COVID-19: Key updates

Temporary border measures, visas, travel and essential service support.

Travel to New Zealand 

New Zealand’s border is closed to most travellers and entry is strictly controlled. All arrivals are tested for COVID-19 and a 14-day managed quarantine or isolation is mandatory. 

New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and residents with valid travel conditions returning to New Zealand do not need approval from Immigration New Zealand before travelling. 

changes coming

Later in June

Maritime changes to allow a vessel to travel to New Zealand where there is a compelling need.

Temporary entry and resident visa holders must follow health instructions in New Zealand

Everyone in New Zealand is required to follow health instructions that are in place relating to COVID-19.

Any new resident and temporary visas granted are now subject to a specific visa condition requiring them to comply with:

  • any order made under section 11 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, and
  • any order made under section 70 of the Health Act 1956 and listed in schedule 2 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, and
  • any instruction from a Medical Officer of Health which relates to a notifiable or quarantinable disease. 

This includes Australian citizens and permanent residents of Australia, who are granted resident visas on arrival in New Zealand, regardless of their intended length of stay.

If you do not comply with these requirements, you may be liable for detention or deportation for breaching the conditions of your visa.

The Ministry of Health in New Zealand provides details on any orders or instructions that may be in place. These could include: quarantine on arrival, self-isolation if you are unwell, and infection control methods such as limits on gatherings or contract tracing.

Ministry of Health

Latest exceptions

Partners and dependants of New Zealand citizens and residents who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand or hold a visa on the basis of their relationship will no longer need to travel with their New Zealand citizen or resident family member to be granted an exception to the border closure. 

Other new exceptions: 

  • extending the current exception for diplomats to include those taking up new posts in New Zealand
  • new criteria for other critical workers (previously called essential workers

Border closures and exceptions

Epidemic management notice information

The New Zealand Government’s Epidemic Management Notice relating to immigration matters came into in effect from Thursday 2 April 2020. The Epidemic Management Notice provision to extend visas was used as the ability to lodge and process visas were limited during the lockdown period in New Zealand.

The noticewas changed on 24 June 2020 as visa lodgment and processing has now resumed.

Extensions already applied by the original Epidemic Management Notice are not affected by these changes. 

Epidemic Management Notice information

Your visa status if you are in New Zealand

You are responsible for understanding how to meet the conditions of your visa in New Zealand at all times.

If you were in New Zealand on 2 April and your visa expired before 9 July

Holders of a work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa with an expiry date of 2 April to 9 July 2020 inclusive who were in New Zealand on 2 April 2020 will have had their visas extended to 25 September 2020. This was under the original Epidemic Management Notice. A confirmation of this was emailed to all visa holders.

 

Visa verification service

If your visa expires after 9 July and you are in New Zealand

If you hold a work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa with an expiry date after 9 July, your visa was not extended by the Epidemic Management Notice.  Your current visa expiry remains the same.  You need to:

  • leave the country before your visa expires,
  • make an application for a new visa

Information on making a new visa application can be found at https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas.

If you are in New Zealand and your visa has expired

If you do not have a current visa or are unable to apply for a visa before your current one expires, you will be unlawful in New Zealand. This includes people whose visa expired before the 1 April 2020.

You cannot apply for another visa in New Zealand while you are unlawful. You can either:

  • leave the country immediately if possible, or
  • make a request for a special temporary or resident visa under Section 61 of the Immigration Act.

Making a Section 61 request if you are unlawful

Visa processing information

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has increased its visa processing capacity as our staff have been able to access immigration offices onshore as New Zealand has moved through lower alert levels. Our offshore offices in Beijing, Manila, Mumbai and the Pacific remain closed. 

Warning

New visa conditions: Visa holders must follow health instructions in New Zealand or you can be detained and deported.

Residence applications

We resumed the processing of residence class visa applications from Thursday 14 May 2020. 

Applications where the applicant is in New Zealand will be prioritised over applications where the applicant is overseas. 

Temporary visa applications

Priority will be given to applications for critical workers to support the Government response to COVID-19 and for other temporary visa applicants that are in New Zealand. 

For Essential Skills work visa applications, Immigration instructions require INZ to consider a range of factors, including the need to help New Zealand businesses provide their services, while protecting the employment opportunities for New Zealanders.

For an Essential Skills work visa to be granted, INZ must be satisfied that at the time the application is assessed there are no New Zealanders available to do the work being offered.

Further changes may be needed to the prioritisation criteria as international travel restrictions change, and more information becomes available about the effects of COVID-19 on the domestic labour market.

Immigration officers can prioritise other applications where necessary.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply online for eligible visas. Paper applications will take longer to process because of the reduced capacity of staff in onshore offices. There will also be an increase in the time and effort required in processing some visa application types due to additional requests for information or comment being required.

Amendment to the immigration operational manual PDF 170KB

New powers to amend and extend visas

The Government has passed legislation to support the management of visa changes during COVID-19. For a period of 12 months the Government will be able to amend and extend visa conditions for large groups of people and enable visa processing to be staggered.

Minister's statement | Beehive.govt.nz

Short-term variation of conditions for essential services

The Government agreed to relax visa conditions for a short period to allow temporary migrant workers and international students to further assist with our essential services during the COVID-19 response.

New Zealand employers who were operating during Alert Level 4 as an essential business could apply for a short term change in work conditions on behalf of their employees. INZ stopped accepting requests for short term variations for essential services on Thursday 18 June 2020.

This short term variation of conditions applied while New Zealand was at Alert Level 3 and 6 weeks after that. At 11:59 p.m. on 13 May, New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2. This meant the new conditions expired at 11:59 p.m. on 24 June 2020.

The original visa conditions now apply – employees must return to their substantive role, employer, hours of work, and/or study. Temporary visa holders wanting to change employers, jobs or regions permanently will need to apply for a new visa or Variation of Conditions (note: the approval of a short-term variation does not guarantee that an application for a permanent change will be approved).

Students who have been working in essential health care roles since 3 April are exempt from the need to apply for a variation until 3 July.

Essential health care roles

Healthcare Sector

Visa applications will be prioritised for key roles necessary for the health response in New Zealand.

As a temporary measure, the Government has also changed temporary work visa conditions to allow some lower skilled temporary healthcare workers that are currently in New Zealand to work in New Zealand for an additional 12 months before they are subject to the stand down period. This will allow those health workers with lower skilled Essential Skills visas who have worked in New Zealand for 3 years an additional 12 months before they are subject to a stand down period where they must leave New Zealand.

This will provide additional certainty for those impacted, some of whom will be affected by the first stand down period from 28 August 2020, and it will also help maintain existing workforces at this critical time.

Student visa holders that were employed in an essential health worker role on 3 April 2020, will be able to work more than 20 hours for the period 3 April 2020 to 3 July 2020 in order to support the public health response to COVID-19. This includes aged residential care and applies to interim visa holders who immediately prior held a student visa.

Essential Health Workers information

More student visa holder information

Temporary postponement of visa programmes

The Government has decided to postpone:

  • selections for Expressions of Interest (EOI) in the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) and the Parent Category
  • ballot registrations for the Samoan Quota (SQ) and Pacific Access Category (PAC)
  • 19 capped Working Holiday schemes due to open in the next 6 months.

This is a temporary measure. Immigration New Zealand will continue to reassess and determine when the programmes can resume.

We acknowledge this will be disappointing for a number of people. However, while our capacity is limited we need to focus our available resources on essential services visa applications.

We also want to:

  • avoid potential public health risks that would result if we encouraged travel by individuals while New Zealand is at a heightened COVID-19 alert level
  • provide fairness to applicants by discouraging applications that we are not able to process at the moment.

We will update the INZ website as we are able to provide more information.

Migrant and refugee information | Temporary postponement of visa programmes

Transiting New Zealand from 20 June 2020

From Saturday 20 June, you must meet the transit requirements for the passport you are travelling on as special transit rules ended on 19 June 2020.

Alert

It is your responsibility to make sure you can transit and enter any country on your journey through New Zealand. If you are unable to do this, you may not be allowed to board the plane.

To transit New Zealand, you must:

  • meet one of the categories or exceptions that mean you do not require an NZeTA or transit visa, or
  • hold an NZeTA if you are allowed to transit on an NZeTA, or
  • hold a transit visa if you are required to.

All transit passengers must transit New Zealand in less than 24 hours, must remain airside, and cannot enter New Zealand. You can only transit Auckland International Airport.

Transit passengers information

Further information

COVID-19.govt.nz

Ministry of Health guidance | COVID-19

0800 358 5453 | Healthline

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak | World Health Organization (WHO)

Contact us

Immigration Contact Centre is currently experiencing extremely high call volumes and you may face an extended delay in your call being answered.

Urgent immigration queries only:

+64 9 952 1679 | outside New Zealand

0508 225 288 | within New Zealand