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New Zealand is ranked as one of the best countries in the world to start a business, and many start-up companies and inventions have Kiwi origins. If you also have the heart of an entrepreneur, then you may want to set up your business in a country that fosters that energy. As an expat, it isn’t quite as simple as flying over and getting started – you will need a visa to work in New Zealand, even in a self-employed capacity, but if you have a good idea that will boost the economy, and financial investment, then you will likely be welcome.

Visas for New Zealand

If you are already in New Zealand on a visa that allows self-employed work, you can start your own business and then convert to an Entrepreneur Resident Visa after six months. However, if you’ve been running your business less than two years when you apply, you will have to prove you’ve invested at least NZ$500,000 worth of capital and created a minimum of three New Zealand jobs. This is an indefinite visa.

Experienced business people who want to either purchase an existing New Zealand business, or set up a new business in the country, can apply for the Entrepreneur Work Visa. To qualify for this visa you will need a thorough business plan that is not more than three months old, score at least 120 points on the Entrepreneur Work Visa scale, and make an investment of NZ$100,000. If your business is science or ICT related, or has exceptional innovation or exporting capacity, then the capital requirement can sometimes be waived. This visa gives you an initial 12 month period for the start-up phase of your business, then an additional 24 months after you prove your business is set up and running. After that period, you can go on to apply for the indefinite Entrepreneur Resident Visa if you qualify.

A new visa option for the socially conscious thought-leaders is the Global Impact Visa, which works in association with the Edmund Hillary Fellowship programme. You must first apply and be accepted into the fellowship, then you can apply for the visa. The fellowship has 100 international places per year, and is aimed at entrepreneurs who want to make a difference to New Zealand, and humanity as a whole. The application is thorough and fairly costly at NZ$850.

If accepted, you are required to go to an induction and events throughout your three year fellowship within New Zealand in addition to running your business. In order to get the Global Impact Visa, you must also prove you have NZ$36,000 in funds to support yourself, and a good standard of English is essential. The visa allows you 36 months in the country, but after 30 months you can apply to convert to permanent residency provided you have completed the fellowship programme.

All of these visas allow you to bring partners and dependent children. Children can be up to 19 years old for the Global Impact and Entrepreneur Work Visas and up to 24 for the Entrepreneur Residency Visa. You can apply for all online, and fees will also be required.


Once you have your visa, it is advisable to speak to a lawyer, tax professional, and accountant within New Zealand, and possibly even your country of citizenship, to set everything up correctly. You will need to do things like register your business with the Companies Office and Inland Revenue Department, and see whether you also have any tax obligations in your home country. Procedures can be complicated, especially when in an unfamiliar country.

 Useful link:

Immigration Department - Long Term Business Visa
Companies Office
Edmund Hillary Fellowship

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