COVID-19: Key updates

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

Epidemic management notice information

The New Zealand Government’s epidemic management notice relating to immigration matters is in effect from Thursday 2 April 2020.

Epidemic Management Notice information

Visa extensions

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 their visas automatically extended to 25 September 2020. Confirmation of extensions will be emailed to all visa holders.

If your visa has been extended you should have received a confirmation email from Immigration New Zealand. We used the most recent email address that you provided to us.

We suggest you confirm your visa expiry date by checking the Visa Verification Service on our website.

Visa verification service

Immigration New Zealand cannot extend visa durations other than under the terms of the epidemic management notice. You may withdraw any undecided applications, but fees or levies paid for completed applications will not be refunded or deferred for another visa. NZeTAs are valid for 2 years.

Visa processing information

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) expects visa processing capacity to increase significantly under Alert Level 2 as more staff are able to access immigration offices.

INZ had already increased its processing capacity following the movement to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 on 28 April 2020. All offshore offices remain closed, but onshore offices have reopened with limited staff numbers due to COVID-19 guidelines and the requirement to work from home when possible.

Since New Zealand was at Alert Level 4, processing efforts have been largely limited and have focused on implementing the Epidemic Management Notice, applications from individuals who have a critical purpose for coming to New Zealand and some temporary visa categories for applicants who are already in New Zealand.

With increased processing capacity and the ability for some staff to access offices, INZ is now able to resume the processing of residence class visa applications from Thursday 14 May 2020 and prioritise both residence class and temporary entry class visa applications.

Residence applications

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.

As INZ transitions through the various alert levels processing will be resumed for most of the application categories.

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 has 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 can apply for a short term change in work conditions on behalf of their employees.

This short term Variation of Conditions process applied while New Zealand was at Alert Level 3 and 6 weeks after that. At 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday 13 May, New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2. This means the new conditions will now expire at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday 24 June.

After this point, the original visa conditions will apply – employees will need to 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).

Work visa holders with employer-specific work visas already employed in essential services can be redeployed to do other roles within their current workplace. They can also perform their current role in a different workplace in the same region to help essential businesses keep operating while New Zealand remains at Alert Level 3 and for six weeks after that.

Visa conditions for international students, who are already employed in an essential services role, can be varied to enable them to work longer hours for their current employer while New Zealand remains at Alert Level 3 and for six weeks after that. At 11.59pm on Wednesday 13 May, New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2. This means the new conditions will now expire at 11.59pm on Wednesday 24 June.

Students who are employed in an essential services role and wish to work more than 20 hours must still meet their study requirements and should discuss their plans with their education provider.

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

The policy also applies to work and student visa holders working in supermarkets. Changes to immigration instructions to relax visa restrictions for these two groups were made in March 2020 for a period of 30 days up until 25 April 2020 to help manage labour supply issues. These changes have now finished as planned, but employers can instead apply online for a short term Variation of Conditions if needed.

This short term Variation of Conditions policy does not apply to workers who hold a limited visa under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

There are no fees or levies payable for a short term Variation of Conditions under this special category.

The changes came into effect on Thursday 16 April 2020. Employers or an immigration adviser acting on their behalf must submit a request using this form. 

Request for short term variations to visa conditions of workers in essential services

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

Travel to New Zealand

The Government announced stricter isolation measures for ALL passengers (including New Zealand citizens and residents) departing after 23:59 New Zealand Time on Thursday 9 April 2020.

People will no longer be able to complete their 14-day isolation period at home. Arrivals assessed as high-risk of COVID-19 will be placed in quarantine facilities, while all other arrivals will be placed in managed isolation facilities.

These measures will remain in place until the Director-General of Health is satisfied that the risk of imported cases from overseas has reduced significantly.

The New Zealand border has been closed to almost all travellers from 23:59 New Zealand Time on Thursday 19 March 2020. The travel ban applies to all arrivals into New Zealand whether it is by air or sea. This includes superyachts arriving in New Zealand.

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

If the New Zealand resident visa was granted outside of New Zealand and the holder is travelling to New Zealand for the first time on that visa, or the resident visa has expired travel conditions, the travel ban applies.

A partner, dependent child or legal guardian travelling on the same flight as the New Zealand citizen or resident should seek approval in advance to gain certainty they may travel.

There are a limited number of exceptions for other travellers who should seek approval from INZ before travelling. 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.

Limited travel ban exceptions process

Transiting and departure from New Zealand

Transiting New Zealand

The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This includes transiting through New Zealand as well unless there is an exception or transit arrangement.

The New Zealand Government announced on Monday 7 April 2020 that New Zealand will enter into transit arrangements with a range of countries to make it easier for each other’s citizens to get home.

Australia

Australian citizens, residents and immediate family (partner or spouse, legal guardian and dependent children under the age of 24) are able to transit New Zealand to Australia. Transiting travellers must remain airside, transit for no more than 24 hours and cannot enter New Zealand.

New Zealand citizens, residents and immediate family (partner, legal guardian and dependent children) who normally live in Australia are able to transit New Zealand to return to Australia. If you want to transit, you need to remain airside and not enter New Zealand. If you enter New Zealand, you will be required to self-isolate.

New Zealand citizens, permanent residents who normally live in New Zealand and immediate family (partner, legal guardian and dependent children) are able to transit Australia to New Zealand. Transiting travellers must remain airside and cannot enter Australia.

Chile

Citizens and ordinary residents of Chile, and their immediate family (partner or spouse, legal guardian and dependent children under the age of 24) if travelling with them, whose immediate or ultimate destination after departing New Zealand is Chile. Transiting travellers must remain airside, transit for no more than 24 hours and cannot enter New Zealand.

Other countries

You can transit New Zealand if:

  • You are a citizen, ordinarily resident or immediate family member of a citizen or resident (partner or spouse, legal guardian and dependent children under the age of 24) of one of the countries in the agreed country list
  • Your next destination after New Zealand is one of the countries in the agreed country list or
  • Your next destination after New Zealand is through an approved Transit Hub to get to one of the countries in the agreed country list

Agreed Country List

Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, The Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States of America and Uruguay

Approved Transit Hubs

Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Qatar, Republic of Korea and the United States of America.

Transiting travellers must remain airside, transit for no more than 24 hours and cannot enter New Zealand. Travellers must meet normal entry and transit requirements of all countries on their journey.

If any further transit arrangements are made the details will be updated here.

Emergency consular assistance for New Zealanders:

+64 99 20 20 20 | International

0800 30 10 30 | New Zealand

Safe Travel | New Zealand Government

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