How to Become a Resident of New Zealand

How to Become a Resident of New Zealand

According to the NUMBEO 2023 Quality of Life Index, New Zealand is the seventeenth best country in the world. It ranks higher than Australia, France, the Czech Republic, Canada, Belgium, Israel, the Republic of Korea, and many other countries. The consent interest of immigrants in New Zealand can be attributed to this factor and the country’s beautiful nature, well-known due to the famous film trilogy "The Lord of the Rings". Notwithstanding its reputation for hospitality, New Zealand imposes stringent requirements on anyone who wants to stay here. Read on to find out about the main ways to get a residence permit in New Zealand.

Basic Options for Living in New Zealand

You can live in New Zealand either temporarily or permanently. If you want to stay here temporarily, you must have the appropriate visa: a tourist, visitor, work or student visa, and so on. A long-term stay is only possible on a resident visa or a permanent residence permit.

Temporary Residence

You can only enter New Zealand on a special permit if you are an Australian citizen. This can be a visa or a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA), which is valid for two years or five years and enables you to visit the country without applying for a visa. NZeTA is granted to all the holders of an Australian resident visa and the citizens of visa waiver countries. You can check if your country is on the list through the website of Immigration New Zealand. People not included in these two categories must get a visa. 

Visitor Visa

This type of visa allows you to stay in New Zealand for different periods of time and for various purposes, including on short-term study courses for up to three months. You can apply for a single-entry or multiple-entry Visitor Visa. Both types can be obtained for a long-term stay. You can stay in New Zealand for up to six months on a multiple-entry Visitor Visa. A single-entry visa gives you the right to stay in the country from six to nine months for one and a half years.

One of the subtypes of the Visitor Visa is a Business Visitor Visa. You can acquire it for up to three months if you are going to New Zealand on an official trade mission, to sell goods, participate in negotiations, etc. 

Wellington. Photo: João Marcelo Martins (Unsplash)

Student Visa

International students can only apply for a Pathway Student Visa to visit New Zealand. The list of accredited study programmes is published on the website of Immigration New Zealand. You can study at a state or private school, college, or university. Some student visas even give you the right to work. You will know in advance whether your student visa includes a work permit. 

There is also a Post Study Work Visa, which allows the applicant to relocate their family to New Zealand. The Post Study Work Visa is granted to anyone with a degree level 7 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF). Other post-graduate students can only apply for a work visa if their degree is included in the NZQF and their employment is relevant to their qualifications.

The period of stay is also affected by the level of qualifications. For example, a level 8 degree allows you to stay in New Zealand for the same amount of time that you have spent studying here. Applicants with a Master's degree or PhD are eligible for a three-year work visa if they spent at least 30 weeks on their research. 

Short-Term Work Visas 

The New Zealand Government is constantly opening and closing different immigration programmes in a bid to attract a foreign workforce. You can find the most relevant information on the website of Immigration New Zealand. For example, you can gain a seasonal work permit and stay in the country for up to three months. You should get a job with a recognised seasonal employer who is allowed to hire foreign seasonal workers to help in horticulture and viticulture industries.

Another type of a short-term work visa is an Entrepreneur Work Visa issued for three months. To get it, you must provide a letter from your business partner to confirm the purpose of your visit.

The length of stay depends on the type of your work visa. Some of them are valid for no more than three months, while others allow you to stay for up to three years.

Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa

People aged 66 or over can get a Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa. Holders of such visas can stay in New Zealand for up to two years, provided that they invest at least NZD 750,000 (USD 453,885). Another key criterion is to have an annual income of at least NZD 60,000 (USD 36,310).

Queenstown Hill. Photo: Ömer Faruk Bekdemir (Unsplash)

Permanent Residency in New Zealand

In addition to a variety of temporary visas, New Zealand also offers a number of permanent residency options. A resident visa or a permanent residence permit is valid indefinitely. Permanent residents have almost the same civil rights as New Zealand citizens, other than the right to vote. Applicants for all types of permanent residence permits must have good English skills, confirmed by a language test.

Resident Visa

You can apply for permanent residency in New Zealand for a number of different reasons.

Work to Residence Visa

You can get this visa for employment for an accredited employer either immediately or after working for this employer for 24 months. There are several categories of such work permits, but the main requirements for all applicants in this case are as follows:

  • be no older than 55 years,
  • work for an accredited employer,
  • be a full-time employee and work at least 30 hours a week,
  • have a permanent or fixed-term employment contract for at least 12 months,
  • have good English language skills,
  • and have a certain number of points awarded for your qualification, education, work experience, and so on.

In addition, in some cases, you may need to acquire special registration before submitting the application.

Abel Tasman National Park. Photo: Lesly Derksen (Unsplash)

Entrepreneur Resident Visa 

Entrepreneurs who want to become residents in New Zealand must meet the following requirements:

  • be self-employed in New Zealand for at least six months or run their own business for two years on another visa;
  • launch or buy at least 25% of a business within six months;
  • create a business plan and follow it, which must be proved when you apply for a resident visa;
  • invest NZD 500,000 (USD 302,590) in your business and create at least three jobs;
  • run a profitable business at the time of the application.

In addition, some other criteria are used to evaluate the business activity of the applicant, affecting the likelihood that the application may be approved.

Parent Retirement Resident Visa

This visa is for the parents of a New Zealand citizen ready to invest NZD 1 million (USD 605,180) in its economy. Once the application has been approved, the applicants must transfer their funds to a New Zealand deposit and then invest them within four years. All the applicants must also have annual income of NZD 60,000 (USD 36,310) or more.

Partner of a New Zealander Resident Visa

This type of residence permit enables the civilian and official spouses of New Zealand citizens and residents to move to New Zealand. You may not be officially married to become a resident, but you must prove that you have lived together for 12 months.

Active Investor Plus Visa

As of today this is the most expensive investment visa in New Zealand, which enables you to stay in the country for four years and then apply for permanent residency. The key here is to invest NZD 15 million (USD 9,077,700) in New Zealand listed equities, managed funds or  direct investments.

Auckland. Photo: Partha Narasimhan (Unsplash)

Permanent Residence Permit

Anyone who wants to obtain permanent residency must live in New Zealand for a fixed amount of time under certain conditions. In theory, any resident who has lived in New Zealand for over two years and meets the programme requirements can apply for a permanent residence permit. In this case, "living in the country" should be understood to mean that the individual has stayed in New Zealand for at least 184 days each year preceding the filing of the application.

However, the government may decline your application for permanent residency without providing an explanation. In this instance, the holder of an Active Investor Plus Visa is more likely to have their application approved, even though it only enables the holder to apply for permanent residency after staying in the country for four years on a temporary basis.

Dependent Child Resident Visa

On the bright side you can include your children if they are under the age of 24 in the application for any type of indefinite visa. The only criterion is that the children do not have a family of their own and are financially dependent on the applicant. Otherwise, they are not eligible for the Dependent Child Resident Visa. 

This rule also applies to applications for temporary residence permits, with the only exception being that the children must be aged 19 or younger.

Main Documents Required for a Visa and Permanent Resident Permit Application in New Zealand

In addition to your passport or identity document, the following documents are required.

  • Photographs. You will need only one photograph if you apply online or two photographs if you apply in person.
  • Proof of funds. This may come in various forms.
    A bank account statement indicating the current balance, a credit card statement, a promissory note, traveller's cheques, and any other official documents which confirm that each member of the family has at least NZD 1,000 (USD 605) a month to support their life in New Zealand. Once you pay for your accommodation, the minimum amount is decreased to NZD 400 (USD 242) per person. Moreover, the immigration service is entitled to request information about the source of the money. So it is better to prepare the necessary documents in advance: an income statement, a tax return, etc.
    Group or individual sponsorship of a visa applicant by a New Zealand company or citizen. Far from everyone living officially in the country can be a sponsor as several criteria must be met.

In some cases, the immigration service may request additional documents.

  • A medical report. The immigration officer will notify you whether you need to provide it and the extent of the medical exam. You must complete the application form for a visa or a permanent residence permit whereupon the immigration service will communicate all the necessary information. If you have stayed in the country for over 12 months, you must undergo a full medical exam. Any serious condition is a legitimate reason to decline a visa or residence permit application.
  • A certificate of no criminal record. This document is only required if you plan to spend in aggregate 24 or more months in New Zealand. However, the immigration service may ask you to submit such a certificate at any time without providing an explanation. People under  the age of 16 do not have to attach it. The certificate must be issued not more than six months prior to the filing of the application.
  • Medical insurance. It is highly advisable to maintain such insurance for the entire period of your stay and ensure full coverage. 
  • Other documents. Depending on the type of visa or the residence permit, as well as other circumstances, a return ticket may be required ,as well as proof of funds to support your study or medical care (in the case of  pregnant women), etc.

The Hobbiton Movie Set. Photo: Andres Iga (Unsplash)

How to Apply for Residency in New Zealand

First of all, go to the website of Immigration New Zealand to study the visa requirements. Choose the appropriate application form, read it carefully and collect documents. Make sure that you do it right. While you can  apply independently, the immigration service recommends that you avail yourself of the services of an immigration adviser. They are New Zealand lawyers, diplomats, employees of the Citizens Advice Bureau and other licensed specialists. Check the list of recommended advisers on the website of the New Zealand Immigration Advisers Authority.

After collecting and checking the documents, you should submit them in person to the nearest New Zealand Consulate, or online via the website of Immigration New Zealand. Then you only need to be patient and wait for a response. The time taken to consider an application depends on the type of visa and the workload of the immigration service. For example, it takes 35 days to process about 90% of Visitor Visas, 47 days to process Student Visas, 23 to 29 days to process Permanent Resident Visas, 5 to 15 months to process Partner Resident Visas, and five to six months to process Resident Visas.

How Much Does a New Zealand Residence Permit Cost?

You must pay a non-refundable fee to enter and stay in New Zealand.

Type of residence permit
NZD 17 (USD 10)
Visitor or Tourist Visa
NZD 211 (USD 128)
Work Visa
From NZD 700 (USD 424)
Student Visa
NZD 375 (USD 227)
Partner of a New Zealander Resident Visa
NZD 2,750 (USD 1,664)
Entrepreneur Resident Visa
NZD 6,860 (USD 4,152)
Resident Work Visa
NZD 4,290 (USD 12,596)
Parent Retirement Resident Visa
NZD 5,260 (USD 3,183)
Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa
NZD 3,790 (USD 2,294)
Active Investor Plus Visa
NZD 7,900 (USD 4,781)
Permanent Residence Permit
NZD 240 (USD 145)

Glenorchy. Photo: Robert Pearce (Unsplash)

In a Nutshell

You can live in New Zealand on different grounds. In most cases, resident permits are issued for a short term. Indefinite resident visas can be obtained only by marriage, including a civil partnership, qualified employment or investments. To become a permanent resident, you must spend at least two years in New Zealand on one of the resident visas and meet all the requirements.

Cover photo: Mount Taranaki. Sophie Turner (Unsplash)

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