Only one wealthy foreigner has applied for residency since the government overhauled the rules for investor visas nearly six weeks ago.
By Amy Williams for rnz.co.nz
The Active Investor Plus visa replaced two investor visa categories on 19 September.
Immigration’s general manager of border and visa operations Nicola Hogg said the one application received under the new category was being processed.
“It should be noted that the previous migrant investment categories were low-volume visa categories, which also took time to grow,” she said.
“The new Active Investor Plus category similarly prioritises value over volume.”
Immigration lawyer Simon Laurent said he was surprised there was only one application so far.
“It’s a bit surprising considering we’ve had over a month to get applications in but it’s not totally unexpected owing to the way that this policy has been rolled out and the settings that have been created for it.”
He said the global economic outlook may be putting off potential investors.
“If I was in their shoes I would certainly be a little bit hesitant about committing to an investment programme over four years in total when you don’t know what your own personal financial situation will be or what the world markets will be doing for years from now.”
Laurent also said immigration advisers and their clients may still be coming to grips with the new policy.
He said the difficulty was clients need to choose between three different investment classes – shares, managed funds or a direct investment in a company.
Applicants have to invest at least $15 million over three years or $5m if the funds go directly to a New Zealand business.
Investors also have to spend roughly four months over four years in the country.
“I think it will pick up. The industry has been getting to grips with the policy, which was only released at the same time as the policy opened up,” Laurent said.
“The numbers will creep up but I’m not expecting a great flood. It’s a challenging process and it’s a challenging environment to do it in. This is not the best time to be rolling out an entirely new investment product.”
He had received no direct inquiries about the Active Investor Plus visa since it began.
Govt considered $25m minimum
A Cabinet paper from August showed the government originally planned to set the minimum investment for the Active Investor Plus visa at $25m, which it recognised was “a high threshold by international standards and that investing in active asset classes in an unfamiliar market is risky”.
“We anticipate that uptake of the new Active Investor Plus visa may be lower than the levels of interest that we have been experiencing in the Investor 1 and Investor 2 visa categories as investment in bonds is now only allowed for one year as a part of a transition,” the paper said.
“Uptake is likely to drop initially as a natural reaction to changing visa requirements and the increase in the minimum investment threshold is also likely to reduce the number of applicants.”
Laurent said bringing the investment level down to $15m was the right call, and dropping it further would likely not make a difference to application numbers.