We both spent endless hours on the Internet finding out everything we could about New Zealand. We came across an immigration consulting site that caught our eye. About two weeks after our New Zealand vacation there was an expatriate trade show of sorts in Los Angeles. (I told you the planets were aligned) and a representative of the consulting agency was going to be there. We rang them up and made an appointment. Consultants from countries around the world were there. A lot of countries (including New Zealand) have what’s called “brain drain”. That is, a lot of well-educated locals tend to leave their country for greener pastures, meaning mostly higher wages. That leaves a shortage of people to fill the jobs that need doing at home. Enter the immigration consultant whose job it is to find people that may want to move to their country…and probably make less money. To make up for lower pay they tout the “lifestyle benefits”. I’m sure the consultant from Lapland has his work cut out for him, but in New Zealand’s case, they are right. There are many lifestyle benefits. Besides the wonderful people and countryside, taxes are lower overall including no capital gains tax and housing is very affordable, particularly in comparison to most large U.S. cities. The weather is mostly mild; sub-tropical on the North Island. Crime is low overall and guns are basically illegal except for hunting. Many people living in the countryside still don’t lock their doors. There is little or no pollution and even Kiwi teenagers tend to mind their parents!
Of course the immigration consultants are not there out of good nature or as patriotic representatives of their countries…there’s money to be made. The one we met from New Zealand was very honest and straight forward with us. He was clear that New Zealand’s immigration laws are fairly strict. We were surprised to find that out of all of the emigrants; only about 4% come from the United States. We still have yet to run into another American here! The majority, about 35%, come from Great Britain (probably longing to get away from the grey skies and Margaret Thatcher look alikes) and the rest come from all over the world. The NZIS will allow up to 50,000 people under the immigration programme this calendar year. Certainly small by comparison to the U.S., but with a population of only 4 million people, it’s a fairly high percentage. The consultant spelled out the details of the various categories under which you can emigrate, about five, and those for which most people like us qualify which is about three. Approximately 60% of the total immigration will be allowed in under these three categories; Skilled Migrants, Long Term Business and Investor. If you’re over 55 the last two are your only choices unless you already have relatives living in New Zealand.
I won’t go into too much detail about each of the categories here because one, I’m not an expert and two, by the time you read this the rules may have changed once again as today starts with an “S”. In the period of six months we endured three different NZIS application processes. The NZIS seems to spend a lot of time fine-tuning things. If you’d like to know more about the options have a look at the NZIS website:
Unlike many U.S. government websites, the NZIS site is fairly easy to use…although you may miss all of the typical “government speak”. It’s a great resource and the place to start for anyone considering immigrating to the land of the Long White Cloud.
We finally decided that although we’d miss friends and family something awful, New Zealand would be a great place to grow old together and that opening a business was the way to go. We hired the consultant we met in Los Angeles to handle things because getting a Long Term Business Visa (LTBV) was a bit complicated and we wanted a professional by our side with such a big move. However he suggested that since Sandy was going to continue working in New Zealand anyway it might be easier for her to apply as a skilled migrant. A couple of the requirements for a LTBV are that the business has to be “beneficial to New Zealand” and that the books are to be reviewed by the NZIS after 24 months showing profitability in order for the owner to eventually obtain a Permanent Residence Visa (PRV…I didn’t say the NZIS didn’t like acronyms.) As a skilled migrant you can obtain a PRV much sooner and then you don’t have to deal with our friendly “nemesis”, the NZIS in the future! Her chances of acceptance were apparently good based on previous I.T. experience. This experience gave her additional “value” under a special section of the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) called the Priority Occupations List (POL…I know, I know) which are jobs that the NZIS says companies have a hard time filling here due to the previously mentioned “brain drain”. Armed with that information Sandy became the “principal applicant” under what eventually was the NZIS’ Skilled Migrant Category.
The SMC is based upon a point system which calculates your work experience, education, age, etc. and assigns points to each bit. The lower your age, higher your experience and education (you will need a university degree minimum for the SMC), the higher your points total. The NZIS sets the points pass mark every two weeks, or “fortnight” as they say here, and pulls applications meeting or exceeding that number for consideration. They can raise or lower the pass mark as they see fit. Recently it’s been lowered a great deal from where it started in March, but that could change at any time. There’s a quick SMC points calculator on the NZIS website which helps you calculate if you have enough points to emigrate.
If you’re interested in emigrating as a skilled migrant you begin by filing an Expression of Interest (EOI…crazy isn’t it?) with the NZIS. The EOI asks all kinds of questions not only about your work experience, but about any police record you may have, your relatives, if you’re a terrorist (I’m not making this up) as well as your medical history (NZ has a nationalized health program making moving here worth it alone these days!). There are any number of things that might disqualify you from getting a Permanent Residence or even Work Visa, particularly if you ever have been or ever will be a terrorist, but it can be done! The EOI application can be completed on line (and of course there is an associated fee). You will be given a point total and it will be included in a “pool” with other applications. Your EOI is good for 90 days. If it isn’t pulled during that time it will lapse and you will need to file a new one (and, yes, pay another fee.) When your EOI points meet or exceed the pass mark your application will be reviewed and you will be asked to provide supporting documentation for everything (yes everything) you’ve listed. Plus you’ll be required to submit a completed NZIS medical report (basic physical exam) along with an FBI record (even if you don’t have a police record, and hopefully you don’t, you can send in your fingerprints and they’ll send them back with an official stamp saying you don’t have a record…for a fee). Your employer may be contacted as well as your doctor, family, friends and possibly your first grade teacher. Remember when she told you everything you did would go on your “permanent record”? Who’s laughing now smarty pants? If and when the NZIS is satisfied that you would be a good, upstanding Kiwi they will extend an official Invitation to Apply for Permanent Residence.Once you have a PR Visa you can come and go as you please and no longer have to worry about dealing with the NZIS ever, ever again (unless you become a terrorist in which case I’m sure there’s a form to complete).
Excerpted from "We Did It!, Part Deux: Moving To New Zealand" in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 62.