There have been a lot of changes to immigration rules since our borders closed to the world in March 2020. The good news is that our borders have finally re-opened as of 1 August 2022. However, the ability to migrate to NZ, whether temporarily or permanently, has changed, and you need to consider your options in advance.
So if you want to migrate to NZ, let me remind you of some of what has been going on and the categories available to you and your family members. Moving to NZ post Covid-19 is an important decision. The paperwork can be overwhelming and stressful for those who need to make life-changing decisions.
New Zealand allows travellers with passports issued by certain visa waiver countries to visit New Zealand without applying for a visa in advance. However, you must first apply online for an NZ Electronic Travel Authority NZeTA to avoid trouble at check-in.
If you are not from a visa waiver country, then from 1 August 2022 you can apply for a visitor visa to visit NZ. See my earlier blog, which discusses the criteria. Applying for a visitor is not always a simple process, even after the borders have reopened to the world. Immigration NZ (“INZ”) still needs to assess that you are a genuine visitor, will not overstay your visit, and will return to your home country at the end of your visit. There is no specific list on INZ’s website to say what documents you can use to prove that your reasons for visiting NZ are genuine. Here is why using immigration experts can be useful. We usually go beyond INZ’s standard requirements and provide more documents to cover all aspects of your personal circumstances. For example – family ties, we may ask you to provide evidence of their status in their home country, employment, and evidence of work and financial commitments.
With the NZ border closure, the separation of families and the difficulty in getting into NZ, the government has made dramatic changes to work visa categories.
Previously, to apply for an Essential Skills work visa, the skill level of the role determined the length of the visa and whether a labour market test was required for that specific role. INZ relied on the job classification under the Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). For example, someone who was highly paid would get a 3-year work visa, their partner would get an open work visa, and their children would be attending school as domestic students. On the other hand, someone with a low wage would only get a 1-year visa, and their family would only get visitor visas.
From July 2020, INZ stopped using ANZSCO to determine the job’s skill level for Essential Skills work visas. Instead, a job paid at above the current median wage (NZ$25.50) was “higher skilled”, while a wage below the median was “lower skilled”.
In May 2022, the government unveiled the new temporary work visa category “the Accredited Employer Work Visa” (AEWV) that replaced the following 6 work visa categories:
- Essential Skills Work Visa
- Essential Skills Work Visa — approved in principle
- Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa
- Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa
- Silver Fern Job Search Visa (closed 7 October 2019)
- Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa
As explained in a previous blog, it is a 3-stage system – employer accreditation, the job check and the individual’s application for a visa. Two of those steps belong to the employer. So if you want to migrate to NZ on a work visa, you need an offer of employment with an accredited employer. Some occupations in short supply allow a pathway to Skilled Residence either immediately, or after 2 years – particularly for engineers, medical professionals and IT specialists.
The Specific Purpose work visa category has not changed. It allows key staff of a multinational to come on assignment, or technical specialists to be contracted to run a project in NZ. Sometimes that can lead indirectly to Residence in the long run by using the visa scheme creatively.
The Talent (Arts, Culture and Sport) work visa is also available. You can apply for this visa if you have exceptional talent in one of those fields and want to live in New Zealand temporarily or permanently. You will need to be supported by a nationally recognised New Zealand organisation.
Partners of New Zealanders can progress to Residence too, even if the NZ sponsor has been living outside New Zealand for many years.
From December 2022, you can support a visitor visa for your partner if your are granted an AEWV. They will be able to work less than 30 hours per week. If you are working in an occupation on the Green List or are paid twice the median wage you can support a work visa with open work rights for your partner.
Before 27 July 2022, there were two Investor categories. Investor 1 where you can invest in NZ $10 million and Investor 2, where you can invest a minimum of $3 million in NZ. Those two categories were closed after 27 July 2022. That scheme has now been closed.
The new Active Investor Plus category now requires a minimum NZD$5 million investment in ‘active’ investments in NZ businesses, or minimum NZ$15 million into a more passive portfolio. It opens on 19 September 2022, although little detail has yet been released about how it is meant to work. The Minister of Immigration stated that the new policy was brought in to better attract experienced, high-value investors who will bring growth opportunities to NZ businesses.
The Parent Residence scheme was re-opened in early 2020. This relies on the NZ son or daughter showing that they earn enough to sponsor one or both parents. The salary thresholds started with twice the median wage (currently about $112,000 a year). With the border closure this policy was put on hold indefinitely. Simon Laurent has discussed the other options available to parents in a previous blog. These are:
- Parent Retirement Residence – if your parents are moderately wealthy. They must invest NZ$1 million for 4 years, show that they have another $500,000 to live on, and have an income (such as a pension or rents), of $60,000 per year;
- Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa – if your parents are 66 years or over. Similar criteria to Parent Retirement Residence, except that they only have to invest $750,000 for 2 years. But they only get a 2-year Visitor Visa, so the value of this policy is not great in return;
- Multiple-Entry Visitor Visa – no age or investment requirements. This allows entry for a maximum stay of 6 months at a time, up to a maximum time in NZ of 18 months, over a 3-year period.
Prior to Covid-19, the main way to apply for Residence was through the Skilled Migrant points-based category. In mid-2020, INZ stopped inviting people to apply based on an Expressions of Interest (“EOI”) that they had lodged. Those EOIs are still sitting there, and there has been no indication that they will ever be acted upon. Then in September 2021, the government introduced the “one-off” 2021 resident visa scheme. More than 200,000 people have applied, with 90,812 approved so far. The 2021 RV scheme closed on 31 July 2022.
Recently, the government announced the new “Skilled Residence” scheme which will open on 5 September 2022. The three new residence categories are ‘Straight to Residence’, ‘Work to Residence’, and ‘Highly Paid’. See our most recent blog which discusses this new pathway in more detail.
How we can help you?
If you are considering migrating to New Zealand, it could be very worth your while to seek professional help and advice. We bring more than 40 years of combined experience of getting the job done, and done right. The cost of making a mistake in a visa application can be high. With the policy changes discussed above, you will want to ‘get it right’ the first time.
Book an initial consultation, so we can work out whether there is any realistic avenue for you to consider. We can do this in-person, or by Skype, Zoom or MS Teams.