Five wealthy foreigners moved to New Zealand while the country's borders were closed, and were then granted residency to invest a combined $36 million.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) figures released to RNZ show the people were given border exemptions to enter the country before being granted residency under investor visas.

That was despite hundreds more hopeful offshore investors - estimated to be worth $2 billion - having their own residency applications held up at the border.

With the country's borders closed to foreigners, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) can only process investor residency visas for those already here.

INZ figures showed there were 402 investor visa category residency applications approved that could not be processed until the people arrived in New Zealand, while 54 were granted to applicants already here.

In a statement, INZ general manager for border and visa operations Nicola Hogg said the five approved for residencies - and their 14 associates - had travelled to New Zealand on other critical worker visas before having their applications for residency approved.

Other critical worker requests can only be made by New Zealand employers.

Hogg said three already had funds invested here and two were at the transfer-of-funds stage - a combined $36m.

INZ anonymised the data of five or fewer individuals to protect their privacy and was unable to provide a further breakdown of the investor category or the type of critical purpose visas received, Hogg said.

Call for an overhaul

One hopeful investor, who RNZ agreed not to name, was unhappy about the delays.

In a statement, they said the two-year wait was disappointing, even factoring in border closures.

"What I can't understand is why the government would turn their back on the potential for a $2 billion infusion into the economy right now."
"Inviting individuals to apply for this type of visa and then expecting them to put their lives on hold for two to three years and ringfence the investment funds is an unjust and unreasonable expectation."

The investor said a complete overhaul of the investor visa programme was required.

The hard-hit tourism industry was also waiting for a boost.

Luxury travel agency Seasonz Travel's managing director Sam Porter has hundreds of clients who are interested in living in New Zealand semi-permanently and travelling the country with money to spend.

"The thing that's frustrating is that it could be done so safely, it's not hard."
"The people on our list coming here are serious investors globally. They invest not just in businesses here and infrastructure but what they're actually looking to do is come here semi-permanently and that means invest in our tourism sector which so badly needs it."

He was advising clients to aim to travel here late next year in the hope the border would re-open by then.

"If you imagine what one high net worth family does living in New Zealand for six months, it's an enormous way to kick start the tourism sector again."

By Amy Williams, RNZ
May 4, 2021

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