Moving to New Zealand as an Investor or Entrepreneur – Visas and Other Legal Aspects

View of the Auckland Sky Tower at night

New Zealand encourages business investment with a view to economic growth, expanding business expertise and attracting “smart” capital to the country.  New Zealand may be a small country, but it is growing fast thanks to its supportive and progressive migration program. For those who wish to set up an entrepreneurial venture or invest in New Zealand, there are several options available.

For those with funds to invest in New Zealand, there are two categories that offer a path to permanent residency.

The Investor category is for anyone under the age of 65 with at least three years business experience and NZ$1.5 million to invest in New Zealand for at least four years. A further NZ$1 million is required for the purposes of settlement. Literacy in English is also required, and to continue to be eligible for the visa you will be required to spend 146 days in New Zealand in each of the last three years of the four year investment period. You can also include members of your family on your application as well.

To apply for the Investor category you must first submit an Expression of Interest and only 300 applications are approved each year. If the Expression of Interest is approved, you then submit a residence application. Upon its approval you then have 12 months to make your investment of NZ$1.5 million, which can be in a residential investment (provided you or your family do not live in it).

This investment visa is comparable in financial outlay to the Australian Investor option, however its main advantage is that your investment can be made in residential property, whereas the Australian visa does not allow for this.  So if your preference is to invest in property, and you are deciding between Australia and New Zealand, then your decision would best be to invest in New Zealand. 

The Investor Plus visa does not have any age, settlement or English language requirements, but you must make an investment of at least NZ$10 million for three years in New Zealand. To continue to be eligible for the visa you must stay in New Zealand for at least 44 days in the last two years of the investment period. The amount of the investment required is quite high when compared to the Australian option for Significant Investors, which requires an investment amount of A$5 million, but similar to other investment options, it is not available for investment in property. 

To apply you submit a residence application and can include the dependent family members you would like to come with you on the application. Once the residence application is approved, you will have 12 months to transfer the funds to your nominated investment. The investment must be in what is deemed an “acceptable investment”. An acceptable investment must be in New Zealand dollars and have the potential to contribute to the New Zealand economy. Investments in bonds, equity and residential property developments do fall within the criteria of acceptable investments. For residential property investments, the investment must be made with the purpose of making a commercial return and cannot be inhabited by you or your family during the investment period.

To be eligible for either stream of investor visa, you will also need to prove that you meet certain health and character requirements.

After you have completed your investment period and met all the terms of your visa, you will be eligible for permanent residency to New Zealand for both yourself and the family members you brought with you.

The Entrepreneur visa is for people who have established a business in New Zealand and are contributing to the country’s economic development. There are two categories to this visa class, Entrepreneur and the fast track Entrepreneur Plus category. Generally the first step is to be granted a Long Term Business Visa.

The Long Term Business Visa is granted to people who want to establish their own business in New Zealand.  To be eligible you must submit a business plan, demonstrating your knowledge of the New Zealand business environment and how your business will benefit New Zealand. You will also need to show that you have enough funds to support yourself (and your family) during the time you are establishing your business. If you are accepted, you will be granted an initial nine month working visa to establish your business, and then you can apply for a further visa for the remainder of three years.

To then be eligible for the Entrepreneur category, you must have first established a successful business in New Zealand for at least two years, and have been self-employed for that time. After this time has passed, you can then apply for residency as an Entrepreneur.

The Entrepreneur Plus category is designed to fast track your path to residency.  To be eligible you must have a successful business in New Zealand that you have established, be self-employed, and have invested at least NZ$0.5 million in that business. The business must also have created at least 3 full-time positions for New Zealand residents. It doesn’t matter how long your business has been in existence as these requirements demonstrate the businesses’ value to New Zealand, hence providing a potentially quicker path to residency than the Entrepreneur Category.

If you are deciding between Australia or New Zealand as the place to establish your business, it is worth noting that the New Zealand Entrepreneur requirements are less onerous than the Australian option, with a lower investment value (Australia’s initial investment amount is A$800,000). Australia however does offer opportunities to obtain permanent residency immediately for people with significant business history and upfront investment, a category not available in New Zealand. 

Whether you are an investor or an entrepreneur, the New Zealand government encourages investors and talent to the country.  So if you want to move to New Zealand and have either money to invest or the talent for business, you can find a path to permanent residency.

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