Today a client asked some questions which showed that even if you invest millions of dollars to get New Zealand Residence as an Investor, this does not mean it will be easy to get Citizenship later on.  The problem has to do with time spent living in the country.

The rules are like this (you can see the Immigration Instructions here):

  • Investor 1 Residence: Investment of NZ$10 million or more.  There is a 3-year travel condition.  You only have to spend 44 days per year in New Zealand in each of the 2nd and 3rd years.  There is no minimum time set for the 1st year.
  • Investor 2 Residence:  Investment of NZ$1.5 – 10 million.  There is a 4-year travel condition.  You have to spend at least 146 days per year in New Zealand in each of the last 3 years – over 4 months per year.  Again, there is no minimum time set for the 1st year.
  • Citizenship:  You must hold a Residence Visa for 5 years and spent at least 240 days a year (about 8 months) in New Zealand for each of the 5 years before you can apply.  You also must live here for a total of 1350 days in that 5 year period, which is an average of 270 days a year.

Here’s where the problem comes up.  If you spend just enough time in New Zealand under either of the Investor categories so as to fulfill the travel conditions, this will not be enough for you to qualify for Citizenship.  That is, you would have to delay applying for Citizenship for another 5 years until you had built up enough time to make the application.

The lesson from all of this is that if you are interested in finally getting New Zealand Citizenship, you must plan your lifestyle toward that goal even before you apply for Residence as an Investor.  I have done a few Citizenship cases where we tried to ask for an exception to what Internal Affairs used to call the “ordinarily resident” rules, and it is nearly impossible to convince the Minister to bend the rules contained in section 8 of the Citizenship Act 1977.

Our client commented that countries such as Australia and Canada encourage investors to get citizenship more easily if they have brought a lot of money into the country.  It is clear that New Zealand does not.

This is a serious issue.  Citizenship is important because it gives the protection of the Government to anyone holding the passport of that country.  People who come from countries in troubled parts of the world see New Zealand as the safest place in the world, which is probably true because of its physical isolation, low population and stable government.  It is also much harder to lose Citizenship than Residence – there are a number of ways that Immigration can revoke a Residence Visa.  If people who have high net worth and live international lives find it so hard to get Citizenship, then why would they tie their money up here when they can get Australian, US or Canadian passports more quickly?

In a previous blog I pointed out that the Government is keen to attract lots of investment capital with the Investor policies launched in July 2009.  The present disconnect between Immigration and Citizenship laws works against that aim.  It certainly seems hypocritical to say “we want you and your money” but at the same time to set up barriers around Citizenship as a precious privilege.  I do not want to see this country become a part-time destination for the rich of the world, but there is definitely room here for some serious thought – and change.