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9 September 2020

Light at the end of the tunnel for New Zealand's stranded migrants as a raft of new policies are announced today


Immigration Minister Hon Kris Faafoi has utilised freshly legislated powers to implement the following new policies, due to launch in early October, to facilitate the re-entry to New Zealand of a sizeable portion of our ‘team of 5 million’ who until now have been prevented from returning to New Zealand.

New Zealand resident class visa holders to have travel conditions extended


NZ residents whose travel conditions are about to expire,  or whose conditions have expired on or after 2 February 2020 will be issued a new visa, or extension, for 12 months.


Individuals will only be able to travel to New Zealand if they are exempt from the current border restrictions or have been granted an exception. Extending travel conditions for these visa holders or issuing a new visa does not mean these individuals are now exempt from the current border restrictions if they were not previously. But the government are now prepared to start making some adjustments to immigration settings to allow a small number of people who under normal circumstances would have the right to come to New Zealand, to know that will still be possible.


New border exception category announced for ‘normally resident’ work visa holders


The Government has also announced that it will create a new border exception category. This new category is intended to facilitate the return of some temporary work visa holders who are overseas, on the proviso that they have strong, ongoing links to New Zealand and realistic prospects of remaining here long-term.


The new category will apply to work visa holders who have retained their job or business in New Zealand, and will extend to include their partners and dependent children.


Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • still hold their job in New Zealand, or continue to operate a business in New Zealand;
  • hold either a work visa granted under Work to Residence or Essential Skills (and not subject to the stand-down period), or an Entrepreneur visa;
  • have departed New Zealand on or after 1 December 2019;
  • have held a visa at the time of departing that does not expire before 31 December 2020, or, if expiring before that date, have applied for a further visa by 10 August 2020, and;
  • have lived in New Zealand for at least two years, or, if living in New Zealand for at least one year, have one of the following:
    • an Entrepreneur work visa and operating a business in New Zealand (and operated it before departing New Zealand);
    • their dependent children with them in New Zealand (for at least six months);
    • parents or adult siblings who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand, and;
    • submitted an application for residence by 31 July 2020


Extension to partners of New Zealand citizens or residents currently unable to travel

Under current border restrictions, partners of New Zealand citizens and residents wanting to enter New Zealand need to have either a relationship-based visa, or be travelling with their New Zealand citizen or resident family member, or be ordinarily resident in New Zealand.


The Government has recognised that a number of partners of New Zealand citizens or residents who would normally not have required a visa to travel to New Zealand prior to the border closure do not meet current criteria in place. Because of this, Australian citizens or citizens of visa waiver countries living outside New Zealand, but who are partners of New Zealand citizens and residents, may be granted an exception to travel to New Zealand.


Partners from visa waiver countries, if granted a border exception, will be invited to apply for a six-month Critical Purpose Visitor visa. Those who then wish to stay longer in New Zealand, can apply for a partnership visa or any other type of visa. This reflects the usual immigration policy for citizens of visa waiver countries.


Update: This policy has now been confirmed to take effect from 5 October 2020.


For more information, or to discuss your eligibility under any of the border exception categories, please contact one of the Saunders & Co Immigration Team.