Chinese get 70 per cent of NZ entrepreneur work visas

Chinese migrants make up the vast majority of entrepreneurs who are coming to New Zealand to set up businesses.

A breakdown was provided by Immigration NZ as it prepares to pilot a new type of visa designed to attract “a select few high-impact entrepreneurs” from across the world.

Figures show more than 70 per cent of the 386 people who obtained entrepreneur work visas in the past year were from China.

Fewer than 6 per cent came from the United States and the UK.

The number of entrepeneur work visas granted was down by a third, from 583 the previous year, despite overall net migration hitting an all-time high above 69,000.

Fewer than a quarter of the 1039 entrepreneur work visas granted since the visa was introduced in March 2014 were for the entrepreneurs themselves, with 795 going to their family members.

The Government announced in March that it would pilot a new “global impact visa” which will offer temporary residency to up to 400 budding businesspeople over the next four years, with any family members on top on that cap.

A Cabinet paper said the existing entrepreneur and investor visa schemes were working well but were “not designed to bring in the more innovative, global entrepreneurs needed to support the growth of the New Zealand’s innovation system” and to meet the goals of its Business Growth Agenda.

That was even though the entrepreneur work visa’s usual requirement that applicants have at least $100,000 to invest can be skipped if they start a business in a “high-value sector” such as information technology.

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Immigration area manager Darren Calder said the global impact visas would be designed to bring “innovative, global entrepreneurs from across the world to New Zealand”.

The Cabinet paper said those prospects included younger, less wealthy entrepreneurs who might be “driven to take more risks in innovative business opportunities”, and “start-up founding teams”.

Immigration NZ expected it would start accepting applications from mid-2017, Calder said.

Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the most important question looking at the entrepreneur work visa statistics was not national diversity but how many applicants were “driving transformation”, working in high-growth, high-value sectors, or exporting.

Immigration NZ broadly classifies the types of businesses that migrant entrepreneurs have set up, with the top five categories being undefined “exports”, tourism and accommodation, information technology, retail and agriculture, and then forestry and fishing.


Dean Hall, chief executive of Dunedin games company Rocketwerkz, which has recruited a team of 25 staff from New Zealand and around the world, said the country was “a very attractive destination with everything that is going on in the world”.

But he said some Rocketwerkz staff had faced annoyances migrating here under the separate skilled migrants category.

A “very senior staff member” was asked to provide contact details for people at all the companies that had employed him during the previous 10 years.

“That can be very difficult because you might not have worked at a place for a long time.”

Another candidate was told they had had their application approved after filling out a form online, only to be told the form itself was missing a question and they would have to go through the process again.

“I would rate New Zealand’s visa process second to the United States as the most difficult, time-consuming, makes-no-sense, and generally unpleasant,” Dean said.

“To be fair I think they have been transitioning and we got caught in the middle as they were just bringing in some online systems,” he added. “Once we identify someone as valuable and filling a gap we should make it as straightforward as possible for them to come over.”

Immigration NZ plans to hire a private firm to recommend who should be granted global impact visas, though the department will make the final decisions and carry out its usual health, character and English-language checks.

Source: Stuff