The impact of Covid-19: Changes to NZ Immigration Policy
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on NZ Immigration policy, including delayed visa processing and stricter border control. Learn more here.
October 13, 2021
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on NZ Immigration policy. Over the past year and a half, Immigration NZ has made many immigration policy changes that affect NZ migrants, residents, and international travellers. From delayed visa processing to strict border control, learn more about these unprecedented changes below.
Delayed Processing Times for Resident Visas & EOIs
Processing of resident visa applications in NZ has always been a time-consuming process, but the impact of Covid-19 has increased the processing times dramatically. There are currently around 13,000 skills-based residence visa applications waiting to be processed, with a limited number of immigration officers available to process them. Expressions of Interest (EOIs) under the Skilled Migrant Category are also suspended, which has had a significant impact on the New Zealand skilled migrant workforce. These delays have led the government to introduce a 2021 Resident Visa to fast track people who have been sitting in the Skilled Migrant queue for almost two years and are currently working in New Zealand.
Partnership applications based on a relationship with a NZ citizen or resident continue to be processed. Investor applications are being processed but resident visas are not being issued to people offshore until the border reopens. The Parent category remains on hold with no timetable to reopen.
A Shift Towards Online Visa Processing
One of the ways Immigration NZ (INZ) has adapted to the impact of Covid-19 is by moving more visa applications online. Before Covid-19, most resident visa applications were paper based. At Alert Level 3 and 4, most NZ Immigration officers can work remotely, and can process online visa applications but not paper based residence applications (due to security risks). The shift towards online visa applications and processing activities will allow INZ to reduce costs and improve efficiency. At the moment only Partnership and Dependent Children residence applications can be lodged online. We expect more residence categories will go online during 2022. Meantime paper based applications still involve a lot of paper moving around the globe and NZ in courier bags!
The NZ Border is Closed to Most Non-Residents & Citizens
New Zealand’s immediate response to the Covid-19 pandemic was to close the border to non-residents and citizens. These tough restrictions have affected thousands of people who were planning to study or work in New Zealand. Temporary visa applications such as the student visa and visitor visa are not being accepted or processed, and this suspension will likely remain in place until the border reopens. The absence of international travellers and students has had a big impact on local tourism in NZ. The border restrictions have also affected NZ resident holders who had not activated their visas and whose travel conditions were set to expire. Only those who have been granted a travel extension will be allowed back into the country.
Strict Travel Procedures in Place
Travelling to New Zealand during Covid-19 can be very unpredictable, and travellers must prepare for disruptions to their plans. For those who can legally enter New Zealand, there are set of strict rules that all travellers must follow before and after their flight. For example, all travellers must have a managed isolation voucher and spend 2 weeks in quarantine upon arrival. Most travellers must also present a negative Covid test before their flight. From 1 November 2021 all non-New Zealand citizens must show they are fully vaccinated before boarding a flight to NZ.
Has Covid-19 Affected your Immigration Plans? Speak to Malcolm Pacific Immigration Today
If your plans have been affected by Covid-19, you are certainly not alone, and there are ways to overcome these difficult challenges. Malcolm Pacific Immigration has the largest team of licensed immigration advisers in NZ who can manage the process for you and remove uncertainties. We have solved a wide range of immigration cases, from the simple through to the complex. Get in touch today for trustworthy information and advice about NZ Immigration Policy.
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Today the government announced a pathway to residence for migrant workers who are living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave who are eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else they will miss out on this one off opportunity.
July 8, 2022
Skilled Migrants Opportunity
Today the government announced a pathway to residence for people living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else you miss the boat.
July 8, 2022
New Employer Accreditation Process
The government has moved the introduction of the new employer accreditation process across to mid-2022. At the same time, the Minister of Immigration announced new work visa rules for migrant workers who are already in New Zealand and working full time.
July 8, 2022
Skilled Migrant Changes
The government has increased the median wage to $27 per hour from 19 July. Any Skilled Migrant residence application lodged after this date will need to include a skilled job offer that pays at least $27 per hour. For some lower-skilled occupations, the minimum pay rate increases to $40.50 per hour.
Employers of migrant workers must become accredited from 1 November 2021 before work visa applications can be processed. Most employers are not accredited. Those that are accredited will have to roll into the new system when it goes live in late September.
July 8, 2022
Work Visa Rules
From mid-2020 (delayed)
Government to negotiate and introduce Industry Sector agreements setting minimum conditions for industries that heavily rely on overseas workers. Sectors include; residential care, meat processing, dairy, forestry, road freight transport, tourism, and hospitality. Construction, horticulture, and viticulture may also be included.
Skilled occupation "Dairy Cattle Farmer" spilt into three occupations. New occupations are: "Dairy Farm Manager", "Assistant Dairy Farm Manager" and "Dairy Herd Manager". Each sit at different skill levels, therefore, the award of points will depend on pay rates, job tasks and other requirements.
Dairy Cattle Farmer job offers are now assessed by three new occupation descriptions: Dairy Farm Manager, Assistant Dairy Farm Manager and Dairy Herd Manager. Pay rates and job tasks will determine how long a work visa is valid. Take advice.
The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool for six months (to be reviewed in April 2021). Invitations to Apply for Residence remain suspended. The last selection from the Skilled Migrant pool took place on 18/03/2020.
Introduction of "Oversupply" and "Undersupply" occupation lists used to assess Essential Skills Work Visa applications when a job offer pays less than the median wage.
Employers offering jobs to migrant workers where an occupation is on the "Oversupply" list will not get Skill Match reports issued by Work & Income. Solid evidence of genuine attempts to find a local to fill the job will be critical for approval.
Anyone invited by Immigration NZ to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category where their invitation is dated between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020 (inclusive) has now been granted an additional six months to lodge their residence application.
Regional Skill Shortage List goes live. 15 regions around New Zealand list occupations reflecting local skill shortages in each region. The labour market test is not mandatory provided the job offer matches the occupation and region plus the visa applicant has qualifications and/or work experience set out on the list.
The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool. This means Invitations to Apply for Residence are also suspended. Malcolm Pacific Immigration does not anticipate selections to resume until after the general election held on 17 October 2020.
Immigration NZ is now prioritising Skilled Migrant Residence applications where the main (principal) applicant meets the criteria:
Has employment paying double the median wage which is currently NZD $51 per hour OR NZD $106,800 per annum; OR Has New Zealand occupational registration and is required to hold valid registration to lawfully carry out their job.
The government recently added more occupations that are now to be regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. In order to qualify for points, the job must be paying at least the current median wage (or higher for certain occupations) at the time the residence application is lodged.
From 1 November 2021 anyone who is not a NZ citizen must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt) before travelling to New Zealand. Fully vaccinated means your last dose of vaccine was given at least 14 days before travelling and it was an approved vaccine.
July 8, 2022
Applications for employer accreditation closed at the end of June 2021. Applications lodged before the closure date are still being processed. New applications for accreditation open on 9 May 2022. The process will be quite different to what employers have experienced in the past. Businesses will need to meet minimum standards.
July 26, 2022
2021 Resident Visa
Wednesday, 1 December is fast approaching and it is estimated that around 16,000 individuals and families can apply in the first wave for the 2021 Resident Visa opening next month. It is exciting for the thousands of people who have been waiting patiently to become residents that finally the finish line is in sight.
The first wave of applicants can apply from 1 December 2021. Around 16,000 applications are expected in this first wave. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. In total, the government expects approximately 110,000 applications that will include about 165,000 people.
The second group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 March 2022 are those who hold an eligible work visa and either meet "Settled", "Skilled" or "Scarce" as set out above. In total Immigration NZ estimate around 110,000 people will qualify to apply for this visa.
The first group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 December 2021 are those that on 29/09/2021:
Had lodged a residence application under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) or Residence from Work category; OR Had lodged an SMC Expression of Interest (EOI) in the SMC pool that included at least one dependent child aged 17 or above.
People who were lawfully in NZ (or in Australia when the travel bubble closed between April and July 2021) on 29/09/2021 need to meet the visa eligibility criteria:
Workers in NZ who held an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and on the day they apply for residence; OR Applied for an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and the work visa application is subsequently approved and still hold an eligible work visa on the day they apply for residence.
The government has introduced a limited pathway to residence for people who are already living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave of people eligible to apply. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. The deadline to apply for the 2021 Resident Visa is 31 July 2022.
A small number of critical health workers (taking up jobs for six months or longer) or specialist workers (taking up jobs that are for longer than six months) who were granted border exemptions may also have eligibility for the 2021 Resident Visa. They will need to have arrived in NZ and lodge a 2021 Resident Visa application.
July 4. Applications open for the new Accredited Employer Work Visa.
July 31. Applications for the 2021 Resident Visa close.
August. Skilled Migrant Residence category scheduled to reopen.
August. A new pathway to residence for people earning 200% or more of the median wage.
*Excludes high-risk countries.
July 8, 2022
Policy Decision Key Dates in 2022
February 13. Fully vaccinated Kiwis plus certain other travellers entering NZ from the rest of the world* can skip MIQ.
April 30. The border starts a phased reopen to fully vaccinated foreign nationals.
April 30. The Productivity Commission reports back to the government on immigration settings.
May 9. Applications open for mandatory Employer Accreditation.
*Excludes high-risk countries.
July 8, 2022
Work Visa Categories Closing
The work visa categories set to close are:
Essential Skills Work Visa
Essential Skills Work Visa – approval in principle
Work to Residence (Talent – Accredited Employer)
Work to Residence (Long Term Skills Shortage)
Silver Fern Job Search Work Visa (closed October 2019)
Silver Fern Practical Experience Work Visa.
July 8, 2022
The Green List
From September 2022 people holding job offers in a small number of occupations may apply for residence. Some occupations are a direct pathway to residence and others require a period of two years or longer before applying.
There are qualification and/or occupational registration requirements to meet. Establishing if an overseas qualification matches the NZ equivalent qualification before applying is paramount for success.