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New Zealand Visa Applications

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Applying for a visa to emigrate to New Zealand can be fairly straight forward when you consider using the country’s relatively streamlined visa system, especially in comparison to nearby Australia’s labyrinthine complexity.

Essentially entry to New Zealand is based on assessing your benefit to Kiwi society by your skills, character, health and education, on your family connections to new Zealand or on other factors like Samoan heritage.

New Zealand visas are available under the following categories:

Skilled Migrant category (SMC). To qualify, you’ll need to be 55 or under, speak English, be healthy and be of good character. These applications are assessed on a points system.

Investor and Investor Plus categories. For an Investor’s visa, you’ll need to be 65 or younger, with a minimum of three years’ business experience and NZ$1.5m invested in New Zealand over four years. You’ll also need a settlement fund of NZ$1m, and an English-speaking background or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test report with an overall band score of three or more, or be a competent user of English. If you’re applying for this visa you’ll also need any family members to either have adequate English or to prepurchase ESOL tuition. There are residency requirements too.

For an Investor Plus, you’ll need to invest NZ$10m over three years and the only other condition is a residency requirement, though both categories must meet health and character assessment criteria.

There’s an Entrepreneur Work Visa category too. These are aimed at experienced business people who want to be self-employed in New Zealand. You can build up to a residency application by way of the Entrepreneur Residency Category pathway. It’s a three-year work visa in two stages, the start-up stage and the balance stage. The start-up stage is a 12-month work visa and the balance stage is granted once you have shown the Business Migration Branch that you have taken steps to establish your business. You’ll be assessed on a points system that grades the likelihood that your business will be a success in New Zealand, and you’ll need to bring a minimal capital investment of NZ$100, 000 excluding working capital.

Other Types of Visas

Another option is to get a visa as an employee of a relocating business, and you can move with your partner and any dependent children under this visa.

Finally there are visa provisions for reuniting families, for refugees, and categories based on background such as the Samoan Quota and the Pacific Access Category, extended to residents of Pacific islands.

If you’re going for a Skilled Migrant visa, you’ll face a points test of the kind that’s becoming increasingly prevalent in determining your immigration status worldwide. The points system awards points for having skills in a designated Future Growth Area or where there is an absolute skills shortage, as well as for qualifications and New Zealand based work experience. There’s a points guide here, and while its results aren’t binding they should give you a reasonable idea of how successful any application will be.

If you think you have the necessary points, your next step is to make a formal Expression of Interest to the New Zealand government. They will reply inviting you to apply for a visa if they think you’re a suitable candidate. You lodge your Expression of Interest with the New Zealand immigration services either online or on paper – both forms are available here – and there is a fee of between NZ$510 and NZ$650 for submitting an EOI.

Once you’ve submitted your EOI, if you have 100 points or more it goes into the pool of EOIs and every two weeks, EOIs with a points score of 140 or over are selected automatically. Next, EOIs scoring between 100 and 139 which include points for a skilled job or a job offer are selected. Only after this, if there are still spaces available, are EOIs with under 100 points selected.

If your EOI is accepted, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically in: you still need to apply. After checking your EOI the Kiwi government will send you an Invitation to Apply for residence and a form that requires you to evidence the claims you made in your EOI. Then you send all your forms and documentation back, together with a fee: this is your actual application.

Now one of three things will happen: you’ll be accepted, rejected or offered a Skilled Migrant category job search visa that lets you go to New Zealand and look for work for nine months.

After you’re approved, there’s one more fee to pay – the Migrant Levy, NZ$310 for people over five years old and NZ$155 for children under five.

Temporary Work Visa

You can also get a temporary work visa, which gives you the right to study for certain qualifications and the right to renew your work visa indefinitely. You’ll need to continue to fulfil your visa requirements, though, and some of these will be outside your control: if native New Zealander becomes available to do the skilled occupation on which your work visa is based, for instance, it may be withdrawn. Work experience in New Zealand counts towards the points for a Skilled Migrant visa, and a temporary work visa can be a way to get some. You can also apply for a visa to join family and work temporarily in New Zealand.

There’s a residency scheme in New Zealand called Work to Residence. If you have exceptional talent in sports or the arts, are qualified in occupations that are in demand in New Zealand – or have a job offer from a New Zealand employer, you can apply for this program. The employer has to be on the list of accredited employers, and the Work to Residence visa leads to the Residence From Work pathway which requires you to have spent at least two years working in new Zealand on the Work to Residence visa.

If you’re thinking that it would be a good idea to go to New Zealand, look for a job and apply for permanent residence on the basis of that job, the New Zealand government is way ahead of you. The Silver Fern Visas, Silver Fern Job Search and Silver Fern Practical Experience, are designed for this – but they’re restricted to people between 20 and 35 and there are only 300 available per year.

The New Zealand visa application system is far more straightforward than some, but it still relies on a mixture of luck and having the right skills. A solid job offer fro an accredited firm helps, and so does New Zealand work experience and education. If you’re planning a move to Kiwi you’ll need to factor in the additional costs of visa application and be aware that you can be rejected at several stages of the visa process.