Pathway to recovery from COVID-19: immigration policy updates

Monday, September 28, 2020

Offshore resident visa holders

Changes have been made to enable New Zealand residents who are currently stuck offshore to maintain their residency while border restrictions remain.

This means New Zealand residents who need to travel to New Zealand to activate their visa or those with visas whose travel conditions are about to expire or that expired on or after 20 February 2020 will be issued with a new visa which will be valid for 12 months. Notably, this change does not mean that persons not previously exempt from the border restrictions will now be exempt. They will only be able to travel if they are exempt or receive an exception.

Critical worker border exception changes

Changes effective from 11 September 2020 relate to the slight relaxing of certain criteria and would apply to some applications being made for critical workers. The basis of ‘unique experience and technical skills that are not obtainable in New Zealand’ has changed to ‘technical or specialist skills that are not readily obtainable in New Zealand’. This would be considered to be the case where there are no workers in New Zealand able to fill the role or where the available pool of workers are unavailable to an employer. It is hoped these changes will provide more clarity of the assessment criteria.

Reuniting partners

From early October 2020, changes are being introduced to allow some partners of New Zealand citizens/residents to travel to New Zealand to be with their partner. Currently, partners offshore need to hold a relationship-based visa to come to New Zealand.

Australian citizens or citizens from visa waiver countries who are partners of New Zealand citizens/residents, will be able to lodge an exception request and will also need to prove they are in a genuine and stable relationship. From those who obtain approval, Australian citizens will be issued with a Critical Purpose visitor visa and subsequently a resident visa upon arrival at the border. Citizens from visa waiver countries who obtain an invitation to apply, will need to apply for a Critical Purpose visitor visa which will be valid for six months - for those who wish to stay longer, an application could then be made for a further visa once in New Zealand.

Work visa holders

Approximately 850 visa holders with longstanding links to New Zealand may be set to benefit from a new exception category coming into force from early October 2020. Visa holders who still hold their job in New Zealand or are continuing to operate a business in New Zealand will be able to apply for a border exception.

This category will be open to applicants who have departed from New Zealand on or after 1 December 2019, have lived in New Zealand for a period of at least two years, or at least one year (subject to additional conditions) and held a visa upon departure not expiring prior to the end of 2020 or if the visa expired before then, has applied for another visa by 10 August 2020.

The above changes are associated with the pathway to recovery from COVID-19 and recognises increased capacity in quarantine and managed isolation facilities and also responds to concerns from business who face difficulties in acquiring critical workers.

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.

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