28 July 2006

Investor visa costing New Zealand 'billions'

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The New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment(NZAMI) has called for a change in policy for the Investor Visa category, after revealing current legislation could be costing the country billions.

At its annual conference the association had the chance to address Minister of Immigration David Cunliffe and the National Party's Don Brash, leader of the government opposition.

NZAMI chairman Marcus Beveridge revealed that qualification changes made last year to the Investor Visa had produced a huge drop in new applicants for a category intended to attract skilled business people with capital to invest in New Zealand, and as such provide permanent residence to people who have the attributes to make a positive contribution to New Zealand.

The policy dictates that investor migrants must bring in NZ$6 million, NZ$2 million of which is to be invested with the Government for infrastructure projects for an inflation adjusted return on that money after five years. Previously, investors could put $1 million into any New Zealand investment.

Other restrictions added to the category last year were that applicants would have to be younger than 54 and required at least five years business experience.

Beveridge revealed that as a result only 36 investor visa applications were lodged in the first six month of this year compared with 1,087 in 2002. He estimates investor migrants brought in around $40 million over the last year compared to $1.5 billion in 2002.

As a result, NZAMI believe the country has lost out on many investor migrants who have chosen to do businesses in Australia instead.

At the same conference, the Government underlined its commitment to attracting more migrants to the country.

"There is no question mark about the essential role that immigration will play in New Zealand's future," said Immigration Minister David Cunliffe in his address. "It is crucial. It is a must-have for our economy and communities.

"This Labour-led government understands that a sustainable, well-managed, balanced immigration programme is one of the keys to New Zealand's economic transformation.

"Tourism accounted for 18.5% of export earnings in 2004/05, accounting both directly and indirectly, for 1 in 10 jobs in the New Zealand workforce. While international students contributed to our foreign exchange earnings to the tune of $2 billion dollars in 2004/05.

"And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The contribution of migrants is only going to grow in importance and significance."

Cunliffe outlined the direction his government would take in operating an immigration policy in the future. He identified the need to improve the skills base in the country, secure the borders against unwanted migrants and lastly make sure the immigrants that New Zealand does need settle and integrate into communities.

National leader Don Brash argued that new arrivals should respect and share the values that are upheld by New Zealanders.

He said: "The bedrock values I see as fundamental to New Zealanders are an acceptance of democracy and the rule of law, religious and personal freedom, and legal equality of the sexes. If you don't accept these fundamentals, then New Zealand isn't the place for you.

"Put another way, we should not welcome those who want to live in New Zealand but reject core aspects of New Zealand culture."


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