Having a job is absolutely the bottom line to my quest at this point. When you begin the process, NZ Immigration has a short questionnaire which gives you an indication of your potential acceptance status. Each answer is worth so many points. A minimum of 100 is required for any consideration; a total of 130 puts you into the assured consideration segment. This doesn't mean you'll be granted admission, merely that your application will be seriously studied, and your chances are fairly good. My total, if I simply get an offer of employment, is 160 points.
I have spent some time putting my resume' out on various online news and employment sites. I am trying to get into a job which may entail transitioning older software into updated, web-commerce applications. The language I primarily write in, Visual FoxPro, will no longer be supported by Microsoft after this version expires, in 2010. It seems Microsoft has placed all its RAD (rapid application development) eggs in one basket: .NET, which includes Visual Basic (vb.net) and asp.net, along with C#.
Anyway, the next step in the process is the completion of an "Expression of Interest" (EOI), which is a long, involved questionnaire, for the completion of which NZ Immigration advises you to set aside "at least 2 hours" of time. Hmm.
Once the EOI is completed, officials will make a preliminary determination, based on it as well as the points-questions answers, on whether to continue toward an offer. At that time, the applicant must submit medical, police and other records to substantiate what is claimed on the applications. This is decidedly not equivalent to jumping a fence, wading across a river, and getting into the "promised land". This is a strictly regulated, documented legal process. I for one am quite happy to do some hoop-jumping, because I know EVERYONE ELSE who is applying must do the same.
There is a pair of lists involved in the hiring arena, including critical skills and long-term (chronic) shortage areas. It turns out that programming is on both; extra points for that. Also, NZ Immigration is trying to give priority to people who wish to live on the more sparsely populated south island vs. the big cities of the north, which I am aiming to do. Again, there are extra points for that.
Assuming I do get a job offer, and absent any exclusionary issues, Immigration should grant me a job visa for entry, which would then be converted to a job permit upon completion of the hiring process and the submission of paperwork by the employer. They have the option of restricting the duration of that permit, and requiring me to have employer verification of continued employment.
Via Myspace, I have contacted some folks who live on the South Island, and in my "goal city" of Dunedin and have received very friendly and encouraging responses. I was made to feel quite welcome to come live in their homeland by everyone I wrote to.
And now, a bit more of the personal. New Zealand is on the other side of the Earth from my current home. Although I have seen many videos, photographs and other images of the place, I have never physically been there. I have several friends who've spent time there, and they universally loved the place. But there's another level, as noted by my good friend Rick: I will be leaving the land in which I was born, in which I grew to adulthood, in which I had my children, bought homes, got my education, and worked. I gave four years of my life in service to the United States of America, in the U.S. Navy. Everyone I've ever been close to and every place I have true familiarity with exist within America's borders.
The epic film, "Lord of the Rings", was filmed in New Zealand, and it's appropriate that one of the characters, Bilbo Baggins, uttered a comment which frames my current situation:
I'm old, Gandalf. I know I don't look it but I'm beginning to feel it in my heart. I feel thin... sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday. A very long holiday. And I don't expect I shall return.
In fact I mean not to.
It is exactly the same feeling that a man might have felt in an earlier time, looking out at the sea from Ireland, Italy, or Germany, anticipating his departure. He'd be carrying only what was absolutely necessary, in his pocket whatever cash he could scrape together. He would be in a new place, in some ways like his home, but in myriad others, a new and different experience. He would have been determined, properly, to learn his new culture, adapt to the differences and become a good and productive citizen in his adopted land.
And so shall I.