The New Zealand Border Reopening


Right now, our border remains closed as it has been since March 2020. Many categories of visa are on hold and only New Zealand residents and citizens, their dependents, and a small number of others with a “critical purpose” are allowed entry. New strains of COVID-19 have led to further restrictions and testing. The limited MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) capacity of around 4500 is booked out months in advance and is mostly occupied by returning citizens or residents. Offshore seems a frightening place to most New Zealanders.

But this is not the whole picture! With a vaccine on the horizon, overseas pathways are likely to open up to our major trading and immigration partners during 2021. By then there will be new requirements for most work visas—including renewals. Some categories will be oversubscribed. While the exact timeframe is still unclear, what is clear is that those who are best prepared will be able to move first. There are things employers and investors can be doing now to prepare for this.

Temporary postponement of key visa programmes: 

  • Electronic travel authorities (NZeTA) from our visa waiver countries such as the US, Canada, and England. These applicants need to apply for a border exception.
  • Selection of Expressions of Interest for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa until April 2021. Parent Resident Visas are suspended until further notice.
  • All non-critical offshore temporary visa applications except partnership-based visas. See our previous blog about family-based border exceptions.
  • Offshore temporary work visa holders (Essential Skills, Work to Residence, Entrepreneur) who have maintained their job or business, except if they normally live in New Zealand (lived in New Zealand for at least 2-years before departing).  Contact us if you think you might meet this exception.


Key opportunities now


Critical workers

As discussed in a previous blog, the criteria for other critical workers is very narrow and requires a time-critical project, skills unavailable in New Zealand,  or a high salary for either an agreed infrastructure project or where the employer can first demonstrate general benefit to New Zealand. We have had considerable success with this category but it has a very high hurdle. Contact us for a  pre-assessment. There have already been adjustments to this category. It is likely that the bar will slowly lower for key migrant countries later in 2021 as infection numbers reduce.


Opportunities for investors 

New Zealand is seen as a lifeboat for many high net worth individuals. Numbers for our main investment category are capped, so book your seat early!

Although offshore residence processing is on hold, expressions of interest are still open for the Investor 2 category. This category is points-based and is limited to 400 per year. Draws are made every fortnight but there is an extended time frame (from the usual four months) to make the residence application until offshore processing restarts. This category requires NZ$2.5-$3 million (around US$1.6-1.8m) invested for four years after residence is granted, but has very flexible times required in New Zealand. The category has a long lead-in time for processing, so smart investors will be getting expressions of interest in now.  Those who have been invited to apply into this category will surely be among the first able to apply for New Zealand residence. Contact Pacific Legal for a pre-assessment.

We have a network of accountants and financial advisers to further support applications.

Related to this category is the parent retirement category for those with an adult child in New Zealand. It requires only a NZ$1million investment, NZ$500,000 funds for support, and an income of NZ$60,000. Contact us for an assessment.

Applications for Investor 1 are still being accepted but are not currently being processed. This category requires a $10,000,000 investment for 3 years. This category can also have a long lead-in time. Contact us for a pre-assessment.


Opportunities for New Zealand employers

Prior to COVID-19 border closures, major change was already underway to employer-assisted visas including Essential Skills and Work to Residence categories. Many of these changes commence in mid-2021. Some employers will be waking up to the harsh realities of the new system as their existing employees come to the end of their work visas.  All employers will now need to be accredited. Pacific Legal has years of experience in employer accreditation with excellent results. Employers who have—or will in the future have—a need to employ offshore workers should be preparing. Contact Pacific Legal for a pre-assessment.


Opportunities for those already onshore

A number of people already onshore have had visas automatically extended, such as Essential Skills work visa holders and their families. But this has led some people to a false sense of security as further extensions are not guaranteed. We previously blogged about this. However, this is a rapidly changing area so it’s a good idea to check out the Immigration New Zealand website for the latest updates. In the background, major changes are occurring regarding employers, rates of pay, and types of employment. Now is the time to ensure that your current visa aligns with the new visa requirements so that you have a pathway to extend work visas and possibly residence beyond 2021. Contact Pacific Legal for an assessment of your current visa and how you can align it to have the best chance of future extension.


Other tricky cases

As well as helping hundreds of businesses, investors and skilled migrants over the years, Pacific legal can also tackle the tough cases. Fill in our online assessment form to see if we can assist you.


Contact us

Our friendly team would be happy to discuss your case with you, although we encourage you to provide us with details through our website so that we can provide the best assistance. You can also contact us on 09 666 0440 or


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