From March 29 British people hoping to spend some or all of their retirement to New Zealand will be able to apply for residency under a new type of visa.
The “retirement” category is open to those aged 65 and over, and takes the form of either a parent retirement visa – for those with family in the country – or a temporary retirement visa for those who have no existing relationship with New Zealand.
Previous to this, Immigration New Zealand did not have a fixed retirement policy, and did not accept British migrants over the age of 56.
The temporary retirement visa offers a two year permit for British people who wish to spend some of their retirement in New Zealand, provided that they invest in the country.
It requires at least NZ $750,000 (£345,000) in qualifying investments, as well as $500,000 (£230,000) for maintenance, and an annual income of at least $60,000 (£28,000) from pensions and other investments. It can be renewed after two years, provided that settlers continue to meet the criteria.
The parent visa grants permanent residency to applicants who have an equal number or more of their family inside New Zealand than anywhere else. These applicants are however also required to meet financial criteria, as they must offer at least NZ $1 million (£465,000) in qualifying investments over four years, as well as $500,000 for maintenance and an income of at least $60,000 per annum.
Christopher Noakes, a senior consultant for New Zealand immigration consultancy IMMagine, said that the new visa “marked an important change in visa legislation. Previous to this, British people could only really come to New Zealand under working visas, the cut off point of which was just 56.
“However, the amount of people who will take up this opportunity remains to be seen, as the financial requirements the government has imposed are very restrictive. It is unlikely many retired people will be able to find this much money, especially for more than two years.”
There are around 215,000 British expats living in New Zealand, and statistics from New Zealand Department of Labour show that the UK is the largest source country of migrants approved for permanent residency (17 per cent). However, the rate of migration from the UK has fallen during the economic slowdown of the past few years.
British expats living in New Zealand were among those disappointed on March 16th when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that many expatriate British pensioners would not have their frozen pensions indexed to reflect inflation.
Cathrine Burnett, who works for the migration agency Migration Matters, said: “Like Australia and many other countries outside the EU, New Zealand is a place which it difficult for Britons to retire to unless they have substantial wealth. Australia has had a retirement visa in place for quite some time, but financial eligibility requirements for this visa are also quite high, though it is at least for a four year period.
“I would suggest pensioners consider applying for the visitor visa, which allows you to spend six months of the year in New Zealand. I like to describe it as an endless summer – summer in the northern hemisphere, then summer in the southern hemisphere. It doesn’t sound bad to me.”
Lori Hope, 63, is a British expat who moved to New Zealand in her early fifties after the end of a relationship. “I wanted to make a fresh start, and decided to go to New Zealand because it was as far away as I could possibly get. I’d managed a project to help women get back to work after having children in Britain, something that New Zealand had little experience of, and so managed to get a skilled migrant visa. I haven’t looked back. It’s a beautiful country, with a great climate, friendly people and a safe environment.”
There are, however, some disadvantages for older people who are considering moving to the country. “The pension situation is difficult. I used to receive a $1,500 pension a month – with the current exchange rates, it’s about $950. I know people who have sold their houses in Britain, but don’t dare to move the money to a New Zealand bank until the exchange rate improves.”
“Also, it’s such a small country that the economy is less developed, less competitive, and you can’t get some things as cheaply as elsewhere – flights, for example. The Brits miss big shops like Ikea and Marks and Spencers, and even aspects like the quality of journalism can be difficult to get used to – we’ve really only got one paper you could call national, as everything else is regional. However, if you‘re brave enough to go, then I’d say do it. It really can give you a new lease of life.”
Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age Concern and Help the Aged, said: “A large number of UK pensioners currently live overseas, with over nine per cent of UK state pensions being paid abroad. Retiring abroad can be a great experience for many, but clearly living in another country is very different from holidaying there.
“We would encourage anyone thinking about retiring abroad to do their homework first. Thinking ahead about your situation changing and what health and social care services and benefits will be available may help people to avoid potential problems.”
Application forms and guidelines for different types of visa are available from Immigration New Zealand’s official website.