COMMENT by US Ambassador Scott Brown
If there's one thing my time in Aotearoa has underscored for me is how engaged Kiwis are in the world. Kiwis love to travel. The great OE is almost a rite of passage. New Zealanders travel for pleasure and they travel for business.
Thousands of New Zealanders use our visa waiver programme to visit the United States every year — some to holiday and some for business meetings. Some folks, like students and interns, get issued special visas to spend longer periods in the US, but generally speaking, it can be complicated for New Zealanders to live and work in the US. For business, that's about to change.
Since the day I arrived, New Zealand officials have been rightfully pushing for us to make it easier for Kiwis to trade with the US. The business sector here has been crying out for us to make it easier for them to spend longer periods of time in the US. They've wanted to be able to spend time living there. They've wanted to be able to set up shop there. They've wanted to generate jobs for Kiwis and Americans alike.
Well, we've listened. And as of June 10, New Zealand business owners and NZ citizens essential to those businesses are going to be able to reside and work in the US like never before. Of course there are some criteria to meet, but this new arrangement provides an avenue for New Zealanders to live and work in the US and for Americans to do the same in NZ.
This is different from going on vacation or travelling for a business meeting or conference. There is a real difference between travelling for that type of temporary purpose, and travel where you'll become part of a community.
Once your family enters the US in E visa status, your spouse may apply directly with the Department of Homeland Security for employment authorisation, your kids will go to school with your neighbour's kids. You'll have a favourite mechanic, a local supermarket, get a library card and register your car. Applicants won't just be running a business in the US, they'll become part of US communities, contributing and making personal connections in a way that we believe will do amazing things for the relationship between NZ and the US.
This is very special and significant. This is not available to every country around the world. This took an Act of the US Congress, close consultations between our governments about how the law would be implemented, and President Trump signing a special piece of legislation to make this happen. It all happened within months — which, in bureaucratic terms, is light speed.
As you may know, I spend as much time as I can talking to Kiwis from all walks of life. The other day, I was chatting with executives of a well-known NZ company. They have been following the progress of this legislation and estimate this new way of doing things will save their company millions of dollars a year. Millions. That's money that is now going to be available to grow Kiwi businesses and create new jobs here and in the US.
So what does it all mean? Well, the specifics are posted online, but here are some of the basics:
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• You must be a NZ citizen to use this programme. (Your spouse and dependents don't, but primary applicants must be Kiwis.)
• There are two new kinds of visa — the E1 and the E2.
• For both types the company must qualify and the individual must qualify.
And now as we move forward with what Kiwi business has been asking us for, we have a couple of requests for applicants.
Please dot all your "i"s and cross all your "t"s: This is a very involved visa application. We are going to need a lot of information from applicants. We're talking business plans, banking and financial documents, investment details, details of the existing trade flow between the two countries.
Look carefully at what we need and exactly how we need the info organised. The more time and effort an applicant invests at the beginning of the process in getting organised, the faster we are going to be able to respond. And then the rest of this is dependent on the volume of applications we get.
Which brings me to my second request: Please be patient with us as we get this up and running. If we get the kind of response to this programme that we are expecting, we could see huge demand. The training has been done; we've got the right people in place to launch this programme.
The more practised we get, the faster we'll become and the more responsive we'll be. We're excited and, from June 10, we're good to go!
Scott Brown is the US Ambassador to New Zealand.