.

If you don’t have time to read the actual story click here to get the Cole’s note version.

Financial Folly

First cab off the rank was money. Nicole’s tuition was going to cost NZD $23,634 plus student services fees of NZD $738 and mandatory health insurance of NZD $589 amounting to a total of NZD $24,961. On top of all that we needed to show that she could financially sustain herself in New Zealand for her time of study. The requirement was to show at least NZD $15,000 per year of study after paying for tuition. That’s a grand total of NZD $39,961!!!


I, of course, wasn’t made aware of this total sum until a couple of months into our savings plan. I had to readjust forecast. As more and more of these hidden costs came to light it became apparent that we needed to reassess our ability to get to NZ after this year. It was depressing.

To make matters worse, we were feeling the drag of Korean life in Daegu and sought to alleviate it by going up to Seoul on special occasions. We loved Seoul, it was a thriving metropolis that reminded me of Toronto and reminded Nicole of some of the comforts of home she so desperately missed. I remember talking about readjusting our expectations for the coming year and that we may not have enough money to get us to New Zealand.

After a brief silence and a bit of tears and sobs we set ourselves 3 options

  1. Increase contributions to savings (therefore reeling back our special trips to Seoul and Busan)
  2. Push back the timeline by staying another year in Daegu (where we were currently living in South Korea). This would make it easier to save as Daegu is significantly cheaper than Seoul.
  3. Push back the timeline and move to Seoul. Which would make it a little harder to save but at least a bit more bearable.

What would you have done? 

We ended up choosing to stick to our guns and reel back spending substantially, bury all Christmas, birthday and red pocket money into savings and cut off travelling until further notice. It was a complete expense freeze and it was necessary based on my forecast. It was more my style anyways…frugal accounting.

Granny Gratification

As the sands of time began to pile against us we started looking into other ways to realise our ultimate goal. What we found was a caveat in the financial maintenance section of the Student Visa application saying that a sponsor can be used to support the student. Initially, I thought I could do it but at the time even I was struggling to meet my dollar threshold for my own VISA. Luckily, Nicole’s granny offered to sign the form stating that she would be able to financially support her. If you’re wondering what form you need its INZ 1014. Now we only had to save ~ NZD $25,000! Success!


Details, Details, Details!

T-minus 4 months and counting. It was time to apply for the VISA. A large part of our financial plan was reliant on the huge lump sums in bonuses and pension pay backs that was promised by the EPIK program after we had left the country. This was promised to us in writing and was only transferred 1 month AFTER we had left the country which was factored into my calculations. My strategy was to send our bank account information  as well as the bonus/ pension letter from EPIK that made up the shortfall to convince INZ of our financial viability.

Unfortunately, we found out while filling out the paper based form, in order to obtain the student visa, we needed proof that we had ALREADY paid the years tuition. Yes, we needed to pay the full years tuition TODAY.


Finessing the Fees

We scoured the net trying to find a way around this problem.

Was this the end? Would we need to give up on our hopes and dreams!? Would I have to sell my body!?! 


I promise I don’t have a thing for monkeys.

We came across a very interesting site called Stoked for Saturdays which we used to navigate the VISA nuances before. Unfortunately, they didn’t have experience in dealing with the student VISAs however the Auckland University provided some insight.

They said that a 6 mth student VISA was available for students that can’t pay the entire tuition up front. What we could do is pay for semester 1 fees and use that proof of payment to apply for the 6 mth student VISA. We would then apply for the remaining year after we had paid for semester 2. The catch was that we would need to pay the full student visa application fee twice. A small price to pay, in my opinion, to get out of jail and pass go.



Crisis Concluded

This was probably the most satisfying moment of my life when the student visa came through for Nicole. We were in tears of joy that we were able to navigate this challenge of our lives together and set ourselves on a course that would change our lives forever.

I still remember that plane ride like it was yesterday… Oh yeah. Don’t fly Air Asia long haul EVER. Worst airline on this planet.


The fun ain’t over yet. Nicole was all set with her study year in NZ but the real work for me had just begun. Time to find a job!

Have you ever forgotten to read the fine print? What happened? Comments, love, hate and confessions below!


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