Immigration New Zealand update

19 April 2021

On 30 April 2021, the New Zealand Government is introducing an exception to the border restrictions for the families of some temporary visa holders in New Zealand. This border exception is for the following three groups: 

  1. Partners and dependent children who held (and continue to hold) a visa for New Zealand, but were unable to join their partner or parent in New Zealand before the border closed.  

  2. Partners and dependent children of workers employed in critical health services.  

  3. Partners and dependent children of highly-skilled workers.  

Requirements for the border exception 

To be eligible for the new border exception, the person currently in New Zealand must have 12 months or more remaining on their visa.  


The requirements vary for each group. Go to the Immigration New Zealand website below to see the criteria and requirements for each group.


Managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ)


Partners and dependants will have to pay the fees for their accommodation in MIQ. This can be booked through the MIQ website.

Travelling from Australia


On 19 April 2021, New Zealand opened quarantine-free travel with Australia. This means that people can travel from Australia to New Zealand without having to secure a place in MIQ. 

Travellers from a QFT zone must meet New Zealand immigration requirements: 

  • If you’re an Australian citizen, you do not need to hold a valid NZeTA or visa to travel. 

  • If you’re from a visa waiver country or you’re an Australian permanent resident, you must hold a valid NZeTA to travel. 

  • If none of the above applies to you, then you must hold a valid visa before travelling. 

Immigration New Zealand update

11 February 2021

Dairy sector


Statistics New Zealand has engaged with the dairy sector and developed new task descriptions for three dairy roles that sit under the occupation of Dairy Cattle Farmer (121313) in the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). The three new sub category roles are:

  • Dairy Farm Manager (Skill Level 1)

  • Assistant Dairy Farm Manager (Skill Level 3)

  • Dairy Herd Manager (Skill Level 3)


The new sub category roles and detailed task descriptions do not appear under ANZSCO version 1.2 on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website but have been made publically available on the Statistics New Zealand website through their Ariā classification management system and can be accessed by entering the 121313 code in the search function which is on the right hand side of the front page and then going to definitions.


Immigration Instructions have been updated (Amendment Circular 2021-02) so that Immigration Officers must make an assessment based on the immigration-specific view of ANZSCO provided by Statistics New Zealand at the above link for all Dairy Cattle Farmer roles under occupation code 121313, with effect from 15 February 2021.


The updated task descriptions will be used when undertaking a substantial match assessment and assessing whether an applicant is suitably qualified for these roles under both Essential Skills work visa and the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) resident instructions.


Given that the above dairy roles are all skill level 1-3, applicants for the SMC may be eligible for points for skilled employment, subject to meeting remuneration and other requirements.


These changes apply to applications made from 15 February 2021 onwards.


With the exception of the three dairy occupations noted above, INZ will continue to refer to ANZSCO version 1.2 when assessing residence and temporary entry applications. The pay rate will continue to be used when determining the duration of Essential Skill work visas.


Occupations included in Appendix 7 of the Operational Manual will continue to be treated as exceptions and may be eligible for points for skilled employment under the SMC.

Immigration New Zealand update

21 December 2020

Employer-assisted work visas extended by 6 months


Employer-assisted visas expiring from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be automatically extended by another 6 months. This 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


Employer-assisted visas expiring from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be automatically extended by another 6 months.


Visas held by their partners and dependent children will also be extended.


Visa holders will receive confirmation of the extension from Immigration New Zealand by March 2021.


Lower-paid Essential Skills visa stand-down delayed for 12 months


The introduction of the stand-down period 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.


Working Holiday Visas extended by 6 months


Working Holiday Visas that expire from 21 December 2020 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be extended for 6 months. Conditions will be varied to allow the holders to continue in any employment that is not permanent in any sector until their visa expires. Any time limit on total work for one employer will no longer apply.


From 21 December 2020, Working Holiday Visa holders will no longer be transferred to the Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visa when their Working Holiday visa expires. Migrant workers already on an SSE Visa can still choose to work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternate qualifying work.


2019 median wage in effect until July 2021


Immigration New Zealand will continue to use the 2019 median wage of $25.50 to determine visa conditions until at least July 2021, at which point it will rise to $27 an hour.

Immigration New Zealand update

18 September 2020

The Government has agreed to defer the stand down requirement for lower skilled critical healthcare workers on Essential Skills work visas. This includes visa applications made after 27 July 2020 that are paid below the median wage.


Immigration instructions now allow eligible healthcare workers to hold Essential Skills visas for four rather than three years before they are required to stand down for 12 months. This is to help maintain existing health workforces and minimise disruption to New Zealand’s COVID-19 public health response.


This decision only applies to healthcare and support workers who were employed in the following occupations and sectors on 23 March 2020:



Medical Doctors





Technical and support staff working in:




Cardiology Blood Service

Nuclear medicine




Hyperbaric medicine


Research staff


Aged care

Palliative/hospice care

Mental health

Child health

Forensic care


Note that this is not a visa extension. This is a one-off change to support the health system’s response to COVID-19. Workers will need to apply for further Essential Skills work visas before their current visa expires.

Reminder: All new Essential Skills work visa applications lodged from 10 July 2020 for jobs paying below the median wage (currently $25.50 an hour) have a duration of 6 months. 



Q: What is a ‘stand down’ period?


A: People who have held lower-skilled Essential Skills work visas for three years need to leave NZ for 12 months before they can be granted a further Essential Skills work visa, based on employment paid below the median wage – this is called the ‘stand down’ period.

Q: Who does it apply to?


A: The stand down period requirement applies to those Essential Skills visa holders who were assessed as “lower skilled” prior to 27 July 2020 and who have been assessed as “paid below the median wage” for visa applications made on or after 27 July 2020.

The deferral of the stand down period requirement applies to people who were employed in certain healthcare occupations in NZ on 23 March 2020.

Q: Why wasn’t the deferral of the stand down period requirement implemented immediately post Cabinet decision of 23 March 2020?


A: Our records show that affected healthcare workers would not face the stand down period until October 2020.

Q: What happens when I need to apply for a further Essential Skills work visa (post 6 month visa extension)?


A: When a worker applies for their further Essential Skills work visa to undertake employment that is “paid below the median wage”, they will need to meet the standard requirements for that visa, including meeting any labour market test requirements. In accordance with immigration instructions which are in effect until 10 January 2022, the visa granted will be for 6 months duration, or for a shorter duration if they are subject to the stand-down

Q: I held a lower-skilled Essential Skills work visa, but I have changed the job and my wage is now above $25.50. Am I still subject to the stand down period requirement?


A: Once you have received a work visa based on employment that pays at or above $25.50, for the length of that visa you are no longer subject to the stand down period requirement.

Q: Does the stand down period apply regardless of when the applicant received a visa?


A: The stand down period will apply to those who received an Essential Skills work visa based on “lower skilled” and/or employment “paid below the median wage” after August 2017.

Q: How do I know that I am subject to the stand down period requirement? Do I receive an email from INZ?


A: You or your representative can contact INZ to find out how much longer you can hold lower-skilled Essential Skills work visas for.

Q: I was working in the health sector on 23 March 2020, then I have changed my job and am currently working in the different sector that is not listed above. Does the deferral of the stand down period still apply to me?


A: No. The deferral of the stand down period only applies to those healthcare workers who were employed in the sector on 23 March 2020, and continue to be employed in a listed healthcare occupation or healthcare sector.

Q: I am working in the disability care sector. Does this change apply to me?


A:  The change will only apply to you if you can demonstrate in your Essential Skills visa application that you are employed in one of the listed healthcare occupations, or that you are employed in one of the listed healthcare sectors.

Immigration New Zealand update

15 September 2020

We have resumed processing some visa applications from people who are currently not in New Zealand.


  • We are now processing and deciding offshore applications for some relationship-based visas, if they are supported by a New Zealand citizen or resident

  • We are also processing, but not approving, offshore applications for selected visa categories.


We understand your clients want certainty about their ability to enter New Zealand. COVID-19 has impacted people in many ways and New Zealand’s border restrictions have resulted in hardship for many migrants, including those separated from their loved ones.


Relationship-based visas supported by a New Zealander

We are now processing offshore, supported applications for the following visas:

Partnership – Visitor                     Partnership

Partnership – Visitor                     Culturally Arranged Marriage

Partnership – Work                       Partnership                                                  

Partnership – Resident                 Partnership                                                  

Partnership – Resident                 Partnership – Partner of an Expatriate              


Dependent Child – Visitor            Child of NZ cit/res                                       

Dependent Child – Visitor            Adopted child

Dependent Child – Student          Child of NZ cit/res                         

Dependent Child – Resident         Family child dependent               

Dependent Child – Resident         Family child dependent – Dependant of an Expatriate


If granted a visa, these visa holders will be exempt from New Zealand border restrictions. The visa holder can travel to and enter New Zealand without seeking approval from us and will not need to submit an Expression of Interest for an exception to travel to New Zealand.


The list above does not include General Visitor Visa applications made on the basis of a relationship that does not meet immigration partnership requirements.



If we determine that an application does not meet immigration partnership requirements, a general Visitor Visa may be appropriate and we will place the application on hold until border restrictions allow us to process general Visitor Visas.


Given current limitations on international travel, we will grant successful temporary entry applicants a six-month ‘first entry before’ date to allow them more time to secure flights and managed isolation or quarantine in New Zealand.


If an application is more than three months old when we assess it, we may need to request updated information, for example:


  • updated partnership evidence or information about changes in circumstances

  • a new chest x-ray certificate (if the applicant is applying from a location with a high incidence of TB).


We will write to affected applicants and their immigration advisor to request the information we need if we have their contact details.


When a relationship-based visa is granted, the visa holder can travel to and enter New Zealand without seeking approval from INZ first. They will not need to submit an Expression of Interest for an exception to the border closure.

Applications under selected visa categories

We will process the offshore applications under the following visa categories:


  • Refugee Family Support - Tiers 1 and 2

  • Migrant Investor (Investor 1 and 2), including EOIs for Investor 2

  • Parent Retirement

  • Entrepreneur.



Because immigration legislation does not allow us to grant these visas until current border restrictions are lifted, we will only process these applications as far as we can without approving. However, we will decline any applications if they do not meet immigration instructions.


If an application looks like it meets immigration instructions, we may request further information and complete another assessment when the border restrictions are lifted. This will ensure the applicant still meets the requirements of the visa they have applied for when we make a final decision. If your client’s circumstances change, please let us know.


Sometimes visas are subject to extra conditions, called section 49 conditions. We will process section 49 checks for these visa categories as normal, regardless of the applicant’s location.


More information

If you represent a client for any of these categories, you do not need to contact us. We will be in touch once we have allocated the file to an immigration officer or business immigration specialist, or when they have completed an assessment.


If you think your client might qualify for an exception to the current border restrictions, you can find more information on our website.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is the legal basis for INZ not processing applications from individuals who are currently offshore? 

Under section 43(1)(b) of the Immigration Act 2009, INZ is unable to grant a visa to any individual who is unlikely to meet entry requirements to New Zealand. With the current border restrictions in place, almost all applications for entry permission must be refused. 


Can I apply for a visa if I am offshore? 

For a period of three months commencing 10 August, the Government suspended the ability for people offshore to apply for a temporary visa. The following offshore temporary entry class visa applications are not affected: 

  • relationship-based visas for partners and dependent children of New Zealand citizens and residents

  • visas for diplomatic, consular and official staff and accompanying dependants

  • Antarctic Traveller Visitor visas and Antarctic Work visas

  • Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Limited visas. 


If you can’t make a decision on some visa applications yet, why are you starting to process them now?

To make progress on these applications so that decisions can be made faster once border restrictions are lifted.

The proposed approach is to assess these applications from applicants outside of New Zealand as far as possible without making a decision. Once the border restrictions are relaxed immigration officers/business immigration specialists will confirm the applicant’s circumstances remain unchanged and immigration instructions are met before approving the visa application.

The Expression of Interest (EOI) for Investor 2 will continue to be drawn fortnightly and Invitation to Apply (ITA) for residence sent to all successful applicants including those who are offshore. A potential applicant has four months to submit their residence application under the Investor 2 Category. 


Why have you chosen to start processing the Migrant Investor 1 & 2 and Entrepreneur categories?

The Investor 1 & 2 and Entrepreneur categories attracts around $1 billion in investments per annum in addition to valuable business network/links and there is expectation that processing these will support the MBIE and wider government recovery plan. Should the categories remain open but processing cease, potential applicants may look elsewhere to invest and New Zealand would miss out on both the financial and human capital these migrants bring with them.


Does processing and deciding applications from partners and dependants of New Zealand citizens and residents affect people from visa waiver countries?

From early October partners and dependent children from visa waiver countries whose partner or parent is a New Zealand citizen or resident can also apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor visa or a Relationship-based temporary entry visa.  A list of visa waiver countries and territories is on our website.

Note applicants from visa waiver countries who have previously submitted a Relationship-based work or visitor visa, do not need to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa.  INZ can now resume processing their Relationship-based visa application.


How long will processing take?

Please note that we are unable to prioritize these applications. They will be processed in the date order by which they were received and you can view standard processing times on our website

There is no need to contact us, we will contact you once your application is allocated to an immigration officer for assessment.