Thousands of wealthy foreigners are lining up to move here, just weeks out from the introduction of business migration laws that will grant them residency almost immediately.

Under a new Entrepreneur Plus immigration category - effective on November 30 - entrepreneurial migrants who create at least three fulltime jobs and invest $500,000 in their business will be offered a fast track to residency.

Currently, entrepreneur migrants are issued with a long-term business permit and can apply for residency only after two years.

Although there is no minimum investment capital required, neither is there a guarantee their residency application will be approved.

The new scheme will grant conditional residence virtually as soon as an application is made.

"There is no time requirement that you must have operated your business for to be successful under this category," the Immigration New Zealand website says.

"The Entrepreneur Plus category provides a faster track to residence for migrants who can demonstrate they have been actively participating in business and contributing to New Zealand's economic development."

About 12,000 people have registered their interest in the scheme through the service's website, with 189 looking to invest $1.5 million or more - a total potential investment of at least $283 million.

The service said it has also received formal expressions of interest from 63 potential investors, and 47 had been invited to apply.

The most interest had come from would-be business migrants in the United States, Britain, India, the Philippines and Ireland.

Property development, education, training and tourism were among the most popular areas for potential investment, an Immigration NZ spokesman said.

The Association for Migration and Investment said the Entrepreneur Plus category would provide an incentive to invest more money - and create more employment - as it removed migrants' concerns about the need for future residency applications.

"Previously, the only option available for business applicants was the long-term business visa, which is not a residence visa, and many applicants under this policy sought to minimise their business investment," it said.

But chairwoman Coral Wong believed only a small percentage of the 12,000 would apply. "It's easy to get excited at the numbers, but $500,000 is still a lot of money for migrants to be investing in NZ and there won't be masses who have that amount to spare."

Marco Chan of Hong Kong, who plans to open a restaurant in Auckland, said the offer of "immediate residency" was key to his decision to apply under the new category.

CHANGE OF FORTUNES

PREVIOUS POLICY
Investment capital: None.
Job-creation requirement: None.
Length of time to residency: Available after two years.

NEW POLICY
Investment capital: $500,000.
Job-creation requirement: Minimum three fulltimers.
Length of time to residency: Conditional as soon as requirements met.

EARLY INTEREST
* 12,000 looking to invest at least $500,000.
* 189 want to invest $1.5 million or more.