New Zealand Immigration: New Focus on Highly Skilled Labour and Investors

New Zealand Immigration for Highly Skilled Migrants and Investors

Fraser Clarke

New Zealand Government Aims to Reduce Reliance on Temporary Migrant Labour

New Zealand has become an increasingly appealing destination for those seeking a haven from Covid-19, economic recession or chaotic international politics. In recent years, the country gained a reputation for “billionaires’ boltholes”, as mega-rich speculators including Peter Thiel bought up remote properties in scenic, isolated regions.

High levels of migration have contributed to 30% of New Zealand’s total population growth since the early 1990s, putting a strain on the housing market and infrastructure. Covid19 highlighted the country's dependency on temporary workers, the highest in the OECD, and the government aims to end this, claiming that businesses have been able to rely on lower-skilled labour and suppress wages rather than investing capital in productivity-enhancing plant and machinery, or employing and upskilling New Zealanders into work.

When the borders re-open fully, the easy immigration tap of recent years will be turned off and sweeping changes will result in a more stringent policy towards migration. The government is looking to shift the balance away from low-skilled workers, towards attracting highly-skilled migrants, addressing genuine skills shortages and developing new strategies to target wealthy investors. More than 200 wealthy international investors will be encouraged to come to New Zealand over the next 12 months.

This means that for some categories of workers, it will become very difficult to move to New Zealand. However, people with shortage skills and the prospect of a job paying 150% of the median salary will still be able to work in New Zealand if an accredited employer is willing to act as visa sponsor.

People with business ideas, entrepreurs, wealth to invest and good connections, will still be able to live in New Zealand using the specific investor and entrepreneur visa categories.


Proposed Immigration Changes

The main changes to the current visa system will be the refining of the work visas with additional requirements for employer accreditation to employ immigrants and labour market research to ensure that no New Zealander is available for the role.

1. New Work Visas

Initial changes to immigration policy will be focused on the temporary and skilled migrant worker immigration categories. The government willl strengthen both the minimum employer requirements and labour market test to be met before a migrant can be hired. Six temprary work visa categories will be replaced by a single visa the new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) which will be employer led.

Before hiring a migrant on the AEWV employers will need to:

  • apply for accreditation under the new system
  • apply for a job check to make sure the role they want to fill cannot be done by New Zealanders, and
  • request a migrant worker to apply for a visa.

The migrant will need to meet the skills and experience stipulated as part of the job check.


2: Investor Visas

New Zealand has become a magnet for wealthy people in the Western world concerned about the future of their countries and anxious to find a remote bolthole. New Zealand is small with the ability to be self reliant and has a rule of law based upon the English system. And it has stunning beauty.
To invest in New Zealand and become a New Zealand resident there are two visa options to consider:
  • The Investor Visa is for migrants who plan to invest a minimum of NZ$3 million over a four-year period. 
  • The Investor Plus Visa is for investors looking to invest $NZ10 million over a three-year period. 

The main differences between these two options are listed as follows. 

The Investor Visa: NZ$ 3 Million ( GB£ 1.58 million at current exchange rates)

146 days in NZ in each of the last three years of a four year investment period or 438 days in NZ over the four year investment period 

Additional requirements: 

  • Minimum 3 years business experience
  • English language requirements apply
  • Family members must have English language ability the same as principal applicant or pre-purchase ESOL tuition
  • Maximum applicant age 65 years


The Investor Plus Visa: NZ$ 10 Million ( GB£ 5 million at current exchange rates)

44 days in NZ in each of the last 2 years of a three year investment period or 88 days over the three year investment period.

No additional requirements.


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