Welcome to the Kiwi Act!

Some positive news from the United States: we are delighted to report that President Trump last month signed the “Knowledgeable Innovators and Worthy Investors Act” or the “KIWI Act”. This Act gives New Zealand “traders and investors” reciprocal access to the USA’s E1 and E2 visa categories for non-immigrants.

Passage of the KIWI Act marks the successful conclusion of a long run NZ campaign for business visa access. It has been a priority for both the NZ Embassy in Washington DC and our sister organisation the NZ US Council, which worked hard to secure this outcome. There had been several failed attempts to get the legislation passed over the last several years – the stumbling block was always that Congress treated the KIWI bill as an immigration issue rather than as a trade issue. It is a huge achievement for NZ Inc to have overcome those concerns and secured the passage of the KIWI Act. It speaks volumes for the high regard in which New Zealand is held in Congress. We congratulate the two Governments, Members of Congress and Ambassadors Tim Groser in Washington and Scott Brown in Wellington.

Attention is now turning to the implementation of the KIWI Act and clarifying the conditions of application in respect of New Zealand. Once the US State Department is satisfied that New Zealand offers reciprocal visa access to US businesspeople then the KIWI Act should go into effect. Most other countries already have access to E1 and E2 visas according to bilateral treaties. In those cases, the E1 visa applies if the volume of trade is sufficient to provide employment for a number of people in the USA and constitutes the majority of the trader’s international trade. The E2 visa applies to investors who have made a significant investment in a US business in which the investor has at least a 50% ownership. The investment must be sufficient to provide employment for a number of people in the United States and must be in an active US business.

Beyond the immediate benefits to kiwi businesses and entrepreneurs in the United States, the KIWI Act shows that progress is still possible with our old friend. In recent months both governments have taken the initiative to re-start the former Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) which was in abeyance while both countries worked on the former Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). TIFA is no substitute for a free trade agreement but it helps to keep the lines of communication open. In today’s increasingly fractured trade world, that can only be a good thing.

This post was prepared by Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director and Fiona Cooper, Associate Director of the NZ International Business Forum. Fiona also served until recently as Executive Director of the NZ US Council and was active in securing this outcome.

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