Expat's Manual

New Zealand is a very beautiful country that is typified by wide-open spaces and vast areas of natural beauty. It has an extremely low population density and thus offers retirees a pleasant environment in which to retire. In addition to the picturesque surroundings, New Zealand is also able to offer a very low crime rate, modern facilities and high levels of health care. It is for this reason that it frequently features highly in worldwide polls of the best places to retire.


Living Expenses

One of the biggest draws for retirees looking to relocate to New Zealand is cost of living and, as a direct result of the strength of the New Zealand Dollar against many other currencies, they can attain a lot more for their money in this location. The economy in New Zealand has grown significantly in recent years and the standard of living on offer is high.

The majority of goods and services are subject to a tax or GST of 15%.One area of consideration to retirees should concern the cost to import goods from home. New Zealand’s location as an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean, coupled with its relatively small population, entails that those who look for food and commodities from their homeland may have to pay up significant amounts of money for the privilege.


Healthcare

New Zealand has a unique healthcare system that is very different from that on offer in other countries. Certain types of healthcare are provided free of charge under the public healthcare system for residents and those who have work permits or temporary residency. Included in such services are prescriptions, basic hospital treatment, x-rays and laboratory tests. Breast scans are also available free to women aged over the age of 50.

Prescriptions and dental care are not available free of charge and one of the most common complaints from expats concerns the excessive prices of these services. You therefore may wish to consider joining a private healthcare insurance scheme.

While the healthcare facilities available in cities are of a high standard, access to adequate healthcare is much more difficult in rural areas and you may find that the nearest hospital is a substantial distance away from where you live. For this reason you should research medial facilities available in any area you are considering moving to, especially if you suffer from any type of medical condition that requires regular care.


Housing

The rental prices throughout New Zealand are relatively low in comparison to those on offer in other developed nations. Prices are at their highest in the city centers and Auckland is the most expensive city in the country in which to live due to a rising population there. Christchurch and Hamilton are slightly cheaper and offer an ideal place for retirees to live due to their proximity to the beautiful New Zealand countryside.

Retirees who are prepared to live in the suburbs will benefit from extremely cheap housing and will also be better placed to enjoy a more peaceful lifestyle away from the city.

Anyone who is interested in purchasing a property in New Zealand could potentially find the market very attractive at the moment. In 2008 property prices in New Zealand fell by 6.8%. This brought the average house price down to approximately 220,000 USD. Further falls in property prices are forecast.


Social and political climate

In June 2009 the Global Peace Index (GPI) compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit for a new thinktank called the Institute for Economics and Peace, revealed that New Zealand was officially the safest place in the world to live. The result was generated as a result of a weighted mix of 23 different criteria, which looked at foreign wars, internal conflicts, human rights, rate of conviction, arms trade and degrees of democracy.

The results of the survey are aligned with traditional views that New Zealand is a very safe place to live and the country repeatedly scores high results in expat polls for low crime rates. However, it is important to note that the rate, frequency and type of crime throughout the country does vary significantly and it is important that you research the location you are intending to live in before you relocate there.


Infrastructure

The transportation system in New Zealand is very convenient and efficient. Public transport services throughout the country are charged at reasonable rates and the facilities are usually up to date and reliable.


New Zealand retirement visa requirements

Although there is currently no official retirement immigration category for New Zealand a new retirement visa policy will be introduced on the 29th March 2010. Two new retirement visas will be available.

1) Parent retirement visa

Available for those who already have family in the country. In order to qualify for the visa, retirees will be required to have at least NZ $1 Million in qualifying investments over a four year period, together with a $500,000 sum for maintenance and an income of at least $60,000 per year. In addition to this, those seeking the paremt visa will need to prove that they have a child already resident in the country, have the balance of their family in New Zealand, and have good health and character.

2) The temporary retirement visa

Will require $750,000 in qualifying investments, together with a $500,000 sum for maintenance and an income of at least $60,000 per year. The visa can be renewed on a bi-annual basis provided that all criteria is met. In order to qualify for the temporary retirement visa applicants also need to be over 65 and must hold comprehensive health insurance for the duration of their permit.

For those who do not qualify for the retirement visas, there are other avenues through which people can retire here, providing that they qualify for residence in one of the alternative immigration categories. Some of the options are outlined below:

  • Skilled Migrant. Many people plan ahead of their retirement and successfully relocate to New Zealand on a skilled migrant visa. They then work for a small number of years before retiring or, in some cases, never work at all.
  • Family Migrant: Under the family category of New Zealand’s visa, people who have lived in New Zealand permanently for over three years can sponsor their siblings, parents or adult children. Sponsored family members will be required to meet a minimum income requirement but this is generally quite low. The process, however, is not entirely straightforward. In order to qualify you are required to show that you have a “centre of gravity” in New Zealand. This means that a larger proportion of your family live in New Zealand than those who do not.
  • Investor Migrant: If you have significant funds to invest in New Zealand you may be able to qualify for a investor visa. In order to do so you will need to have at least $1.5 million NZD to invest if you are under 65 or $10 million NZD if you are over 65.

For full details about the latest visa requirements for retiring in New Zealand please see our guide to living in Auckland. This contains full and up to date details of the visa requirements and application process.

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