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Residence Class Visas: Living in New Zealand permanently

Overview of the pathway to residence

“Residence” is the word used for when the New Zealand government, through Immigration New Zealand, has granted you the right to live, work and study in New Zealand permanently.

Residence is important in being the key to a number of other rights and opportunities in New Zealand, including:

  • Education – Rights to free education in state schools, tertiary fee subsidies and student loans depend on residence.
  • Welfare benefits – To get a benefit from Work and Income, you’ll usually need to be either a citizen or resident of New Zealand (see: “Dealing with Work and Income”).
  • Voting – The right to vote in general elections and local elections depends on residence.
  • Juries – Being eligible to serve on a jury depends on residence.

The two stages: The “Resident Visa” and the “Permanent Resident Visa”

Immigration Act 2009, ss 73, 74

There are two stages to getting full residence status in New Zealand, with a different type of visa for each stage:

  • A Resident Visa, the first stage, allows you to live in New Zealand indefinitely, including working and studying – but if you leave New Zealand you can’t return and live here as a resident unless the conditions (“travel conditions”) of your Resident Visa allow this. Normally a Resident Visa will be granted with travel conditions that let you leave and re-enter New Zealand as a resident only up to a certain date.
  • A Permanent Resident Visa allows you to live in New Zealand indefinitely, including working and studying, and also to leave and return to New Zealand as a resident at any time and as often as you like.

If you don’t yet qualify for a Permanent Resident Visa but you want to leave and return to New Zealand outside the travel conditions granted for your Resident Visa, you can instead apply for a variation to your travel conditions, to allow you more time for re-entering New Zealand as a resident.

We explain the requirements for getting each of the two different types of Residence Class Visa in the next section.

Who can apply for residence?

Immigration Act 2009, s 71

You can apply for a New Zealand Resident Visa if:

  • you’re outside New Zealand and want to come here to live indefinitely, or
  • you’re in New Zealand and have a Temporary Visa (but not if you have only a Limited Visa or Interim Visa).

Immigration Act 2009, ss 15–17

Some people are barred from applying for a visa – for example, if your previous Temporary Visa has expired so that you’re now in New Zealand unlawfully (although you may be able to get a new visa as a special case under section 61).

Further, some people are barred, either permanently or for a certain number of years, from getting a visa and entry permission – if, for example, they’ve been in prison, or been deported from New Zealand or another country, or once obtained a New Zealand visa by fraud or forgery. For more information about these restrictions, see: “Accessing the immigration system: Who can apply for a visa and who can’t”.

Immigration Act 2009, ss 71, 92–95 Immigration (Visa, Entry Permission, and Related Matters) Regulations 2010, reg 8 INZ Operational Manual: Residence, F4.1.5

For some residence categories, you’ll need to first file what’s called an “expression of interest” with Immigration New Zealand – for example, for the Parent category. You can only apply for the visa if Immigration NZ respond to your expression of interest by inviting you to apply.

INZ Operational Manual: Residence, R5.30.1

Note: Australian citizens and residents don’t need to apply for a Resident Visa from overseas before they come to New Zealand. They can simply arrive in New Zealand and apply for a Resident Visa and entry permission when they get here. Immigration New Zealand policy is to grant them residence so long as they meet the usual “character” requirements (see below for health, character and other requirements).

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Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Immigration New Zealand

Immigration New Zealand is the government organisation that deals with visa applications and other immigration issues. It’s part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Website: www.immigration.govt.nz
Phone: 0508 558 855

The Operational manual contains immigration instructions that people who want to come to New Zealand must follow. While it is not a step-by-step guide, it will help you follow Immigration New Zealand’s processes. Access it here: www.immigration.govt.nz/opsmanual

See also Immigration’s policies and processes: www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/policy-and-law/how-the-immigration-system-operates

Immigration and Protection Tribunal

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal determines appeals on Immigration New Zealand’s decisions about refugee and protection matters.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/Tribunals/immigration/immigration-and-protection

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