Q: I am from South Africa and have a two-year work visa. I have been drawn for residency and have been working for a few months. My employer says I cannot join KiwiSaver until I have residency. My wife, like me, doesn't have residency yet, but works for Just Cuts as a senior stylist and they are already deducting KiwiSaver from her pay.


When are you Kiwi enough to qualify for KiwiSaver? I put that question to Nigel Jackson, Westpac's head of wealth products.

"Your employer is correct," says Jackson. "To join KiwiSaver you must be a New Zealand citizen or entitled to be in New Zealand indefinitely, normally living in New Zealand and below the age of eligibility for NZ Super — 65.

"You can't join KiwiSaver if you're holding a temporary, visitor or work visa or student permit, or living overseas, with limited exceptions," he says.


Generally, anyone eligible who hasn't joined KiwiSaver will be auto-enrolled when they switch jobs. This may have happened when your wife started her job.

Under normal circumstances, KiwiSaver contributions will be sent to one of nine default providers allocated to you by the IRD. Rather than switching to autopilot, you need to make some important decisions.

If you want to remain in KiwiSaver, work out which provider and fund you want to join and how much to take out of your pay: 3 per cent, 4 per cent or 8 per cent of pre-tax earnings. Go to: kiwisaver. govt.nz and sorted.org.nz for more information.

If you don't want to be in KiwiSaver, you need to act quickly. A six-week window kicks off two weeks into your new job. If you haven't opted out after this grace period you may be able to apply for a late opt-out, available in limited circumstances, including being enrolled incorrectly.

This may be an option for your wife but she needs to get in touch as soon as possible with the IRD, which collects contributions from staff and employers.

Again, there is a time limit. She has three months for a late opt-out, from when the IRD received her first contributions. As it sounds like your wife has been enrolled incorrectly, Jackson also recommends contacting her KiwiSaver provider. If a membership is cancelled, the funds are returned to Inland Revenue for distribution to the original source of payment - member, employer and the Government.

"Any investment returns will be paid to the member," says Jackson.

A good source of information for KiwiSavers is the "My KiwiSaver" service offered by the IRD at kiwisaver.govt.nz. You can log in to view contributions, balances and transactions; update your contact details; and apply for a contributions holiday.


My KiwiSaver doesn't include investment earnings and voluntary contributions made directly to your KiwiSaver provider so the balances may differ.