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December 20, 2020

COVID-19: Key Visa Changes Announced

Temporary border measures, visas, travel and essential service support.

Some critical healthcare workers can now stay for 4 years before stand down

Some critical healthcare workers who earn below the New Zealand median wage can now stay in New Zealand for 4 years before being subject to a stand down period.

A stand down period means you need to leave New Zealand for 12 months before you can apply for another Essential Skills visa for a job paying below the median wage.

Temporary visa for halal slaughterers

If you are a halal slaughterer and subject to the stand-down period, you are eligible for a one-off visa valid for six months if you apply between 1 January and 30 June 2021.

Travel to New Zealand

New Zealand citizens and residents, Australian citizens normally resident in New Zealand and others with a critical purpose approved by Immigration New Zealand may travel here.

Border restrictions: Who can enter New Zealand or request to travel

Transiting New Zealand


From 7 November you can no longer transit New Zealand to China.

New Zealand Alert Level and transit rules can change quickly so it is your responsibility to make sure you can transit through New Zealand and enter any country on your journey. If you are unable to do this, you may not be allowed to board the plane.

Transit passengers information

Travel to and from Australia

Australia has announced passengers from New Zealand can travel to Australia, quarantine-free, from Friday 16 October, if they have not been in an area designated a COVID-19 hotspot in New Zealand in the preceding 14 days.

Safe Travel Zone with New Zealand | PM.gov.au

Entry to New Zealand from all countries, including Australia, remains strictly controlled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Our quarantine requirements and eligibility to enter New Zealand are not affected by the announcement from the Australian government.

Temporary entry and resident visa holders must follow health instructions in New Zealand

Everyone in New Zealand is required to follow health instructions that are in place relating to COVID-19.

Any new resident and temporary visas granted are now subject to a specific visa condition requiring them to comply with:

  • any order made under section 11 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, and
  • any order made under section 70 of the Health Act 1956 and listed in schedule 2 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, and
  • any instruction from a Medical Officer of Health which relates to a notifiable or quarantinable disease.

This includes Australian citizens and permanent residents of Australia, who are granted resident visas on arrival in New Zealand, regardless of their intended length of stay.

If you do not comply with these requirements, you may be liable for detention or deportation for breaching the conditions of your visa.

The Ministry of Health in New Zealand provides details on any orders or instructions that may be in place. These could include: quarantine on arrival, self-isolation if you are unwell, and infection control methods such as limits on gatherings or contact tracing.

Ministry of Health

Latest exceptions

Normally Resident Work Visa Holders

The Government last month announced it will allow some work visa holders who are overseas now but normally live in New Zealand to re-enter the country.

Normally resident work visa holders | Beehive.govt.nz

Only those who departed New Zealand between 1 December 2019 and 9 October 2020 and held an Essential Skills Work Visa based on mid or higher-skilled employment or assessed as at or above the medium wage, a Work to Residence Visa or an Entrepreneur Work Visa when they left are eligible to request entry as a work visa holder who normally lives and works in New Zealand.

Applicants must be able to show they have the same job (complying with their existing visa conditions) or continue to operate a business here.

Critical purpose reasons you can travel to New Zealand

Partner reunion

From 5 October, Australian citizens or permanent residents and people from visa-waiver countries can apply for a request to travel to New Zealand if they can prove they are a partner of a New Zealand citizen or resident.

Critical purpose reasons you can travel to New Zealand

New forms and fees for border exceptions

On 10 August 2020, Immigration New Zealand changed the application process for individuals who have been invited to apply for a critical purpose visa following a successful expression of interest for a border exception.

You will no longer be able to apply for a visa using the form that was sent when you were invited to apply. Instead, you will need to submit your application using the online form available on Immigration New Zealand’s website.

If you have been invited to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa, submit your application using the online form. The form will ask you what type of visitor visa you are applying for. Select Special Category Visitor Visa, then Critical Purpose Visitor Visa.

Apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa

If you have been invited to apply for a Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions, use the online application form.

Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions application

If you have any questions about using the online forms, you can call our contact centre.

Contact us

From 10 August 2020, most applicants will be charged a fee to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa or Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions. The fee for the Critical Purpose Visitor Visa depends on your country of citizenship and where you are now. The fee for a Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions is NZD $190 for all applicants.

Fees, decision times and where to apply

Epidemic management notice information

The New Zealand Government’s Epidemic Management Notice relating to immigration matters came into in effect from Thursday 2 April 2020. The Epidemic Management Notice provision to extend visas was used as the ability to lodge and process visas were limited during the lockdown period in New Zealand.

The notice was changed on 24 June 2020 as visa lodgment and processing has now resumed.

Extensions already applied by the original Epidemic Management Notice are not affected by these changes.

Epidemic Management Notice information

Your visa status if you are in New Zealand

You are responsible for understanding how to meet the conditions of your visa in New Zealand at all times.

Foreign crew of fishing vessels, religious workers

Employer-assisted temporary work visas expiring between 11 September and 31 December 2020 held by religious workers in New Zealand on 11 September will be extended by 6 months. Visas held by partners and dependent children based on their relationship with these temporary work visa holders will also be extended by 6 months.

Employer-assisted temporary work visas expiring between 11 September and 31 December 2020 held by foreign crew of fishing vessels will be extended by 6 months.

Visa record updates may be delayed however you will receive confirmation by email. You are not required to do anything further.

Visitor visas

Most Visitor visas due to expire between 4 September and 31 October are being extended by 5 months from their date of expiry.

Helping study for children and adults on visitor visas

If you are in New Zealand and hold a working holiday visa

Working Holiday Visa holders will no longer be transferred onto a Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visa when their Working Holiday visa expires. Migrants already on an SSE Visa can still work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills Visa if they find alternate qualifying work.

Working Holiday visas will be extended for 6 months and the conditions will be varied. This will allow the holders to work in any employment except permanent employment for the duration of their extended Working Holiday visa. Any time limit on total work for one employer will no longer apply.

Employer-assisted work visas extended by 6 months

If you are in New Zealand and hold an employer-assisted temporary work visa due to expire before 31 December 2020, it may be extended for 6 months.

Employed holders of the following visas expiring from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 will be able to stay and work here for longer:

  • Essential Skills
  • Work to Residence
  • Special and Skilled work visas for China, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam
  • Special category work visas for Japanese Interpreters and Thai Chefs
  • Employer-specific work visas granted under section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009
  • Religious Worker
  • Fishing Crew
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience

Visas held by their partners and dependent children will also be extended.

The introduction of the stand-down period during which Essential Skills visa holders paid below the median wage must leave New Zealand will be delayed until January 2022. The stand-down period means that Essential Skills visa holders earning less than the median wage must leave New Zealand after three years for one year before they can return.

Immigration New Zealand will continue to use the 2019 median wage of $25.50 to determine visa conditions until March 2021.

Immigration New Zealand will contact eligible visa holders by email with details of the changes. Please do not call the ICC as they do not have any further information. We will update our visa records in March 2021 and send out further communications when this is completed.

All other original visa conditions stay the same. If the conditions of your employment have changed or your employment has ended, you will need to apply for a variation of conditions or a new visa.

If you were in New Zealand on 2 April and your visa expired before 9 July

Holders of a work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa with an expiry date of 2 April to 9 July 2020 inclusive who were in New Zealand on 2 April 2020 had their visas extended to 25 September 2020. This was under the original Epidemic Management Notice. Confirmation is emailed to all visa holders.

Visa verification service

If your visa expires after 9 July and you are in New Zealand

f you hold an open work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa with an expiry date after 9 July, your visa was not extended by the Epidemic Management Notice or the change announced on 7 July 2020. Your current visa expiry remains the same. You need to:

  • leave the country before your visa expires, or
  • make an application for a new visa.

If you are in New Zealand and your visa has expired

If you do not have a current visa or are unable to apply for a visa before your current one expires, you will be unlawful in New Zealand. This includes people whose visa expired before 1 April 2020.

You cannot apply for another visa in New Zealand while you are unlawful. You can either:

  • leave the country immediately if possible, or
  • make a request for a special temporary or resident visa under Section 61 of the Immigration Act.

Making a Section 61 request if you are unlawful

Options if you are unable to leave New Zealand

Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) Work Visa

You may be eligible for a Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) Work Visa. SSE visa holders will be able to work in seasonal horticulture and viticulture roles where there are not enough New Zealanders available to do this work. An SSE visa will enable the visa holder to be employed by any of the following:

  • an employer with an approved SSE Approval in Principle (AIP)
  • a Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) with an approved Agreement to Recruit (ATR) where places have been unable to be filled by RSE workers
  • any employer in a role, region and period of time specified by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

For the 2020/21 season, you can apply for an SSE visa if you have previously held or hold a current work visa. You can also apply if you have previously held an SSE or Transitioning to Recognised Seasonal Employer visa (TRSE). For this season you will be granted a visa until 30 June 2021. You will not need to provide evidence of a return ticket or sufficient funds to return home. Medical and police certificates are not required for visas granted to 30 June 2021, unless requested by an Immigration Officer.

If you hold a working holiday visa expiring from 1 October 2020, you may receive this visa automatically if you meet the criteria.

Current student and visitor visa holders can apply for this visa to work for one of the listed employers and may be granted an SSE up to 6 months, or until 30 June 2021 (whichever is longer). Medical and police certificates may be required for visas granted with an expiry date after 30 June 2021.

Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) Work Visa

COVID-19 short-term visitor visa

Temporary visa holders in New Zealand can now apply for the new COVID-19 short-term visitor visa. You will need to pay a fee when applying. You can apply more than once.

Applicants must show they:

  • hold a valid passport
  • abide by laws and are of good character
  • have a genuine reason for remaining in New Zealand
  • cannot leave New Zealand now but will make plans to leave at the end of their stay.

Temporary migrants do not need to show they have:

  • enough money to support their stay in New Zealand
  • existing onward travel arrangements
  • good health
  • met any time-limits for how long they are able to stay in New Zealand on a visitor visa.

COVID-19 Short-term Visitor visa

Visa processing information

Our offices in New Zealand and Apia in Samoa are open. Our other offices overseas remain closed.


Visa holders must follow health instructions in New Zealand or you can be detained and deported.

Visa applications from overseas

We will process relationship-based visas for partners and dependent children of New Zealand citizens and residents. Relationship-based visas are:

  • Culturally Arranged Marriage Visitor Visa
  • Partner of a New Zealander Visitor Visa
  • Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa
  • Partner of a New Zealander Resident Visa
  • Child of a New Zealander Visitor Visa
  • Dependent Child Student Visa
  • Dependent Child Resident Visa
  • Adoption Visitor Visa
  • Adoption Pre-citizenship Visitor Visa

Those granted a visa are exempt from border restrictions.

This does not include General Visitor Visa applications made on the basis of a relationship which does not meet immigration partnership requirements.

From early October, Australian citizens or citizens of visa waiver countries living outside New Zealand, but who are partners of New Zealand citizens and residents, may be granted an exception to travel to New Zealand. They need to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor visa.

Critical Purpose Visitor visa

List of visa waiver countries and territories

Applicants from visa waiver countries, who have previously submitted a relationship-based work or visitor visa, do not need to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa. INZ can now resume processing the relationship-based visa application.

NZeTAs are valid for two years.

Temporary visa applications

Applications for most temporary visas from people outside of New Zealand are temporarily suspended.

The following offshore temporary entry class visa applications can still be made:

  • relationship-based visas for partners and dependent children of New Zealand citizens and residents
  • visas for diplomatic, consular and official staff and accompanying dependants
  • Antarctic Traveller Visitor visas and Antarctic Work visas
  • critical workers to support the Government response to COVID-19
  • Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Limited visas.

You are strongly encouraged to apply online for eligible visas as paper applications can take longer to process.

Refugee Family Support Resident visa applications

The deadline for submitting residence visa applications under the Refugee Family Support Category (RFSC) has been extended for some applicants.

If we notified your sponsor between 1 March 2019 and 19 March 2020 that their registration was successful, you can submit your application within 24 months from the date on your sponsor’s notification letter.

Refugee Family Support Category application deadline | Migrant and refugee information

New powers to amend and extend visas

The Government has passed legislation to support the management of visa changes during COVID-19. For a period of 12 months the Government will be able to amend and extend visa conditions for large groups of people and enable visa processing to be staggered.

Minister’s statement | Beehive.govt.nz

Visa changes for supermarket employees during Alert Level 3 or 4

Visa restrictions have been relaxed for some visa holders to work in supermarkets when a region is in Alert Level 3 or 4, from 20 August 2020 to 31 July 2021. These changes have been made as supermarkets are facing immediate labour supply issues during COVID-19 and to meet the increased demand for shelf re-stocking.

These changes apply to specified visa holders who are employed by a supermarket on the day before the region enters Alert Level 3 or 4:

  • Temporary work visa holders employed in a supermarket can work in addition to the conditions specified on their visa
  • Students can work more than the maximum of 20 hours per week provided they continue to meet their study requirements.

This includes interim visa holders if they held a temporary work or student visa immediately prior to that visa.

Supermarkets mean those operated by:

  • Woolworths New Zealand – owners of Countdown, Super Value and FreshChoice supermarkets
  • Foodstuffs Limited – owners of New World, Pak n Save and Four Square.

Aany change to an employee’s conditions of work must comply with normal New Zealand employment law and the individual or collective employment agreement relevant to the employee.Healthcare sector

Visa applications will be prioritised for key roles necessary for the health response in New Zealand.

As a temporary measure, the Government has also changed temporary work visa conditions to allow some lower skilled temporary healthcare workers that are currently in New Zealand to work in New Zealand for an additional 12 months before they are subject to the stand down period. This will allow those health workers with lower skilled Essential Skills visas who have worked in New Zealand for 3 years an additional 12 months before they are subject to a stand down period where they must leave New Zealand.

This will provide additional certainty for those impacted, some of whom will be affected by the first stand down period from 28 August 2020, and it will also help maintain existing workforces at this critical time.

Essential Health Workers information

More student visa holder information

Temporary postponement of visa programmes

The Government has postponed the following visa programmes until further notice:

  • selecting expressions of interest for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa and the Parent Resident Visa
  • ballot registrations for the Samoan Quota Resident Visa and Pacific Access Category Resident Visa
  • opening all capped working holiday schemes.

Uncapped working holiday schemes are open, but you can only apply for them if you are already in New Zealand.