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On 10 June, the long-awaited KIWI Act came into force. New Zealanders are now eligible for a new category of US trade and investment visas, making things more straightforward for businesses wanting to expand stateside. Kea sat down with US immigration expert and Kiwi expat Rohan McKenzie to get the lowdown on the law.

Kea: What is the KIWI Act and why is it significant?

Rohan: The Knowledgeable Innovators and Worthy Investors (KIWI) Act is a piece of legislation that opens the door to two new classes of trade and investment visas for Kiwis: the E-1 and E-2. These visas make the process of establishing a business in the US easier and provide Kiwis with the opportunity to tap directly into the largest economy in the world.
Although New Zealand has historically had a pretty good relationship with the US, Kiwis have not previously been eligible for the E visa category. The KIWI Act changes this by adding New Zealand to the list of 80+ countries that can benefit from it.  

Kea: Talk us through the E-1 (Treaty Trader) visa.

Rohan: The E-1 visa is designed for businesses that already have an established trade relationship with the US. If this exists, the E-1 visa allows the company to set up a US office and further develop their business from within the States. They can also send an essential employee over to direct and advance their US operations.
The E-1 is a great visa and offers all of the same benefits as the E-2. However, it isn’t as popular because the eligibility requirements are quite strict. The volume of the trade must be considered to be “substantial” and at least 50% of the company’s exports or imports must be to or from the US. In other words, Kiwi companies interested in applying must be able to show that a strong track record of trade already exists with the US. 

Kea: What about the E-2 (Treaty Investor) visa?

Rohan: The E-2 visa is one of the most sought-after non-immigrant visas available, as it enables visa holders to establish a business in the US. It’s an excellent option for Kiwi companies looking to expand into the US by opening an office there, as well as individual entrepreneurs keen on starting new US-based businesses.
The main requirements for the E-2 visa are that the investment must be substantial relative to the type of business being invested in, and that the investment may not be “marginal”. This means that the business must be able to show a present or future capacity to generate a significant economic contribution.
The key to meeting these requirements is including a comprehensive business plan as part of the visa application package. The plan should lay out a five-year economic forecast based on industry standards, incorporate a market analysis, and clearly set out the strategy that the business will use in order to be successful in the US. 

Kea: What are the other benefits of the E-1 and E-2 visas?

Rohan: One of the other benefits of the E visas is that holders can enter the US multiple times over a five-year period without having to apply for a new visa each time. The visas can be renewed indefinitely on a rolling basis provided that the business continues to operate successfully.
Once the E-1 or E-2 company is established in the US, both visas allow essential employees to be transferred from New Zealand to the US company. Essential employees are considered to be those in an executive or managerial capacity, and those possessing essential skills that are critical to the business.
The E-1 and E-2 visas also allow spouses of visa holders to apply for unrestricted work authorisation once they are in the US, and dependent children under the age of 21 can enrol in school. Employment authorisation for spouses is relatively rare and a great added benefit of the E visa.

Kea: How can New Zealanders apply for the E visas?

Rohan: Kiwis can apply for the visas by submitting an online application to the US Consulate in Auckland. A thorough application package and extensive supporting documentation are essential to a successful application, and should be prepared well in advance of submitting the online application. 

Kea: Where can people find out more information?

Rohan: More information can be found on the US Consulate website. There’s also information available on the RGM Law website summarising the key things to know.
If any New Zealand individuals or companies are interested in applying for the E-1 or E-2 visas, we can certainly assist them with preparing the E visa application package. We have assisted many different individuals and companies from all over the world with obtaining both the E-1 and E-2 visas. 


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Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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