On 30 September 2021, the Government announced a new one-off residence visa pathway for some temporary work visa holders currently in New Zealand. It is estimated that nearly 165,000 migrants in New Zealand will be eligible under this new Resident Visa category.

The new 2021 Resident Visa category provides a one-off simplified residency pathway to temporary work visa holders in New Zealand. The COVID-19 outbreak and the border closures created difficulties and uncertainty for migrant workers in New Zealand. For instance, the Government’s decision in March 2020 to postpone selections for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) left many temporary work visa holders with no pathway to Residence. Other migrant workers have had SMC applications pending with Immigration NZ for more than two years, which I discussed in my earlier blog.

The fast-tracked one-off 2021 Resident Visa category is aimed to provide migrants who have been working in New Zealand over the last few years with some certainty. It might not be as simple as it appears, as some rules and criteria need to be met before issuing the visa. The Government will announce the specific criteria, and the application process once finalised at the end of October 2021. I will outline the eligibility criteria below under this new category based on what the Government announced on 30 September 2021. 

Who is eligible under the new 2021 Resident Visa?

One of the great benefits of this new Resident Visa category is that there are no points system, age or English language requirements in order to qualify. These exist under the Skilled Migrant Category, which prevented many people from applying.

Here is what we know so far. To be eligible under this new 2021 Resident Visa category, you will need to:

  1. have been in New Zealand on 29 September 2021, and
  2. be on an eligible visa, or have applied for an eligible visa on or before 29 September 2021 that is later granted.

The “eligible visas” are listed here, and include:

  • Post Study Work Visa
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa
  • Some Critical Purpose Visitor Visas (CPVV) including those who were granted visas for more than 6 months.

One interesting addition is those who are on Work Visas granted under Section 61 (a visa granted to an overstayer). The person must have held another eligible visa type within 6 months before being granted a Section 61 visa.

You will also need to meet one of the following criteria:

1. Settled in New Zealand

To be eligible under this criteria, you must have lived in New Zealand for the past three or more years and

  • have arrived in New Zealand on or before 29 September 2018, and
  • have spent a minimum of 821 days in New Zealand between 29 September 2018 and 29 September 2021 (inclusive).

If you hold a Post Study Work Visa and you are not currently working, you will still be considered eligible if you meet the settled criteria.


2. Earning at or above the median wage ($27 per hour)

To be eligible under this criteria, you must be paid the median wage of $27 per hour or above on 29 September 2021. You will need to be working full-time (at least 30 hours per week). The employment must be genuine and credible.


3. Working in a job on a scarce list

To be eligible under this criteria, on 29 September 2021, you must work in a job that is on a scarce list. These are:

You will need to be working in one of the roles listed above on 29 September 2021 and when you make the application.

The application process

The 2021 Resident visa will be open for applications in two phases.

Phase one – 1 December 2021:

You can apply under phase from 1 December 2021 if you have already applied for residence under the Skilled Migrant and Residence from Work categories before 29 September 2021, or you have submitted a Skilled Migrant Category Expression of Interest and have included your dependent child in the Expression of Interest aged 17 years or older on 29 September 2021.

Phase two – 1 March 2022:

All other eligible applicants can apply from 1 March 2022, including those who have submitted a Skilled Migrant Category Expression of Interest.

Immigration New Zealand has announced that all applications under this new 2021 Resident Visa category must be made by 31 July 2022.

What happens if you have an existing Residence application with Immigration NZ?

Many people probably wonder what will happen to their existing Skilled Migrant Resident Visa application or a Residence from Work application. We understand that Immigration New Zealand will continue to assess residence applications based on the residence instructions in force at the time of lodgement. Therefore, if your existing residence application is declined, you will still have the right of appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal. You can also make an application under the 2021 Resident Visa. It means applicants can have both applications being assessed by Immigration New Zealand at the same time. However, Immigration New Zealand will prioritise the new 2021 Resident Visa application.

A real plus under the 2021 Resident Visa programme is that, so far, it appears that there is no “substantial match” test for whether the job is skilled employment. That is, so long as you are on one of the eligible visas, and meet one of the 3 other criteria listed above, it doesn’t much matter what job you are doing. The exception is for those relying on having a job on a scarce list like the LTSSL. If you have a job which poses real challenges in a Skilled Migrant application, such as being a retail manager or restaurant manager, you should seriously consider switching to the 2021 Resident Visa and even withdrawing the SMC application in order to save yourself time and a lot of stress.

What should you do now?

While the new Resident Visa seems like a lifetime opportunity, the fine print of the policy has not been released yet. So it would be best if you were ready and prepared for the application process once it comes into effect.

Every case is different. In many cases it will be worthwhile for people to look at filing an application under the new scheme, but some may not qualify because of the time when their latest visa was issued, or the loss of their job in the meantime. It might also be worthwhile to keep your SMC application going if it will be assigned for assessment in a few months, because you could get a decision sooner. If it is declined, then you can still apply for the 2021 Resident Visa.

Here are some things you should consider:

  1. Check if you are eligible; contact us for advice if you are unsure whether you meet the criteria, or whether your particular circumstances justify you applying.
  2. Check the expiry date of your current visa. You will need to have held an eligible visa when the announcement was made on 29 September 2021 and when you apply under the new category.
  3. Applicants under the new category will still need to meet health and character requirements for Residence. Seek advice now if you have any health or character issues that need to be addressed.