Border closures and exceptions

The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The New Zealand border is closed

The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers wanting to travel to New Zealand by either air or sea.

There are some exceptions to the closure

There are 2 reasons why you might be allowed to travel to and enter New Zealand while the border is closed — either:

  • you qualify as someone to whom the border closure does not apply, or
  • we consider that you have a critical purpose for travel while the border is closed and grant you a visa which recognises this.

To gain approval to travel under one of these reasons, most people must:

  • submit a request to INZ
  • be invited to apply for a visa or variation of conditions, which if approved will allow them entry.

A small group of people do not need to seek approval before they travel, such as New Zealand citizens.

Note

The starting point for consideration is that the New Zealand border is closed for all but critical travel, and that protecting public health in New Zealand is paramount.

Who may travel to New Zealand without first seeking approval

If you belong in one of these categories you may travel to and enter New Zealand without first seeking approval:

  • New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and residents with valid travel conditions (excluding people granted a resident visa outside New Zealand and who are travelling to New Zealand on that resident visa for the first time).
  • Partners, dependent children (aged 19 years or under if they hold a temporary visa or 24 and under if they hold a resident visa) of New Zealand citizens or residents who hold a visa based on their relationship with a New Zealand citizen or resident partner or parent.
  • Diplomats who hold a post in New Zealand.

Who should seek approval before travelling to New Zealand

There are a small number of additional, limited exceptions to the ban on travelling to and entering New Zealand. This applies to people who already hold a temporary New Zealand visa as well as to people who don’t have a New Zealand visa.

If you belong in one of these categories you should request approval to travel to New Zealand:

  • Partners, dependent children (aged 19 years or under) or legal guardians of New Zealand citizens or residents who do not hold a visa based on their relationship and either:
    • are travelling with their New Zealand citizen or resident family member, or
    • ordinarily reside in New Zealand.
  • Australian citizens and permanent residents who normally live in New Zealand.
  • Critical health workers.
  • Samoan and Tongan citizens making essential travel which has been agreed to by their government and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
  • Partners and dependent children (aged 19 years and under) of a work, student or visitor visa holder in New Zealand who hold a valid visa and are normally resident in New Zealand.
  • Critical humanitarian travel.

You will need to demonstrate in your request to travel that you meet one of the critical purposes above. If we believe you have a critical purpose, you will be invited to apply for a visa or variation of conditions. You will need to provide sufficient evidence with this application to demonstrate you meet the requirements of the visa and that you should be granted a visa that allows you to travel to New Zealand while the border is closed.

Employers may also apply to bring critical workers to New Zealand. This cannot be applied for by individual workers.

Partners and dependent children of New Zealand citizens or residents

If you are a partner or dependent child of a New Zealand citizen or resident, and your visa is based on this relationship (for example, a dependent child visa) you can travel on that visa and do not need to request a border exception.

If you do not have a visa based on your relationship with a New Zealand citizen or resident, you should request a border exception even if you ordinarily live in New Zealand. If your request is approved, you will then be invited to apply for a visitor visa, another visa that suits your circumstances, or to vary your existing visa to allow you to travel.

Partners or dependent children of New Zealand citizens or residents who are not travelling together, are not on a relationship-based visa or are not ordinarily resident in New Zealand will still be subject to the border restrictions, unless they meet another border exception criteria.

Anyone who is unsure about whether they need to request an exception is able to make a request through the form on our website and INZ will either process your request or advise you that you are able to travel on your existing relationship-based visa.

Critical health workers

Critical health and disability workers are current or new (start date March to 31 August 2020) employees who hold a key position required to deliver critical services within the NZ health and disability system.

Critical health and disability workers are employed by or to be employed in one or more of the following settings:

  • a District Health Board
  • the New Zealand Blood Service
  • hospice or palliative care
  • a primary care practice such as urgent care or a medical or healthcare centre
  • aged residential care, respite or continuing care facility. This includes care in a person’s home or community facility
  • a Non-Government Organisation delivering health and disability services
  • organisations that provide, operate and maintain medical equipment
  • private employers delivering health and disability services.

Critical health and disability workers are:

  • registered health practitioners as set out in the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003
    Responsible authorities under the Act | Ministry of Health
  • a worker that installs, operates or maintains medical equipment
  • paramedics and ambulance workers (including air and road)
  • technical and support staff working in: 
    • theatre
    • laboratory
    • radiology
    • pharmacy services
    • cardiology blood service
    • nuclear medicine
    • oncology
    • haematology
    • pathology
    • hyperbaric medicine
    • mortuary
    • research staff
      Note: in this context, ‘support staff’ does not include roles that are corporate functions such as human resources, office administration or property maintenance; or other roles that are indirectly related to the provision of health and disability services
    • workers delivering mental health and addictions services, aged care, respite, home care and support, child health, palliative and hospice care, forensic health and disability support.

In addition to this list, internationally qualified nurses with an invitation to come to New Zealand from the Nursing Council of New Zealand and verified enrolment in a Competence Assessment Programme which starts before 31 August 2020 are also considered critical health workers.

Evidence of qualifications and registration may be required. Partners and dependent children may also be included in the request. You must be able to prove you are in a genuine and stable relationship with your partner.

Citizens of Samoa and Tonga

Citizens of Samoa and Tonga can submit a request for an exception if they are making essential travel to New Zealand and only if their government has received agreement from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to allow their travel. Any family member applying for an exception must have their own critical purpose for travelling to New Zealand.

Partners and dependent children of New Zealand work, student or visitor visa holders

This exception is only for partners and dependent children who already hold a work, student or visitor visa and normally live in New Zealand. The partner or parent must also be in New Zealand (that is, the person making the request is outside New Zealand and the parent or partner is inside).

Humanitarian exceptions

An immigration officer may make a humanitarian exception to the travel ban in extremely limited cases taking into account the following factors:

  • connection to New Zealand, the applicant’s primary place of residence and their current location
  • how long they have been away from New Zealand
  • other options available to the applicant
  • the impact of not giving an exception

If you are applying under the humanitarian category for the purpose of receiving medical treatment you must receive approval from the Ministry of Health or a District Health Board before submitting a request for an exception.

Requesting an exception for your employee based on them being an ‘other critical worker’

An employer or supporting agency can request approval for their employee based on them being an ‘other critical worker’.

These requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and will only be granted in very specific and limited circumstances. Holding an Essential Skills work visa is not sufficient to qualify as an ‘other critical worker’.

These requests must be submitted by employers on behalf of the workers they are seeking exceptions for. Requests from individual workers will not be considered.

Employers, supporting agencies or immigration professions that wish to apply for a request for a critical worker to travel to New Zealand should complete this form and email it to employerborderexceptions@mbie.govt.nz.

Approval for a Critical Worker Request form (INZ 1263) PDF 1MB

employerborderexceptions@mbie.govt.nz

NZ employer COVID-19 information

Workers whose employers receive approval for an exception for an other critical worker will be contacted by Immigration New Zealand and invited to apply for a visa or variation of visa conditions to allow them to travel to New Zealand.

Replacement cargo ship crew arriving by air

Replacement cargo ship crew can submit a request to travel to New Zealand by air to join a cargo ship departing New Zealand.

You may be asked to provide the following additional information:

  • copy of seaman’s book with evidence of engagement as a crew member on the claimed ship, or
  • correspondence from the ship owner, authorised agent or employer of crew detailing your role on the ship and intended crew replacement dates, or
  • correspondence from the New Zealand-based shipping agent confirming the crew movements and arrival/departure dates of the ship.

Upon arriving in New Zealand replacement cargo ship crew must travel quickly and directly by private transport to their ship.

Health guidelines for maritime sector | Ministry of Health

Ship crew arriving by sea


Ship owners, authorised agents and employers of crew can submit a request for crew to travel to New Zealand by sea. Requests from individual marine crew will not be considered.

Maritime sector | Immigration New Zealand

Approval in Principle for Marine Crew arriving by the maritime border request form (INZ 1350) PDF 259KB

Complete form and email with Ministry of Health approval document (if required) to marine.arrivals@mbie.govt.nz.

Restrictions apply.

Maritime sector | Ministry of Health

Approved crew on a permitted ship can apply for a visa or variation of visa conditions to allow them to travel to New Zealand.

Requesting an exception based on your relationship

If you are applying under one of the partner or dependent child critical purposes, or if you are being included in your partner or parent’s request for an exception, you must be able to demonstrate your relationship to meet the requirements for a new visa or variation of conditions. For partners, this includes demonstrating that you are living together in a genuine and stable relationship.

Partnership

Dependent children

The process to request an exception

If you think you meet one of the above criteria for an exception you must first submit an expression of interest using the online request form. We assess requests based on the information you provide in the request form and any additional information INZ already holds about you and any family members, such as past visa applications and travel movements. Therefore we encourage you to supply as much information about your situation as possible including full details of any people already in New Zealand to whom you are related and full details of any immediate family members not in New Zealand who you do not wish to have considered for an exception.

Request for travel to New Zealand

Note

Before submitting a request, consider the availability of flights to New Zealand and travel restrictions for any country you may need to transit on the way.

Once you submit your request

We understand your situation may be urgent. We aim to respond to requests within 2 working days, however it may take longer depending on the volume and complexity of requests. Due to the large number of requests we receive we may not provide you with detailed reasons if we refuse your request to travel.

If we consider that your travel is likely to meet one of the categories for an exception based on the information you submit in your request form, and you hold a valid visa we will then invite you to submit an application for a variation to your current visa. If you do not hold a valid visa or you no longer meet the requirements of the visa you hold you will be invited to apply for a visa which matches your reason for travel.

An invitation to apply does not guarantee your visa or variation of conditions will be granted. You must meet all the mandatory requirements of your application to be granted a visa which allows you to enter New Zealand while the border is closed.