On the 3rd of February, the New Zealand Government announced a phased re-opening of the New Zealand borders. The changes will have an impact on both the existing Managed Isolation requirement for arrivals into New Zealand, along with fundamental changes to the current immigration requirements and the Critical Purpose Visa category.
We know how challenging the border closures have been for employers with skills shortages, and existing employees who have been unable to visit family or, in many cases, have their family join them in New Zealand, so this is a very exciting and welcome development. There’s also a lot to consider, so we hope the information below will assist your team in understanding the impacts and start thinking about the next steps
Fully vaccinated travellers who can enter New Zealand based on the current border restrictions will no longer need to secure an allocation in Managed Isolation (MIQ), to enter New Zealand.
Arrivals will instead be required to self-isolate for either 7 or 10 days – the length of self isolation will be contingent on which phase in the Omicron response New Zealand is in at the time of arrival. In phase one (the current phase) 10 days will be required and in phase two this will move to 7 days.
The pre-departure testing requirement (currently within 48 hours of departure) will remain in place. It is important to note that managed Isolation & Quarantine (MIQ) requirements will also remain for the unvaccinated (for those 17 years or over).
The Government have advised that the isolation requirements will be reviewed regularly, these are expected to reduce – but it has not been confirmed how this may look in the later stages. The reopening to visa free tourists may also be brought forward from July.
All arrivals will be provided three rapid antigen tests at the airport, one for use on day 1, and one for use on day 5/6, with one extra for backup.
We’ve outlined the steps and who can travel in more detail below:
Step 1 – Eligible Travellers from Australia will be able to self-isolate
Start date: 11:59 pm on 27 February 2022
This means that fully vaccinated New Zealand Citizens and Resident Visa holders, along with those who hold Critical Purpose Visas, travelling from Australia (having been there for 14 days or more) will be able to enter New Zealand without the need for an MIQ allocation. Quick tip: Australian Citizens would require a Critical Purpose Visa (or an existing/current NZ Residence class visa) to enter, as otherwise do not meet the criteria in this step.
Travellers from Nauru, Tuvalu and American Samoa will also be able to enter from Step 1.
Step 2 – Eligible Travellers from the rest of the world will be able to self-isolate
Start date: 11:59pm on 13 March 2022
This means that fully vaccinated New Zealand Citizens and Resident Visa holders, along with those who hold Critical Purpose Visas, will be able to enter New Zealand without the need for an MIQ allocation.
Travellers from Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Fiji can also enter New Zealand from Step 2.
Immigration Impact in Step 2
The salary criteria for critical workers in roles longer than six months will be reduced to 1.5 times the median wage. The requirement for these workers to demonstrate ‘unique experience and technical or specialist skills that are not readily obtainable in New Zealand’ will also be removed – this will open the Critical Purpose Visa to those who otherwise may not have been eligible – hence it is worth re-considering for any candidates or roles you may have previously discounted.
It’s important to note that new employees entering under these settings will not be eligible for the special 2021 Resident Visa. We have enquired with Immigration NZ as to whether those who still meet the previous settings and enter under Critical Purpose Visa will still be eligible to apply, this has yet to be confirmed and has been escalated.
Working Holiday Schemes will also begin to reopen in this stage.
Step 3 – Current temporary visa holders, international students will be able to enter New Zealand
Start date: 11:59 on 12 April 2022
People who already hold temporary visas and are offshore (provided they still meet relevant visa requirements) and up to 5000 international students selected by the Ministry of Education will be able to enter New Zealand at this stage.
Wider entry for sports and other events will be enabled. Additional and expanded class exceptions for critical workers Earning below 1.5 times the median wage will also be implemented from Step 3. As in step 2, it is worthwhile taking time to reconsider any candidates or roles who were previously ineligible. Note that self-isolation will remain a requirement at this stage.
Step 4 – borders open to Australia, some Visitors & AEWV holders
Start date: July 2022
The borders will open to Australia, visitors from visa waiver countries and Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) holders from July.
This means that Australian Citizens in Australia will be able to enter New Zealand without a Critical Purpose visa. Visitors from visa waiver countries will also be able to enter New Zealand.
At this point, the border exception pathway for critical workers will be phased out as it will no longer be needed with the opening of the new AEWV category. The new Accredited Employer Work Visa will be limited mainly to roles that pay above the median wage.
Workforce class exceptions and other border exceptions will remain in place where needed until wider visa processing resumes.
Step 5 – normal visa processing resumes
Start date: October 2022
What should I start thinking about?
As mentioned above, the extension of the criteria for Critical Workers from step two onward, means it may be possible to fill key roles prior to the continuation of normal processing. It would be a sensible step to review any existing candidates or positions based on these changes.
With the implementation of ‘self-isolation’ it’s very important to ensure that the appropriate duty of care has been undertaken on behalf of your new employees. The first step is sourcing suitable accommodation; not all providers are in a position (or willing) to support those who are self-isolating, so it’s important to work with providers around options in advance.
It is essential to find suitable accommodation with a full kitchen and laundry in the apartment, along with the ability to receive contactless grocery orders. Ensuring that your arrivals are prepared in advance can be vital to their safety and well-being, so providing information around grocery orders well in advance can be very helpful. Some of our clients arranged grocery packages or allowances to support during this period.
It’s also important to consider transport to their final destination – we don’t know whether the guidelines will remain the same at this stage, but will update you once more information is available.
What does this mean for my company & our people?
The changes will allow companies to expand their offshore recruitment efforts and hopefully fill much needed skills gaps. It will allow existing employees to visit family, along with having family visit them in the later stages, which will have an enormous impact on health & wellbeing for many.
As there are several different stages, all with differing implications, it’s important to seek out professional advice for potential new arrivals over this time; our team are always available to support as needed.
For more detailed information about the changes and how they might impact your people, connect with our team of fully licensed advisers by contacting Crown World Mobility at [email protected] or complete a contact form.
This summary was prepared using information obtained from INZ. Information is subject to change without notice.