After months of delays we seem to have finally rounded the corner on a firm timetable for the reopening of the border. There have been a number of travel bubbles with Australia and the Pacific previously but reopening plans have been set back by the Delta and most recently Omicron Covid variants.
On 3 February 2022, the Prime Minister finally announced a firm timetable with five steps. Three of those steps seem clear but the last two as we explain below still need more detail. There is still a lot more detail to come with immigration instructions which we will provide further updates about. Our offshore clients and business seeking to bring staff in keenly await the full details.
What are the steps
- Step 1 – from 11.59pm Sunday 27 February 2022
New Zealand citizens and “other eligible travellers” from Australia: this includes citizens, normally resident visa holders their dependents and those with border exceptions such as critical workers.
- Step 2 – from 11.59 pm Sunday 13 March 2022:
New Zealanders and “other eligible travellers” from around the world. Importantly this includes a relaxed other critical worker category with only 1.5 times median wage (currently 2 times medium wage) required and the removal of the requirement to show that their skills are not readily obtainable in New Zealand: This has been the big barrier for many employers. We are very familiar with this category.
Immigration New Zealand’s list includes New Zealand permanent residents or resident visa holders and we are seeking to clarify whether this opens access up to resident visa holders entering for the first time. Working holiday makers will be opened up country by country (no timeframe yet). Much will depend on the details in Immigration New Zealand’s instructions. We hope to see these within the next week or two.
- Step 3 — from 11.59 pm Tuesday 12 April
Temporary visa holders currently outside New Zealand and who have a valid visa can enter New Zealand as long as they still meet their visa requirements. This will be a barrier for those who still hold visas but have lost their employment in New Zealand. They will either need to look at a critical worker application or wait for the next step. This is also disappointing for some of our employers and their offshore staff who had work visas lapsed last year.
It is also not clear what impact this step will have on offshore visa processing since the rationale for not processing offshore temporary visas has been that the person cannot enter New Zealand. Currently, the processing of many offershore visa applications are suspended until 5th August 2022.  Many of the staff have been diverted to focus on the 2021 Resident visas so timeframes for processing are still unclear. 5000 international students can enter New Zealand for semester 2. Government may approve specific workforce and project lists in this step.
4. Step 4 – From July 2022
Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and other foreign nationals travelling from Australia, visitors from visa-waiver countries, Accredited Employer Work Visa holders earning at least 1.5 times the median wage. This is the long delayed replacement for essential skills work visas which we have covered in a previous blog.
- Step 5 – October 2022 All others
Other conditions for travellers
- A negative pre-departure PCR test
- 10 days self-isolation with a negative test which will become 7 days during the next month or so. That will deter some people wanting to make short-term visits.
- All non-residents must be double vaccinated Home isolation will not be available to anyone who is not vaccinated. Longer term MIQ will remain for unvaccinated people.
We now have a clear roadmap for the next few months and a rough indication of further steps. However there are still a lot of information gaps which we need to clarify and a long wait until we get to a full reopening of the border.
We can help
Pacific Legal has helped dozens of businesses and clients enter New Zealand during the border closure and we will continue to assist clients and businesses navigate the reopening process.
Contact us for further information about your own case