Are you one of our overseas readers who would like to retire in New Zealand?
If you are, the good news is that it’s possible. The bad news is that most people won’t qualify.
The criteria for retiring here can’t be written down simply in just a few lines; remember, the rules were written by government lawyers.
Since, thankfully, we’re not a government department, we’ll begin by making precisely the simplifications they won’t – but regardless of whether these simplifications make you smile or wince, if you’re serious about retiring here, you’ve GOT to read the small print.
You can retire to New Zealand if:
1. You have plenty of money
2. You have children here
3. You obtain permanent residence – you might achieve this, for example, as a skilled worker. People have obtained residence while in their 50s with a view to working here for a few years, then retiring.
Okay, that was the simple version.
If your only possible route is the third option, you’re now finished with this page. You need to look at the usual immigration channels, such as the Skilled Migrant Category.
Now there are just two options left. And we need to start going into more detail, so hang in there.
1. Temporary Retirement Category (plenty of money needed)
This is a two year visitor visa which is renewable. The main requirement is money, starting with the NZ$3,200 application fee.
If you apply for this visa, you must fulfill all of the following before you can be approved:
• be aged 66 years or over;
• invest NZ$0.75 million in New Zealand for two years, in an acceptable investment (see later under “Investment Details” for what qualifies as an acceptable investment);
• demonstrate ownership of NZ$0.5 million of maintenance funds and an annual income of NZ$60,000 at the time you apply;
• meet standard health and character requirements; and
• hold and maintain comprehensive travel and/or health insurance for the duration of your stay
If you succeed, you’ll be issued with a two year multiple entry visitor’s visa/permit which allows you to stay for two years, and travel in and out of New Zealand during that time.
You can re-apply for another visitor’s permit/visa under this category if you:
• continue to meet all the requirements above; and
• can demonstrate that you have maintained your travel and/or health insurance and your investment funds in an acceptable investment during the two year duration of your stay.
You may include your partner in your application. Dependent children cannot be included. You are not able to work on this visa.
2. Parent Categories
If you have grown-up children living in New Zealand there are, somewhat confusingly, two different visas you could try for. These are The Parent Retirement Category and The Parent Category. We’ll consider these in turn.
A successful application allows you live permanently in New Zealand. To qualify in this category you must:
• Have an adult child who lives legally in New Zealand as a citizen or permanent resident, and
• Have no dependent children, and
• Invest NZ$1 million in an acceptable investment for at least four years – to find out what these are, see below under “Investment Details”, and
• Have NZ$0.5 million of settlement funds, and
• Have a minimum annual income of $60,000 when you apply, and
• Have good health, and
• Be of good character
About 3,600 places are available each year in this category.
This is a permanent residence visa for parents of New Zealand citizens/residents who would like to join their children in New Zealand.
You need to be sponsored by an adult child who lives in New Zealand as a citizen or has lived in NZ for at least three years as a permanent resident.
You need to have an acceptable command of English – this means you need to pass at least two competencies of IELTS at Level 4 – or buy English language tuition.
The Parent Category visa operates on an expression of interest (EOI) basis. EOI’s go into a pool and there is a pool draw every three months.
Applicants must have no dependent children and must qualify as Tier One or Tier Two applicants.
Between July 2014 to 30 June 2016 there are 8,180 places available for approvals under this Parent Category.
Tier One applicants are given priority.
These applicants must:
• have a guaranteed lifetime minimum income of NZ$27,682 a year for a single person or NZ$$40,688 a year for a couple, or
• bring at least NZ$500,000 in settlement funds to New Zealand, or
• have a sponsoring adult child who has an annual income of at least NZ$65,000, or NZ$90,000 when combined with their partner’s income.
Just to be clear: Tier One applicants DON’T have to pass a “centre of gravity” test.
The time taken to process this visa is estimated at 18 months.
Tier Two applicants must:
• Have a sponsoring adult child who has an income of at least NZ$33,675 a year, and
• Any other children the applicant has must live outside the country in which the applicant lives. This is the “centre of gravity” test.
The time taken to process this visa is estimated at up to 7 years.
It’s a sobering point, but as of May 2016, there have never been any successful Tier 2 applicants.
Investment DetailsClick the arrow to reveal which investments are acceptable for the Parent Retirement Category
An acceptable investment for the Parent Retirement Category:
1. is in one or more of the following:
• bonds issued by the New Zealand government or local authorities, or
• bonds issued by New Zealand firms traded on the New Zealand Debt Securities Market (NZDX), or
• bonds issued by New Zealand firms with at least a BBB- or equivalent rating from internationally recognised credit rating agencies (for example, Standard and Poor’s), or
• equity in New Zealand firms (public or private), including managed funds, or
• bonds issued by New Zealand registered banks, or
• equities in New Zealand registered banks, or
• residential property development(s), or
• bonds in finance companies.
2. is capable of a commercial return under normal circumstances and has the potential to contribute to New Zealand’s economy, and
3. is invested in New Zealand in New Zealand currency, and
4. has the potential to contribute to New Zealand’s economy, and
5. is invested in lawful enterprises or managed funds that comply with all relevant laws in force in New Zealand, and
6. is not for the personal use of the applicant(s).
Okay, I’ve got that. I think I can get in. Will the New Zealand Government give me a pension?
Compared with most countries, the NZ Government is quite generous in terms of how little you need to do to qualify for a pension.
If you do become a permanent resident of New Zealand, the following applies:
• In order to qualify for New Zealand superannuation (a pension paid by the government) you must have lived in New Zealand legally for at least 10 years since you turned 20. Five of these years must be since you turned 50.
• Time spent overseas in certain countries may be counted for New Zealand Superannuation – New Zealand has social security agreements with Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Jersey/Guernsey, The Netherlands and The United Kingdom.
• People from the UK, for example, can use time spent in the UK (UK National Insurance payments) to qualify for New Zealand Superannuation.
• If you’re from one of the countries listed above, you can download a NZ government guide to your eligibility for New Zealand superannuation.
• Superannuation is currently worth $23058.36 gross a year if you’re single or $17458.84 gross for each person in a married/civil union/de facto couple. (Figures for the 2016 – 2017 tax year. Check the lifestyle you’ll be able to afford with your retirement income.)
• Superannuation is part of your taxable income and the amount you are paid will be reduced by the impact of income tax paid at your normal rate.
• New Zealand Superannuation is maintained between 65% and 72.5% of average full-time net earnings.
• By law, you can work to any age you wish to in New Zealand.
• If you qualify for New Zealand Superannuation and work beyond the age of 65, you will receive both your pay and your NZ Superannuation payments.
• Any pension you get from an overseas government will probably be deducted from your NZ superannuation.
• Any pension you get from a former employer overseas will probably be paid in addition to your full NZ Superannuation.
Retiring to New Zealand
There are thirty questions from readers and answers about retiring in New Zealand on this page: Retiring to New Zealand.
Alternatively, there are more recent Qs & As below, where you can also ask a question or leave a comment.