Moving to New Zealand 

How do I apply to emigrate to New Zealand?

If you want to work, visit, study, or invest in New Zealand, you will need to apply for a visa (unless you are a New Zealand or Australian citizen). You can use Immigration New Zealand's online tool to help you decide which visa or category suits you best.

Some of the main options are:

  • Skilled migrant category visa: this is based on your qualifications, work experience, job or job offer, whether you are able to accumulate enough 'points' to be allowed to live and work in New Zealand permanently.  
  • Business and investment visas: for people such as investors, entrepreneurs and business people
  • Family/Partnership visas: for people who are sponsored by a family member (partner, child or parent) who is already a New Zealand citizen and/or resident
  • Samoan quota scheme: an annual ballot allowing a certain number of Samoan citizens to settle in New Zealand. 
  • Pacific access visa: for citizens of Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tonga
  • Refugee Family Support Resident Visa: if you are living in New Zealand as a refugee you can sponsor a family member to settle here under this category.
  • Studying in New Zealand: you can apply for a student visa which allows you to study at a tertiary institution in New Zealand. You may be able to work while you are here. You can also apply for a residence visa while you are here on a student visa . 

You will need to meet the specific requirements of the category, as well as health and character requirements. For example, if you have ever been convicted and sentenced to prison for five years or more, your residence application is likely to be refused.

For more information you can:

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Can I move to New Zealand if I don’t speak much English?

A minimum standard of English is required in the following types of residence and long-term business visas:

  • Skilled Migrant Category - the principal applicant and everyone included in the application who is aged 16 or over;
  • Business Categories – the principal applicant and everyone included in the application who is aged 16 or over (with the exception of the Investor Plus (Investor 1 Category));
  • Parent Category – all applicants under this category;
  • Residence from Work Category:
    • principal applicants under the Religious Worker instructions; 
    • partners and children (aged 16 and over) who are included in the any Residence from Work Category. Partners and children who do not meet the minimum standard must pay for English language classes before the application can be approved.

The standard required will depend on which visa you are applying for and whether you are the principal applicant or not.

There are different ways you can show your English language competency:

  • show you have an English-speaking background e.g. that you completed several years of education in English;
  • show you are a competent user of English e.g. that you lived in an English-speaking country, or used English to study for your qualifications;
  • provide an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) certificate that is not more than two years old.

More information about English language requirements is in this Immigration New Zealand guide.

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I’m interested in applying for residence in the Skilled Migrant Category – how do I know whether my occupation is sought after, and how does the points systems work?

You can check Immigration New Zealand’s list of skill shortages to find out what kinds of job skills are most in demand. 

If your occupation is on the List of Skilled Occupations you will be eligible to apply for a resident visa under the Skilled Migrant Category (you must also meet the criteria for age, skill level for your occupation, English language, health and character).

When an immigration officer assesses your Expressions of Interest application they will award you points according to: 

  • your age,
  • your qualifications, 
  • whether you are already working, or have been offered work, in skilled employment in New Zealand,
  • whether you have close family living in New Zealand,
  • whether you partner (if you have one) speaks English at the same level that is required of you.

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My partner from Germany wants to come and live with me in New Zealand. Can I sponsor her?

Sponsorship is where a New Zealand-based individual, organisation or government agency takes responsibility for an individual who is applying for a visa. A sponsor will be responsible for the visitor’s accommodation and the costs relating to their health, welfare and return to their home country. In general the sponsor also must remain in New Zealand for the term of the sponsorship.

In your situation you would be considered the “supporting partner” in your partner’s visa application – rather than their sponsor. In this situation you and your partner will need to meet Immigration New Zealand’s partnership criteria.
The types of visas that would allow your partner to stay with you in New Zealand for an extended period of time include:

If you visit the Apply for a visa online tool on the Immigration New Zealand website and select “Join family” and “Partner” in the first two options, you will see the full range of visas that your partner can apply for.

There is also information about visas for partners and children on the New Zealand Now website.

The Citizens Advice Bureau can also provide information about immigrating to New Zealand, and help you with your application, or you can get specialist immigration advice from a licensed immigration adviser.

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I have been living in New Zealand with my partner, who is a New Zealand citizen. If I leave him, could I be deported? 

Your status in New Zealand will depend on what kind of visa you have.

If you have obtained a residence visa (presumably under the Family: Partnership category), your entitlement to live in New Zealand would not be affected if you leave your partner.

If you are in New Zealand on a temporary visa (e.g. study, visitor or work visa) which is dependent on support from your partner, or if your residency visa application still under consideration by Immigration New Zealand, then your visa could become invalid if your partner's support is withdrawn. Find out what your options are in this situation on our Visitor legal requirements page.

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Do I need a visa to live in New Zealand and start a business?

You won't need a visa to start a business in New Zealand if you : 

  • are a NZ resident, 
  • hold a valid Australian passport, 
  • hold a current Australian permanent visa or  
  • hold a current Australian Resident Return visa

Otherwise, if you want to start a business in New Zealand and be self-employed in that business then you will need to apply for an Entrepreneur Work Visa

The Entrepreneur Work Visa is issued for three years and in two stages:

  1. Start-up stage – you are given an initial 12-month work visa which allows you to buy or start a business in New Zealand. 
  2. Balance stage - If you can show the Business Migration Branch that you have taken steps to establish your business, you’ll get the remaining 24 months of your visa.

Once you have run your businesses for 2 years (or 6 months if you meet extra conditions), you'll be able to apply for an Entrepreneur Residence Visa which would allow you to live in New Zealand permanently.

For more information about visa options for starting a business or investing, go to the Immigration New Zealand website. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can assist you with your application and help you obtain the right application forms - or you can get specialist help from a licensed immigration adviser.
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Now that I have a Resident Visa, when can I apply to become a permanent resident?

If you already have a Resident Visa then you are allowed to leave and re-enter New Zealand, as a resident until a specified date. If you take the next step and become a permanent resident you will be allowed to leave and re-enter New Zealand as often as you like.

You have to have held your resident visa for at least two years before you can apply for a permanent resident visa. You’ll also need to meet some criteria, including being able to show that you are committed to living in New Zealand permanently.

More information about the criteria for getting a permanent residence visa and how to apply, is on the Immigration New Zealand website.