Prospective investors hoping to get into New Zealand on the minimum sum of NZ$1 million will now have to double that figure following major changes to the Investor Category.

Under the new rules, announced by immigration minister Paul Swain, applicants for the Investor Category visa will have to submit an Expression of Interest, similar to the Skilled Migrant Category. This way the Labour Department can select the best candidates, says Swain.

The change includes raising the minimum investment to NZ$2 million (about ?782,000). Like the Skilled Migrant Category, applicants must submit an Expression of Interest to become eligible to apply for a visa.

Moreover, invested funds will now be treated differently:

Funds will be transferred to a New Zealand bank account in the applicant?s name for verification;

Funds will then be transferred to the government to invest in infrastructure projects for five years;

At the end of this period, applicants will receive their money back plus interest based on the rate of inflation. Half of the funds can be withdrawn after two years and transferred to another government-approved investment.

Applicants must be 54 years or younger, with at least five years? business experience, and willing to make New Zealand their main home by the end of the investment period.

The changes come into affect on 4th July, when the old category closes: any applications already made will be considered under the old policy.