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Update: New Zealand border begins to re-open

By 15 March 2022No Comments

The second stage of New Zealand’s border reopening came into effect on 14 March 2022. While the morning began with limited information on the operational instructions and policy to support the first stage, this has since been released and many are excited for the change and what for many employers, is the first opportunity they have had to bring skilled talent into New Zealand for almost 2 years.

As a reminder, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on 3 February 2022 that Government Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) would be removed and replaced with self-isolation at home, in 5 distinct stages beginning on 27 February 2022 and finishing with a full reopening of New Zealand to the world by October 2022.

Stage 1
27 February 2022
Fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers such as holders of a Critical Purpose visa arriving from Australia can travel to New Zealand from 11:59pm on Sunday, 27 February 2022 without the need to enter MIQ and without the need to isolate if arriving on or after 11:59pm on Wednesday, 2 March 2022.
Stage 2 (a)
March 2022
From 11:59pm on Friday, 4 March 2022 fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers from all other countries can travel to New Zealand without the need to enter MIQ or isolate.
Stage 2 (b)
March 2022
From 11:59pm on Sunday, 13 March 2022 critical workers earning $40.50/hour or $84,240 per annum and their dependent family can seek a Border Exception to be able to enter New Zealand with no requirement to evidence their skills are not available in New Zealand.
Partners and dependent children of temporary visa holders currently in New Zealand and being paid at least $40.50/hour or $84,240 per annum can also apply for a Border Exception to join their partner or parent in New Zealand (further information below).
Working Holiday schemes reopen on a rolling basis (further information below).
Stage 3
12 April 2022
Up to 5,000 international students will be able to enter New Zealand ahead of Semester 2 from 12 April 2022
Temporary Work and Student Visa holders outside of New Zealand can travel to New Zealand as long as they still meet the conditions of their visa.  Temporary Work and Student Visa holders currently in New Zealand can also travel abroad and return to New Zealand without requiring a Border Exception.
Further changes may be made to Border Exception categories and approved classes of workers.
Stage 4
July 2022
Australian citizens, permanent residents and other travellers from Australia as well as Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) Holders and Visitors from Visa Waiver countries will be able to enter New Zealand without the need to enter MIQ from July 2022 at the latest.  It is possible this date will be moved forward.
AEWV holders are expected to be limited to roles paid above the New Zealand median wage (currently NZD 27/hour).
Stage 5
October 2022
The New Zealand border will reopen in full to all travellers including visitors.

Since the Prime Minister’s announcement, the need for self-isolation for eligible full vaccinated travellers who test negative on arrival has been removed.  MIQ remains for unvaccinated New Zealanders.  Pre-departure Covid-19 testing for all travellers to New Zealand, unless they have a medical exception also continues to be a requirement for entry. An up to date overview of the 5 stages of the border reopening is provided below.

Accessing Critical Workers
From today, employers who have made a permanent or fixed term offer of employment for over 6 months, to an offshore employee with a remuneration of at least $40.50 an hour (or $84,240 per annum based on a 40-hour working week) can apply for a Border Exception to allow that skilled worker to enter New Zealand despite ongoing border restrictions.

Employers are no longer required to demonstrate that the skilled worker’s skills are not readily obtainable in New Zealand. Therefore, labour market testing is no longer required.

Skilled workers who have a Border Exception request approved under these criteria will be invited to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa or Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions. Once the Critical Purpose Visa or Variation has been issued, they are free to travel to New Zealand.  Dependent family can be included in the Border Exception and subsequent Critical Purpose application. Once onshore, individuals may choose to apply for longer term temporary visas to obtain work rights for partners, access to publicly funded health care etc.

It is important to note that Skilled workers travelling to New Zealand under the new Border Exception criteria will not be eligible to apply for Residence under the One-off 2021 Resident Visa category introduced late last year.

Working Holiday Schemes Reopened
Working Holiday Schemes have begun to reopen from today, 14 March 2022, with applications opening from 10am this morning for nationals of the following countries:

Belgium Germany Norway
Canada Ireland Sweden
Denmark Italy United Kingdom
Finland Japan United States of America
France Netherlands


The reopening of Working Holiday schemes is expected to both support employers, especially those in hospitality and the primary sectors who are facing worker shortages and provide a boost to New Zealand’s tourism sector ahead of the reopening of the borders more broadly to tourists later in the year.

In addition, Immigration New Zealand have granted new Working Holiday Visas to approximately 19,500 people who were previously granted a Working Holiday Visa on or after 20 March 2019 but have not been able to enter New Zealand and have not subsequently been granted a new visa under a different category.  Those Working Holiday Visa holders who are offshore and continue to hold valid Working Holiday visas have also been granted an extension to their first entry before date conditions.

These people have been contacted directly by Immigration New Zealand and have until 13 September 2022 to enter New Zealand and validate their visas.

The remaining Working Holiday Schemes will re-open in the following order:

7 April Slovenia 14 July Thailand
20 April Hungary 21 July Turkey
21 April Spain 4 August Vietnam
3 May Slovakia 10 August Croatia
4 May Austria 11 August Peru
10 May Luxembourg 18 August Brazil
11 May Poland 30 August Argentina
17 May Korea 6 September Chile
24 May Latvia 13 September Uruguay
31 May Czech Republic


The demand for these Working Holiday schemes in the face of ongoing global uncertainty remains to be seen but Immigration Minister, Hon. Kris Faafoi has said that New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 and low case numbers and deaths in comparison to the OECD is likely to make New Zealand an attractive place for working holidaymakers to visit.

If you have any questions on the updates provided or would like to discuss how you might support your offshore employees to enter New Zealand, please do not hesitate to contact us.

DISCLAIMER This information is current as of date of publication and subject to change. The information contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It should not be used as legal advice. To the extent permissible by law, Ajuria Lawyers and its associated entities shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, defects or misrepresentations in the information or for any loss or damage suffered by persons who use or rely on such information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Have more specific questions about your visa? Get in touch with Ajuria Lawyers today.

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Author Aidan Kinsella

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