March 17, 2010
In response to your feedback on last week’s missive about New Zealand, I’ve once again asked my friend Mark, who is living there locally now, to pen a few words about the country’s immigration policies in response to your questions:
First off, thanks to all of Simon’s readers for the feedback. I need to point out that I am not a licensed immigration professional. The government of New Zealand has strict regulations about who can disseminate immigration advice (and a lot of other things… but I digress).
So, what follows should not be construed as ‘official’ immigration counsel; rather these are my observations and opinions only.
The first thing you should understand about retiring to New Zealand is that it can be challenging, especially if you are at/near retirement age. New Zealand is not Panama, so the country doesn’t offer a retirement visa program with an income requirement equivalent to a street beggar.
However, New Zealand is also not Monaco, so there is hope!
That being said, the local Otago Valley newspaper ran an article the other day discussing New Zealand’s recently unveiled temporary retirement immigration category, which is much more reasonable, in my opinion, than previous options.
According to the article, people over the age of 66 wishing to immigrate can be issued an initial, 2 year permit. This program requires people to be of ‘good health and character’, to invest NZ$ 750,000 in the country, have an income of at least NZ$ 60,000, and have NZ$ 500,000 in assets.
The current USD/NZD exchange rate is about .70 cents. So, that NZ$ 750,000 is about US$ 525,000.
This new visa program stipulates that the investments must be ‘acceptable’, which basically means they need to be investments into the New Zealand stock or bond markets, and have the potential to “contribute to the New Zealand economy,” which is quite subjective.
As the government is trying to prevent a property bubble from forming, the program also specifically bans direct or indirect investment in the residential property market… though it only includes investment property, not a primary residence.
So, what is meant by “good character” ?
Like almost every country that accepts immigrants, New Zealand will ask you to prove that you are not an international criminal, fraudster or escaping from somewhere else only to plague your new home with your unsettling past transgressions.
According to the New Zealand immigration website, as long as you have not served any prison time in the last 7 years, or been convicted but did not serve a sentence in the last 3 years, you should be OK.
Health requirements are also reasonable. The article stated that applicants should be:
1) unlikely to be a danger to public health;
2) unlikely to impose significant costs or demands on New Zealand’s health services and/or education services; and
3) able to undertake the functions for which they were granted entry.
This is a brief overview, but it gives you a pretty good idea what is expected. Keep in mind that New Zealand changes its immigration policies regularly, so if this scheme is something you can wrap your arms around I encourage you to move quickly and contact an immigration professional.
For the right person, New Zealand has a lot to offer, and I’m fortunate to have a close friend like Mark on the ground who can help people navigate through the immigration and property.
When you’re selecting a country to expatriate to, your fundamental guiding principle should be quite simple: 10-years from now, will this country be a better place to live than it is today?
In my opinion, New Zealand qualifies, mostly because of the wide open spaces (and natural resources) with relatively small population to spoil it.
More to follow.