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Travel insurance for New Zealand expats
Yes, you can get travel insurance as a New Zealand expat living overseas. Find out what options are available, compare quotes and get covered.
If you’re a New Zealander living abroad or looking to move for work or study, protecting yourself with travel insurance for the duration of your stay is crucial. Getting covered can give you peace of mind for medical expenses, which can be astronomical in some countries, as well as provide benefits such as cover for your trip cancellation costs, lost luggage and valuables, and personal liability cover if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property.
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Why do I need expat travel insurance?
At any given time there are approximately one million Kiwis living and working overseas. If you’re one of those people, or plan to become one sometime soon, it’s important to have adequate travel insurance for New Zealand expats for the duration of your time abroad. Here are some key reasons why it’s important:
- Overseas medical expenses. Medicare and your private health insurer won’t cover you for any medical costs you incur overseas, so adequate cover for your overseas hospital bills is crucial. Without it, you could be left to deal with a huge financial fallout.
- Cover when you’re already overseas. If you’re already overseas, many New Zealand travel insurers will refuse to cover you, so expat travel insurance can help you get this vital protection.
- Cover for short trips. If you’re a New Zealand citizen temporarily living overseas, you may want travel insurance cover to provide protection when you take short trips from your current country of residence. For example, if you’re temporarily living and working in the UK, you might want to take a holiday around continental Europe.
- Cover for trips home to New Zealand. Currently living overseas but planning a quick trip home to New Zealand to catch up with family and friends? You’ll need to find a policy that covers you for the duration of the journey.
- Liability cover. If you accidentally injure someone or damage their property while you’re overseas, travel insurance will often include liability cover up to $20 million.
- Other important benefits. Travel insurance also covers a wide range of other potentially costly mishaps, including cancellation costs when you’re forced to call off your trip due to circumstances beyond your control, and lost or stolen luggage or travel documents.
There are several cover options available for New Zealand citizens living and working overseas:
- Already overseas cover. A number of New Zealand travel insurance providers offer cover for Kiwis already overseas. These policies offer the same level of cover as ordinary travel insurance, but you may need to serve a waiting period before cover begins and most insurers will require your journey to end in New Zealand.
- Travel insurance from an international provider. Travel insurers in other countries can provide cover to a New Zealand citizen living overseas. However, keep in mind that many insurers in countries around the world won’t offer cover to non-residents, so you’ll need to check the fine print closely and shop around for the right policy.
- One-way cover. This type of policy covers you on your outgoing trip only and lets you make a claim without having to return to New Zealand.
- Long-term cover. If your work or study abroad is only for a limited period, a long-term travel insurance policy may offer adequate protection. Some insurers offer “backpacker” cover for journeys up to 18 months long.
- Cover for other countries. If you plan to visit neighbouring countries while you’re overseas, you’ll need travel insurance that covers trips to those destinations. You may be able to purchase non-resident travel insurance from an insurer in the country where you are currently residing, or in some cases you may be able to include cover as part of the policy you purchase before you first leave New Zealand.
- Reciprocal Health Care Agreement. You may be eligible to receive subsidised health care if you are travelling to a country that is part of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement.
The most important benefit of any international travel insurance policy is cover for overseas medical expenses. You’ve probably heard horror stories about uninsured travellers being left with astronomical medical bills after unexpectedly falling ill overseas. The mind-boggling cost of even a short hospital stay in countries like the USA has been well publicised.
With this in mind, it’s essential that any travel insurance for New Zealand expats policy provides ample cover for overseas medical expenses. Access to a 24/7 emergency assistance line to help you find help whenever you need it is also essential. But that’s not all a travel insurance policy should cover. You should also look for the following benefits:
- Cancellation fees and lost deposits. If you’re forced to cancel your trip due to unforeseen circumstances outside your control, such as if you suffer a serious injury or a relative dies unexpectedly, travel insurance can cover any cancellation fees you must pay and any non-refundable pre-paid deposits.
- Luggage and personal effects. If your luggage or personal items are lost, stolen or damaged during your trip, travel insurance covers the cost of their repair or replacement.
- Travel delay. Trip delayed by circumstances beyond your control, for example cancelled flights or extreme weather? Travel insurance can cover the additional meal and accommodation expenses you incur as a result.
- Rental vehicle excess cover. If your rental vehicle is involved in a collision, stolen or vandalised, your policy can help cover the costly excess charged by the rental provider.
- Personal liability. Travel insurance also covers your legal liability if you’re responsible for causing bodily injury to someone else or damage to their property.
Not necessarily. You don’t need to have a return flight booked back to New Zealand to qualify for one-way travel insurance, which doesn’t require you to return home to purchase cover. You also won’t need a New Zealand-bound flight booked if you’re buying a policy from an overseas travel insurance provider.
However, depending on the policy you buy, you may need a return ticket to the country where you purchase cover. On the other hand, if you’re buying already overseas travel insurance, you will typically need to have a return ticket to New Zealand to be eligible for cover.
You’ll need to obtain travel insurance that covers you for the entire period of your residency in a foreign country. In fact, it’s a requirement of entry to many foreign countries that you hold an adequate level of medical insurance cover for the entire period of your residency.
Most travel insurance policies will only cover you for a maximum of 12 months, but there are a number of “backpacker” policies that provide cover for up to 18 months.
What if my stay will be longer than 18 months?
To be insured for longer than 18 months, you need to renew your 12-month policy. This can be achieved by purchasing a second policy shortly before the first one expires. If you need cover for longer than 24 months, you’ll probably need a visa to remain in your country of residence and be required to take out adequate health insurance for the duration of your stay.
In this case, it’s usually better to purchase health insurance cover instead of travel insurance unless you’re planning to travel to other countries.
In some overseas countries, New Zealand travellers are able to access essential medical treatment for no charge. This is due to the Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCAs) that the New Zealand Government has in place with Australia and the UK.
Under these agreements, if you visit any one of the above countries then you are able to access subsidised essential medical care if you can provide:
- Your New Zealand passport or another valid document that shows you are a permanent resident of New Zealand
It’s still a good idea to get travel insurance even if you are visiting a country with which New Zealand has an RHCA. This is because the cover provided under the RHCA is quite limited, and only provides subsidised cover for medical emergencies overseas.
It does not provide cover for expenses such as ambulance costs, treatment that is not immediately necessary, private hospital treatment or medical repatriation back to New Zealand.
Plus, travel insurance can also provide a range of other benefits, including cover for:
- Loss, theft and damage of luggage and expensive items
- Travel cancellation and trip delay from transport carriers
- Car rental excess charges if you are involved in an accident
- Stolen money or travel cards
Can I get health cover if I am a New Zealander overseas in a country that isn’t part of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?
Yes. Some private health insurers in New Zealand provide health care plans designed for Kiwis moving overseas. This option may be suitable if you:
- Are moving abroad and plan to work or study
- Are moving overseas for a prolonged period of time, potentially even to retire
- Live and work overseas but move between countries frequently
If you’re already overseas, some New Zealand insurers have policies that will cover you. Common conditions of these policies include:
- A waiting period from the start date of the policy (usually between 3-7 days) where claims related to injury or illnesses are excluded
- Your journey must end in New Zealand
- Your cover will only commence from the date the policy is issued. This means you won’t be covered for retroactive trip cancellations
- No cover for pre-existing medical conditions, other than those automatically covered on your policy
If you’re no longer a New Zealand resident, which is a requirement of New Zealand travel insurance policies, you will either have to purchase a non-resident travel insurance policy (if returning to New Zealand) or find an insurer in your current country of residence who will cover you when you are travelling.
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