Workers on temporary visas can return under a new border exception category and an extension of time on resident visas for those stuck offshore

Temporary visa holders who still have a job can return to New Zealand in October, provided they have lived here for at least two years or have other strong ties to the country.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said a new category of “border exception” would be created so that they can return. 

Entry into the country has been restricted to citizens and permanent residents as a result of the border closures following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many of these visa holders and their families have lived in New Zealand for years and have built lives here with the hope and expectation that they would be able to stay longer-term in New Zealand,” Faafoi said.

“It is only fair to let these visa holders return given their long-standing and ongoing connections to this country.”

To qualify these temporary visa holders must: 

  • Still hold their job in New Zealand, or continue to operate a business in New Zealand 
  • Have departed New Zealand on or after 1 December 2019
  • Have lived in New Zealand for at least two years, or, if living in New Zealand for at least one year, have submitted an application for residency before July 31, or have parents or children in New Zealand.
  • Have held a visa at the time of departing that does not expire before the end of 2020, or, if expiring before that date, have applied for a further visa by 10 August 2020.

Faafoi said the Government expected up to 850 visa holders would be eligible to return under the rule change. 

The Minister has also extended the time available on resident visas. People granted resident visas must travel to New Zealand within a certain timeframe to activate them.

Resident visas are different from “permanent residency” ones which guarantee entry into the country. Resident visas normally grant entry for a specific period of time. 

However, current border restrictions have prevented people from being able to travel or return.

“The Government understands the uncertainty that Covid-19 has had on a number of visa holders, particularly individuals overseas who have not been able to travel to New Zealand to activate their new resident visa, or who have been unable to return to New Zealand before their travel conditions expired,” Faafoi said.

“By powers given to me under the Immigration Act, individuals whose travel conditions are about to expire will receive a 12 month extension to travel to New Zealand, and those whose travel conditions have expired on or after 2 February 2020 (when travel restrictions began) will be issued a new visa, also valid for 12 months.”

These changes would affect 5600 residency visa holders, Faafoi said. 

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