New border exception for normally resident work visa holders9 Sep 2020

The Government is creating a new border exception category to enable the return of some temporary work visa holders who are overseas and have strong, ongoing links to New Zealand.

The Minister of Immigration, Kris Faafoi, has announced that visa holders, who must have retained their job or business in New Zealand, plus their partners and dependent children, will be able to apply for this exception from early October when the new category opens.

“Many of these visa holders and their families have lived in New Zealand for years and have built lives here with the hope and expectation that they would be able to stay longer-term in New Zealand. It is only fair to let these visa holders return given their long-standing and ongoing connections to this country.

“We are keen to give them certainty and welcome them back to New Zealand,” Kris Faafoi said.

“To date, the Government’s priority has been to facilitate the return of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. Since April more than 40,000 New Zealanders have come home.

“We are now starting to be able to make adjustments to our COVID-impacted immigration settings which will allow a small number of people who, under normal circumstances, had the right to come to New Zealand to do so now.

“That requires balancing the numbers of people returning with the capacity to manage them in isolation facilities so we can keep COVID-19 contained.

“We have the ability to cope with around 7000 people in managed isolation at any one time and those who fit the specific criteria of this new normally resident border exception category are now able to be managed within our system alongside returning citizens and permanent residents.

“In order to manage flows of returnees into Managed Isolation, they will also be expected to use the managed isolation allocation system when it goes live,” Kris Faafoi said.

To be considered for the new border exception and to demonstrate a strong and ongoing connection to New Zealand with realistic prospects of remaining here long-term, visa holders must:

• still hold their job in New Zealand, or continue to operate a business in New Zealand
• hold either a work to residence visa, or an essential skills visa that is not subject to the stand-down period, or an entrepreneur visa
• have departed New Zealand on or after 1 December 2019
• 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
- submitted an application for residence by 31 July 2020
• have held a visa at the time of departing that does not expire before the end of 2020, or, if expiring before that date, have applied for a further visa by 10 August 2020.

The Government is expecting up to 850 visa holders may be eligible for this category and it will monitor numbers.