How to migrate to New Zealand from America or the UK

It is no secret that New Zealand is one of the best places to live in the world.

Recently we have been voted best country in the world by a poll undertaken by The Telegraph[1], ranked 2nd best country to live in for expats by CN Traveler,[2] ranked 9th best country in the world to live by lifestyle9[3], ranked most prosperous country in the Legatum Prosperity Index in the world[4], and the list confirming what you already know goes on. This blog post will firstly point out how American or British citizens can enter New Zealand lawfully. Secondly temporary and residence visas will be briefly explored. Thirdly, pathways to staying permanently in New Zealand will be described. Lastly, some common pitfalls will be discussed.

22579TS53-Looking up Milford Sound past Mitre Peak (1683m) centre. Mt Pembroke (2000m) in snow - right. Fiordland National Park, Southland Dist., NZ

American, and British citizens do not require a visa to enter New Zealand. Americans can stay for a period of 3 months or less in New Zealand and British citizens can stay for a period of 6 months or less in New Zealand. This means any American or British citizen can buy a plane ticket and travel to New Zealand for a period of 3 or 6 months respectively.  It goes without saying that the only real problem arises after the visa waiver period finishes and a person requires another temporary or a residence visa to allow a person to lawfully stay longer in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s visas can be separated into 2 categories: temporary and residence. There are a range of temporary visas for example: Visitor, Essential Work, Student and Limited visas.  Temporary visas are for those who only wish to stay in New Zealand for a definite amount of time for a specific purpose, for example the Student visa is a visa provided to people to allow them to study in New Zealand. Immigration New Zealand will provide a person a temporary visa, only if they have no concern that the person is ‘bona fide’ e.g. they have no concern that a person will not leave New Zealand after they finish the purpose of their visa.


American or British citizens have 2 immigration advantages. Firstly American and British citizens can apply for working holiday visas. Secondly American or British citizens have the ability to be onshore while applying for a visa in New Zealand through the visa waiver scheme. Being onshore while applying for a temporary visa is an advantage because applicants will be provided an opportunity to respond to concerns Immigration New Zealand may hold (this opportunity is not afforded to offshore applicants).

The main difference between a Residence and Temporary visa is that a Residence visa allows a person gain a Permanent Residency visa. Permanent Residency allows a person to stay in New Zealand indefinitely as long as deportation liability is not triggered by criminal convictions. Pathways to residency can be split into 3 main categories: business, work and family.

Brief overview of residency pathways:

  1. The business category provides residence visas to people who: invest $1.5 million or $10 million NZD in New Zealand (Investor 2 and Investor plus category), or are capable of establishing and running a successful business in New Zealand (Business entrepreneur category).
  2. There are two work pathways to residence: Skilled Migrant Category and Residence from Work. Currently if you can score at least 160 points on this skilled migrant points chart, you would be eligible to apply for a residence visa under the Skilled Migrant Category. Work to residence allows people who have worked for 24 months for an Accredited Employer or have worked in a position on the Long Term Skill Shortage list a pathway to residency.
  3. The Family Category can be split into 4 further categories: Partnership, Parent, Parent Retirement and Dependent child.
    1. If you have a partner who is a New Zealand citizen or resident, and can prove you have lived with them for 12 months or more then you can apply for residency under the Partnership Category.
    2. We note invitations to apply are currently not being sent under the parent tier 1 and tier 2 category. This means unless you have already been issued an invitation to apply, you will not be able to apply for residency under the Parent Category.
    3. If you have children who are New Zealand citizen’s or residents you can still apply under the Parent Retirement Category, however you will need to invest funds of $1 million NZD into New Zealand for 4 years, prove ownership of an additional NZD $500k and demonstrate an annual income of at least $60,000 NZD.
    4. If you are under the age of 24, single and are reliant on parents who are New Zealand citizens or residents you can apply under the Dependent Child Category.

The most common pitfall for Temporary visa applications is the requirement of ‘bona fide’, whereby the onus is on the applicant to prove to Immigration New Zealand that they intend to enter New Zealand for a specific period for a specific purpose, after which they intend to leave New Zealand. It is important to note that the onus is on the applicant to demonstrate to Immigration New Zealand that they are ‘bona fide’.


Health and character problems also create problems for temporary and residency visa applicants. It is imperative that an applicant understands that the onus is on them to declare all health and character issues. Not disclosing character or health issues will create character problems. For example a common mistake people make is to answer no, when asked “have you ever been charged with an offence”, when in fact they had been charged with an offence but had received a diversion. This then creates a character issue as the applicant has provided false and misleading information to Immigration New Zealand.

When applying for any visa, honesty is always the best course of action. After declaring health and character problems, an applicant can apply for a medical or character waivers to resolve health and medical issues.

At Queen City Law we are always available to assist you with your visa application. Please don’t hesitate to contact the undersigned for assistance.





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