Covid-19 NZ Immigration Update - June 2020

Covid-19 NZ Immigration Update - June 2020

On 12 June 2020, the Minister of Immigration announced a range of measures which will ease the current NZ border restrictions and provide some clarity to employers of essential workers.

Key changes

  • Partners and dependents of NZ citizens and residents are no longer required to travel with their partner if they hold a partnership visa or are ordinarily resident in NZ
  • Two new exemption categories created for long-term and short-term roles to allow key projects to continue and economic needs to be met
  • New exemptions for some maritime vessels, and for diplomats

Officials are working on these new rules and expect these to come into effect by the end of next week. From then, some partners and dependents of New Zealanders previously stuck in limbo will be able to apply for an exemption to travel. However, it is important to note that people who do not currently hold a partnership visa, or who don’t usually live in New Zealand, will still need to be travelling with their partner in order to be granted an exemption.

Other Essential Workers category

In addition, the creation of a new ‘Other Essential Workers’ category will now provide certainty to employers around the criteria for bringing much-needed workers into the country. There is still a very high threshold, so for many employers this will not be the ‘cure-all’ they were hoping for.

The category is aimed at high value workers, for whom a substitute cannot be found in New Zealand within the required timeframe. Employers must also bear the cost of managed isolation for 14 days. There are different criteria depending on the length of the role, as follows:

For a short-term role (less than six months):

  • The worker must have unique experience and technical or specialist skills that are not obtainable in New Zealand, or
  • The work must be significant in terms of a major infrastructure project, or event of national or regional importance, or government approved programme, or in support of a government-to-government agreement, or have significant benefit to the national or regional economy, AND
  • The role must be time critical (eg if the person does not come to New Zealand, the project, work or event will cease or be severely compromised, or significant costs will be incurred).

For a longer-term role (more than six months), the worker must:

  • meet one of the short-term criteria AND
  • earn twice the median salary (as an indicator of high skills), or
  • have a role that is essential for the completion or continuation of science programmes under a government funded or partially government-funded contract, including research and development exchanges and partnerships.
  • have a role that is essential for the delivery or execution of a government approved event, or programme that is of major significance to New Zealand.

While these changes are certainly welcome, many of the estimated 10,000 work visa holders stuck offshore will not be affected and must continue waiting for the government’s decision on their situation. We anticipate further changes to be announced over the coming weeks, as the government works on an immigration strategy for the long-term that achieves the right balance.

If you’d like to discuss whether you or an employee may be eligible under these new criteria, please contact our immigration team.

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