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Becoming a permanent resident in New Zealand

July 23, 2015

The process to apply and become a permanent resident in New Zealand can be complex, difficult and expensive for some. Depending on your skill base and financial status this process can be fast-tracked if your skills and investment are sought after.

New Zealand permanent residents are non-citizens who hold a permanent resident visa. A visa is an endorsement given by the New Zealand Government that the non-New Zealand citizen is allowed to enter, leave or stay in New Zealand for a specified time and on specific conditions.

There are three types of visas granted in New Zealand under the Immigration Act 2009. Transit Visas, Temporary Entry Class Visas (consisting of temporary, limited and interim) and Residence Class Visas (resident and permanent resident).

New Zealand permanent residents are not New Zealand citizens and therefore are not afforded all the natural rights New Zealand citizens enjoy, which include standing for public office, being entitled to New Zealand consular protection and never being deported from New Zealand.

The first step towards gaining permanent residency is to be accepted to apply for a resident visa by Immigration New Zealand. The categories that you may apply under consist of:

  • Skilled Migrant Category - based on specialist skills, qualifications or experience. The person must also be aged under 55 years and meet English language, health and character requirements,
  • Work to Residence Category - for people that have worked for two years on a work visa, meet health and character requirements and are from an English speaking background,
  • Entrepreneur Work Category - for people that want to move New Zealand to buy or start their own business,
  • Investment Category - for people that want to invest a large amount of money in New Zealand,
  • Family Category - for partners, children or parents of New Zealand citizens or resident visa holders,
  • Samoan Quota Category - for Samoan Citizens, or
  • Pacific Access Quota - for citizens of Tonga, Tuvalu or Kiribati.

Once the non-citizen has held the resident visa for a period of two years, and held their resident visa in the last three months consecutively prior to applying, they may apply for a permanent resident visa. The non-citizen must meet criteria confirming that they are of good character, meet any conditions that the resident visa was subject to and have met one of the five commitments to New Zealand criteria (which are; spending enough time in the country, becoming a tax resident, owning a business, investing in New Zealand or establishing a base).

A permanent resident visa holder is entitled to be granted entry permission into New Zealand at any time whereas a resident visa holder is only entitled to apply for entry permission, and the usual rights granted to them in New Zealand (which include: stay in New Zealand indefinitely, work or study in New Zealand, receive free health care etc.) only become effective if entry is granted into New Zealand.

The costs for applying for a resident class visa vary depending on the non-citizen’s country of origin and whether the application is lodged in or outside of New Zealand and the category in which the resident class visa is sought. If you have any queries or wish to seek assistance in order to gain residency, we suggest you contact a lawyer with appropriate expertise in immigration law.


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