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Grandparent Visa NZ

February 3, 2022
Iain MacLeod

Parent/grandparent visas – what are they?

With the New Zealand government announcing late last year the resumption of the Parent Category Resident Visa after a six-year hiatus, we are getting a lot of enquiries from people asking how their parents can stay with their adult family in New Zealand while they wait for an outcome on their Resident Visa application.

The question of what the Parent/Grandparent Visa is, and allows, comes up constantly so I thought it opportune to explain how it works, the problems that it solves, and the problems that it doesn’t.

First however a reminder of the broad criteria for a parent or parents to qualify for a Resident Visa. There are two streams.

Parent Retirement Category

A little misnamed in my opinion. Yes, it is for Parents but it needs the word ‘investment’ in it somewhere because it takes money to get in under this pathway.

This policy has been in place for many years and nothing has changed recently. I mention it simply because it has been the only pathway for parents in recent years and should remain, as finances allow, the first choice for those wishing to come and live in New Zealand in the shortest possible time. Qualified parents need at least one adult child ordinarily and permanently resident in New Zealand, there is no ‘pool’ selection system and processing times are closer to 2 years at present. Parent(s) must:

a) have (combined if there are two of them) cash and assets to the value of NZ$1.5 million; and

b) be willing and have the ability to invest $1 million of that $1.5 million in New Zealand for a period of four years in an investment capable of providing a commercial rate of return (cannot be used for example for personal benefit e.g. buying a house, a BMW or a boat); and

c) meet the requirement that in the 12 months preceeding the assessment of their residence application have had a gross income of $60,000 (this is usually the tricky bit)

Parent category

This is the one that resumed recently. There are now two streams:

  1. those who had an Expression of Interest (EOI) sitting in the pool before 11 October 2022; and
  2. A new ballot (lottery) for those who wish to file an EOI after 12 October 2022. Five hundred Resident Visa are going to be set aside annually for this group until those sitting in the pool ((a) above) are selected, invited and their visas finalised one way or the other. They won’t all be approved….

Both groups must have at least one adult child ordinarily and permanently residing in New Zealand and depending on whether there is one parent or two seeking a Resident Visa and whether that child is single or in a relationship determines what the (joint) income must be of those children in order to become eligible sponsor(s). Siblings can combine income as well. The good news on that front is the amount that needs to be earned by the sponsor(s) has been significantly reduced. It’s affordable now for a lot more adult children which is good news.

How long do these resident visas take to process?

It is estimated that those covered by option 1 above will take between four and five years to finalise. That suggests then those in the ballot pool, (option2), where are only 500 visas are available per year until the other stream is cleared out, could take anywhere from a few months to infinity (that is the nature of a lottery). Ballot draws we are told will start later this year.

How can I remain with my adult child(ren) while I wait for my Resident Visa?

There really are only two options.

  1. Standard Visitor (tourist) Visa – any person can apply for and be granted one or more Visitor Visas allowing them to remain in New Zealand for a maximum period of nine months out of any consecutive 18. That nine months could be spent consecutively in New Zealand but then the parent(s) would have to leave the country for another nine months or so. On rare occasions that can be extended to 12 months out of 24.

2. Parent/Grandparent Visa

A Grandparent/ Parent Visa is simply a different kind of temporary Visitor/Tourist Visa but it allows for a longer period of stay. Under this visa, which can only be applied for from outside of New Zealand, the holder can within the 36 months following their date of first landing in New Zealand, spend an aggregate 18 months here. The catch is however no single stay can be longer than six months.

That means in effect a parent could spend six months in New Zealand, fly somewhere for a day, come back to New Zealand, secure another six month stay at the airport, leave at the end of that six months and turn around and come back and six more months will be granted. No problemo.

The “problem” with that is they will have used up the 18 month entitlement by the end of that first  18 months. They would then have to leave New Zealand for the next 18 months (18 + 18 = 36).

What it would mean is in effect over that three years the parent(s) could spend six months in New Zealand, six months out of New Zealand, six months in New Zealand, six months out of New Zealand and then six months in New Zealand and six months out. 

They can keep getting these three year temporary visas indefinitely but the fact they can only be in New Zealand for half the time is problematic for many.

This is often fine for those who have more than one child and they can split their time between New Zealand and that other country their other child(ren) lives in.

The problem it does not solve is that currently Parent Category Resident Visa applications are as I point out above going to take years. The Parent/Grandparent temporary Visitor Visa is only a partial solution. There’s no living with your child(ren) for the whole time you wait for residence.

It does not help those who have one child and where there is a level of financial or emotional dependency. As is often the case, those parents/grandparents have lived for many years if not forever with their adult children. They are often secondary caregivers to their New Zealand based grandchildren. There’s no way round this without Ministerial level intervention (a power delegated to a few senior INZ officials)

I can’t think of a policy that dangles more and delivers less than a Parent/Grandparent Visa. At the time it was introduced many years ago a parent could reasonably expect that their Resident Visa application would take a year to 18 months to process. Then, it provided a neat solution. Now that residence is a multi year process the gloss has come off it.

Given like all those on temporary Visitor/tourist Visas, parents are responsible for their own health needs and income and they get nothing from the New Zealand government (beyond any accident related healthcare which everyone is covered for New Zealand regardless of their immigration status) it is hard to understand why they are limited in the amount of time they can spend with the family in New Zealand. Yet they are.

There is no indication government is going to change this any time soon or in fact that it is even on their radar.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

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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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  1. Hi Iain, For Grandparents Visa, after the aggregate 18months of stay in NZ, can i (son, NZ citizen) apply for visitor visa? Or my parents need to be outside NZ for 18months before i can apply visitor visa for them? i know the wait for parents resident visa is quite long but i would like my parents to stay in NZ longer than 18months, even when flying in and out NZ every 6months would be ok. thank you.

    1. Post


      Generally we do things the other way round….general visitor visa first. That gets them up to 9 months (3 x 3 x 3 months). Then they leave the country. File parent/grandparent visa. Come back for six months then leave for a day and return (repeat, twice) or spend six months in and six months out for three years. By that time if the new government goes through with their proosed new 5year (renewable parent/grandparent) visa they’ll be covered.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Thank you for your response, Iain.
        Just to update you and other members here that i have recently (Feb2024) extended the visitor visa (6months) of my parents and the immigration just given them and extension of 2 months, for total stay of 8months (instead of what we know 9months).
        So, my parents will go back home and i will start to apply grandparents visa for them while they are outside NZ.
        The question i have regarding the grandparents visa is that, after staying in NZ for 18 months (with exits every 6months), do they need to finish the grand parents visa and stay outside NZ for the remaining 18months before I can apply for another Visitor visa for them?

        thanks and regards,

        1. Post


          The short answer to your final question is yes they do. The slightly longer answer is I hope that by the time they’ve had their 18 months there might be the new 5 year option in place the government has proposed.



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