omg the border is opening 2

4 February 2022

New Zealand's border reopening: the 5-stage process

This article has been updated to reflect the most recent changes to the scheduled border reopening dates, announced by the Government on 16 March 2022.


At the end of 2021, the government announced a 3-step process for travellers to enter New Zealand without going into MIQ, beginning in January 2022 with New Zealand citizens and residents arriving from Australia. This has been delayed by the global surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, however with New Zealand’s high vaccination rate and the window for receiving a booster vaccine now reduced to 3 months, the government has committed to opening the border in 5 stages throughout 2022 while continuing to manage the risk of COVID outbreaks.


The 5-stage process is as follows:


Stage 1

from Sunday 27 February 2022, 11:59pm.

  • New Zealand citizens and residents and anyone who is eligible to come to New Zealand under the current border settings (including anyone who meets the criteria for a border exception), travelling from Australia, can return from this date.


Stage 2

from Friday 4 March 2022, 11:59pm.

  • New Zealand citizens and residents and anyone who is eligible to come to New Zealand under the current border settings (including anyone who meets the criteria for a border exception), travelling from anywhere else in the world, can return from this date.

from Sunday 13 March 2022, 11:59pm.

  • The criteria for border exceptions for "Other Critical Workers" has been expanded. This border exception class is now open to all workers who have a role in New Zealand that is longer than 6 months, in which they will earn at least 1.5 times the median salary (ie $84,240 per annum or more). Applicants will no longer need to demonstrate that their skills are not readily obtainable in New Zealand.
  • Applications for Working Holiday visas reopen. This is a staggered re-opening, with different countries' schemes being opened gradually between 13 March and 13 September. INZ has published a table showing the dates each scheme reopens, which can be viewed at this page.


Stage 3

from Tuesday 12 April 2022, 11:59pm.

  • Everyone who holds a valid work or student visa will be able to return to New Zealand from this date. This includes those currently in New Zealand, who wish to travel offshore and come back.
  • Australian citizens and permanent residents arriving from anywhere in the world can also travel to New Zealand from this date.
  • Up to 5000 international students will be able to enter New Zealand to study for semester two. The details and eligibility criteria are to be determined by the Ministers of Education and Immigration and will be published in due course.
  • New border exception classes will be considered, so as to allow entry to seasonal workers and critical workers who do not earn 1.5x the median wage.
  • Professional sports players and team members, and performers and support crew for cultural events with significant national or regional benefits, will also be able to travel.

from Sunday 1 May 2022, 11:59pm.

  • The border will open to visitors from visa-waiver countries, and visitors from other countries who already hold valid visitor visas.


Stage 4

from July 2022:

  • The new Accredited Employer Work Visa will open for applications on 4 July. Applications for this visa type will be able to be lodged from offshore, and border exceptions for skilled workers and healthcare workers will be phased out. This visa type is only open to roles that pay more than the median wage. Applicants who meet all the criteria will be granted work visas that will allow them to travel here.


Stage 5

October 2022.

  • The border will fully reopen to visitors from anywhere in the world.
  • All visa categories will reopen, and normal processing will resume.



MIQ will remain for travellers identified as high-risk, including non-New Zealand citizens who are not vaccinated.


While eligible returnees will not be required to stay in MIQ, they will be required to undertake rapid antigen tests on days 0/1 and 5/6 and report the results. If a traveller tests positive, they will need to undertake a PCR test, and isolate in accordance with the requirements in place for positive COVID-19 cases.


These announcements will come as welcome news to those who have been offshore for the past 2 years with no firm idea on when they will be able to come back, as well as to Kiwi businesses who rely on migrants to fill genuine vacancies in their workforces. While many will be cautious about making travel plans given that previous border opening plans have been scrapped due to concerns about new COVID variants, the government has made clear that there is no intention to postpone these dates and thus far the only changes made have been to bring dates forward. Provided New Zealand's COVID cases remain at a manageable level, the country is set to be fully open to the rest of the world before the end of this year.