Wealthy overseas business owners and investors will have to invest at least $3 million in New Zealand from May next year under changes announced by Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.

Applicants seeking the visa under the investor 2 category must currently invest $1.5 million in NZ over four years and hold $1 million in settlement funds. The visas were launched in 2009, and the government says it has led to $2.9 billion being invested in the country, and $2.1 billion in funds committed.

However, Woodhouse said around two-thirds of this money was invested in bonds.

"The government believes there is an opportunity to rebalance this towards growth-orientated investments. That is why we are making changes to increase the amount and performance of investment while better recognising the non-financial contribution of migrant investors," he said.


As well as doubling the investment required for the visa, the overhaul will remove the need for investors to have $1 million in settlement funds, with growth investments rewarded with bonus points, priority processing and a financial discount.

The annual cap on investor migrant visas will also be lifted to 400 from 300.

In October, the government cut the cap on residency visas granted by 5,000 to a range of 85,000-95,000 over two years, with net migration continuing to run at record levels, partly due to New Zealanders returning home from abroad. Figures from Australia on Wednesday showed the economy contracted for the first time since 2011, suggesting net migration was likely to continue to remain high as fewer kiwis seek work across the Tasman.