On 24th November 2021, the Government announced that New Zealand will reopen the border to the wider world from Sunday 1st May 2022. This has been a long-awaited announcement which comes as welcomed news to many currently stranded overseas but comes too late for those wanting to be home for Christmas, or still need to go through the highly-criticized MIQ process.
The reopening is set to be in 3-steps:
- From 11.59pm on Sunday 16th January 2022, fully-vaccinated New Zealand citizens, certain New Zealand residence-class visa holders and other eligible travellers can travel to New Zealand from Australia without staying in MIQ but instead use home isolation with a negative pre departure test and another at the end of 7 days. Further details are expected in December.
- From 11.59pm on Sunday 13th February 2022, fully-vaccinated New Zealand citizens, certain New Zealand residence-class visa holders and other eligible travellers can travel to New Zealand from all but Very High-Risk countries without staying in MIQ
- From 11:59pm on Saturday 30th April 2022, all fully-vaccinated foreign nationals with valid visas can travel to New Zealand from all but Very High-Risk countries. This step is likely to be staged by visa category.
The “phased approach to reconnecting” to the world essentially means many families will not be reunited in New Zealand until sometime after 1st May 2022. Further details can be found here.
For New Zealand businesses, this means there will not be an increase in international tourists until late 2022 at the earliest. For New Zealand employers, they will continue to struggle to attract highly skilled workers to fill long-open vacancies across various industries.
It is important to note not all foreign nationals with eligible visas will be able to enter New Zealand from Sunday 30th April 2022. This step of the border will be phased, likely by visa category. However, the Government remains unclear on this criteria, but it’s expected this step will be slow and controlled, in line with the current Government’s overarching policy objectives, as we have seen over the past 18-months.
Currently, the processing of offshore temporary visa applications remains suspended until at least 5th August 2022. This has caught some of our clients off-guard as the headline announcement seem to be of relaxation of border requirements but the detail shows that some people, particularly those on temporary visas who have been unable to re-enter New Zealand still have to wait before they can do so. Contact our office for more details.
The New Zealand border reopening is undoubtedly, a positive step forward, but it is certain there will be challenges ahead especially for New Zealand employers seeking to bring in staff, or those who had deferred their travels New Zealand to what they thought would be a wider reopening of the border.
Offshore residence processing restarting
In a recent Court case, it was ruled that the processing of residence applications submitted offshore while the border was still open should be completed, on the grounds that border instructions in force at the time the applications were submitted did not contain any border restrictions on residence visa holder. Immigration New Zealand has responded by resuming the processing of around 2,300 visa applications submitted before the border closed. It is also allowed around 4,000 Residence Visa holders who have not already travelled to New Zealand to now enter into New Zealand subject to available MIQ places (presumably not required when the above changes to MIQ requirements come into force).
Unfortunately, this positive move is balanced by a restriction in response to other aspects of the same Court case to remove international emergencies as a ground for humanitarian entry into New Zealand. as we have commented on in past blogs the humanitarian criteria are applicable to only a tiny number of people effectively limited to family or medical type emergencies.
Extension of travel conditions for Resident Visa holders offshore
Those who hold a resident visa with travel conditions that expired between 25th August 2021 and 10th September 2022 and were outside New Zealand on 22nd August 2021 will have their travel conditions extended to 11th September 2022. If this may apply to you, we can check it for you.
A further update is expected this month from the Minister of Immigration with proposals for staging and phasing the re-opening of visa categories and options for visa processing priorities for reopening the third step.
If you are needing guidance and assistance with your plans to travel to New Zealand in 2022, be sure to contact us for professional advice and representation.