Good character for residence visas

To get a residence class visa you must be of good character. If you have a criminal history, have provided false or misleading information in a previous visa application, or could be a risk to New Zealand we can decline your application.

Being of good character

Applicants for all visas must meet character requirements. When you apply you must tell us about current issues or activities in your past that may affect how we assess your character when we process your visa application.

Depending on the issue we can:

We may do this if your issue is minor. If a waiver is approved, it means we can still grant you a residence visa if your application meets all our other requirements.

Character issues you must tell us about

You must tell us if you have been involved in criminal or racist activities, or if you have been removed or deported from another country.

Issues preventing us giving you a visa

We can decline your application for a residence visa if you have been:

  • convicted of an offence and were sentenced to a prison term of 5 years or more
  • convicted in the last 10 years of an offence and were sentenced to a term in prison of 12 months or longer
  • prohibited from entering New Zealand, or
  • removed, excluded or deported from any country, including New Zealand.

We may not grant you a residence visa if we have reason to believe you may be:

  • intending to commit an offence in New Zealand you could be sent to prison for
  • a risk to our security
  • a threat to public order
  • a risk to the public interest.

If we decline your visa application

If any of these situations apply to you and you still want to come to New Zealand, you can ask for a special direction. We can grant a visa through a special direction in exceptional circumstances.

Other issues which fail our 'good character' test

You will not normally be granted a residence visa if you have been convicted of an offence:

  • against immigration, citizenship or passport laws in any country
  • that involved violence, prohibited drugs or dishonesty
  • of a sexual nature
  • for dangerous or drunk driving, or driving after taking drugs in the last 5 years
  • that resulted in you being sentenced to prison, or
  • for which you could have been sentenced to 3 months or longer in prison.

You will also not normally be eligible for a residence visa if you have:

  • provided false or misleading information or withheld relevant information in a previous New Zealand visa application, either personally or through an agent
  • provided false or misleading information about someone else's New Zealand visa application
  • made public racist statements or published racist documents, or
  • been a member of a group with objectives or principles based on hostility against groups on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin.

If any of these situations apply to you, we can consider granting you a character waiver. This will depend on:

  • what the nature of the issue is — for example, the significance of the false or misleading information provided
  • how long ago the issue occurred
  • the circumstances surrounding the offence or incident, or
  • your personal circumstances, including your ties to New Zealand and whether your potential contribution to New Zealand will be significant.

What to explain when you apply for a visa

When you apply for a visa, provide:

  • a full explanation of any character issues that you know about, and
  • reasons why you would like a special direction or a character waiver.

If we need more information we will contact you.

False, misleading or withheld information in visa applications

Character issues can delay processing your application

A decision about your application for residence can be deferred for 6 months if:

  • there is an active arrest warrant for you in any country, or
  • your residence application is based on a relationship to a person whose New Zealand residence status is under investigation, or
  • you are under investigation, wanted for questioning, or have been charged with an offence which, if you are convicted, would mean we would decline your application or you would need a character waiver.

If the issue is not resolved within 6 months, we can delay deciding your application for longer.