2021 Resident Visa – Explained, The Inside Scoop and How to Get It Right

New Zealand immigration has announced a new, better and streamlined resident visa. Read ahead to know everything about it.
  • Do you want to be part of the new one-off streamlined simplified resident visa pathway to remain permanently New Zealand?
  • Do you and your family want to settle in New Zealand faster?
  • Do you want to get it right so you don’t risk refusal?
  • Do you want to know more about the criteria?
  • Do you want the inside scoop from Immigration New Zealand?
  • Do you want our expert opinion and recommended advice?

Then read on to know more...

2021 Resident Visa Overview Summary

This new one-off category initiative is underpinned by Government’s objective to:

  • Provide certainty for employers that their existing migrant workforce will be able to remain in New Zealand permanently, and are available to continue filling skilled or scarce roles in businesses, especially while border restrictions make it difficult to bring new migrant workers to New Zealand; and,
  • Enable migrants who are in New Zealand for the purpose of work to remain permanently, provided they are well settled in New Zealand or are working in skilled or scarce roles; and,
  • Attract health workers and other highly-skilled critical workers who are granted appropriate border exceptions by providing them a pathway to stay in New Zealand permanently.

Immigration New Zealand rules have been developed to encompass this objective with the below parameters and criteria.

The process involves making an online application (you will need a RealMe identification account to make application, or, an Immigration Adviser will use theirs) to Immigration New Zealand including online form completions and importantly providing all required evidence from the outset to demonstrate criteria can be met. Currently, we are experiencing very fast turnarounds of only a few days for phase one, settled criteria applications to be decided, although we expect longer processing times under the skills-based factions.

The general processing timeframe is expressed by Immigration New Zealand for all three factions of the category overall as taking up to twelve months in most cases. Immigration New Zealand have stated they expect around 15,000 applications over first three months from 1 December 2021. Applications will be handled onshore in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch Immigration New Zealand offices.

Importantly, Immigration New Zealand are not able to grant exceptions to the rules nor apply discretion to any applicant who does not meet criteria.

Immigration New Zealand have also expressed the importance of ensuring all declarations made on the application form are true and correct, otherwise an application will be adversely impacted and is likely to result in decline. If you are unsure about any area of your situation which could be a problem, we suggest you speak with a Licensed Immigration Adviser from our team.

Phase 1 of the New Zealand Government’s new one-off 2021 Resident Visa category is now open to applications from eligible migrants and their immediate dependent family members. The category is restricted to work visa holders (and critical purpose visa holders) only but can include their dependent immediate family members (partners and children) regardless of visa type the family member holds, or remains offshore without a visa.

Here is the list of work visa categories a principal applicant must hold one of as at 29 September 2021 (or had applied but had to await a decision and that outcome was later favourable), and hold one of the listed visas at time of application, in order to apply:

  • Post Study Work Visa
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Religious Worker Work Visa
  • Talent (Arts, Culture, Sports) Work Visa
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Work Visa
  • Trafficking Victim Work Visa
  • Migrant Exploitation Protection Work Visa
  • Skilled Migrant Category Job Search Work Visa
  • Victims of Family Violence Work Visa
  • South Island Contribution Work Visa
  • Work Visa granted under Section 61 (provided the applicant held another eligible visa type within 6 months before being granted a Section 61 visa)
  • Some Critical Purpose Visitor Visas (CPVV):
    • Critical health workers for longer-term roles (6 months or longer), and
    • Other critical workers for long term roles (more than 6 months)

Those who held a critical purpose visitor visa as at 29 September 2021, but have since gained a visa of another type (including a variation of visa condition) and nurses who had a visa to await occupational registration at that time, are eligible to apply. Additionally, some critical purpose long-term visa holders arriving in New Zealand between 30 September 2021 and 31 July 2022 may also be eligible.

Other critical visa holders - fishing crews, agricultural/horticultural plant operators, shearers and recognised seasonal employer visa holders, are NOT eligible to apply.

Fundamentally, the main (principal) applicant needs to be in New Zealand at the time of making an expression of interest and once invited to apply application made, and have been in New Zealand on 29 September 2021. You also need to have held a valid visa for New Zealand or had applied for one before this date but were awaiting a decision and hold a valid visa at the time of application. A person who was in Australia on that date, and had departed New Zealand to be in Australia between 6 April and 23 July 2021 is also eligible to apply.

The category has two phases which are time-bound. The cut-off date for applications to be made under both phases is 31 July 2022. Applications under phase 1 can be made from 1 December 2021 to 1 March 2022, but there is flexibility to apply later if wish, until 31 July 2022.

Under phase one, from 1 December 2021, a submission can be made online to Immigration New Zealand by those who, on or before 29 September 2021, submitted an expression of interest (EOI) for the skilled migrant category (SMC) visa which included a dependent child aged 17 or older and has been accepted into the pool for selection, or, who have an application lodged under the SMC, or, residence from work (RFW) category.

Importantly, the SMC, RFW or EOI application and reference numbers must be included in the 2021 resident visa application and can only be used once, so to avoid any issues it is not wise to share reference numbers with others. These numbers will be removed from the application by Immigration New Zealand once they confirm eligibility.

Phase two commences 1 March 2022 for all others eligible, including critical purpose visa holders who do not qualify to apply in the first phase.

It is extremely important not to make application in phase one when a person is clearly a phase two applicant, and is applying before commencement of phase two on 1 March 2022, as this will result in decline and affect future eligibility.

All applicants (including dependent family members) must meet health and character requirements, and provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate the criteria applying under is met.

There are three criteria avenues a principal applicant can demonstrate they meet in order to secure the resident visa – Settled, Skilled and Scarce.

Settled Criteria

An applicant must have first arrived in New Zealand before or on 29 September 2018 and had been in New Zealand for at least 821 days between 29 September 2018 and 29 September 2021 (basically 75% of their time spent here). There is no need to provide evidence of this as Immigration New Zealand have access to travel movement records, hence the application form only asks if you have spent the required number of days in New Zealand as a yes or no question.

Skilled Criteria

An applicant must demonstrate through sufficient evidence they are currently in employment with an eligible visa on a payrate of at least NZ$27 (gross) per hour, and were also receiving this payrate on 29 September 2021 for the role specified on their visa or were awaiting the outcome of an eligible visa application (including a variation of conditions) with this payrate offered and the visa was subsequently granted. Acceptable employment must be full-time (30 hours on average per week minimum). Contract work can be considered provided the person has a history of undertaking this.

Notably, a person who had reduced pay or hours due to Covid-19 impacts imposed by Government restrictions on business activity, provided can show were normally receiving required payrate and have/will be receiving this again, retain eligibility.

Evidence required under the skilled criteria includes evidence of increase in payrate occurring before 29 September 2021 if has changed from earlier visa application (if no change, then no evidence of payrate required). If changed, an employment agreement or letter from the employer, and pay transactions on bank statements (or summary of earnings report from Inland Revenue, or, payslips). Immigration New Zealand may request further evidence if deemed necessary.

Demonstrating payrate meets the level required is not always straightforward, particularly when factors like hours of work varying greatly from week to week, performance payments like bonuses are made, accommodation deductions and allowances are present, and for overnight healthcare worker stays. Here is a run-down of the more common scenarios of how Immigration New Zealand calculate remuneration:

If the employment agreement specifies payment other than by hour (including payment by salary) and the hours of work are variable, an immigration officer may request evidence of the range of hours to be worked to determine whether the variance in the hours worked would result in the per hour rate of pay being below the applicable remuneration threshold. (Note: Where evidence of the range of hours is provided, or where the employment agreement specifies a range of hours, the maximum hours will be used to calculate whether the relevant remuneration threshold is met).

Hours of work per week will be considered variable if the employment agreement contains a provision allowing the employer to request or require the employee to work additional hours from time to time.

Each hour of work must be paid at or above the applicable per hour remuneration threshold, except for overnight hours described below.

Remuneration includes:

  • the agreed value of any reasonable deduction from the applicant’s salary or wages for goods or services; and
  • in the case of accommodation provided in connection with the employment:
    • the agreed value of any reasonable deduction from the applicant’s salary or wages for that Accommodation; or
    • if accommodation is provided by the employer, and there is no deduction from the applicant’s salary or wages for that accommodation, the market rental value of the accommodation provided; or
  • if an accommodation allowance is provided, the amount of that allowance.
  • Remuneration excludes any other employment-related allowances (for example tool or uniform allowances) and bonuses which are dependent on performance.
  • Overnight work, within health industry, where an applicant is allowed to sleep during hours of work, is excluded from calculations of being paid at per hour threshold.

We know this can seem confusing, so we recommend discussing your situation with one of our Advisers.

Scarce Criteria

To be eligible, a person must work in a role featured on Immigration New Zealand scarce lists. The lists are:

  • Long-term skill shortage list
  • Personal carers and other critical health workers
  • Primary sector roles
  • Health and education sector vocations requiring occupational registration

The lists give a broad range of vocations. You can search the occupation lists at: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas/already-have-a-visa/one-off-residence-visa/2021-resident-visa-scarce-lists

Essentially, all other factors for criteria to be met, and the evidence to be provided, is the same as skilled criteria, except for payrate factor which is not applicable under scarce criteria, only that they must work in a role featured on a list (evidenced through an employment contract or letter from employer). Occupational registration is also required for some job roles under scarce avenue and evidence of holding this at time of application will be required.

Importantly for those working in an occupation that is indirectly related to providing health services, for example, human resources, office administration, property maintenance, these are not considered scarce roles.

Holders of Critical Purpose Visas

Critical health worker visa holders and other critical work visa holders for long-term roles (6 months or more) and those granted a critical purpose visitor visa including those with varied critical purpose conditions, do not need to meet any of the three factions criteria provided they held a critical purpose visa on 29 September 2021 or were granted their specific visa afterwards. Those who meet this requirement must arrive in New Zealand and apply before 31 July 2022. Any critical purpose visa holder must have been in New Zealand on 29 September 2021.

Those critical purpose visa holders who obtained a different type of eligible work visa prior to 29 September 2021 will be assessed under skilled or scarce criteria.

Nurses granted critical purpose visas to obtain occupation registration as a nurse in New Zealand must pass their competence assessment programme and secure occupations registration, or, have transitioned to an eligible work visa as at 29 September 2021 and meet settled, skilled or scarce requirements.

The critical purpose inclusion initiative is intended for longer-term roles, so those holding critical purpose short-term visas, like seasonal employer and humanitarian, do not qualify.

Including Family Members

Partners and dependent children both in New Zealand and overseas can be included as secondary applicants in both phase applications.

Partnerships need to be proven as genuine and stable through evidence submissions. Partners need to have lived together for a total of 12 months or more, either currently, or, in the past but have compelling reasons for a period of separation. Approval will not be given to those who cannot demonstrate a period of 12 months living together has already been met.

Dependent children aged 25 and over included in a skills-based, talent-based, religious visa or South Island contribution work visa, made on or before 29 September 2021 cannot be included in the new category application, but rather can submit their own paper-based application as an attached document (to the parent’s online application) at no additional fee. They must meet health and character requirements, be single (not married or in a serious partnership) and have no children of their own and have a biological or adoptive parent granted the new residence visa in order to secure their residence. It needs to be proven that the child is totally or substantially reliant on the eligible visa parent(s) for financial support, whether living with them or not. Children offshore granted residence will not be subject to border entry restrictions.

Health and Character Requirements

All applicants included in an application are required to meet health and character requirements.

Police Certificates are not required for any applicant included although Immigration New Zealand may request these if deemed necessary during handling of the application. New Zealand police checks do not need to be submitted as Immigration New Zealand will carry out these checks.

It is important to declare in application and provide comment on any changes which may impact meeting character requirements since last submitted an application. This includes any criminal charges being laid, convictions, or being wanted for questioning which may have occurred for any included applicant.

A limited medical certificate (and x-ray certificate) will only be required if a certificate had not been provided within the 36 months prior to application being made, or, there have been changes to any included applicant’s health, or, any included applicant’s health was previously deemed to have not met requirements.

Notably, medical waivers for normally unacceptable health conditions (except the most serious ailments) will generally be granted to dependent children and partners under this category.

Interim Visas

Interim visas of 12 months duration will automatically be granted and the applicant notified by Immigration New Zealand if their current temporary visa expires whilst awaiting processing of their 2021 resident visa application. The conditions attached to the interim visa will remain the same as the expired visa for most although there are some exceptions. Importantly, once the interim visa is granted an applicant cannot apply for a visa of another type (either temporary or residence visa). If uncertain about possible outcome of 2021 resident visa or you consider withdrawing it in future, apply for a further temporary visa at the earliest opportunity, which is not so restrictive, before current temporary visa expiry. Interim visas expire two months after decision made on residence visa application.

Application Fees

Total cost for resident visa is NZ$2,160 (incl. GST), which includes both an application fee of NZ$1,330 and migrant immigration levy of NZ$830 and are payable once an in-principle approval decision is made on the application. Any fee differences calculated as applicable by Immigration New Zealand between those paid for existing skills-based residence application and the new category application, will either be offered as refund or transferred as credit toward the 2021 resident visa finalisation.

When Visa Granted

An electronic visa (e-visa) will be granted once application approved in principle and any outstanding application fees are paid. The conditions attached to the visa will be the same as any other normal resident visa (no special requirements imposed), including travel conditions. The visa is valid for 24 months from date of issue, where once this period is met, a permanent resident visa can be applied for allowing indefinite stay in New Zealand (with indefinite travel conditions). This further visa is fairly straight-forward and mostly commonly considered under time spent in New Zealand criteria.

General Information to Be Aware Of

Settled criteria:

It does not matter what type of visa an applicant held when they first arrived in New Zealand, nor does it matter what type(s) of visa(s) were held between 29 September 2018 and 29 September 2021.

Skilled and Scarce criteria:

It is acceptable to meet the skilled criteria on 29 September 2021 and the scarce criteria at the time of application under this category. Some applicants who meet the skilled criteria on one date and the scarce criteria on another can still be eligible (switch criteria).

Self-employed people may be eligible, provided they have employment documents like employment agreements. Casual employment depends on an employment agreement’s mention of hours.

Immigration New Zealand have expressed they prefer bank statements and IRD income earnings as supporting evidence rather than payslips.

A person can meet either skilled or scare criteria as at 29 September 2021. If a person changes employment role since then, they may still meet criteria at time they apply if was met the same as at that date.

Applicants do not need to show they meet ANZSCO.

When looking for an applicable role on a list, it is not important to have an exact match to visa conditions position title. INZ will essentially be using visa conditions job title to match role to list although job title does not have to be an exact word-for-word match although INZ will need to be satisfied the applicant is generally working in the role, especially under scarce criteria.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I apply for the visa and while it is under assessment depart New Zealand?

In order to finalise a 2021 resident visa the principal applicant needs to be in New Zealand. If an applicant has travelled overseas, the residence application cannot be approved until their return, where border restrictions may prevent re-entry to New Zealand.

Can I include my partner who is currently outside New Zealand in my application?

Yes. Normal partnership rules apply – genuine, stable and living together likely to endure partnership. Where the principal applicant and their included partner are not currently living together, Immigration New Zealand will consider whether any compelling reasons for separation exist where one of those reasons may include the closure of borders to non-resident/citizens.

It is a requirement for couples to be living together for 12 months or more. If fall a little short of meeting this, Immigration New Zealand will consider the grant of residence to the principal applicant and defer the grant of residence to their partner to enable time to meet the living together requirement. It is likely Immigration will consider firstly whether viable for the principal applicant to travel outside New Zealand to re-commence living with their partner, or, be granted a special visa to allow entry. Their guidelines for approach to these circumstances are yet to be seen.

During the processing of the application, I am required to apply for a new work visa. Will this affect my 2021 residence visa eligibility?

Interim visas of 12 months duration will automatically be granted when current visa expires provided 2021 residence visa application is still under process. This does not need to be applied for and is automatically granted. If a temporary visa application is under process at the time current visa expires, a 2021 resident visa based interim visa will be granted instead of the normal 6 months interim visa granted upon new temporary visa application to give more flexibility. The visa conditions attached to a since expired visa will largely remain unchanged. There is no requirement to hold an eligible work visa during processing of the residence visa but people must remain lawfully in New Zealand, an interim visa is considered lawful stay.

Can a secondary applicant (partner or dependent children) included in a skilled migrant category (including an expression of interest) or residence from work application currently under process by Immigration New Zealand apply under phase 1 if they are eligible in their own right for the 2021 resident visa?

Yes. All applicants included in an applicable residence application accepted on or before 29 September 2021 may qualify as a phase 1 applicant in their own right provided they meet eligibility requirements.

Do supporting documents need to be certified as true copies?

No. The Immigration New Zealand online system allows for acceptance of document copies provided they are legible. Any documents not in English must be translated by a recognised translation service.

Under skilled and scarce categories, does my employer need to provide another employer supplementary form?

No. This is not required.

Can I prepare an application form in-lieu of making an application submission at the next intake in 2022?

No. The online system does not allow for data to be entered and saved into their system in advance of next phase date.

If I apply in phase 1, and do not meet requirements, can I make an application in phase 2?

Yes. Although please be aware that a question on the application form clearly asks if met criteria on 29 September 2021. As the form is a legal declaration requiring a truthful answer, if incorrectly answered, this could result in unfavourable decision and impact any future other applications made. It is advisable to speak with a Licensed Immigration Adviser from our team if unsure about eligibility under the phases.

If a principal applicant or included dependent family member requires a new medical and x-ray certificate, can an application be lodged pending this?

STOP PRESS: A recent change to INZ process now allows for those applying under Phase 2 will be able to apply under the new enhanced Immigration Online system meaning an applicant will be able to apply even if has not been able to get a medical certificate before commencing the application. If a medical certificate is required, INZ will ask for this to be provided later. If you have been able to get a medical certificate before application made, INZ will have this information and will not need another one supplied.

Does an overseas police clearance need to be provided for an eligible family member included in an application where they have not provided one to Immigration New Zealand in a prior application?

Principal applicants are not required to provide police clearances from their home country or any other country they have lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years, as per required under other residence categories (unless this is requested during processing of the application), nor a New Zealand police check. Dependents included in an application technically do not need to provide police certificates either, however, those who have not presented a certificate in a prior application Immigration New Zealand may request this during handling of the application if deemed necessary. We anticipate in some cases this will be required, so it is worthwhile considering applying for a police clearance for dependents aged 17 and over included in the application early, as it is known that some certificates can take some months to obtain. Applying early will avoid delays in decision on application being made if Immigration New Zealand request certificates from included dependents.

What Should I Do Now?

The team at Professional Visa Solutions are super knowledgeable and experienced. We are firmly dedicated to providing you with the most relevant up-to-date information relating to the new 2021 resident visa category.

You can explore your eligibility with one of our experienced Licensed Immigration through a simple consultation. Once eligibility is confirmed we will be delighted to handle your case and ensure you obtain residency without hassles and promptly.

We are sure you will be satisfied with our services and care for your situation. So why wait? Book a consultation now! It's as simple as visiting our website.

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