• Cavell Leitch

New Zealand Immigration Update - New priorities for visa processing

Background

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) have set new priorities for visa processing. Rules for migrant workers assisting with essential services have also been relaxed, and an exception process has been put in place for the travel ban.

Priority order for visa processing

Immigration officers will process visas as follows, in the date order they are received by INZ.

First priority

Onshore and offshore visa applications for:

  • Essential health workers

  • Designated workers in essential sectors and roles

  • Critical workers supporting the Governments' response to COVID-19

  • APAC travel card holders

  • Humanitarian circumstances, e.g. domestic violence applicants or those looking to travel to NZ to join a NZ citizen or resident family member

​Second priority

  • Full fee paying students applying for student visas

  • Partners of NZ citizens or residents applying for work or visitor visas

  • Partners to a work or student visa holder applying for work or visitor visas

  • Dependent children of work or student visa holders applying for student or visitor visas

  • Dependent children of NZ citizens or residents applying for visitor visas

  • Anyone applying for a work visa under Post-Study work instructions

  • Those applying for diplomatic or military visas

Third priority

  • Essential skills work visas for non-essential workers

  • All other work visas for applicants already in NZ

  • Student visas for applicants already in NZ

  • Variation of condition requests

  • Work visas for asylum seeker applicants

  • Permanent resident visas

  • Second or subsequent resident visas

Fourth priority 

  • NZ Electronic Travel Authority requests

Relation of rules for migrant workers assisting with essential services 

Temporary visa holders already employed in essential services

Temporary visa holders already employed in an essential service may do the following while NZ remains at Alert Level 3 or 4 and six weeks after these lockdown levels are lifted.

  • Vary hours

  • Work in other roles in their current workplace

Student visa holders

Student visa holders already employed in an essential service may work more than 20 hours a week while NZ remains at Alert Level 3 or 4 and six weeks after these lockdown levels are lifted. This includes anyone working at a NZ supermarket.

Students must continue to meet their study requirements during this time. INZ recommend speaking with the relevant education providers about this.

Lower skilled workers in the healthcare sector who have worked in NZ for three years

Lower skilled temporary visa holders who have been working in the healthcare sector in NZ for three years can now work in NZ for another 12 months before the usual stand-down period applies. 

An essential healthcare worker is defined as being a current employee, or a new employee with a signed offer of employment with a commencement date from March to June 2020 in one of the following:

  • A district health board

  • The NZ blood service

  • Hospice or palliative care

  • A primary care practice

  • Aged residential care, respite or continuing care facility

Applying for an exception to travel to NZ

Individuals will only be considered for an exception to the travel ban if there are truly exceptional circumstances or they have a critical purpose for travelling to NZ. The threshold is high but circumstances could include:

  • Humanitarian reasons

  • Health and other essential workers

  • Citizens of Samoa and Tonga making essential travel to NZ 

If an individual is outside NZ and would like yo make a request for an exception they can fill out an online form on the INZ website, https://www.immigration.govt.nz/formshelp/request-for-travel-to-new-zealand.

We recommend that individuals look at flight availability before making a request for an exception. Other country border controls may impact the ability to travel to NZ.

Questions? We hope this provides some relief, but please get in touch if you have any questions.

In addition, the Immigration New Zealand website is being updated regularly with any changes made as a result of COVID-19.

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Level 3, BNZ Centre
111 Cashel Mall
Christchurch 8011

PO Box 799
Christchurch 8140

Telephone: +64 3 379 9940

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