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How to obtain a New Zealand residence permit

How do I apply for a residence permit?

Applications for resident status are made to the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS). You can ask the NZIS to send you an application pack, or you can download one from their website at www.immigration.govt.nz. The NZIS deals with all immigration issues, such as visas, work permits, study permits and limited-purpose permits.

As required by the IMMIGRATION ACT 1987, you will need to obtain resident status if you intend to migrate to New Zealand. Resident status entitles you to live, study and work in New Zealand indefinitely.

If you apply for residence from inside NZ while on a temporary permit or visa, and your application is granted, you will be issued with a Residence Permit. If you applied from overseas, you will be issued with a Residence Visa; this allows you to enter New Zealand and to be granted a Residence Permit when you arrive.

Do I have to pay a fee?

Once your application is approved in principle, you may have to pay a fee before it is granted.

What are the requirements for residence under the different residence categories?

The exact requirements for obtaining residence often change, as the area is influenced significantly by the policy set in place by the Minister of Immigration.

You may currently apply under one of several different categories:

  • The General Skills category operates on a points basis. If your total score is high enough you will be considered acceptable for residence, but whether you are in fact granted residence is at the discretion of the Immigration Service. The areas that are assessed are:
    • qualifications
    • work experience
    • any genuine offers of employment
    • your age when you apply
    • whether a New Zealand family is willing to sponsor you
    • the total assets that you are willing to bring to New Zealand
  • The Business category is available to people who will contribute to economic growth in New Zealand. It has several subcategories, such as "Investor" and "Entrepreneur".
  • The Family category is available to people:
    • who are in a genuine and stable relationship (either legally married or in an interdependent partnership similar to marriage, whether heterosexual or same-sex) with a New Zealand citizen or resident who sponsors their application, or
    • who have immediate family members who are NZ citizens or residents and who live permanently in New Zealand, or
    • who are the dependent children of NZ citizens or residents
  • The Family Quota category allows for a quota of people to be chosen by ballot each year to be considered for NZ residence. You may be granted residence under this category if:
    • you are sponsored by your adult child, adult grandchild, adult brother/sister or parent, and
    • you are not eligible for residence in NZ under any other category, and
    • you apply within six months of the Immigration Service advising your sponsor that your sponsor's registration has been drawn from the Family Quota pool
  • The Refugee Family Quota category is available if:
    • you are not eligible for residence under any other category (except the Family Quota Category), and
    • you are sponsored by a family member who was granted NZ residence on the basis of refugee status and is living permanently in NZ, and
    • your sponsor's registration is drawn from the pool of people who have registered as sponsors under the Refugee Family Quota Category
  • There are also three special Pacific Island categories (for more details on these see the NZIS website):
    • the Samoan Quota Scheme
    • the Pacific Access Category
    • Pitcairn Islanders

Health requirements

To prove that you and any accompanying family are of an acceptable standard of health, you and each member of your family must undergo medical examinations in order to complete the NZIS's Medical and X-ray Certificate Form. These certificates must be not more than three months old when you apply for residency.

Providing police certificates to establish "good character"

To prove that you and any accompanying family are of good character, you must provide the following certificates for each person who is 17 or older:

  • police certificates from your country of citizenship, and
  • police certificates from any country you have been in for 12 months or more (whether in one or more visits) in the last 10 years

You will be refused residency if:

  • you have ever been convicted of a crime and sentenced to more than five years' imprisonment, or
  • you have been convicted and sentenced to more than 12 months' imprisonment at any time in the last 10 years, or
  • you have ever been deported from New Zealand or any other country, or
  • there is reason to believe that you may be associated with criminal groups or that you may be a danger to New Zealand

Minimum English language requirements

You will have to meet minimum English language requirements only if you apply under the General Skills or Business categories, or under the Samoan Quota Scheme or the Pacific Access Category.

Do I have to be able to support myself in New Zealand?

When deciding on your application the NZIS will also need to ensure that you have sufficient means to support yourself for two years. However, if your case is one of hardship the Government will assist you with certain benefits.

Can I appeal if I'm refused resident status?

Yes, you can apply for the decision to be reviewed by the Residence Review Board. You have 42 days from the refusal to apply for a review.

The Residence Review Board will consider two issues:

  • whether the Immigration Officer denied the application because he or she applied the wrong policy
  • whether the correct policy was applied but special conditions or circumstances exist that mean that the policy should not be applied in this case
Cautionary notes
  • The Immigration Service are entitled to place conditions on your Residence Permit. If you wish these conditions to be reconsidered you should consult a lawyer who is familiar with the review process.
  • When beginning life in a new country it is advisable that you consult a lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to inform you of your rights as a resident and of the criteria for becoming a New Zealand citizen (see How to become a New Zealand citizen). A lawyer can also help to ensure a smooth transition by advising you when you enter into any employment contract (see How to enter into an employment contract) or buy a house (see How to buy a house and How to buy a house at an auction).


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