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New Zealand helping reunite families & supporting economic recovery with border exceptions

NZ Update, 22 June 2020

The Minister of Immigration has now implemented immigration instructions to give effect to the border exception changes announced last week. The following criteria for exceptions to the border closure is now in effect.

Criteria for partners and dependents:

  • Partners and dependents of New Zealand citizens and residents who have a relationship-based visa or are ordinarily resident in New Zealand will no longer need to be travelling with their NZ family member to be granted a border exception
  • Partners or dependents of a New Zealand citizen or resident who have a relationship-based visa will be able to travel on that visa and will not need to request a border exception
  • Partners or dependents of a New Zealand citizen or resident who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand but do not have a relationship-based visa should request a border exception. If their request is approved, they will then be invited to apply for a visitor visa, another visa that suits their circumstances, or to vary their existing visa to allow them to travel
  • Partners of New Zealand citizens or residents who are not travelling together, are not on a relationship-based visa or are not ordinarily resident in New Zealand will still be subject to the border restrictions, unless they meet another border exception criteria

Criteria for ‘other critical workers’:

A worker coming to New Zealand for a short-term (less than six months) may be considered a critical worker if:

  • the person has unique experience and technical or specialist skills that are not obtainable in New Zealand; or
  • the person is undertaking a time-critical role which is essential for the delivery of an approved major infrastructure project, a government approved event, an approved major government programme, an approved government-to-government agreement or has significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy.

A worker coming to New Zealand for the long-term (more than six months) may be considered a critical worker if they meet one of the short-term criteria above and:

  • will work for at least 30 hours per week and be paid at least twice the median wage ($106080 per year); or
  • has a role that is essential for the completion or continuation of a science programme under a fully or partially government-funded contract, including research and development exchanges and partnerships, and has the support of MBIE’s Science, Innovation and International branch to travel to New Zealand to carry out their work; or
  • is undertaking a role that is essential for the delivery or execution of a government-approved event, a major government-approved programme or an approved major infrastructure project.

A list of approved infrastructure projects is available here.

A list of approved major government programmes, government approved events and government-to-government agreements is available here.

In addition to these lists, guidance from relevant portfolio agencies will continue to be sought to assist in determining the merits of individual workers and (when appropriate) whether the worker’s skills and experience are genuinely unobtainable in New Zealand.

Please note, holding an Essential Skills work visa is not sufficient to qualify as a critical worker.

For more information and advice on applying, contact our New Zealand Immigration Director, Arno Nothnagel at

INZ Update, 12 June 2020

Today the New Zealand Government announced they will implement further border exceptions which will help reunite New Zealand families and support economic recovery without increasing the risk of COVID-19.

The Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway released a joint statement outlining the changes and when the new exceptions would come into force.

Changes include:

  • Removing the need for partners and dependants of NZ citizens and residents to travel together to return home when they have a relationship-based visa or are ordinarily resident in New Zealand
  • Allowing entry of maritime vessels where there is a compelling need
  • Allowing entry for diplomats taking up new posts
  • Introducing short term and long term criteria for Other Essential Workers requests

Changes to partners, essential workers and diplomats will be in effect 18 June 2020.

While the bar for exception remains high to continue to protect New Zealand form the spread of COVID-19, this is an important step towards further reduced border restrictions which we hope to see in coming months. INZ continues to strengthen its processes and criteria for employers who need workers for significant economic activities and to keep projects on time.

In the statement, Ian Lees-Galloway said, “We are working on a longer-term border strategy and we are exploring how we can create an isolation system that could support further opening of New Zealand’s borders, for example for current holders of temporary work visas and international students, while continuing to effectively manage health risks from overseas arrivals,”.

Everyone entering New Zealand will still need to isolate for 14 days. Any employers granted an exception to bring in workers on the ground of exceptions must fund their managed isolation, and will need to work with the Ministry of Health to book spaces in managed isolation or quarantine.

Read the full Government release here.

Contact our New Zealand Director, Arno Nothnagel, directly for more information about how this may impact your situation. Email


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