Immigration border exemption update

Monday, June 22, 2020

The New Zealand government has recently further clarified the exemption to the border closure for 'other critical workers', along with easing restrictions for partners or dependent children of New Zealand citizens or residents who are currently based offshore.

Individuals will no longer be required to travel with their partner/parent if they hold a relationship-based visa or are ordinarily resident in New Zealand.

In addition, two new exemption categories have been established for ‘other critical workers’ (who are currently offshore) and are able to satisfy that their work is of ‘high value’ to New Zealand and its economy.

Importantly, only employers of affected workers who may meet the criteria can apply on their behalf. Requests from individual workers will not be considered by INZ.

As a result, two new exemption categories are now in play (from 18 June 2020) following the criteria set out below:

Short term positions (for a duration less than six months)

By way of evidence, an employer will need to demonstrate the nominated worker has unique experience and technical or specialist skill that is not obtainable in New Zealand. If this cannot be demonstrated by way of evidence, an employer will need to show that the worker is involved in one of the following:

  • A major infrastructure project.
  • An event of national or regional importance.
  • A government approved programme, or a government-to-government agreement.
  • Something that will have a significant benefit to the national or regional economy.

The role must also be time critical. For example, if the worker is involved in a major infrastructure project, it must be shown that the infrastructure project would be severely impacted by their absence.

In terms of “Major Infrastructure Projects, Government Approved Events, Major Government-Approved Project and Government-to-Government Agreements”  INZ has now released a full list of these here. As employers will note, this is a fairly extensive list.

Long term positions (for a duration more than six months)

To be eligible, the affected worker must meet one of the short-term worker criteria above and in addition, they must also:

  • Have a role that is essential for the completion of a government-funded science program, the delivery or execution of a government approved event, or a role in a programme that is of major significance to New Zealand (such as the America's Cup); or 
  • Earn twice the median salary in New Zealand (approximately $106,000).

An employer of an ‘other critical worker’ applying under this category may also request approval for the partner and dependent children of the ‘other critical worker’ to travel to New Zealand with them, if necessary.

Strict quarantine rules remain for anyone coming into New Zealand. The worker and their family must secure a place in managed isolation or quarantine for 14 days.


At first glance, it does seem that these two new categories will not necessarily be achievable for most of the workforce stuck offshore, given that the bar has been set very high. Nonetheless, it represents a small step in the right direction for the many individuals and businesses affected.

If you, or your employee may be eligible under the 'other critical workers' category or you require advice on how the border restrictions affect your offshore labour requirements, we recommend getting in touch with our immigration team for an assessment today.

For further information please contact a member of our immigration team. 


Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, this is a rapidly changing environment and the information will be subject to change.



Area of expertise

Share this publication