Business

New Zealand's Global Impact Visa program offers Japan tips for luring global talent

by Masumi Koizumi

Staff Writer

When it comes to attracting global talent, New Zealand, perennially the world’s easiest place to do business, can offer Japan some hints on how to welcome entrepreneurs.

New Zealand, which has topped the World Bank’s annual Ease of Doing Business ranking for four consecutive years, started a program called Global Impact Visa in 2017 that focuses on applicants’ ideas for addressing challenges such as climate change, rather than the typical bureaucratic screening process.

“The Global Impact Visa is the first visa in the world to focus on impact,” said Yoseph Ayele, who works with New Zealand’s government to attract visionary entrepreneurs and investors. “What impact can you create for the world?”

The program, he added, is also “probably the most flexible visa for entrepreneurs.”

Applicants must first be accepted into Ayele’s nonprofit Edmund Hillary Fellowship, which partners with the government.

EHF applicants must have entrepreneurial experience and be willing to contribute to the fellowship community, where members support one another. To be eligible for the visa, they must prove English language proficiency and have 36,000 New Zealand dollars (about ¥2.5 million) in capital.

The visas last three years, and holders have the option of applying for permanent residency after 30 months.

Kazuyo Kanazawa of PKF Shiodome Partners said New Zealand’s visa is interesting in that it is open to a team, not just individuals.

In comparison, it is “extremely difficult” to obtain a business manager visa for two or more co-founders of a new company in Japan, she said.

Ayele, co-founder and CEO of EHF, said New Zealand’s initiative helps prevent up-and-coming entrepreneurs from slipping through the cracks.

Even Tesla’s Elon Musk and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson wouldn’t have qualified for most of today’s visa programs back when they were starting out, he said.

Since Ayele’s program launched, he said its ranks have grown to 208 fellows from 37 nations — including Japan — as of early November. Among them are three who founded SpaceBase, which aims to make space technology accessible to everyone.

Ayele believes visa systems in “pretty much every country” have flaws that may be locking out global talent.

Countries like Japan, he said, “can be a lot more diverse.”