The New Zealand government has announced it is extending the categories under which people can apply for border exceptions.

From October 2020, temporary visa holders who still have a job can return to New Zealand, provided they:

  • have been living in New Zealand for at least two years (or one year in some specific cases), and
  • returning to the same job they held before departing New Zealand, or continue to operate a business in New Zealand as part of entrepreneur work visa, and
  • have departed New Zealand on or after 1 December 2019, and
  • have held either:
    • a Work to Residence visa, or
    • an Essential Skills visa (assessed as mid-skilled or higher-skilled) when they departed New Zealand and it does not expire before the end of 2020 or, if it is expiring before end of 2020, they must have applied for a further visa on the basis of the same job when they left that allows them to remain in New Zealand for 12 months or more before 10 August 2020.

Furthermore, individuals who are Australian citizens or citizens of visa waiver countries and who are in a genuine and stable partnership with a New Zealand citizen or resident (and the NZ citizen or resident is based in New Zealand) will now also now be eligible to apply for a border exemption.

Under current border restrictions, partners of New Zealand citizens and residents wanting to enter the country need to have either a relationship-based visa, or be travelling with their New Zealand citizen or resident family member, or be ordinarily resident in New Zealand.

Partners must submit a border exception request and demonstrate that they are in a “genuine and stable relationship” with their New Zealand citizen or resident visa holder partner, which in our experience is often not easy to do (particularly where the couple has not previously lived together or spent much time together). Australian partners, if granted a border exception, will be automatically issued a Critical Purpose Visitor visa to allow them to travel to New Zealand and they will receive a resident visa on arrival; in line with usual immigration policy for Australians. Partners from visa-waiver countries, if granted a border exception, will be invited to apply for a six-month Critical Purpose Visitor visa. Those wishing to stay longer in New Zealand can then apply for a partnership visa or any other type of visa.

Finally, the government also announced that travel conditions for resident class visa holders will be extended to enable them to enter the country. However, the Immigration Minister has advised they will only be able to travel to New Zealand if they are exempt from the current border restrictions or have been granted an exception.