It has been quite confusing for anyone who wants to immigrate to New Zealand when he or she hears "resident visa" and "permanent resident visa". Are they same or different?
Everyone who wants to immigrate to NZ applies for "resident visa" first. None applies for "permanent resident visa" straight. You need to get the resident visa first then when you fulfil some conditions you can apply for the permanent resident visa.
When you are granted a resident visa, you may stay in NZ as long as you want, in fact permanently. The visa does not expire nor need to be renewed. You will have the same rights and privileges as an NZ citizen except for a few exceptions. For example, you can not vote until you live in NZ for at least 12 months. You will not be able to apply for a social benefit for the two years.
As a resident visa holder, you pay the same tax rates as any NZ citizens do. You can buy houses and access to the education system as NZ citizens, so you don't pay international student fee.
Hence when you apply for Skill Migrant Category Resident Visa or Investor 1 or 2 Visa category, when your application is approved, you will be issued with a resident visa. The visa label will be placed on your passport (see below). If your visa is granted off-shore, it will have two important conditions.
The first condition is "First Entry Before" date. It means you and your family members who are included in your visa application must enter NZ at least once before the "First Entry Before" date stated in the label, which would be 12 months after the visa was granted. If you forgot to enter NZ before this important date, your resident visa would lapse. It means you will lose your resident visa entitlement. If your resident visa is granted and issued on-shore, your resident visa label will not have a "First Entry Before" date. It is because you are already in NZ.
The second condition is "Expiry Date Travel". It does not mean your visa will expire after the "Expiry Date Travel". It means your travel conditions will expire on the "Expiry Date Travel". There are cases the travel conditions will expire. If you were granted the resident visa off-shore, it would usually expire after two years from the date of your first arrival. If the resident visa was issued on-shore, two years after your resident visa is granted.
What does it mean by "Travel Condition"?
It gives you the right to enter and exit New Zealand as a resident of New Zealand. If you leave New Zealand and want to return to New Zealand after your travel condition's expired, your entry into NZ could be refused it is because you didn't meet the "travel condition" and your resident visa lapses.
For investor 2 visa category, there will be some additional conditions. For example, you need to apply for Expression of Interest first. When your EOI is selected from the pool, you have 4 months to prepare and submit all the documents. Once all the information matches, you will get "Approval in Principle" which allows you to transfer the investment you indicated in your application to New Zealand within 12 months. When you complete the transfer the fund to NZ, you and your family member who included in the application will get the resident visas.
Permanent Resident Visa
Permanent Resident Visa holders will enjoy the same rights and privileges as Resident Visa holders. However, the main difference is that Permanent Resident Visa's travel condition does not expire (see below). It means you can come and go as you like. You could live overseas for many years and come back and live in New Zealand as NZ citizen.
Regarding being able to live in NZ permanently, the resident visa holders and the permanent resident visa holders enjoy the same rights.
How do you get the Permanent Resident Visa?
For normal resident visa holders, you can apply for a permanent resident visa at the end of the two years of your initial resident visa. However, you will need to meet one of five criteria. The easiest one is you spent 184 days in New Zealand in "each" of the two years from the date you first entered to New Zealand.
This "184 days" does not have to be consecutive and can be broken up and added to make up the "184 days" per each year. For example, if you entered NZ on 1 April 2017, you must spend 184 days in New Zealand between 1/4/2017 and 31/3/2018. And another 184 days from 1/4/2018 to 31/3/2019.
This rule applies differently to the resident visa holders from Investor 2 category. Depending on where you invest the amount, the minimum stay in NZ differs. For example, if you invest the amount in high growth area including new residential property development, you can only spend 438 days over 4 years. It means you can travel to NZ once in the first 2 years to renew your "travel condition" for the next two years. However, you do not need to be in New Zealand for 184 days per year for the 4 years. You can stay out of NZ for 2 years and 9 months and come to New Zealand for the remaining period to make up the 438 days to meet one of the requirements of getting a permanent resident visa. Otherwise, you will need to spend "184 days" per each year for the 4 year period.
The permanent visa holder in this category can apply for NZ citizen after one year of holding the permanent resident visa.