New Zealand Borders Opening for Travel Announcement

The COVID-19 pandemic had put various travel restrictions on international travellers. However that is fading away now as the NZ government is relaxing travel restrictions. Read ahead to know more about the latest happenings.

Our team at Professional Visa Solutions have our finger on the pulse, bringing you up-to-date information and our advice on the latest regarding re-opening New Zealand’s borders and those intending overseas travel with return to New Zealand. Read on to get the guff.

What Did the New Zealand Government Announce?

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, has today announced a framework toward re-opening borders in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In summary, this consists of the following approach:

  • Vaccination rollout will speed up, with all eligible ages able to book in their vaccine by 1 September
  • Move to 6 weeks between doses to ensure more NZers at least partially vaccinated as soon as possible in face of Delta risk
  • Phased approach to reopening border with self-isolation pilot this year and set up of new testing and vaccine checking systems at border
  • From the first quarter of 2022 move to new individual risk based border settings that will establish low, medium and high risk pathways into the country
  • Elimination retained as best strategy to keep COVID out and economy open

What Does This Mean for Migrants?

The intended plan will enable those with valid visas (residence and temporary visa holders) to enter New Zealand, or, return to New Zealand following international travel. The plan relies on the level of vaccination, when vaccinated and where administered.

Those vaccinated and holding New Zealand citizenship or a valid visa allowing travel to New Zealand could potentially qualify. This includes those living in New Zealand those stuck offshore.

Depending on vaccination uptake rate, plans for a phased introduction of individual risk-based approach to border settings can occur sometime in the first quarter of 2022. Operational systems need to be developed by Government which will take the remainder of 2021 to do, thus a more exact timeframe for implementation is not able to be given at this time.

Risk assessment schedule of Low-Risk, Medium-Risk and High-Risk travel pathways will be created, and defined by which travel pathway a traveller takes en-route to intended New Zealand entry and their vaccination status. Each pathway will have testing and isolation requirements proportionate to that risk.

  • The Low-Risk pathway will permit quarantine free entry for vaccinated travellers who have been in low risk countries, for example as per currently with the Cook Islands and previously with Australia. The Government will initiate a testing pilot with a small population sample soon. All those who have been vaccinated to a satisfactory level and have travelled to low-risk countries will be eligible for home isolation and are not able to isolate with family members or others.
  • The Medium-Risk pathway would include a combination of self-isolation and/or reduced quarantine stay for vaccinated travellers who have been in medium risk countries. Businesses and organisations that need to send staff overseas will be invited to express interest in participating in a pilot to determine if is a safe approach to take which will run between October and December 2021.
  • The High-Risk pathway will see the continuation of a full 14 days in managed isolation and testing for all travelers who have been in very high risk or high risk countries.

What Advice Does Professional Visa Solutions Give?

Our team of experienced Immigration Advisers give the following advice:

We believe part of the purpose of Government’s offerings in the re-opening of borders sense through the enticing incentive of border movements into New Zealand encourages population positive vaccination uptake and allows for a wider New Zealand presence once again on the world stage thus serving immigration’s social and economic objectives.

New Zealand’s border cannot remain indefinitely closed as human and fiscal impacts are strained. It is clear from today’s announcement that migrant voices have been heard somewhat (although not to the degree possibly expected) with consideration given to balancing their immigration objectives with wider New Zealand wants and needs, particularly for those separated from family, including those holding temporary visas, and those conducting international business potentially benefiting.

To be clear, definitely there are to be relaxations in travel for intending travelers, but with some restrictions in place, although New Zealand's borders are not yet "freely open" to all intending travelers. The New Zealand Government has not considered this viable at this time in their announcement and continues to impose heavy restrictions on who is allowed into New Zealand citing protecting the best interests of New Zealand continuing into and during 2022.

However, there is hope fewer restrictions on entry could emerge in future. It is thought that any further considerations of allowing other traveler groups into New Zealand will be dependent upon the country's internal progressions with the uptake of vaccinations, how well the pilot programme fairs and management of the risk-level analysis system over the coming anticipated 12 months.

The announcement surely benefits separated families and migrants living offshore holding valid visas. Particularly those who meet special border exception criteria for entry (this includes partners and children who held visas for entry but were not able to when New Zealand's borders were initially closed, partners and children of health care workers and highly-skilled workers). The announcement is not likely to benefit the likes of partners of temporary work visa holders in New Zealand like Essential Skills Work Visas wanting to have their partner gain first entry to New Zealand under partnership criteria or general visitor visa criteria applying from their home country.

Immigration New Zealand are accepting applications from those who may meet exception criteria although are not generally accepting new applications under normal criteria, having suspended processing for all general offshore applications currently on-hand with a significant number being lapsed with refunds of application fees offered.

We anticipate Immigration New Zealand are likely to release information in-line with the Prime Minister’s announcement today which gives some idea on how this impacts current visa holders with valid travel conditions and those fortunate enough to be awaiting a decision on an application for entry. There are likely to be no major changes made which could benefit wider migrant circles other than those visa type areas already in place (partners of those holding work visas in critical areas such as healthcare and holding highly skilled positions and those given recent concessions like Regional Seasonal Employment opportunities through Pacific nations).

New Zealand Citizens and Resident Visa holders currently overseas living with their migrant partner for at least a few continuous months may meet exception for entry criteria. We encourage those in this situation to seek professional advice from us at the earliest opportunity through an initial consultation, bookable via our website, through WhatsApp, Facebook or phoning our office.

If you are a migrant currently in New Zealand and entertaining the prospect of overseas travel to any destination(s), get vaccinated as soon as possible when available to your age group, even if it is only partial vaccination. The Government has sped-up the vaccine rollout. All people (except children aged 12 to 16 as further testing on safety of vaccine for this age group is undertaken) are eligible to book the initial vaccination by September 2021 thus receiving their second does by December. Commencing the vaccination process bodes well for return to New Zealand following any overseas travel at a later stage, regardless of risk-level of country returning from as vaccination is required at all risk levels. The more vaccinations and frequency received will impact any future travel plans.

New vaccination dates are as follows:

  • 50-plus will be open from Friday, August 13
  • 40-plus will be open from Wednesday, August 18
  • 30-plus will be open from Wednesday, August 25
  • All ages eligible from September 1

Book vaccine at or by calling 0800 28 29 26.

We suspect risk levels are likely to be determined by a country’s progressions in effectively managing their Covid-19 situation. Country risk levels will be monitored closely where a country could shift in level at short notice, thus changing the degree of travel requirements necessary for re-settlement in New Zealand. It is worthwhile being prepared for the worst case scenario with regard to quarantine and length of facility stay and how this could impact your life in New Zealand.

For those stuck offshore seeking entry to New Zealand - get vaccinated, whether NZ citizen, permanent resident or temporary visa holder with valid travel conditions (admittedly there are very few with this luxury remaining), you need to get vaccinated and keep these up-to-date as variants of the virus emerge with new vaccines made available. Proving through documentation you are vaccinated is vital for entry.

Also, booking places in a managed isolation facility in New Zealand have been difficult more recently with no signs of letting-up, therefore people should think about what country they are in (and which potentially low-risk travel countries they have access to at this time) which will give clues as to eligibility to eventually enter New Zealand quarantine-free or with home isolation which are most desirable options.

If your visa is expiring before the end of 2021, it is worthwhile exploring your visa options for the future now to ensure you have the most effective and applicable visa to allow for crossing New Zealand’s borders upon return from overseas.

What should I do now?

Contact a knowledgeable Immigration Adviser from Professional Visa Solutions to discuss your situation and plans.

The team at Professional Visa Solutions are dedicated to providing you with the most relevant up-to-date information relating to border entry and visa matters.

We are here to help you during these uncertain and stressful times. From simple queries to complex matters, we are here to assist you with our excellent advice.

We are sure you will be satisfied with our care shown for your situation, so why wait? Book a consultation now! It's as simple as visiting our website to choose an Adviser and time which suits you.

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