Border Re-Opening Finalized… And More

Finally, we have certainty!  In our 25 March 2022 blog we explained that the Government had announced steps to reopen the border.  We now have a final time table for all of those steps…and others aspects of the “Immigration Rebalance.” We also have more information on the new pathway to residence. This is one of 3 blogs we will provide dealing with

  • An overview of the changes
  • A focus on onshore visas
  • Pathway to residence


The Great Immigration Rebalancing

The Government explains that this Immigration Rebalance plan seeks to lift working conditions for everyone, improve career pathways for New Zealanders and encourage businesses to focus on increasing productivity and resilience as part of our plans for economic recovery from COVID-19. Critics suggest that the new work visa instructions will create a two-tiered system. Those who earn above the median wage i.e., “the good migrants” will have access to accredited employer work visas, and in some cases pathways to residence.  Those who earn below the median wage will not be able to sponsor family members except as visitors and will have to leave New Zealand for a one-year stand-down every 2 years. Don’t get too comfortable! The problem with this is that the median wage is not the only indicator of skill shortages.

There are exceptions for some industries to allow time to adjust” through Sector Agreements. Government fundamentally does not accept that there are any roles that are permanently unattractive to New Zealanders. Everything can apparently be fixed through paying the median wage.  However, employers know that location of work, hours and other conditions are also key determinants. Skill shortages will be here to stay under this plan.


 Border Reopening…the Final Installment

In our previous blog, we explained that temporary work visa holders who still met the conditions of their visas could return to New Zealand from 13 April 2022.

There would be some Work to Residence and other work visa holders who have miraculously held onto their offer of employment. They can take advantage of this. Those who have lost their onshore employment will have to reapply under the work visa system.

A limited number of student visas were also available to travel to New Zealand from 13 April.

On 11 May 2022, the Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration announced that New Zealand’s border will fully open by 1 August 2022.

  • All work visa categories open for applications on 4 July 2022. However, as we explained in our last blog, the applications will now need to be under the new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) category or a limited number of other surviving categories such as Specific Purpose visas. Critical purpose (for those earning $40 per hour or more, full-time) assuming that category stays open) and working holiday visas our already open.
  • On 31 July 2022, all student and visitor visa categories will reopen. Good news for some is not-so-good news for others.   Staff will be taken off the 2021 Residence Visa to process reopened applications.  In answer to a parliamentary question, the Government emitted that maximum processing of the 2021 Residence Visa applications is now being extended from 12 to 18 months.  The hype about lightning speed processing of these applications was never matched by sufficient staff to do so.


Pathways to Residence

Green list (…and “pale green list”)

A ‘Green List’ has been introduced. It has two pathways to residence from September 2022 which will have an age cap (principal applicants must be under 56 years of age).

Instant eligibility for some

The first is a fast-tracked residence application. This list covers 85occupations but only some of these, mostly highly skilled construction, information technology (with minimum salary) and medical specialist roles allow for fast tracked residence.

A two year wait for others

The second is a Work to Residence pathway which will require workers to work for 2 years on the work visa before applying for residence.

  • For those on this list is that the need for advertising at the Job Check stage is waived.
  • To be able to benefit from the list, requirements set for each role must be met.   Contact our office for a detailed assessment.


Pathway for those earning twice the median wage

There is also a 2-year work to residence pathway for those earning twice the median wage for a 40 hour per week role this is currently $112,320. It set to increase in July 2022.

Green list replaces current lists

The existing Skills Shortage Lists will be replaced by the new Green List. This means any roles that are currently on a Skills Shortage List, but not on the Green List won’t be exempt from a labour market test unless their pay at least 200% of the median wage.

No decision yet on Skilled Migrant Category

This category is currently on hold for new applications.  There has been long delayed processing for some offshore applicants. Those onshore were encouraged to apply under the 2021 Residence Category. A decision will be announced about the Skilled Migrant Category after 31 July 2022.

Changes for Partners of Temporary Visa holders

Partner work visas have been the biggest area of exception to many of the work visa rules.   Currently, partners of those earning at or above the median wage ($27 per hour: due to increase in July 2022) can be granted open work visas. This is coming to an end in 2023.

The indications are that partners of Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) holders will be provided visitor visas unless the AEWV holder is working in a role that is on the Green List or pays at least twice the median income. Partners of AEWV holders in future will need to apply for their own AEWs if they wish to work and their partner’s role is not on the Green List or if their partner is not paid twice the median income.

The Government clearly sees its three-step accreditation program as a cure for migrant exploitation in every work visa category. From 2023, all employers will require accreditation in order to employ any migrant. The future of Working Holiday visas and other visas which do not require accreditation is unclear.


Sector Agreements

Sector Agreements will allow to allow for exemptions to the AEWV $27.76 wage threshold (the new median wage from 4 July 2022). Current interim lists of roles have been released. Full Sector Agreement lists will be released in the future. Migrants holding this AEWV while exempt from the wage threshold will be able to work in New Zealand for 24 months, before a stand down period, in which the employee must leave New Zealand for 12 months, will apply. Unless the employee is able to apply for a AEWV for a job paying at least the median wage.  After this stand-down period the employee may re-apply for a visa.


Free extensions for some already onshore

Open work visas have been granted to those in New Zealand holding one of the following eligible visas expiring between 9 May and 31 December 2022:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Post Study Work Visa
  • Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa
  • Eligible Ukraine nationals granted a temporary visa on 10 March 2022

These visas are valid for 24 months from the expiry date of the previous visa and will allow the holder to work for any employer, anywhere in New Zealand. Migrant workers holding this visa may also leave and re-enter New Zealand. Visas for partners and dependent children of eligible visa holders will also be granted provided their visas were due to expire between 9 May – 31 December 2022; and who were physically present in New Zealand on 9 May 2022.

The following visas expiring between 9 May and 31 December 2022 have been extended by six months:

  • Talent (Accredited Employer)
  • Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports)
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List
  • Skilled Migrant Category Job Search Visa
  • South Island Contribution

Eligible visa holders must have been physically present in New Zealand on 9 May 2022 for this extension to apply.

Partners and children of these eligible visa holders will also have their visas extended, provided they hold a visa based on their relationship to the work visa holder, and were physically present in New Zealand on 9 May 2022.


Working holiday dates confirmed

The following working holiday schemes have had opening dates confirmed:

South Korea10 May 2022
China19 May 2022
Taiwan25 May 2022
Argentina26 May 2022
Chile31 May 2022
Luxembourg17 May 2022
Czech Republic2 June


Pacific Visitor visas opening early

From 16 May 2022, online Visitor Visa applications will open for the following countries:

    • Federated states of Micronesia
    • Fiji
    • French Polynesia
    • Kiribati
    • Nauru
    • New Caledonia
    • Palau
    • Papua New Guinea
    • Republic of Marshall Islands
    • Samoa
    • Solomon Islands
    • Tonga
    • Tuvalu
    • Vanuatu

Applicants must be able to show that they are a genuine visitor and only intend a temporary stay.

A raft of changes for Student Visas and Post Study Visas including the following:

    • Closing post-study work rights options for those that study for non-degree level courses except where they are studying and then working in specified shortage and skilled occupations
    • Post-study work rights for students will mirror length of time that can be worked.
    • Closing the ability to apply for a second post-study visa in New Zealand

Changes will also allow Critical Purpose Visitor Visas to be granted with multiple entry travel conditions


 It’s a busy space! Get advice upfront

A whole raft of changes have been announced at once as the Government chops and changes its priorities. The intention of reducing migrant exploitation is admirable but there are questions around capacity and delays which are said to be increasing Immigration is a key lever at times of economic pressure so this will be an important determinant of further changes.  We are helping a number of clients apply for Essential Skills extensions before that category closes permanently on 3 July 2022. If you are eligible for that category and unsure of eligibility under the new categories you may be well advised to apply.

We have over 40 years collective experience dealing with the whole range of immigration applications and challenges. Contact our friendly team for further advice