A five-step plan has been orchestrated incorporating self-isolation instead of managed isolation and quarantine upon arrival, which is part of the overall objective to open borders to the world.

The Government recognises that having Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) for every traveller was a temporary measure whilst New Zealand lifted its vaccination rate where are now in a good position as a nation to enable reconnection with the world both socially and economically through phased reopening of New Zealand’s borders.

The plan commences with step 1 on 27 February 2022 through to the final step 5 in October 2022 and will allow for self-isolation instead of managed isolation and quarantine for selected groups of travellers, beginning with Kiwis intending travel from Australia, followed by Kiwis in other parts of the world through to certain temporary visa holders and international students and ending with applications being opened for most visa categories in October 2022.

The primary factors for all travellers to avoid a stay in a managed isolation facility is the need to demonstrate full vaccination to meet entry permission visa requirements. This includes proving Covid-19 pre-departure tests have been done. Only unvaccinated children under 17 who are travelling with vaccinated parents or guardians are exempt for this requirement. Unvaccinated travellers can still travel although need to secure a coveted spot in a managed isolation facility where can expect a longer stay period that those self-isolating and undertake pre-departure tests needed.

STEP 1

From 11.59pm on February 27 fully vaccinated Kiwis, and other eligible travellers from Australia, will be able to travel to New Zealand and self-isolate at home.

Unvaccinated travellers will still require a stay in MIQ.

Travellers from certain Pacific countries will be able to enter New Zealand.

STEP 2

From 11.59pm on March 13, fully vaccinated Kiwis and other eligible travellers from the rest of the world will be able to enter the country without an MIQ stay.

Border exceptions for critical workers are being expanded, with skilled workers earning NZ$40.50 per hour no longer require their roles offered to be labour market tested, along with the families of highly skilled workers, being allowed to enter.

Some working holiday schemes will reopen. Which ones will be announced soon.

Travellers from certain PaciThe primary factors for all travellers to avoid a stay in a managed isolation facility is the need to demonstrate full vaccination to meet entry permission visa requirements. This includes proving Covid-19 pre-departure tests have been done. Only unvaccinated children under 17 who are travelling with vaccinated parents or guardians are exempt for this requirement. Unvaccinated travellers can still travel although need to secure a coveted spot in a managed isolation facility where can expect a longer stay period that those self-isolating and undertake pre-departure tests needed.fic countries, notably Fiji, can enter New Zealand.

STEP 3

From 11.59pm on April 12, up to 5000 international students selected by the Ministry of Education in New Zealand will be allowed in, as well as temporary work and student visa holders who wish to depart New Zealand and have valid travel conditions allowing return at a later stage. More information will be provided soon by Government on eligibility criteria for students and how to apply.

Workforce class exceptions, events and government programmes lists will be extended and updated. More detail will follow.

Additional and expanded class exceptions for critical workers earning below 1.5 times the median wage will be implemented. Further details from Government will be provided for soon.

STEP 4

By end of July 2022, Australians and visitors from visa-waiver countries, and those holding valid visas outside New Zealand, are eligible to enter.

By end of July 2022, Australians and visitors from visa-waiver countries, and those holding valid visas outside New Zealand, are eligible to enter.

Border exception pathway for critical workers will be phased out. The opening of the new accredited employer work visa category at this time will occur but entry to New Zealand under this category will be limited mainly to roles that pay above the median wage which is currently NZ$27 per hour.

Workforce class exceptions and other border exceptions will remain in place where Government determines needs exist until wider visa processing resumes in October 2022.

STEP 5

In October, border fully reopens to all other New Zealand visa holders including visitors and students from anywhere in the world, and all visa categories fully reopened to applications being made (unless category closed or paused due to Covid-19 management shifts).

Self Isolation Duration

The length of home isolation required will match the period for close contacts in New Zealand. Currently it's 10 days, but in phase two of the current Omicron response system, it will drop to seven. This is likely to occur mid-March 2022 with the aim of lifting isolation all-together when deemed safe to do so in future.

Managed Isolation and Quarantine Requirement

MIQ will be scaled back, high risk travellers, such as those who are unvaccinated, would still need to use it.

COVID Testing Necessary

All arrivals will be given three rapid antigen tests upon arrival at the airport, to take home. One for use on day 0/1, and one for use on day 5/6, with one extra for backup. A positive test will see returnees asked to get a higher-level test.

Provisas Analysis of Changes

Many questions remain as to how it all will work over coming months, and whether the unpredictability of Covid will disrupt the plan, although it is clear a careful and balanced approach through a phasing-in plan has been implemented by Government to protect New Zealand’s public interests whilst allowing for social and economic growth. We also think that the Immigration Jagger-naught has filtered-in it’s processing capacity which has been very shaky at times, with anticipated rules ahead being restrictive or preventative to many so numbers seeking entry can be controlled well.

The planned approach begins safely and slowly at Step 1, with mostly Kiwis based in Australia and only a small number of others allowed in. Many have already been able to travel with the windows of opportunity given in the past, with the only advancement being no MIQ now-on. It seems geared at those previously settled in New Zealand or wanting to get back without the hassle of MIQ. It is particularly good for those doing international business through ease of movement.

Step 2 is still limiting with the only noticeable advancement is that enabling New Zealanders in other nations besides Australia to seek entry and the lowering of income threshold and labour market testing for the highly skilled.

Step 3 sees a bit more movement with borders open to wider factions, although existing temporary visa holders where not many are still around on valid visas if there were not here March 2020, and students limited to only a fraction of usual numbers in Covid-free times (with selection controlled by Government and requirements sketchy at this time), and events and sporting being covered by the category - other critical worker – renders the scope of movement at this step perhaps minimal.

The real movements for most begin to happen at Step 4. Notably, visa-free countries seeking short stay and the commencement of the new accredited employer work visa category (requiring a minimum salary of only $58k) potentially allowing for a wider cross-section of visa applicants to be in New Zealand. This is good news for employers struggling to fill labour needs particularly for higher-skilled role migrants. The compulsory requirement for all employers and labour hire companies to be accredited with Immigration New Zealand falls well in-line with Step 4 and commences from July 2022 after delays impacted last intended full implementation in October 2021 (policy refinements are being made but largely remains the same as already publically known – see ProVisas article on accreditation here: https://provisas.co.nz/employer-accreditation-and-work-visa-changes-explained/ ).

Border exception pathway for critical workers will be phased out. The opening of the new accredited employer work visa category at this time will occur but entry to New Zealand under this category will be limited mainly to roles that pay above the median wage which is currently NZ$27 per hour.

Of-course Step 5 is the one we are all waiting for, in October 2022, although this is still very restrictive particularly foreseen in the skills-based work area likely due to Governments need to balance low skilled (many are likely to seek entry so no doubt Government will control numbers through limitations around labour market needs) and high skilled (likely easier entry) workforce needs which will be better known closer to this time in order to manage. We anticipate details of entry requirements in this area won’t be fully known until a lot closer to October as Government will be closely monitoring trends and adapting policies to suit.

Good news for many is the ability for genuine tourists and visiting family members to seek entry from non-visa waiver countries, particularly beneficial for major markets like China and India, and with the new Immigration Online Enhanced System recently implemented commencing with visitor visa applications as somewhat a testing environment for visas due to lower risk nature, the process and ease of applying and timeframe for decision should be very clear (see ProVisas article here: https://provisas.co.nz/enhancements-to-immigration-online/ ).

For students, it is great news, particularly with 5000 tertiary places being made available (these will likely be for studies in demand vocational areas best for New Zealand’s Covid recovery plan like engineering, primary industry related, teaching and medical fields). Most international students can seek to commence studies in 2023, with study institutes already gearing-up through online marketing campaigns to attract the large numbers expected. Our team of education specialists at ProVisas is also busy preparing to engage in liaising with students and institutes whom we have mutual relationships with. Notably, certain student markets like visa- waiver Japan and South Korea could potentially enter New Zealand from July on short-term visas and seek to study.

Overall, we see the easing of entry restrictions being a timely response to the angst most migrants are feeling. It means many can continue with work and business activities and long separated families can re-join. The fundamentals are there although there is a lot for Government to work on with the intricacies still being developed, some needed within a short timeframe to meet with Step implementation. A lot of uncertainty exists particularly with temporary visa application criteria like Government student quota and accredited employer work visa in which the rules needed to meet have yet to be conveyed, not even a hint as to when or what might be on the table. With deadlines looming can Government, including Immigration New Zealand, pull together something which supports their initiative to hit the pressure release-valve and open New Zealand up to the world or will further impingements and stresses be placed on migrants. This remains to be seen. Watch this space…

Commonly Asked Questions – Travel & Isolation and Visas:

Which vaccines are acceptable for entry to New Zealand?

New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Health Departments lists the following:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • AstraZeneca (Oxford)
  • AstraZeneca/Covishield (Serum Institute of India)
  • Moderna
  • Sinopharm (Beijing)
  • Sinovac (CoronaVac)
  • Covaxin (Bharat Biotech)

Furthermore, a negative pre-departure test within 48 hours of flight boarding will be required.

Can my family in Australia visit me in New Zealand and self-isolate?

Yes but they need to be fully vaccinated to do so. They can visit commencing 27 February 2022. They need to be Australian with New Zealand being the primary place of residence, New Zealand citizens, resident visa holders or be an other eligible traveller. Partners, dependent children and parents of dependent children in Australia can also self-isolate if they hold a visa based on their relationship with a New Zealand citizen or resident and are travelling with a New Zealander. If can’t meet this criteria, they can wait until July at the latest.

Can my family from any other country besides Australia visit and self-isolate?

Yes. From 13 March 2022 if they hold a relationship-based visa with a New Zealander. Otherwise, wait until July if travelling from a visa-waiver country (there are many and listed on Immigration New Zealand’s website) and hold a valid visa at the time or hold an accredited employer work visa.

I am a New Zealander overseas who wishes to bring my partner and children who are not citizens to New Zealand. Will they be able to self-isolate with me?

Yes. If they hold a visa based on their relationship with you and are travelling with you. If travelling from Australia, you and your family can travel from 27 February 2022 and if travelling from elsewhere from 13 March 2022. If haven’t obtained visa for entry already, it is worthwhile considering putting together an application now.

I am in New Zealand on a visa and want to travel overseas. Will I be able to self-isolate upon return?

Yes, although depends what visa type held. If resident visa, can travel from Australia at end of February and self-isolate. If from elsewhere, from mid-March. If holding a temporary work or student visa, self-isolation is available upon return from 12 April 2022. Accredited employer work visa holders and visa waiver country visitor visa holders can self-isolate from July. All remaining other visa category holders can re-enter and self-isolate from October 2022.

My family live overseas and wish to visit me in New Zealand. Can they stay with us in self-isolation?

Yes. Although if Covid is found to be present in the household, close-contact isolation rules will apply which have strict conditions.

What is considered acceptable self-isolation?

Staying at a family or friends home or any other suitable alternative accommodation which includes holiday accommodation provided owner or manager approve stay.

When will self-isolation requirements end?

The New Zealand Government will continue to monitor the need for this, particularly due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Travellers need to self-isolate for 10 days going forward although this will drop to seven days when New Zealand enters phase two of the three-phase public health response to Omicron.

When visitors from visa waiver countries and accredited employer work visa holders are able to enter from July, could I still apply under critical purpose visa category?

No. Border exception pathway for entry for all critical workers will be phased out as it is deemed no longer needed, being replaced by the accredited employer work visa category. However, the new category will be limited under this Step 2 component of the plan to mainly roles that pay above the median wage. Although, workforce class exceptions and other border exception criteria will remain in place until normal visa processing avenues resume in October.

Have visa category application requirements changed, especially for temporary visa entry commencing in March?

Most eligible visas are likely to require the same as now, with a few exceptions and adjustments, although Immigration New Zealand decision making on applications will remain as a risk-based system. This is known to be a high-risk, moderate risk and low risk approach in which the top consideration given is where a traveller is from followed by an algorithmic determination of risk based on an array of factors like health, character and credibility and the level of determination applied depends on the visa category applying under.

The key factor applicable to all seeking the self-isolation option is to demonstrate acceptable vaccinations have been done and show a negative Covid test within a few days of departure.

I intend to travel to New Zealand to holiday and work on a casual basis, under the working holiday scheme when it opens in March 2022. What should I know?

A: Mid-March 2022 this option will be available although the details of eligible countries and what is required are not known yet but likely to be made available shortly. We suspect that common and easy-to-fill quota countries which are in “Covid control” and are suitable to fill labour shortages in immediate workforce deficient needed areas (like hospitality, tourism, horticulture and viticulture) will be top of the list. Perhaps countries like the USA and within Europe, although this is purely experienced speculation.

Any additional requirements besides vaccination and test matters will be made available soon.

I hold a Student Visa and in New Zealand. Can I leave before Step 3 (12 April 2022) and return without restrictions after?

Yes. But travel conditions allowing re-entry must be specified on the student visa. Furthermore, if you are offshore and still hold a valid student visa with travel conditions and are returning for studies, you can do so from Step 3 implementation however Immigration New Zealand are still figuring-out how to determine visa conditions are still being met to meet with the law requirements. The advice is not to book a flight until further information provided for.

I am overseas, hold a valid skills-based work visa and intend return to New Zealand although the timing of lifting border restriction dates without managed isolation are going to be very close to visa expiry. What should I do?

Provided the job returning to New Zealand for is same as specified on your visa, and you have a letter from your employer expressing this (with indication of acceptable payrate and any current/updated employment contract) which can be shown for the purpose of intended travel (particularly upon arrival in New Zealand at the border) to alleviate concerns of visa officers you may overstay especially, you should be fine. The best advice is to discuss your exact situation with our Advisers before confirming any plans to travel.

What Should I Do?

Such exciting news but so much information to absorb and consider your best option can seem overwhelming. The team at ProVisas can help you put things in perspective and formulate a plan for you or your family to enter New Zealand by the easiest means possibly.

Contact a proficient and knowledgeable licensed Immigration Adviser from Professional Visa Solutions today.

Consult with us through a simple and FREE consultation. Book online today with the below link.

https://provisas.co.nz/free-consultation/

Alternatively, you can arrange to speak with an Adviser by phoning +64 9 279 4576, or, through WhatsApp on +64 22 112 1112.

You can also flick us an email at: inquiry@provisas.co.nz