New Zealand has a reasonably open door immigration policy, particularly for skilled migrants and for entrepreneurs with the resources and capital to contribute to the economy by setting up a business in New Zealand.

If you are not a New Zealand or an Australian national, you will need a visa to work in New Zealand.

Visa types include:

  • temporary work visa
  • highly skilled visa
  • long-term business visa, and
  • residence visa.

Applicants for any visa must:

  • be of good character, and
  • hold a valid passport which expires later than three months after the proposed date of departure.

Work visa

Work visas are time-limited and can be issued for a period of up to three years. To qualify foreign nationals must have a job offer:

  • for an occupation on the skills shortage list, or
  • from a New Zealand employer who:
    • is accredited or has approval to recruit foreign workers, or
    • can prove there are no suitable New Zealand applicants for the job.

An applicant may also be eligible when coming here for a specific purpose which will be of benefit to New Zealand.

Employees of a business which is relocating to New Zealand can also apply for a work permit and, later, for residence under the Employee of a Relocating Company category, if they do not meet any other criteria for residence.

Partners of New Zealand residents or citizens can be granted open work visas to allow them to remain with their partner while accumulating time to the 12 months required before a residence application can be made.

More information about these various options is available at: www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/work

Highly skilled visa

The ‘Silver Fern’ visa is designed to attract highly-skilled long term immigrants aged 20 to 35. It is issued initially for nine months, extendable to two years after skilled work has been obtained. Applicants may then apply for residence. This option is limited to 300 applicants a year.

Entrepreneur visa

Those wishing to establish their own business can apply for an entrepreneur work visa.  Applicants must invest capital of at least NZ$100,000 in their business (although Immigration New Zealand can waive this requirement for proposals involving a high level of innovation or which are export-oriented and have high short-term growth prospects).

In addition to satisfying English language, health and character requirements, applicants must get at least 120 points in a points system based on:

  • business experience
  • job creation
  • capital investment, and
  • age (with maximum weighting for ages 25 to 49) with
  • potential bonus points for locating outside Auckland or for having obtained formal endorsement from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment or from a local council or chamber of commerce.

The temporary retirement category

This is a two-year multiple entry visitor’s visa available to applicants who: are aged 66 and over, invest NZ$750,000 in New Zealand for two years into an acceptable investment, demonstrate ownership of NZ$500,000 of maintenance funds and an annual income of NZ$60,000 at the time of application, meet standard health and character requirements and hold and maintain comprehensive travel and/or health insurance for the duration of their stay.

They may include their partner in their application but not any dependent children.

New Zealand residence

The main paths to New Zealand residence are through the following categories:

  • skilled migrant
  • investor
  • entrepreneur, and
  • family.

Skilled migrant category

The skilled migrant category operates on a points system with points awarded for qualifications, work experience, age, whether the person has a job offer and other settlement factors.  In addition, applicants must satisfy health, character and English language proficiency standards.  The process commences with an Expression of Interest.  Only those who meet the appropriate criteria are invited to apply for residence.

More information is available at: www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/work/skilledmigrant

Investor category

The options are:

  • Investor One category: requires an investment of NZ$10 million for three years.  No age restriction or English language requirement.  Must stay in the country for at least 73 days in each of the last two years of the three-year period, and
  • Investor Two category: requires an investment of NZ$1.5 million for four years with settlement funds of NZ$1 million (transfer not required).  The applicant must be under 65, have at least three years’ business experience and have some English language skills.  In each of the last three years over a four year period, must stay in the country at least 146 days.

More information is available at: www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/invest/

Entrepreneur category

Applicants who have run a successful business in New Zealand for two years can apply for residence.

A special fast track provision is available after six months where the applicant has invested at least NZ$500,000 in the business and has created at least three full-time jobs for New Zealanders.

Family category

Applicants may be able to apply for residence depending on their family connections in New Zealand.  The three options are:

  • partner category – living for 12 months with a New Zealand resident or citizen creates an opportunity to apply for residence on partnership grounds
  • parent category – the parents of a New Zealand citizen or resident may be eligible to apply for residence if they have a child or children who are eligible sponsors and either the sponsor or the parent has sufficient income and assets
  • parent retirement category – this is available to those with family links to New Zealand who are able to make a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy.  To qualify the applicant must: have an adult child who lives in New Zealand and is either a New Zealand citizen or resident for at least three years; invest NZ$1 million for four years into an acceptable investment, demonstrate ownership of NZ$500,000 of settlement funds and an annual income of NZ$60,000 at the time of application and meet standard health and character requirements. 

Once residence is granted

With the first resident visa come travel rights which are valid for two years.  This allows the resident to leave New Zealand temporarily without endangering his or her residence status. 

At the end of the two years, residents can apply for a Permanent Resident Visa allowing multiple trips into and out of New Zealand for at least the life of their passport and currently transferable to their next passport.  Eligibility depends on:

  • the amount of time spent in New Zealand during the first two years
  • holding New Zealand tax resident status
  • having established a business which has been trading for at least a year
  • having an acceptable level of investment in New Zealand, or
  • having a family base in New Zealand.

Citizenship

To qualify for citizenship, the applicant must have been resident for at least five years, be free of any convictions and have:

  • been present in New Zealand for at least 1,350 days during the five years immediately preceding the application, and
  • been present in New Zealand for at least 240 days in each of these five years.

Immigration advice

The only people legally able to give immigration advice in New Zealand are solicitors and licensed immigration advisers.  While there are a few exceptions, it is important that you establish the credentials of your adviser as Immigration will not accept applications where the advice has come from someone either unlicensed or not specifically exempted from holding a licence.  This requirement applies to advice given from off-shore.