New Zealand’s Investor Visa program, which but a few years ago raised more than a billion NZ dollars each year, remains virtually dead 19 months after the onset of the pandemic.
In the first five months of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, New Zealand has approved only a combined five applications for its two investor programs: Two were approved under the NZ$10 million Category 1 Investor Visa, while three gained approvals under the NZ$3 million Category 2 scheme.
Visa grants had already dropped substantially in the previous fiscal year, which ran from April 1st 2020 to March 31st 2021, a year in which the number of approved visas dropped by 58% for Category 1 and by 67% for Category 2. So far in the current fiscal year, both programs remain practically closed.
Total FDI raised through the programs peaked in FY2017-18, a year during which nearly NZ$1.3 billion entered the country through investor visa applicants. Last fiscal year, which overlapped entirely with the ongoing pandemic as it ran from April 1st 2020 to March 31st 2021, the two programs were still able to raise a combined NZ$ 259 million from 143 investors. In the first five months of FY2021-22, however, the two programs together have logged only NZ$29 million of investor migrant capital contributions, the lowest such figure in the program's history.
Moreover, rejection rates for what was already the world's most selective residence by investment program are rising still higher during the pandemic: Out of the 16 applications decided upon so far in FY2021-22, fully 11 were declined, a rejection rate of 69%. In the more expensive Category one, two out of four applications were rejected, while nine out of twelve applicants (75%) were turned away for Category 2.
Earlier this summer, reports emerged to indicate that the New Zealand government considered closing the Category 1 investor visa route altogether, replacing it with one that would require an NZ$ 25 million investment, rather than the current NZ$10 million. Remarking on the development at the time, James Hall of ANZ Migration, an investment migration firm focusing on Australia and New Zealand, said some of his clients had waited for more than a year for Approvals-in-Principle that normally take 3-5 months, as well as for residence visas that ordinarily take but weeks to process. He also commented that the program was "a mess" and that the long delays between the investment and the approval would lead to many failed applications.
Even if immigration officers were to grant approvals-in-principle in a timely manner, he pointed out, they would not grant the visa as long as borders remained closed because they cannot grant visas that don't allow the holder to actually travel to New Zealand.
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 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.