Residency for your parents: what you need to know

On October 12, 2022, Immigration New Zealand announced that the long-awaited parent resident visa would resume processing, meaning that more people will be able to bring their parents to join them here. The first selection round for expression of interests submitted after this date is August 2023.

You’ve done it; your resident visa approval letter has finally arrived. After months (or years) of waiting for your visa to process, after hours spent collating evidence of your skills and education, your relationship with your partner, your identity documents and police certificates, after undertaking medical exams and footing the bill for adviser and application fees, you can finally call yourself a New Zealand resident.

Becoming a New Zealand resident is a huge achievement, but for many migrants it’s not the end goal, but rather the first step in the journey to building a better life for themselves and their (extended) family.

The most frequent inquiry I receive once passing on the good news that my client has secured their residency, is "how can I bring my parents here, too?"

"Family" is defined narrowly by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and excludes people who in many cultures would be considered a key part of the family unit.

When an adult applies for residence in New Zealand, they can include only their partner (if eligible) and dependent children in the application. They cannot include partners that they have not lived with for at least 12 months, children over 25 years old, parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts or uncles, nephews or nieces.

This narrow definition has been a source of continual angst for many New Zealand residents who have moved to New Zealand for a better life, but who have also had to leave their parents behind. As adults, we all worry about our parents getting older and frailer. This concern is amplified for New Zealand migrants, who live in countries apart from parents who may live alone or who have health issues.

And if they’re not worried about their parents’ wellbeing, they are missing their support. Couples with young children struggle to balance the demands of child care and a career without being able to rely on the assistance their parents could offer were they able to live nearby.

For the past six years, the only pathway for parents to secure residency was through the "parent retirement visa". To be eligible for this visa, the parent applicant must invest $1million into an "acceptable" New Zealand investment for four years, have access to an additional $500,000 of settlement funds and receive an annual income of at least $60,000.

Understandably, sourcing these investment funds has proven to be an insurmountable barrier for many potential applicants.

To the relief of many families, the parent resident visa category reopened on October 12 last year, after being frozen since 2016. This visa offers a pathway to residency for parents who cannot "invest" their way into New Zealand, but who instead will rely on the sponsorship of their adult (New Zealand resident or citizen) children.

The first step in applying for a parent resident visa is submitting an expression of interest (EOI) into the pool of other EOIs awaiting selection. If your EOI is selected, you are invited to apply for the visa, at which stage you will need to provide the supporting documentation to demonstrate that you meet the requirements for the visa.

As with most immigration applications, EOI submission will be the first step in a long process INZ is advising a processing time of 46 months and so applicants need to start this process as soon as possible and be planning well ahead.

Everyone who is considering submitting an EOI should have their eligibility assessed now, so that they can take steps (if necessary) to ensure that they meet the criteria for approval — ready for the first round of EOI selections in August 2023.

If your parents don’t have $1.5million handy, this may be their only opportunity to secure residency in New Zealand.


Sarah Caulton is an associate at McMillan & Co, specialising in immigration law.