- Download our Moving to New Zealand Guide (PDF)
Expats who need visas for New Zealand can choose from a range of options based on their travel plans, such as visas for holiday visits, working holidays, or long-term stays.
Each visa type has its own application process, which can be found on the official website of Immigration New Zealand. To ensure they are fully informed about the requirements, expats may also consider hiring a professional visa processing agency.
Before submitting their visa application, expats must make sure their passport is valid for at least three months (preferably six months or more) beyond their planned arrival date in New Zealand. They should also ensure that their passport has enough blank pages for the necessary stamps.
In addition to paying an application fee, applicants will need to provide several passport-sized photos and any other required information. It is crucial for expats to double-check that their application is complete, as incomplete ones will be rejected.
- Immigration New Zealand has an extensive guide to the different visa options available to visitors and expats.
Tourist visas for New Zealand
Travellers from some countries don’t need a tourist visa for New Zealand. The transit visa waiver agreement includes nationals of the US, the UK, Japan and Germany, among others. That said, even if someone’s country is on the visa-waiver list, they will need to supply evidence of funds and proof of onward travel, as well as get an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) before they travel.
Applicants for a New Zealand visitor visa may need to provide a health certificate and will likely need to provide a police certificate, as well as having a genuine intention to use the visa for their visit.
Visitors require proof that they have a certain amount of money per month of their visit, and a passport that is valid for at least three months, but ideally six months or more, after their departure date.
The longest that someone can stay in New Zealand on a visitor visa is nine months. During this time, they are not allowed to work or study for longer than three months and must obey New Zealand law. Expats will face deportation if they disregard these conditions.
Work visas for New Zealand
For those who want to live and work in New Zealand, there are several work visa options available. It's crucial for expats to select the appropriate work visa for their particular circumstances when applying for work visas for New Zealand. There are different visas for expats wanting to work in the country temporarily and for those seeking permanent employment.
Work to Residence visas for New Zealand
The Work to Residence visa for New Zealand allows holders to work in the country and apply for a resident visa after two years. In order for an expat to apply under the programme, their skills must be deemed necessary by a New Zealand employer, or they must have exceptional talent in certain fields.
Applicants must fall within several categories in the Work to Residence programme. This includes skilled workers with a job offer from an accredited employer, those in occupations on the skills shortage list, expats with exceptional talents in art, culture or sport, or those who plan to establish a business in New Zealand.
Permanent resident visas for New Zealand
Those who have worked temporarily and decided to stay and live in the country will need to apply for permanent residence visas for New Zealand.
New Zealand permanent residents are not citizens, but they are allowed to remain in the country indefinitely. They are eligible for all the rights and privileges of citizens, including access to healthcare, education and voting, as well as being able to leave and re-enter New Zealand as often as they like.
Requirements for permanent resident visas
To be eligible to apply for a permanent resident visa for New Zealand, applicants must have had a resident visa for at least two years continuously as well as meet at least one of the following criteria:
They have spent at least 184 days in New Zealand during each of the two years preceding the application
They can prove they have tax residence status with proper documentation
They have made an investment of NZD 1,000,000 or more in New Zealand for two years
They have at least 25 percent or more shares in a business in New Zealand that benefits the country in some way
They own a family home in New Zealand and have maintained paid employment for at least nine months within the two-year period
Those who are not self-employed will need to provide proof of employment in New Zealand.
* Please note that visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
►Working in New Zealand provides information on employment in the country
"NZ isn't an easy place to retire. The uncertainty of visas at our age became a very daunting task. Unless you have children who are already citizens, immigration is very restrictive on retirees staying beyond a visit. Like most countries, there are ways you can invest and 'pay your way in', though NZ is very cumbersome.
We tried to get Investor 2 Resident Visas, but there were too many restrictions (age and the NZD 3,000,000 requirement) that made it nearly impossible even though we had built a home (we bought just a couple of months before the law barring foreign ownership was passed). We could only stay in NZ for three months at a time on our passports, six months per year." Learn more about moving to New Zealand in our interview with American expats Mary and Michael.
Are you an expat living in New Zealand?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to New Zealand. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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