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15 December 2021

Immigration policy updates - Throw out the rule book - 2022 set to be another year of change

2021 has seen an unprecedented number of changes to immigration instructions and policy and as we now turn our focus to 2022 and the re-opening of the New Zealand borders, we have summarised some key recent changes that may affect your position. As always, for specific advice on your particular position please contact one of the team.


New visa options for dependants included in a 2021 Residence Application

With the launch of the 2021 Resident Visa category, INZ recognised the limbo many families have been in while waiting for earlier residence applications to be decided - particularly for included children who had finished school but who couldn’t afford to undertake tertiary study, and couldn't work for fear of jeopardising their eligibility for residence as a dependent child.


INZ has now taken further steps to address this, with two changes to temporary visa policy for those dependants.


The first is that any such dependants who are over 18 and hold a visitor visa, and who are included in a 2021 Resident visa application, can apply for a variation of conditions on their visitor visa to allow them to work up to 20 hours per week.


The second is that INZ has recently extended the definition of a “domestic tertiary student” for the 2022 and 2023 academic years to include dependent children included in a 2021 Resident visa application.


This means that effective from 1 January 2022, dependent children will be eligible to apply for a domestic student visa to study at a tertiary level provided they are:


- Residing in New Zealand; and

- 25 years of age or under as at 1 January 2022; and

- Their parent is eligible to apply for a 2021 Resident Visa


The duration of this visa is limited to the earlier of either the expiry date of the eligible parent’s visa, or 31 December 2023.


We are still waiting on specific details for this one-off student category however INZ has indicated they will be providing clarification shortly.


For further detail in the interim please see this page from the Ministry of Education. 


Update on processing of offshore residence applications

The High Court in a recent case, has found that INZ was wrong in their decision to stop processing offshore visa applications due to the pandemic, and on the basis of that finding INZ has decided that all offshore residence applications submitted prior to the border closure on 20 March 2020 will now resume processing.


From 8 December, holders of resident visas who have not been able to enter New Zealand and “activate” their resident visas, will now be able to enter New Zealand provided their travel conditions remain valid.


Those granted a visa under the 2021 Resident Visa category will also be able to travel to New Zealand if they are granted their visa while overseas.


At present, persons captured by this update will still have to secure a spot in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (“MIQ”), however, the New Zealand Government has indicated that in 2022 eligible persons may be able to bypass MIQ requirements as the nation looks to open its borders in staggered stages. For further information on the Government’s plan to reopen the New Zealand please see our recent article.


Changes to humanitarian border exception

On 29 November 2021 INZ narrowed the scope of what it considers humanitarian grounds for obtaining a critical purpose visa. The option has been reworded as the “compassionate entry border exception category”, and covers compassionate entry for familial reasons and compassionate entry for medical treatment.


Familial Reasons

The test for compassionate entry on the basis of familial reasons is set high; being, whether a close personal connection in New Zealand is at risk of significant harm justifying the need for a person to travel to New Zealand to lend support. In considering whether such circumstances exist, the following relevant factors may be considered:


- The proximity of the relationship

- Whether the circumstances involve extraordinary family trauma, or provision of support for a minor

- Whether the applicant’s close personal connection in New Zealand has any alternative supporting options

- Whether New Zealand is their primary place of residence, and their period of absence from New Zealand


As such, it is clear that this is an exceptionally high threshold to reach, and INZ have made it clear that COVID-19 related separation of family members will not satisfy the test. An example of a situation that would satisfy the test is where the closest relative of an orphaned child needs to travel to New Zealand to support the child temporarily, due to a lack of New Zealand-based alternatives.


Medical Treatment

In essence, the test for this category is whether the medical treatment in question could be obtained outside of New Zealand. Where an applicant can reasonably delay, or otherwise obtain such treatment outside of New Zealand, an exception will not be granted. Any such case must receive the express support of the Ministry of Health or a District Health Board.


What is clear is that this change will significantly limit the prospect of obtaining entry to New Zealand for humanitarian reasons, and individuals who were hoping to make such a case may now have to wait until a wider opening of the borders occurs in the second quarter of 2022.


Employer Assisted Work Visa Policy update

July 2022 will finally see the launch of the new employer assisted work visa framework, to replace the majority of existing work visa streams. However we are going to provide the latest update on that in a separate article which will be published shortly. 


For more information or feedback on how these changes may impact your immigration please contact us  or complete our free initial assessment.


Disclaimer: The information provided in the article is not intended as legal advice and is of a general nature. Each case turns upon its own facts and it is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.