Earlier this year, Canada closed its Migrant Investor category and cancelled a large number of pending applications.  Will New Zealand reap the benefit?

In February 2014 Canada shut down its Federal Immigrant Investor and Entrepreneur programme.  In a draconian move, it cancelled some 25,000 applications , affecting perhaps 65,000 people, of whom 45,000 may have been Chinese.  By the way, this sort of move is not unique – in the last few years both Australia and New Zealand have “lapsed” large  number of visa applications at a stroke.  Apparently there were concerns that Canada’s policy made it too easy for people to get in.  They could get Residence by investing under Can$1 million for a period.

This got into the news again today with comments on Radio New Zealand  from my colleagues about the level of interest from wealthy Chinese migrants who were let down by Canada.  New Zealand’s current policies require people to front up with NZ$1.5 million plus (Investor 2) or $10 million (Investor 1).  For details of what the 2 policies require, see our summary.  A large number of the applications which NZ’s Business Migration Branch receives are from China, and that number has bobbed up from 30 when the policies were opened in 2009, to over 500 in the last year alone.

However, there are some significant barriers which applicants from countries like China face:

  1. New Zealand bureaucracy is probably much like any other – its policies assume that the rest of the world works the way “we do”.  In particular, there is a heavy focus on providing the right documents.  But some countries just don’t work like that to the same extent.  It appears that in China, for instance, accounting and record-keeping standards are falling into line with those of Western countries.  Yet we have, for instance, seen some cases recently where Immigration has questioned the genuineness of documents apparently produced by Chinese government offices.  Would we be so suspicious of documents signed off by staff in our own public service?  Now, New Zealand deservedly has a reputation for being one of the least corrupt nations on earth.  In the writer’s opinion, though, the flipside of this is a rather unpleasant attitude of superiority to how other countries do things.  The result is that people from countries such as China will have their own integrity questioned in a way that many Westerners would find extremely insulting.
  2. Once an investor has had their application approved, but before they get the visa stamp, they must show how they have transferred their funds to this country, and they must do it within 12 months.  China, of course, sets a low limit on how much money people can take out of China each year.  Therefore, many investors would like to bring funds over in inventive ways in order to avoid this bottleneck.  But Immigration New Zealand (INZ) insists that there must be an unbroken paper trail “through the banking system” from the applicant’s home country to NZ.  It cites concerns about money-laundering and fraud.  That may be a risk, but no other country competing in the migration market is so restrictive.  One has to wonder whether INZ is being too precious about this, and may in fact be creating a rod for its own back – as well as that of those who apply.

Which brings me to my question for the day:  Why are so few people from North America and the UK/Europe applying to invest here for Residence purposes?  There’s certainly no shortage of people from those parts of the world who would qualify.  One answer might be that, for high net-worth individuals, it is enough for them to be able to visit this country for a few months a year and enter “visa free”.  They don’t want or need to be tied to staying put in the same country for much of the year.

I don’t think that’s all there is to it, however.  I would be interested to hear what readers think – particularly those who might be considering coming over as Investor Migrants.