By Enry Cooke
Foreigners keen to invest up to $2.3 billion in New Zealand are unable to get visas because of Covid-19 restrictions, a situation National says is holding back “tens of thousands” of jobs.
A huge amount of cash is promised by applicants for the investor-class visa, which allows foreigners to gain residence in New Zealand if they promise to invest a certain amount of money into the economy.
A similar visa was famously used by US tech billionaire Peter Thiel to gain residency in the country, which he then used to gain citizenship.
Immigration NZ (INZ) currently has just over 400 investor-class visa applications on hand, almost all of them from offshore applicants. Yet it is currently not able to grant visas for those offshore because they do not meet the travel conditions to enter the country.
“While the borders are closed, INZ is legally unable to grant visas to individuals who are unlikely to meet entry requirements due to the current border restrictions,” a spokesperson for INZ said.
“This has had an impact on the processing of visa applications from individuals offshore, including the processing of investor-category visa applications from individuals outside of New Zealand.
“However, INZ has continued to process visa applications from individuals who are already in New Zealand.”
Those offshore included 158 individuals applying for Investor Class 1 visa, who are promising to invest $10 million in the New Zealand economy, and 240 applying for Investor Class 2 visas, who promise to invest $3m in the New Zealand economy.
If all those visas were approved, the promised investment would total $2.3b over the next four years – a large amount for an economy worth roughly $308b.
National Party economic development spokesman Todd McClay said the Government should attempt to get through the visa issues and get the investment into New Zealand, as it could represent “tens of thousands of jobs”.
“The economy needs the investment and we need the jobs to be created,” McClay said.
“If they can get the isolation system to work properly, there’s no reason why a qualifying investor couldn’t get a place – if they’re coming here to invest and create real jobs for New Zealanders, and if they can pay for their quarantined and show they don’t have Covid-19.”
McClay pointed to figures showing there were more than 1000 empty rooms in managed isolation in recent days.
Business NZ’s Rachel Simpson said New Zealand was “not out of the woods” from the economic problems from Covid-19, and the investment was sorely needed.
“Being able to bring productive investment into New Zealand would create more jobs for New Zealanders.”
She said there was a risk the applicants would end up taking their money elsewhere.