Rules eased for rich migrants

03:09, Aug 04 2009

Rich immigrants are to face fewer hurdles under new rules that slash the amount they have to invest and relax the existing English language test.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said yesterday that the changes were designed to attract business people after a dropoff since 2005 "due to unrealistic investment expectations and English language requirements".

Under a new "investor plus" category, immigrants who invested $10 million for three years would not be required to have business experience or speak English.

Under the previous equivalent rules, they were required to invest $20m for four years and have four years' business experience, though they did not have to meet an English language standard.

There will be no cap on the number who can qualify for residency in the $10m category.

The rules for other categories have also been relaxed.

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A new "investor" category will require investment of $1.5m for four years, down from $2.5m previously. The English language test has also been eased from level five, defined as: "copes with overall meaning in most situations", to level three, which requires them to "convey and understand only general meaning in familiar situations".

Under an "entrepreneur plus" category, residency would be granted to those who invested $500,000 and created at least three fulltime jobs.

Dr Coleman said the rules needed to be relaxed to make New Zealand more attractive for business and entrepreneurial migrants.

Since 2007, only 23 people had qualified under the business migration policy. There had been only three successful applicants in the $20m category.

Funds under the scheme must be invested in government bonds, bonds issued by New Zealand firms or shares in New Zealand firms, including managed funds.

Those qualifying would be monitored to ensure money was not just deposited in banks or spent on residential property. Their residence permit could be revoked if they failed to meet requirements.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said the looser English language requirements were "stupid".

"A lot of difficulties arise because of that. I think people should have a basic speaking knowledge of English and Maori."

Green MP Keith Locke said it was "immoral and unfair to allow someone to buy their way into residence and then citizenship just because they have $10 million in their pocket".

It was also unfair to skilled migrants who had other hurdles.

"They are being discriminated against. It's not going to benefit our nation to reward, in that way, people who have money and perhaps nothing else."

But Ocean Partners investment management specialist Tim Howe said attracting migrant investment was a competitive process.

"While New Zealand heads off most of the competition from a quality of life perspective, these changes will assist to competitively position the country to the migrant investor."

Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee said Prime Minister John Key's Jobs Summit had identified attracting business migrants as a high priority.

The Dominion Post