New Zealand’s borders fully reopened by 1 August 2022

On 11 May 2022, the New Zealand government announced that New Zealand’s borders will be fully opened by 1 August 2022, bringing forward Phase 5 of the border reopening by two months.

At 23:59 (NZST) on 31 July 2022, the maritime border will reopen, as will applications for student, visitor, and work visas that are not covered by the Accredited Employer Work Visa framework (e.g., Specific Purpose Work Visas).

This is great news for those that have been waiting to be reunited with loved ones and for businesses who are struggling to fill their workforce with local talent.

The announcement also comes with several updates to the Accredited Employer Work Visa framework and further automatic visa extensions for certain cohorts of visa holders in New Zealand. We provide further details below.

Further updates on the Accredited Employer Work Visa framework

As you may be aware, the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) will open for applications on 4 July 2022. This visa will be available to workers earning over the median wage (currently set at $27.76 per hour from 4 July 2022), unless the occupation is in a role that is exempt from this median wage.

All employers who are wanting to hire a migrant worker under the AEWV scheme, will need to be accredited. Applications for Employer Accreditation will open on 23 May 2022. Processing times for Employer Accreditation applications are expected to take approximately 10 working days (according to Immigration New Zealand).

On 20 June 2022, the Job Check application process will open. This is in essence the labour market test part of the immigration process and proof of advertising will be required unless the occupation is on the Green List (see below) or the role earns double the median wage (i.e., $55.52 per hour).

It is also worth noting that Employer Accreditation will eventually become compulsory for any employer wishing to employ any migrants, including students, working holiday makers, open work visa holders etc. However, this is not an immediate requirement.

Immigration New Zealand are also looking to cease Partner work visas of AEWV holders from December 2022 unless the partner can show that they would meet AEWV requirements in their own right.

The Green List

Occupations on the Green List provide not only a waiver of advertising requirements, but also either a fast-track to residence or a work to residence pathway. Those who are eligible for this fast-track to residence will be able to apply for residence from September 2022.

Applicants who are eligible for a work to residence pathway can apply for residence after two years working in New Zealand. Further details are unknown at this stage but will be provided in the coming months.

Fast-track to residence

Sectors/roles that have a fast-track to residence include:

  • Construction roles
  • Engineering roles
  • Health and social services roles
  • Primary industries and science roles
  • ICT, electronics, and telecommunication roles

If you are in the above sectors and would like to know if any of your workforce are included in the fast-tack to residence list, please do not hesitate to ask us. Individual applicants will have to meet the specific qualifications and/or work experience prescribed by Immigration New Zealand to be eligible for this fast-track to residence.

Work to Residence pathway (after two years of working in NZ)

This includes roles in the:

  • Health and social services sector (for example, nurses, anaesthetic technicians, occupational therapists, secondary and registered early childhood teachers)
  • Trades sector (for example, auto electricians, electricians, plumbers)
  • Agriculture roles (dairy farm roles)

Exemption from Median Wage

There are also some specific jobs in construction and infrastructure, and tourism and hospitality that do not have to meet the median wage requirement. However, these roles must still pay at least $25 per hour. A full list can be found here, but includes roles such as Welders, Metal fabricators, Fitters in the construction sector; and Waiters, Baristas, and Café workers in the hospitality sector. Those in the Care Workforce sector must be paid at least $25.39 an hour.

An AEWV holder in one of the above roles, who is paid below the median wage, will be granted a 2-year visa. They must then complete a 12-month stand-down period outside of New Zealand before they can apply for another 2-year AEWV.

Special direction: Two-year open work visas for some current visa holders

The government also announced that visa holders who hold one of the following visas expiring between 9 May and 31 December 2022 (inclusive) will automatically be granted a special two-year open work visa:

  • 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 new open work visas will allow the visa holder to work for any employer anywhere in New Zealand. The visa holder can leave, and re-enter New Zealand and they will be valid for two-years from the expiry date of their previous visa (not two years from 9 May).

Partners and dependent children will also receive an automatic 2-year extension on their visas if they held a visa based on their relationship to the work visa holder that expires between 9 May and 31 December 2022, and they were in New Zealand on 9 May 2022.

Special Direction: Six-month extension for some work to residence visa holders

On 9 May 2022, the following types of work to residence visas expiring between 9 May and 31 December 2022 (inclusive) held by those in New Zealand were also automatically extended by six months:

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

Partners and dependent children will also receive a six-month extension on their visas if their visas were expiring between 9 May and 31 December 2022 (inclusive) and they were in New Zealand on 9 May 2022.

Those visa holders who would have been eligible for the above special directions but have since been granted a 2021 interim visa will be notified at the end of May that their visas have been extended in accordance with the special directions mentioned above.

Timeline Summary

Key dates to note include:

If you have any questions on the updates provided or would like to discuss the new framework further, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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