New Zealand trade and investment with the United States is set to receive a welcome boost with both major parties there backing legislation to ease entry for Kiwi business people.

On Wednesday as Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced New Zealand would open a Consulate-General in Hawaii, the island state's Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono introduced legislation to extend trade and investor temporary visas to New Zealanders.

The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Senator for Utah Mike Lee and is supported by former presidential challenger John McCain and another Republican Senator as well as two other Democrats.

New Zealand is one of few significant US trading partners not to enjoy access to E-1 trade and E-2 investment visas.


New Zealand's direct investment in the US was valued at US$6 billion in 2011 and New Zealand-owned firms supported almost 11,000 US jobs, Senator Hirono said.

While business and tourism from New Zealand to Hawaii had increased substantially in recent years, "New Zealand businesses have found that the lack of access to E-1 and E-2 visas has hampered their ability to increase trade and investment in the US".

Ambassador to the US Mike Moore said it was hoped Congress would recognise the mutual benefits of the bill and pass it as quickly as possible.

McCully said the Government regularly heard from businesses, "that the lack of E-1 and E-2 visa access is a significant impediment to doing business and investing in the US".

"This legislation has the potential to significantly increase trade and commerce between our two countries."

US welcome mat out

NZ business people are set to gain access to:

E-1 Visas: Allowing foreign nationals to visit the US to engage in trade such as international banking, technology development or tourism.

E-2 visa: Allowing visits to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested substantial capital.