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Residence Class Visas: Living in New Zealand permanently

Stage 1: Getting a Resident Visa

There are some general requirements to do with health, character, and money or sponsorship that you’ll have to meet if you apply for New Zealand residence. In this section, we explain those requirements.

You’ll also have to meet the specific requirements for the particular category of Resident Visa you’re applying for (see: “Requirements for particular residence categories” below).

Health, character, and money/sponsorship: General requirements for all residence

Health requirements for residence

INZ Operational Manual: Administration, A4.5, A4.10

To get a Resident Visa, you must be unlikely to be a danger to public health, and you must be unlikely to impose significant costs or demands on New Zealand’s health services or special education services. You must also be able to do any work that your particular application is based on or that’s a requirement for the visa.

You don’t have to meet those health requirements if:

  • you’ve already got a Resident Visa and you’re now applying for a Permanent Resident Visa, or
  • your previous Resident Visa expired because you left New Zealand after your travel conditions expired or because you were outside New Zealand when the travel conditions expired, and you’re now applying for a new Resident Visa.

Immigration NZ has identified some specific health conditions as ones that impose significant costs or demands on New Zealand’s health or special education services and that will therefore prevent you getting residence – for example, HIV, Hepatitis B or C, cancers (including melanomas), neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, heart conditions, and respiratory disease (for example, cystic fibrosis). You can read the full list and the various exceptions in Immigration NZ’s Operational Manual (go to the “Administration” part, at A4.10.1). The Operational Manual also says that their list isn’t exhaustive – so just because you don’t have any of the conditions they list, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll meet the health requirements.

You’ll have to provide Immigration New Zealand with a Medical Certificate and a Chest X-ray Certificate (but pregnant women and children under 11 don’t have to provide a Chest X-ray Certificate). The certificates will need to be from one of Immigration New Zealand’s approved “panel physicians”. For more details about these doctors and how to find them, see: “Health requirements”.

“Character” requirements for residence (criminal offending or dishonesty)

Immigration Act 2009, ss 15, 16 INZ Operational Manual: Administration, A5.5

In general, you have to be of “good character” to get a New Zealand visa and to get entry permission when you arrive. The character issues that Immigration New Zealand is concerned with here generally involve criminal offending, but they also include whether you’ve ever tried to deceive Immigration NZ or breached immigration rules.

You’ll need to provide Immigration NZ with police certificates from your home country and also from each country you’ve lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years.

If there are what Immigration NZ calls “serious character issues,” you won’t be able to get a visa and enter New Zealand except with special permission. These are issues, like serious criminal offending, that are set down in law in the Immigration Act 2009 and that will prevent you getting any kind of visa, except in special cases (see: “When could I be barred from getting any visa?”).

INZ Operational Manual: Administration, A5.25

But Immigration NZ’s policies also list some less serious character issues that will require you to get a “character waiver” from them before you can get a visa. You’ll have to apply specially to Immigration NZ for this waiver and show why you should still be granted a visa. You’ll need to do this if:

  • if you’ve ever given Immigration NZ false or misleading information or held back relevant information (including if it was in support of someone else’s visa application)
  • if you’ve ever been convicted in any country of a criminal offence against their immigration, citizenship or passport laws
  • if you’ve ever been sentenced to jail
  • if you’ve been convicted of a criminal offence involving violence, dishonesty, illegal drugs, or sexual offending
  • if at some time while you held a temporary New Zealand visa or while you were here unlawfully, you were convicted, in any country, of a criminal offence for which you could have been jailed for three months or more
  • if you’ve been convicted in the last five years of dangerous driving, or of drunk or drug driving, or
  • you’ve ever publicly made a racist statement or been a member of a racist group.

If any of these situations do or might apply to you, you should give Immigration NZ a full explanation about it when you apply for the visa, with supporting evidence.

When they decide whether to give you a “character waiver,” Immigration NZ can’t automatically turn you down. They have to consider whether your reasons for coming to New Zealand, and all the surrounding circumstances, are compelling enough to justify making an exception in your case, taking into account the public interest. If you gave them false or misleading information, they also have to consider how significant the information was, how long ago this was, and whether you’ve got a reasonable explanation that shows you didn’t intend to deceive them.

Immigration NZ also have to follow the principles of fairness and natural justice, which generally means they have to treat you in an unbiased way, tell you what information they have about you, give you a chance to put forward your side of the story, and only take relevant factors into account.

Sponsorship requirements for residence

INZ Operational Manual: Residence, R4

For some residence categories, you’ll need to be sponsored by a New Zealand citizen or resident – for example, under the Parent category (see below).

The sponsor will have to meet certain requirements to be acceptable to Immigration New Zealand.

Requirements for particular residence categories

INZ Operational Manual: Residence

To get a Resident Visa, you’ll need to apply under one of the specific residence categories in Immigration New Zealand’s residence policies (which are set out in their Operational Manual).

These are the main residence categories:

  • the Family categories, which include Partnership, Parent, Parent Retirement, Dependent Child, and Inter-country Adoption
  • the Residence from Work category
  • the Skilled Migrant category
  • the Business category.

Below, we explain the key requirements for the Family categories.

There are also some special categories for vulnerable people, including migrants who’ve experienced family violence, victims of human trafficking, and family of refugees (see: “Special residence categories for vulnerable people”).

There are also some special residence categories for specific nationalities.

Requirements for Family categories

INZ Operational Manual: Residence, F1-F7

  • Partnership category – This category allows the partners of New Zealand citizens and Residence Class Visa holders to apply for a Resident Visa. The partner doesn’t have an automatic right to live here with the citizen or resident: they need to apply for their own Resident Visa.
    • A partner includes married spouses, civil union partners, and de facto partners.
    • You have to show that your relationship is both genuine and stable, which includes satisfying Immigration New Zealand that you’ve been living together for 12 months or more. They will want to see what you might call “hard evidence” of this, in the form of financial or other documents that have both your names on them – like a joint mortgage or bank account statement, a joint tenancy agreement or electricity bill, or your child’s birth certificate with the two of you recorded as the parents. “Soft” evidence that you’re in a relationship – like letters between you or photos of you together – will help support your case but won’t be enough on its own.
    • If you’ve been living together for less than 12 months, you can instead apply for a Temporary Visa on the basis of your partnership (see: “Applying for a Temporary Visa on the basis of your partner’s NZ residence or citizenship”).
  • Parent category – To qualify for residence as a parent under this category, you must:
    • send Immigration NZ an “expression of interest” and then be invited by them to apply for residence
    • be sponsored by an adult child who has been a New Zealand citizen and/or resident for at least three years
    • meet the health and character requirements (see above), and have a minimum standard of English or have already paid for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teaching, and
    • meet the minimum financial requirements.
  • Dependent Child category – To qualify under this category, you must:
    • be under 25 and single
    • have a parent who is a New Zealand citizen or Residence Class Visa holder
    • if you’re aged 18 to 24, have no children of your own
    • if you’re aged 21 to 24, be totally or substantially reliant for financial support on an adult, whether this is your parent or not (up to age 20, it’s assumed you’re dependent if you’re single and have no children), and
    • meet health and character requirements (see above).
  • Inter-country Adoption category – If you’re a New Zealand citizen or Residence Class Visa holder and you adopt a child overseas, you can apply on your child’s behalf for New Zealand citizenship or residence. If you apply for residence, your child has to meet the same requirements as other children of New Zealand citizens or residents.

Special residence categories for vulnerable people

Family violence; human trafficking; family of refugees

Immigration New Zealand has also established special visa categories for:

  • migrants who’ve experienced family/domestic violence
  • victims of people trafficking
  • family of refugees

For more information, see: “Family violence and vulnerable migrants and other special visa policies”.

Getting a Resident Visa as an exception to residence policy

Immigration Act 2009, s 72(3)

If you don’t meet Immigration New Zealand’s residence policy, you may still be able to be granted a Resident Visa as an exception to policy.

Travel conditions of your Resident Visa

Immigration Act 2009, s 74(2)

If you’re granted a Resident Visa, Immigration New Zealand will normally make the visa subject to travel conditions that allow you to re-enter New Zealand with your Resident Visa only up to a certain date.

INZ Operational Manual: Residence, R5.66, RV3

If you get your Resident Visa while you’re overseas, there will be a travel condition allowing you first entry into New Zealand at any time up to one year after the visa is granted (or three months if it’s under the Samoan Quota Scheme or the Pacific Access category). If you don’t travel to New Zealand within that time, you’ll have to re-apply for a Resident Visa.

You can be granted a Resident Visa allowing you to leave and return to New Zealand multiple times within two years from your first day in New Zealand as a resident (or within five years if you’re granted a Resident Visa under the Parent category). You can apply for your travel conditions to be extended for a longer time, but you have to be in New Zealand at the time or be outside New Zealand when your travel conditions have not already expired.

Other conditions of Resident Visas

Immigration Act 2009, ss 49, 50

As well as travel conditions, your Resident Visa may have other conditions. For example, if you’re granted residence under the Skilled Migrant Category, a condition could be that you have to take up an offer of skilled employment within three months after you arrive in New Zealand.

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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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