Immigration Update – Current border status and visa policies17 Aug 2020

Last week New Zealand had its first confirmed cases of community transmission in 102 days. As a result, at 12pm on Wednesday 12 August, Auckland moved to Alert Level 3, with the rest of the country shifting to Alert Level 2. On Friday 14 August, the Prime Minister extended the Alert Period for an additional twelve days, with the settings to be reviewed on 21 August. More information about Alert Levels is available on the Government’s COVID-19 information website.

These recent developments are a hard blow for everyone in New Zealand. We are hopeful and confident that we will once again band together to overcome this outbreak. Though, this second wave reiterates that the world will be an unpredictable place for some time to come. Given the contingencies surrounding the global pandemic, uncertainty and anxiety have become a part of daily life. Contributing to this, is the fact that Government policy, including and especially immigration policy, is liable to change at any moment. Below is a summary of the border situation, and New Zealand’s visa policies, as they stand at this point in time.

INZ and other Government agencies are working together

There are 3 workstreams operating to manage entry to New Zealand. The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE – who look after policy and quarantine), the Border (who review the exceptions of entry to NZ) and Immigration New Zealand (INZ – responsible for processing visas). Though each of these workstreams deal with different requests, they are interrelated, and require approval and go-ahead from government officials in order to progress requests.

The Government is aware that circumstances are difficult for migrants and prospective migrants, and INZ has also given assurances that they understand this.

The New Zealand border is closed to non-New Zealanders – but there are some exceptions

The New Zealand border has been closed to all travellers except New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, and diplomats posted in New Zealand, since 11.59 pm Thursday 19 March 2020. The border closure has been a major aspect of New Zealand’s fight against COVID-19.

However, if you have a critical purpose for travel while the border is closed, you may be granted an exception. If you believe you have a critical purpose for travel, which can be for work purposes in very special scenarios, you must submit a request to INZ. Then, you may be invited to apply for a visa or a variation of conditions. If approved, you will be permitted entry.

Critical health workers

Critical health and disability workers are current or new employees who hold a key position required to deliver critical services within the New Zealand health and disability system.

Other critical workers

Other critical workers are ‘high value workers on projects of national or regional significance’. Requests for exceptions in this category are required to detail the specialist, technical, unique skills of the visa applicant, and evidence how these will be relied on to contribute to generating the required economic impact. This impact may be different in different regions.

The criteria for this exception are very high. At this point in time, INZ have received 666 requests, 535 of which have been decided, with only 31% approved. The main industry sectors represented in these approvals are construction, manufacturing, film/TV and sport.


From 10 August 2020, INZ is charging fees for border exception Expressions of Interest (EOIs). The fee to request to enter New Zealand is NZD $45 for each person.

Applying for a visa when offshore

Temporary visa applications from offshore applicants

From 10 August, for a period of 3 months, people outside of New Zealand will not be able to apply for temporary visas. This suspension is in place until a further update is provided, after 10 November 2020.

Permanent Resident visa applications from offshore applicants

INZ is accepting applications for PRV if you are outside New Zealand, but your visa will not be processed until the Border team gives INZ permission to do so.

Applying for a visa when onshore

Temporary work visas

Since 27 July 2020, INZ has ceased to use the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skill levels for work visa applications. It has been replaced by a median-wage threshold, currently set at $25.50 per hour (in accordance with Statistics NZ calculations). Essential Skills Work Visa applicants will be assessed as either:

• at or above the median wage, or
• below the median wage.

The duration of all new low-skilled Essential Skills work visas has been reduced from 12 months to 6 months.

Resident visa applications from onshore applicants

INZ is accepting applications for residence, but Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category Expression of Interest selections are deferred. There are significant processing delays.

If you already have a visa and are onshore

If you hold a work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa with an expiry date between 2 April to 9 July 2020, and you were in New Zealand on April 2, it has been extended to 25 September 2020. Your visa conditions are the same.

Employer-assisted temporary work visas

All existing employer-assisted temporary work visas for people who are in New Zealand and whose visas are due to expire from 10 July to 31 December 2020, are extended by six months.

If you already have a visa and are offshore

If you do not meet any of the exemption criteria for border entry, then you are unable to enter New Zealand, whether or not you hold a valid visa.

If you are onshore and your visa has expired

If you do not have a current visa or are unable to apply for a visa before your current one expires, you are unlawful in New Zealand. You should seek immediate professional advice.

Arriving in New Zealand – Quarantine and Managed Isolation

Every person who arrives in New Zealand must enter either a managed isolation facility (if they have no symptoms), or a quarantine facility (if they have symptoms), for a minimum period of 14 days.

Charges for managed isolation

Temporary visa holders will have to pay fees for managed isolation, unless they left New Zealand on or before 19 March 2020, and were ordinarily resident in New Zealand as of 19 March 2020.

Everyone who is entering on a border exception as a critical worker will have to pay manged isolation fees. Their employers may pay these costs.


$3,100 for the first or only person in the room (whether that is an adult or a child) with $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each additional child (3-17 years old, inclusive) sharing that room, all GST inclusive. There will be no charge for children under the age of 3 if they are staying in a room with another person.

People who are required to pay the managed isolation charge will receive an invoice at the end of their stay in managed isolation and will generally have 90 days to pay unless staying in New Zealand for a shorter period than that. Information about how to pay the charge will be provided on the invoice. People will not have to pay while they are in the managed isolation facility.

There is a dedicated Managed Isolation and Quarantine website managed by MBIE, available here.

Let’s Talk!

There is a lot to take in when it comes to New Zealand’s current immigration policy – too much to cover in one blog post! In these times, the journey to New Zealand is difficult and it can help to have someone lighting the way. If you would like to discuss any of the above, and what it means for your personal immigration journey, don’t hesitate to contact Pathways today to speak with one of our 12 licensed advisers.