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How to Immigrate to New Zealand from the USA

February 14, 2024
Iain MacLeod

If you’re thinking about making the move from the USA to New Zealand, it’s important to get to grips with the local immigration rules. Whether you’re looking for a working holiday or you’re in it for the long haul, New Zealand has a range of visa choices to suit your work plans and even paths to settle down permanently.

Understanding the immigration policy is essential, as New Zealand offers specific visas for individuals with skills that are in demand in the country. American citizens looking to relocate can find comprehensive guidance on the official New Zealand Government’s immigration website. Here, you can access resources on how to apply for different types of visas, whether for visiting, studying, working, or residing in New Zealand. The process typically involves submitting an expression of interest, followed by an application that the New Zealand Immigration Service evaluates to determine eligibility.

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Types of Visas for USA citizens looking to move to NZ

For United States citizens considering a move to New Zealand, a variety of visa options are available that cater to different needs, such as employment, education, and family reunification. It is essential to choose the appropriate visa category when planning to apply for immigration to New Zealand.

Work Visas

Work-to-Residence Visas: These visas are for individuals who have specific skills or work in areas of skill shortage in New Zealand and have a job offer from a New Zealand employer. Applicants can later apply for residence.

Essential Skills Work Visas: Suitable for individuals with a job offer in New Zealand. Employers must prove that no suitable New Zealanders are available for the job.

Green List & Skilled Migrant Programs

Green List & Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa: Applicants with experience in occupations that are on the Green List can obtain a pathway to residency. This can speed up the immigration process and fast track residence status and citizenship.

Student Visas

Student Visas: These are for individuals intending to study full-time in New Zealand for more than three months. A student visa also often allows the holder to work part-time during the academic year and full-time during holidays.

Parent Visas

Parent Retirement Resident Visa: If you have an adult child who is a New Zealand citizen or resident, this visa allows you to live in New Zealand if you have enough lifetime income or significant assets to support yourself. You’ll need to invest in New Zealand and also meet health and character requirements.

Partner Visas

Partner Visas: For individuals who are the partner of a New Zealand citizen or resident, various partnership visas enable them to live and work in New Zealand. They must prove that their relationship is genuine and stable.

moving to nz from the usa

Permanent Residency and Citizenship

To immigrate to New Zealand from the USA, one initially needs to obtain a resident visa. After living in the country with a resident visa for more than two years, an individual can apply for a Permanent Resident Visa.

Eligibility for Permanent Resident Visa:

  • The applicant must have held a resident visa for at least two years.
  • Demonstrated commitment to New Zealand (e.g., through work, investment, or family ties).

Upon receiving Permanent Residency, an individual is granted the right to live indefinitely in New Zealand and may travel to and from the country freely.

Pathway to Citizenship:

Permanent residents can progress to New Zealand citizenship. Major criteria include:

  • Residing in New Zealand for a minimum of five years as a resident.
  • Proving the intention to continue living in New Zealand.

Key Steps:

  1. Obtain a resident visa.
  2. Live in New Zealand for at least two years with the resident visa.
  3. Show commitment to New Zealand and apply for Permanent Resident Visa.
  4. After five years of residency, apply for citizenship.

Eligibility Criteria

When applying for immigration to New Zealand from the USA, applicants must meet stringent eligibility criteria. They include possessing the necessary qualifications or skills, meeting language requirements, and complying with health and character conditions.

Health and Character Requirements

Applicants must demonstrate that they are of good health and character to be granted a visa to work in New Zealand. Here are the specific criteria they must meet:

  • Good Health: Applicants will undergo medical examinations to establish their fitness for entry. They must not pose potential costs or demands on New Zealand’s health services.
  • Good Character: A police clearance certificate is required to support the claim of good character. Applicants with a history of criminal conduct or who pose a security risk may be ineligible.

English Level

All potential residents are required to demonstrate an acceptable level of English language proficiency. Various tests and qualifications can be used as evidence of English language skills, including recognised Competent English language tests.

Application Process

When a US citizen is considering immigration to New Zealand, they must follow a prescribed application process.

The initial step involves completing the relevant application form, which can be sourced from Immigration New Zealand’s official website. Applicants are advised to carefully read the instructions and ensure that all required fields are accurately filled. They should gather all the necessary documentation, such as proof of identity, health and character certificates, and any evidence of job offers or sponsorships if applicable.

The application fee must be paid as per the instructions, and it’s crucial for applicants to be aware of the current processing times to set realistic expectations.

Key Stages in the Process:

  1. Selection of Visa Category: Choose the most suitable visa based on the intended duration and purpose of stay.
  2. Form Completion: Accurately fill out the required application forms, which are accessible online.
  3. Documentation: Prepare and submit all necessary supporting documents with the application.
  4. Application Fee: Pay the fee that corresponds with the chosen visa category.
  5. Submission: Send the application through the advised method, which may include online or postal options.
  6. Follow-Up: Applicants can check the status of their visa application online.

Applicants should be mindful of the possibility that they may need to attend an interview or provide additional information if requested by the immigration officials. False or misleading information can result in a visa denial, so transparency is paramount.

Getting Professional Help from Immigration Advisers

At Immagine Immigration, we specialize in transforming the complex process of moving from the USA to New Zealand into a straightforward and stress-free experience. Our expert team is committed to providing personalized guidance tailored to your unique situation, ensuring your journey to life in New Zealand is executed with expertise and ease.

Your dream of a new start in NZ is our mission. Immagine Immigration offers bespoke advice and support, managing your visa application and settling you into New Zealand’s way of life. Let us navigate the intricacies of immigration for you, making your transition to New Zealand not just a plan, but a reality.

Migrate to New Zealand

IMMagine Immigration offers a range of immigration services, including assistance with Student Visas, Partner Visas, Work Visas, and Citizenship Applications.

Attend a free seminar


Iain MacLeod

Iain has been working as an Immigration Adviser since 1988 and has been running his own practice since 1990. In 1998 he merged his practice with Myer Lipschitz leading to the creation of Protea Pacific Limited which was rebranded in 2008 to IMMagine New Zealand Limited...

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moving to nz from the usa

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