The New Zealand Government has finally heard the cries of migrant families separated due to COVID-19 border restrictions by allowing some the opportunity to reunite.

On 19th April 2021 the Minister of Immigration, Hon. Kris Faafoi, announced the intended introduction of border exceptions allowing wider scope to existing rules for family members to join a work or student visa holder in New Zealand.

Exception applications will now be able to be made for families of health industry temporary visa workers here in New Zealand and those in other highly skilled sectors to be joined by their immediate family members.

The border exceptions will apply to partners and children of temporary workers in these areas who either held a visa or intended to apply to join the principal visa holder in New Zealand but were caught out by the New Zealand border closure in effect from 19th March 2020.

The changes come into effect from 30 April 2021 and allow for applications to be made under the border exception category, provided specific criteria can be demonstrated as met.

What is the eligibility criteria?

The category will include three groups which are:

  • Partners and dependent children who held (and continue to hold) a visa for New Zealand but were unable to join their partner or parent in New Zealand before the border closed
  • Partners and dependent children of health care workers
  • Partners and dependent children of highly-skilled workers

The criteria under each group, as specified by Immigration New Zealand, will be:

Partners and dependent children who held a visa before the border closure

To be eligible to enter New Zealand, partners or dependent children outside of New Zealand must hold a current visa based on their relationship to the person in New Zealand. The partner or parent must be currently in New Zealand and have 12 months or more remaining on their work or student visa when the request to travel is submitted.

Partners and dependent children of health care workers

To be eligible, you must:

  • be the partner or dependent child of a person who is currently in New Zealand on a temporary visa.

The person in New Zealand must:

  • be currently in New Zealand, and
  • have a visa specifying they work in an occupation needed to deliver critical health services in New Zealand, and
  • hold a visa that is valid for 12 months or more after the date the request to travel is submitted

If your request is successful, you will be invited to apply for a visa.

Your visa application must include, evidence of your relationship with the primary visa holder. Evidence can include, but is not limited to:

  • a description of your partnership, including details of any previous shared living arrangements
  • any supporting documentation demonstrating your partnership — including marriage certificate or joint bank account
  • travel movements of you and your partner
  • evidence your partner supports your travel to New Zealand 
  • any other evidence showing a commitment to a shared life

Partners and dependent children of highly-skilled workers

To be eligible to enter New Zealand, you must:

  • be the partner or dependent child of a person who is currently in New Zealand on a temporary visa

The person in New Zealand must:

  • be currently living and employed in New Zealand, and
  • earn at least twice the median salary — currently NZD $106,080 per year
  • hold a visa that is valid for 12 months or more after the date the request to travel is submitted
  • they have unique experience and technical or specialist skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand
  • they have a role essential for the completion or continuation of a science programme under a government funded or partially government-funded contract, including research and development exchanges and partnerships, and have the support of the Science, Innovation and International Branch at MBIE to carry out this work

A role essential for the delivery or execution of one of the following

  • an approved major infrastructure project, or a government approved event or a major government approved programme
  • an approved government-to-government agreement
  • work with a significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy

In your request to travel you will be asked to provide information from the employer of the person in New Zealand to prove eligibility.

If your request is successful, you will be invited to apply for a visa. Your visa application must provide evidence of your relationship with your partner or parent who is in New Zealand. This evidence can include, but is not limited to:

  • a description of your partnership, including details of any previous shared living arrangements
  • any supporting documentation demonstrating your relationship — including marriage certificate or joint bank account, birth certificates for dependent children
  • travel movements of you and your partner or parent
  • evidence your partner supports your travel to New Zealand
  • any other evidence showing a commitment to a shared life

What does it mean for me and my family?

The key areas we think you need to be aware of following the Minister’s announcement are:

All Groups

  • Firstly, a request is made through Immigration New Zealand’s online system.  A small fee is likely to apply.  An indication and explanation of how criteria can be met is likely required.  An outline of the nature of the relationship to the person in New Zealand is also likely required.  Although likely subsequent requests can be made following any initial failed attempt, it is recommended that the first request is handled well to greater the chances of success.  Professional industry assistance should be sought in the first instance accordingly
  • Secondly, if the request is approved, an invitation to apply will be given at which time evidence must be presented to demonstrate criteria can be met and validate claims made in request.  Application forms and higher application fees are likely required.   Again, this is where professional industry assistance is extremely important given what is at stake
  • The New Zealand-based visa holder needs to have 12 months validity or more remaining on their visa after the family member(s) request to travel is submitted.  So, if less than 12 months remains on the visa at the time Immigration New Zealand decide the family member’s application, a visa for entry can still be granted.  We anticipate applications will be given priority processing with a majority of applications decided promptly so this scenario is not likely to affect many
  • The temporary visa holder supporting family to enter New Zealand must be physically in New Zealand at the time the request is made and at the time a decision is made on the subsequent application following an invitation to apply.  It is important the New Zealand-based visa holder does not see exception for entry approval as a reason to leave New Zealand to “collect” family in anticipation of subsequent application approval.  There are no guarantees the subsequent application will be approved following initial exception approval to apply
  • For partner’s, the relationship needs to be demonstrated to a level befitting of a genuine and stable partnership.  For children, relationship to parents will be required, which could include birth certificate or established adoption documentation
  • We suspect the bar for proving a partnership will be set high.  Applicants and their supporting partners should not place all emphasis on communication whilst apart, as seems to be the common belief this will be enough.  More substance to the relationship whilst apart will need to be shown.  This includes such things as financial interdependence and level of commitment to a shared life (particularly what efforts have been made to accommodate joining family in New Zealand).  This is where professional advice is best in order to give best guidance particularly on how to present the best case to demonstrate your partnership through evidence, descriptions and presentation of case for consideration

Family of Health Care Workers

  • The New Zealand-based visa holder will need to hold a current valid visa with validity of 12 months or more which specifies work deemed as directly related to critical health related services.  Qualifying criteria is likely to be determined by Immigration New Zealand based on the occupations deemed needed to deliver important health services for certain health provider bodies
  • We anticipate particularly a high proportion of workers positively impacted by the changes to be involved in aged care services
  • Details of vocational areas and service providers can be found via the Immigration New Zealand Operational Instructions at: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/opsmanual/#73514.htm

Highly Skilled Workers

  • "Highly skilled workers" are also referred to as “other critical workers” as per the New Zealand-based person’s grant of visa previously.  These are people currently in New Zealand and employed due to their special or unique abilities which New Zealand needs during these difficult times
  • Only these specific visa holders who earn NZD$106,080 (gross) or more per annum are able to seek to bring family to New Zealand under the new criteria.  The New Zealand Governments states this category pertains to a small number of affected people
  • The New Zealand-based visa holder will be required to provide information from their employer to prove eligibility.  This should be seen as proving the earning requirement is met at time of exception request, likely done through information such as past income earnings and tax records.  Evidence the employer is able to pay such income could also be required, which maybe via accountant reports and tax records

How can Professional Visa Solutions assist me and my family?

We are here solely to assist you. The experienced team of Advisers at Professional Visa Solutions are best-suited to handle your needs. We have been handling border exception requests and subsequent partnership applications for over 12 months now, gaining great successes including with the most complex cases. We know how hard it has been for you and your family to be separated for this considerable period and have the passion to work hard and promptly to ensure you are reunited here in safe New Zealand.

You will find your anxieties and stresses can be easily relieved through our great advice and representation. Your journey to be together with beloved family starts with a simple free consultation with a wise adviser from our team. So why wait? Contact us today!