We are often approached by people who ask, “If I buy a shop or a cleaning business, can I get a Business Visa?”  Our answer has to be, “Don’t even bother trying.”

The Entrepreneur Work Visa policy brought out in March 2014 sets a high bar for a successful business proposal.  It must produce a “substantial benefit to New Zealand” – not just a “moderate” benefit.  It should bring a genuinely new product or service to the New Zealand market, or create a lot of export income.  Or else, to have any real chance of success, it must create several new jobs – not just one, as it used to be under the old policy.  At a bare minimum, you must invest at least NZ$100,000 as “capital”, which means buildings, machinery or other long-term assets, and not just money in a bank account.  More detailed information is set out on our Entrepreneur Visa Guide.

Until recently, 75% of all Entrepreneur applications were being declined, which gives some idea of just how hard it has been to come up with an acceptable scheme.  The Business Migration Branch last month released figures to show that they are approving more applications than before.  They have also asked the Minister of Immigration to approve a more relaxed approach to some of the policy settings – they too had seen that things were not working well.

The point of this post, though, is to open your thinking to an easier way to get Residence.  After all, an Entrepreneur application only gives you a Work Visa so that you can get your business underway.  On the other hand, an Investor Visa gives you Residence straight away.  There are hooks to it – you have to leave your investment in New Zealand for several years, and you must spend a certain amount of time in New Zealand in order to keep your Residence – but if you qualify then it offers a much less difficult and time-consuming route to follow.  In an older blog post I touched on some of the downstream issues to consider as well.

If you have solid past business experience, then it all comes down to how much money you have.  At a bare minimum you must be able to bring over NZ$2.5 million – $1.5 million to invest, and $1 million to establish your life here, buy a house and so on.  The Investor 2 scheme is a points system, where you must score enough points to be invited to apply.  You get points for your age, the amount of business experience you have, your English ability and the amount you will invest.  The current trend of “points selections” indicates that many people should plan to invest at least $2.5 – 3.5 million in order to get through.

Wherever we can, we steer high-worth individuals toward Investor as the path of choice.  The Entrepreneur Visa is the fall-back position for those who can’t pull together enough money to be an Investor.  So, for instance, someone who has $1 million, $500,000 or less must consider setting up a business as an Entrepreneur.

If you are in that situation, though, I put another question, “If coming to New Zealand is your Number One objective, what can you sell to pull the money together?”  We have been surprised several times by people who come to us about setting up a business because they don’t have enough cash to be an Investor.  As we ask more questions we learn that they have houses, or even existing businesses, which could be liquidated and would open the door to the Investor route.

It all comes down to a matter of will.  Naturally, someone who has a lot at stake back home finds it hard to get their head around selling it all up, to burn all their bridges as they explore a new life in New Zealand.  That, however, may mean the difference between having a chance to take up the quality of life on offer in this country – or having no chance.