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  • Bernhard Kreber

New Zealand Resident Visas & Citizenship Explained

Most migrants who move to New Zealand do this because they want to obtain residency, or even become a New Zealand citizen some day in the future.

To obtain residency, migrants must satisfy Immigration New Zealand that they meet the applicable immigration policies for a resident visa. After holding a resident visa for two years, a migrant can apply to Immigration New Zealand for a permanent resident visa. For this they must demonstrate a commitment to New Zealand. Generally, you can show your commitment if you have been in New Zealand as a resident for at least 184 days in each of the two 12-month periods prior to the date you apply for a permanent resident visa. 

Difference Between Resident Visa & Permanent Resident Visa

So, what is the difference between a resident visa and a permanent resident visa? A resident visa holder is entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely. They are also entitled to work and study, and access publicly funded health services. However, a resident visa usually comes with travel conditions, which are valid for a 24-month period from the date the resident visa was issued. If you leave New Zealand and your travel conditions are expired or expire while you are offshore, then you cannot return to New Zealand. The reason for this is that your resident visa expires without valid travel conditions if you are outside of New Zealand. At BK Immigration Law NZ, we advise our clients to apply for new travel conditions if they plan to travel overseas during the time their original travel conditions are due to expire. If you are caught outside of New Zealand without valid travel conditions, then you may be eligible to obtain a second or subsequent resident visa if you still want to live indefinitely in New Zealand.

In contrast, a permanent resident visa gives you the following rights:

  • to travel to New Zealand at any time; and

  • to be granted entry permission:

  • to stay in New Zealand indefinitely

  • to work in New Zealand or in the exclusive economic zone of New Zealand:

  • to study in New Zealand.

Thus, the significant difference between a resident visa and a permanent resident visa is that you have no travel restrictions when you hold a permanent resident visa. You also have access to publicly funded healthcare and can enter the police force. Additionally you can vote in general and local elections unless you live away from New Zealand for more than 12 months.

New Zealand Citizenship Eligibility

To be eligible for the grant of citizenship, an applicant must demonstrate to the New Zealand Government that he/she meets the presence requirements among other conditions. The presence requirements mean that you have been living in New Zealand as a resident visa holder for:

  1. Five years and for a total of 1350 days across the five years; and

  2. At least 240 days in each 12-month period.

 You must also intend to continue living in New Zealand.

As a New Zealand citizen, you have additional rights that are not available to resident and permanent resident visa holders. For example, you can:

  1. Freely enter and live in New Zealand without being subject to New Zealand immigration policies. This means that you cannot be deported from New Zealand even if you commit serious wrongdoings.

  2. Pass on New Zealand citizenship to your children even if they are born overseas.

  3. Hold a New Zealand passport and travel to a wide range of countries without the need to get an entry visa first.

  4. To visit, live and work indefinitely in Australia without the need to apply for a visa first.

  5. Stand for Parliament or local council if you are eligible to vote.

Contact BK Immigration Law if you want to know whether you are eligible for a New Zealand resident visa or citizenship. Dr Bernhard Kreber (LLB, MSC, PHD) specialises in working with migrants, with years of experience and plenty of successful cases.


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