All the latest visa and immigration news from New Zealand.
To date, New Zealand has only had 2 763 cases of COVID. This is of course due to the country closing its borders early in the pandemic and maintaining strict border restrictions.
Unfortunately, the restrictions also means that it’s impossible for most people from overseas to enter New Zealand.
It is for this reason that Immigration New Zealand now has decided to refund levies and fees for visa applications that cannot be processed and approved.
Eligibility criteria to have your visa application lapsed or returned, and refunded
Immigration New Zealand will mainly refund visitor, students and work visa applications. The following criteria will also apply:
- You applied for a temporary visas from outside New Zealand before 10 August 2020
- Your visa application will lapse and you’ll get a refund.
- You applied for a temporary visa from outside New Zealand after 10 August 2020 when INZ suspended offshore applications
- Immigration New Zealand will return your visa application and you’ll get a refund.
You do not need to do anything if you’re eligible for a refund. You or your representative will get an email from Immigration New Zealand when INZ is processing your refund.
These visa applications and categories do not qualify for lapsing and refunding
INZ will not lapse and refund the following applications:
- Applications made from a COVID-19 quarantine free travel zone where you have notified INZ in writing before 30 June 2021 that you are still in a COVID-19 quarantine free travel zone, and want INZ to process your application
- Applications based on a relationship – partner or dependent children – to a New Zealand citizen, resident class visa holder or temporary visa holder
- Work visa applications under any of the following categories:
- Post-study work
- Work to Residence
- Entrepreneur Work Visa category
- Global Impact Visa categories
- An application for a work visa to arrange the transfer to and investment of funds in New Zealand after your application for residence under the Investor 1 or Investor 2 category has been approved in principle
- Applications based on a relationship – partner or dependent children – to a principal application with a temporary visa application that is listed above
You can decide how to proceed with your application if you’re in New Zealand with an automatically extended temporary visa
Immigration New Zealand is also going to give applicants whose temporary visas were automatically extended by special direction the choice to withdraw or proceed with their visa applications.
If you fall within this group instead and you choose to withdraw your application, you’ll only get a refund for the application fee. You won’t get a refund for the levies on your application.
As with refunds for overseas applicants, INZ will contact all eligible onshore applicants – it is not necessary to contact INZ yourself.
This is how the refund process will work
According to Immigration New Zealand, there are up to 50,000 eligible visa applications in the system!
INZ is going to process all of these refunds in batches, and contact eligible visa applicants, or their representative, via email over the next few months.
- If you submitted and paid for your application online:
- INZ will refund you credit card
- Where a third party such a licensed immigration advisor made payment on your behalf:
- It is your and your representative’s responsibility to arrange reimbursement of the refund. Immigration New Zealand is not able to mediate between you and your representative.
- For payments made more than 12 months ago:
- INZ will contact you to complete a refund form and provide a bank account number for the refund
- For applications submitted through other channels:
- INZ will contact you to obtain payment details
Please note that Immigration New Zealand may ask you to complete a refund request form in some cases.
Please be patient!
Processing these refunds is going to be a monstrous task for INZ! We urge you to be patient if you qualify for a refund.
In the meantime, contact us to if you’d like to see if you qualify for a visa that has a border exception. Our team can also help with immigration to Australia, so ask us about your options if you’d like to explore your options.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced on 3 July that 300 overseas qualified teachers will be able to enter New Zealand under a new class border exception.
Eligible teachers to get invitations from September
The overall outlook in New Zealand for domestic teachers supply remains positive but Early Childhood Education (ECE) services and schools continue to find certain locations and subjects difficult to recruit for.
It is for this reason that Immigration New Zealand decided to create a border exception for teachers. “This will give principals and services additional support, especially for 2022 recruitment, and complement existing teacher supply initiatives”, said Minister Hipkins.
The Ministry of Education will work with the education sector to ensure that the ECE services and schools with the greatest recruitment needs get priority. The Ministry will invite applications for these teachers from September.
The exception may also be open to teachers who worked in New Zealand but who had to leave the country and were unable to return to their job due to border closures.
INZ is also making family reunification possible
Immigration New Zealand is creating a family reunification border exception for the partners and dependent children of teachers who are already in New Zealand on temporary visas. These teachers will be able to request for their family to join them for the duration of their visa.
“A lot of families were separated when border restrictions were put in place to protect New Zealand from COVID-19 and we know this has been hard for them. We’re pleased we’re at last able to reunite teachers with their families”, said Minister Hipkins.
Contact us if you want to apply to teach or join a your teacher partner in New Zealand
Immigration New Zealand is still ironing out the finer details of the border exception but book a consultation with our licensed advisor in the meantime if you want to find out if you’re eligible to teach in New Zealand.
Our team can also help you and any children apply for the appropriate visas to join a partner in New Zealand who’s working there as a teacher.
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InterNations has released the results of their annual Expat Insider survey – and New Zealand did well!
The survey quizzed expats on topics ranging from their financial situation to career prospects, and expats in New Zealand rated the country highly in most categories.
Overall, New Zealand ranked in the top 10.
What expats think of New Zealand
When it comes to life in New Zealand, expats are most impressed with the excellent work-life balance the country offers. A whopping 83% of respondents were generally satisfied compared to 66% globally, and 39% of expats were completely satisfied with their work-life balance.
Expats in New Zealand also feel their jobs are quite secure, with 81% of respondents rating their job security favourably. This is 20% higher than the global average.
Prospects are also good for those looking for a change, with 64% of expat rating the local career opportunities positively. The global average was only 45%!
In terms of remote work, only 62% of respondents said they are able to work from home. For nearly half of these expats the reason is the nature of their work. That is most likely at least partly due to the fact that 26% of the respondents work in the healthcare field.
Keep in mind also that New Zealand managed to rapidly contain the COVID-19 pandemic, so being able to work from home is not such a priority as elsewhere in the world at the moment.
How does the Expat Insider survey work?
For the 2021 Expat Insider survey, 12,240 respondents representing 174 different nationalities and living in 186 countries or territories worldwide were asked to evaluate life abroad.
What factors into the ranking?
The overall ranking of each country was determined by the answers of respondents to questions across four categories:
- Quality of Life – Leisure Options, Personal Happiness, Travel and Transportation, Health and Well-being, Safety and Security, Digital Life, Quality of the Environment
- Ease of Settling – Feeling at Home, Friendliness, Finding Friends, Language
- Personal Finance
- Working Abroad – Career Prospects and Satisfaction, Work and Leisure, Economy and Job Security
Expats also had to answer the question “How satisfied are you with life abroad in general?”
Who responded to the survey?
The Expat Insider survey breaks down the statistics of respondents as follows:
- Gender: 48% female, 52% male
- Relationship status: 63% in a relationship, 37% single
- Family status: 80% without dependent children abroad, 20% with dependent children abroad
- Age: 46.1 years on average
- Level of education: 83% with university degree (2% with no degree, 7% high school graduate, 8% commercial/technical/vocational training)
What countries were in the top 10?
The top 10 countries overall were:
- Costa Rica
- New Zealand
Top findings from the top three countries
Taiwan has always scored highly for both the affordability the quality of local healthcare, among other factors. In 2021, an astounding 96% of respondents in Taiwan rated the quality of medical care positively, and nearly 66% couldn’t be any happier.
Mexico is known for offering expats a hospitable, welcoming and affordable environment. Not only has it landed in the top 5 of each ranking since 2014, but it also lead in the 2021 Ease of Settling Index.
Costa Rica ranked second out of 65 countries in 2017 and then dropped all the way to the 21st position by 2019. Now, it has managed to climb back up again. Similar to Mexico, Cost Rica does particularly well with regard to personal finance and the ease of settling in. The country also impresses expats with its natural environment and great work-life balance.
Want to read the complete Expat Insider survey?
If you want to know more about New Zealand’s performance on the 2021 survey, click here to download it from InterNation’s website.
Immigration New Zealand is continuously amending their visa regulations to help the country bounce back from the economic effects of COVID-19. This month’s changes affect Essential Skill visa holders, dairy farm workers and three short-term work visas.
Changes to Essential Skills visa
Immigration New Zealand has announced three changes to the Essential Skills visa category:
- INZ has increased the duration of new Essential Skills visas for those who are paid below the median wage from 6 months to 12 months. This change applies to all Essential Skills visas granted on or after 10 June 2021.
- From 19 July, Essential Skills visa applications will be assessed using the median hourly wage of NZ$27, in line with the 2020 Statistics New Zealand median wage. This is an annual adjustment, and it’s an increase from the current rate of NZ$25.50.
- The stand-down period for Essential Skills visa holders who are paid below the median wage will be further postponed until July 2022. This stand-down period requires visa holders to leave New Zealand for 12 months after three years before applying for another lower-paid Essential Skills visa.
Border exception for dairy farm workers
Immigration New Zealand is introducing a border exception for three groups of dairy farm workers:
- Dairy herd managers (up to 150)
- Dairy farm workers (up to 50)
- Veterinarians (up to 50)
INZ is still finalising the details but it has committed to providing details as soon as its confirmed.
Extensions for three short-term work visas
INZ has extended the validity of Working Holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employer work visas. INZ is also granting Pacific Recognised Seasonal Employer workers longer stays.
Working Holiday visas
Working Holiday visas that are expiring between 21 June 2021 and 31 December 2021 have been extended a further six months. To qualify for the extension, visa holders must have been in New Zealand on 14 June 2021.
This extension is already legally in effect, and INZ will update visa records in July. Visa holders can use the confirmation email from INZ as proof of their right to work when engaging with prospective employers.
Supplementary Seasonal Employer (SSE) work visas
Supplementary Seasonal Employer (SSE) work visas expiring between 30 June 2021 and 31 December 2021 have been extended for six months.
The extended SSE visas now have open work rights allowing them to work in any sector.
Immigration New Zealand will contact visa holders to confirm their extension. The visa extensions are however already legally in effect, and INZ will update visa records in July.
Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) visa
If you are a Pacific RSE worker who came to New Zealand through the border exception you can apply for a new visa and will be able to stay beyond the normal maximum period.
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Immigration New Zealand announced this week that it’ll allow the immediate family members of some temporary visa holders to travel to and enter New Zealand, starting 30 April. This decision will allow families to reunite after spending many months apart!
Who qualifies for the border exemption?
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has enacted several border exemptions to enable specific groups of people to enter New Zealand.
The latest border exemption will enable the partners and dependent children of temporary visa holders who are still outside of New Zealand and fall within three groups to travel to New Zealand under the border exemption.
The three groups are:
- Partners and dependent children who held – and who continue to hold – a visa for New Zealand but were unable to join their partner or parent in New Zealand before the border closed
- The partners and dependent children of workers employed in critical health services
- The partners and dependent children of highly-skilled workers
1. Partners and dependent children who held a visa before the border closure
To be eligible to enter New Zealand, partners or dependent children outside of New Zealand must:
- hold a current visa based on their relationship to the person in New Zealand.
The partner or parent must:
- be currently in New Zealand, and
- have 12 months or more remaining on their work or student visa when the request to travel is submitted.
2. The partners and dependent children of workers employed in critical health services
To apply for an exemption to travel to New Zealand, you must:
- be the partner or dependent child of a person who is currently in New Zealand on a temporary visa.
The partner or parent must:
- be currently in New Zealand, and
- have a visa specifying they work in an occupation to deliver critical health services in New Zealand, and
- hold a visa that is valid for 12 months or more after the date the request to travel is submitted.
You’ll get an invite to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor visa if your request is successful. Your visa application must include evidence of your relationship with the primary visa holder. For example:
- Any supporting documentation demonstrating your partnership
- Evidence that your partner supports your travel to New Zealand
- Any other evidence showing a commitment to a shared life
3. The partners and dependent children of highly-skilled workers
You’ll be eligible to apply for an exemption to the border restrictions if you are:
- the partner or dependent child of a person who is currently in New Zealand on a temporary visa.
The partner or parent must:
- be currently in New Zealand, and
- earn at least twice the median salary, which is NZD106,080 per year at the moment
- hold a visa that is valid for 12 months or more after the date the request to travel is submitted
The person in New Zealand must also meet one or more of the following requirements:
- They have unique experience and technical or specialist skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand
- They have a role essential for the completion or continuation of a science programme under a government-funded or partially government-funded contract, including research and development exchanges and partnerships, and have the support of the Science, Innovation and International Branch at MBIE to carry out this work
- A role essential for the delivery or execution of one of the following:
- An approved major infrastructure project or a government-approved event, or a major government-approved programme
- An approved government-to-government agreement
- Work with a significantly wider benefit to the national or regional economy
If your request is successful, you’ll get an invite to apply for a Critical Purpose Travel visa. Your visa application must provide evidence of your relationship with the visa holder in New Zealand. This evidence could be, for example:
- A description of your partnership, including details of any previously shared living arrangements
- Travel movements of you and your partner
- Any other evidence showing a commitment to a shared life
How do you request to travel?
To request to travel to New Zealand, you must submit an Expression of Interest. If INZ agrees that you have a critical purpose to travel to New Zealand, i.e. that you meet the requirements of the border exemption, you’ll get an invitation to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa.
How long does INZ take to process requests to travel?
INZ has published on their website that they aim to respond to requests within five working days. However, it may take longer depending on the volume and complexity of the requests INZ receives.
Can Intergate Emigration help me with my application?
Our team can assist you if you’re the partner or dependent child of a critical health worker or a highly skilled worker. You can reach us at +27 (0) 21 424 2460 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our licensed advisors have helped many people apply for travel exemptions over the past year, so you can rest assured that you’re in good hands.
The New Zealand Government has removed the start date criteria from the border exemption for critical health workers. Medical professionals in New Zealand welcomed this decision.
What does this mean for health workers?
New Zealand has border restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There are some exemptions, though. The border exemption for critical health workers is one.
The exemption allows eligible candidates from overseas to enter New Zealand to work. However, this exemption had a start date requirement. The requirement meant that new, approved employees had to start working for their New Zealand employer on or before 31 March 2021.
Now there is no start date requirement for critical health workers, which means the border exemption is indefinite.
Please note, though, that health workers still must meet all of the other border exemption requirements. Start dates are also still dependent on the availability of places in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
What type of health workers are eligible?
The removal of the start date criteria applies to the likes of:
- Registered health practitioners, including nurses, doctors and paramedics – this includes those working in hospitals, practices, and aged care facilities
- Internationally-qualified nurses, who still have to register in New Zealand
- Workers that operate and maintain medical equipment
Please see the complete list of occupations on Immigration New Zealand under the Critical Health Workers heading. If you see your occupation, book a consultation call to find out if you’re eligible for a work visa.
Why was there an expiry date on the border exemption in the first place?
The border exemption for critical health workers was one of the first exemptions Immigration New Zealand put in place. The expiry dates allowed Immigration New Zealand to review the exemption to ensure it was still required and that it was attracting the workers New Zealand’s health care system needs.
This is what the healthcare sector had to say
New Zealand Rural General Practice Network Chief Executive Dr. Grant Davidson welcomed Immigration New Zealand’s decision.
“Many of our rural practices rely on international doctors being able to enter the country to support their communities. About one-third of practices in rural areas have long-term vacancies and there aren’t enough doctors in New Zealand to fill these spots”, Davidson said. He continued, “Border restrictions have been disrupting our placement of essential health workers in jobs beyond March 2021. We are pleased this barrier has been removed.”
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners also praised Immigration New Zealand for their decision.
College President Dr. Samantha Murton said, “This is a major win for our GP clinics across New Zealand who are struggling to recruit enough doctors. Now with greater certainty at the border, general practices can attract overseas-trained doctors – and get them here, meaning more patients seen by a doctor and releasing some of the tension on other struggling GPs.”
Stay up to date with other COVID-19 related changes
New Zealand announced that it’ll close its South African offices by March. Immigration New Zealand also extended visitor visas by two months for some visa holders.
Extensions of New Zealand visitor visas
On 19 February, Immigration New Zealand extended the visitor visas of visa holders who are in the country and whose visas expire between 19 February and 31 March 2021 by two months from the date of expiry.
This extension by INZ is valid even though the new expiry dates are not yet visible on the visas. The new expiry dates will be available on the Visa Verification Service after 5 March.
Visa holders would have to apply for new visas to extend their stay past the new expiry date.
Please note: This visitor visa extension does not apply to COVID-19 short-term visitor visas.
Maximum stay rule for some visitor visas temporarily waived
People in New Zealand who apply for visitor visas before the end of June 2021 will get a temporary waiver of the maximum stay rule – visitor visa holders can only be in New Zealand for nine months out of an 18 month period. Those who apply will be eligible for a visitor visa for up to six months.
New Zealand’s immigration offices in Pretoria, Mumbai, and Manila to close by March 2021
Immigration New Zealand announced that it will close its offices in Pretoria, Mumbai, and Manila by March.
This decision comes as border restrictions remain in place almost 12 months after first being put in place. The restrictions have meant that incoming visa volumes from people who are offshore have decreased significantly.
Visa application processes – including appointments – will move online as part of the New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority programme.
Deputy Head of INZ Catriona Robinson says that INZ has a responsibility to adapt to the changing environment and ensure we are contributing to New Zealand’s COVID-19 economic recovery.
“As a result, INZ has made the difficult decision to close our offices in Mumbai, Manila, and Pretoria by March 2021 and bring more visa processing onshore,” Catriona Robinson says.
“This is not a decision that we have made lightly. Our staff in these offices have made a significant contribution to INZ and New Zealand. However, these offices have been closed since March 2020, and with no certainty about when visa volumes may return to normal, INZ has had to make some tough decisions.“
Robinson believes that INZ is well-placed to increase its onshore processing capacity.
“The roll-out of new technology functions aims to improve efficiency and resilience throughout INZ, which will help to us to better manage peaks and troughs in visa volumes while giving users of the immigration system a better customer experience,” Robinson says.
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Last year, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) committed itself to processing border exception requests within two working days, except for other critical worker requests which INZ is processing within two weeks.
Due to ongoing border restrictions, the two-day time frame has been placing enormous pressure on INZ staff. Especially since INZ has been getting thousands of requests each month!
It seems likely that border restrictions are going to be in place for some time and the border exception environment is becoming more complex as new exception criteria are introduced.
As a result…
INZ has decided to change the processing time frame for border exception requests to five working days.
The average processing times largely depend on the type of request at the moment. For instance:
- ‘Family of a New Zealand Citizen or Resident’: Two days
- ‘Family of a Temporary Visa Holder’: Two days
- ‘Humanitarian’ category: Two days
‘Ordinarily resident’ exception requests, which are more complex, take longer.
You can find a list of the critical purpose reasons under which you can apply for a border exception on Immigration New Zealand’s website – CRITICAL PURPOSE REASONS TO TRAVEL.
The border restrictions in response to COVID-19 have turned many people’s lives upside-down.
One of the affected groups have been international students who were in their home countries when the borders closed. Unfortunately, these students have been unable to resume their studies thus far.
Thankfully, INZ has now announced that up to 1,000 priority returning degree and post-graduate international students will be able to return to New Zealand from April 2021.
The requirements of this border exception
- You must have already completed some of your study in New Zealand.
- If you enter New Zealand under this exception, you have to apply for and be granted a new study visa in line with immigration requirements. You can include your partner and dependent children, in line with visa requirements.
- If your application is successful, you’ll have to complete standard managed isolation and quarantine:
- You must book your space through the allocation system
- You’re liable for the standard charges of the isolation and quarantine
- Due to the employment pressures as a result of COVID-19 and increased living costs, you’ll have to be able to prove that you have NZ$20,000 per annum to support yourself for the duration of your visa.
Get expert assistance with your study visa application
Get in touch with our team of licensed advisors if you’re one of the 1,000 returning students and you’d like assistance with your visa application.
Our licensed advisors can ensure that you still meet the requirements to apply for a study visa. We’ll also guide you through the preparation of your visa application and submit your application too.
Immigration New Zealand has made a couple of announcements that affect Employer-assisted Visas, Essential Skills Visas and Working Holiday Visas. Get all the details below.
1. Employer-assisted visas expiring from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 will automatically receive a 6-month extension
Employer-assisted visa holders whose visas are going to expire between 1 January and 30 June are sure to welcome the news of extensions for a further 6 months. This extension applies to the following visas:
- Essential Skills Visa
- Work to Residence Visa
- Special and Skilled work visas for China, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam
- Special category work visas for Japanese interpreters and Thai chefs
- Employer-specific work visas granted under section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009
- Fishing Crew Visa
- Religious Worker Visa
- Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa
INZ is also going to extend the visas held by the partners and dependent children of eligible visa holders. All visa holders will get confirmation of the extension from Immigration New Zealand by March 2021.
2. Lower-pad Essential Skills Visa stand-down delayed for 12 months
The introduction of the stand-down period that was announced in July 2020 will be delayed until January 2022.
The stand-down period means that Essential Skills visa holders earning less than the median wage must leave New Zealand after three years for one year before they can return.
3. Working Holiday Visas extended by 6 months
Working Holiday Visas that expire from 21 December 2020 to 30 June 2021 will get a 6-month extension.
INZ will apply varied conditions to allow Working Holiday visa holders to continue in any employment that is not permanent in any sector until the expiry date of their visas. Furthermore, a time limit on total work for one employer will no longer apply.
Working Holiday Visa holders who are eligible for this extension will no longer be transferred to the Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visa when their visa expires.
Migrant workers who are already on an SSE Visa can continue to work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills Visa if they find alternative qualifying work.
INZ is making this allowance because New Zealand is facing labour shortages across many industries at the moment.
4. 2019 Median wage in effect until July 2021
Immigration New Zealand will continue to use the 2019 median wage of NZ$25,50 an hour to determine conditions until at least July 2021, at which point the median wage will raise to NZ$27 an hour.
Immigration New Zealand has advised that any migrants who are unable to meet the conditions of their current visa, including migrants who have lost their jobs, should make arrangements to depart New Zealand or apply for a new visa that best suits their circumstances. This may include applying for a Variation of Conditions.