More than a billion NZ$ worth of investor visa funds, half of it from the US, are knocking on New Zealand’s door, which, due to COVID-19, remains closed for the foreseeable future.
Statistics from Immigration New Zealand show 178 category 1 and 52 category 2 applications have been lodged since the 2020-21 fiscal year started on July 1st. Category 1 stipulates a NZ$3 million investment, and Category 2 one of NZ$10 million. This implies that RCBI-funds worth at least NZ$1.05 billion are waiting to enter the country.
Because of the ongoing border closures, however, Immigration New Zealand cannot legally approve most of these applications, although it has reportedly commenced processing of a small selection. As of October 3rd, the department’s records show that, three months into the fiscal year, it has approved only four Category 1 and seven Category 2 applications.
Kirk Hope, head of Business NZ, the country’s largest business advocacy body, explained to Radio New Zealand that his organization is urging the government to extend entry exemptions to investors in the same way it has done for so-called critical workers.
“Where we have those investors coming into New Zealand to create those businesses, they also create high-value jobs, so let’s not dismiss that, that’s a really important part of New Zealand’s future. […]US-based technology investors are really keen to come to New Zealand because we have ultra-fast broadband in most parts of the country and we are Covid-free-ish.”
American interest surging
Throughout most of the program’s recent history, Chinese investors have made up the largest applicant group. Following the onset of the pandemic, however, a steep rise in interest from Americans has turned the program’s nationality distribution on its head.
The fortnightly overview Expressions of Interest (EoI) selections from Immigration New Zealand show that, since the beginning of the fiscal year, Americans have accounted for some 48% of all EoIs, while Chinese investors have made up fewer than one in six applicants.
“From the surge of inquiries that we have seen, there are plenty of US citizen waiting to see which of the countries they have chosen will welcome them first,” David Cooper, CEO of Malcolm Pacific Immigration, told Business Wire last month.
“New Zealand holds the upper hand in that the conditions around its investor visas give a clearer path to residency compared with Australia, for example. But if the NZ Government doesn’t follow through its process after selecting people from an expression of interest list, they will just take their money elsewhere at a time our economy could do with it.”
New Zealand is notoriously picky about its investor immigrants; since its inception 11 years ago, the program has received altogether 3,252 applications, of which it has duly declined 1,066, fully one in every three applications. That rejection rate implies it has left some NZ$3 billion on the table.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain.