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The Pitfalls of Portability

Extraordinary rule of being ordinarily resident
As lined out on the Portability page, you have to be "ordinarily resident" in New Zealand in order to apply for and receive NZ Super. 

There are relatively clear rules what it means to be ordinarily resident - although they are well hidden on WINZ and MSD pages. 

It happens all the time that people retire in an agreement country* like Australia and then decide to move to a non-agreement country like Germany, France or the USA. The problem is: they have to be ordinarily resident in New Zealand in order to be able to apply for NZ Super to be paid into a non-agreement country. If they do not meet this criterium, no NZ Super will be paid.

We know of a case where WINZ and International Services - intentionally or due to misunderstandings - misled pensioners who had returned to New Zealand from an agreement country* in order to make a permanent move to a non-agreement country. 

The couple were encouraged to buy airplane tickets and present them to WINZ, and told they could leave the country before their NZ Super was approved. The day after their arrival in the new country they received an email from MSD, telling them that their NZ Super payments would stop after 26 weeks because they had not been ordinarily resident in New Zealand when applying for NZ Super.

They had no other choice than to move back to New Zealand in order to become ordinarily resident or they would have needed to live on NZ$ 0 overseas - combined. This is not even possible in a third world country. 

To avoid such drama, we recommend to read closely which requirements have to be fulfilled to be or become ordinarily resident in New Zealand, and at the end we also give you a few tips on how to avoid the worst.

Please read the definition on the WINZ website carefully:


Here is the essential paragraph from the WINZ website:

Ordinarily Resident in New Zealand

"Ordinarily resident in New Zealand means someone who is normally and lawfully in New Zealand and intends to stay here, someone that considers New Zealand to be their home. In deciding if someone is ordinarily resident we [WINZ] look at:

  • your intentions towards New Zealand including your reasons for periods of absence and return
  • the length of time you spend in New Zealand on a continual basis
  • property and asset ownership. Do you own a home or any other large assets in New Zealand?
  • the location of your cash assets: investments and bank accounts
  • whether your income is earned in New Zealand or overseas
  • whether you pay taxes in New Zealand
  • whether you still vote in or are still eligible to vote in New Zealand general elections
  • your commitment to New Zealand such as involvement in the community, clubs or other groups.

All of these factors are considered in relation to each individual’s circumstances. More information may be requested or more questions asked in order to be able to consider each of these points.

Generally, if you leave New Zealand for more than 26 weeks you may not be considered ordinarily resident in New Zealand. If you spend more time outside of New Zealand than inside you are also not considered to be ordinarily resident in New Zealand.

Please note: a person cannot be ordinarily resident in two places at the same time."

More information and definitions

Here is some information on the topic from the LINZ (Land Information NZ) website:

The criteria for "ordinarily resident" on the LINZ website are defined as follows:

"Ordinarily resident is a conjunctive test - you must hold a residence class visa granted under the Immigration Act 2009 and either be domiciled or residing in New Zealand with the intention of residing here indefinitely, having done so for the immediately preceding 12 months.

This means that the holder of a temporary entry class visa or transit visa cannot be ordinarily resident in New Zealand. “Temporary entry class visa” includes a temporary visa (for example a visitor visa, student visa or work visa), a limited visa or interim visa.

A person must be residing in New Zealand, with the intention of residing here indefinitely, and have done so for the immediately preceding 12 months. Section 6(3) of the Overseas Investment Act provides that absence in New Zealand for no more than 183 days in aggregate in the last 12 months (counting presence in New Zealand for part of a day as presence for a whole day) does not prevent a person from satisfying the requirement for residing in New Zealand for the last 12 months."

Conclusion and Tips

As you can see, not only the 12 months period before applying for NZ Super has essential significance but also the intention to stay in New Zealand indefinitely. This means you cannot tell the people at WINZ or International Services that you want to stay in New Zealand for twelve months only, in order to be able to apply for NZ Super, and then leave the country.

Your thoughts are free - and they are none of WINZ's business.

If you have lived in Australia, the Netherlands, Ireland or any other agreement country in retirement, 
  1. move back to New Zealand, live in your own house or rent a house with long-term lease;
  2. show your long-term intent is to retire in New Zealand where you have family bonds, friends and community ties.
  3. After a year or, probably better, after 15 to 18 months, some emergency or contingency requires you to join your son/daughter or other close relative in the non-agreement country of your choice; present something like a doctor’s letter showing you need family care. It is a good enough reason to leave New Zealand if a pensioner can no longer cope on his/her own, is getting frail and needs family to look after him/her.

WINZ don't play nice with you. You do not need to play nice with WINZ.

But the biggest joke of all is that it would save New Zealand money in health and aged care if more old people spent their twilight years overseas and New Zealand just paid them (porportionate/pro rata) NZ Super, according to the Portability rules.





To avoid any confusion about moving overseas permanently and only traveling for more than 26 weeks, best you also read the page Pension and Travel on this website.







* agreement country = a country with which New Zealand has a Social Security Agreement



Interesting text about being ordinarily resident - which will, however, not apply to many people:
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