NZ employer COVID-19 information

Visas for critical workers in healthcare, maritime and other sectors.

On this page:

Border exceptions for 'other critical workers'

Processing Essential Skills work visas

Skill Match Reports

Healthcare Sector

COVID-19 Economic Response Package

Maritime sector

Border exceptions for ‘other critical workers’

Employers can request to bring critical workers into New Zealand while the border is closed on the basis of them being ‘other critical workers’.

How to make a request for an ‘other critical worker’

Requests for approval of critical workers must be made by employers, not individual workers. Requests are considered on a case-by-case basis by senior Immigration New Zealand officials.

There are 2 categories, each with their own criteria, under which you can bring employees into New Zealand:

  • worker needed for a short term role (less than 6 months in total)
  • worker needed for a long term role (more than 6 months).

Holding an Essential Skills work visa is not enough to qualify as an ‘other critical worker’.

Employers, supporting agencies or immigration professionals that wish to apply for a request for a critical worker to travel to New Zealand can only apply by completing this form.

Employer request for critical worker exception form

Note

It costs NZD $380 to make a request for critical workers. You can include as many workers as you want on the same request.
Requests are generally processed within 2 weeks.

Criteria for short term critical workers

A worker coming to New Zealand for a short term role (less than six months in total) is considered an ‘other critical worker’ if:

  • they have unique experience and technical or specialist skills that are not readily obtainable in New Zealand, or
  • they are undertaking a time-critical role for:
    • the delivery of an approved major infrastructure project, or a government approved event or a major government-approved programme
    • an approved government-to-government agreement
    • work that brings significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy. 

‘Time critical’ means  if the person does not come to New Zealand, then the project, work or event will stop or will be severely compromised, or significant costs will be incurred.

‘Unique experience and technical or specialist skills that are not readily obtainable in New Zealand’ can include, but isn’t limited to, skills and experiences such as expertise that has been gained in a specialist training institution or by working in a highly-specialist firm, or can be shown by having global experience, or skills and experiences that are inherent to a person.

Skills are considered not readily obtainable if there are no workers in New Zealand who can do the role, or there is a very limited pool of available workers who can do the role and they are not available to the employer.

Applications for seasonal workers will generally not be approved. The only exceptions will be if the nature of the work is highly skilled or uniquely specialised.

Examples of workers meeting this standard may include: some highly specialist veterinarians, vendor-appointed engineers required to install major equipment, or an actor in a key film role.

Criteria for long term critical workers

A worker coming to New Zealand for the long term (six months or longer) is considered an ‘other critical worker’ if they meet one of the criteria for short term workers and:

  • they earn at least twice the median salary (currently NZD $106,080 a year), or
  • they have a role that is essential for the completion or continuation of a science programme under a government funded or partially government-funded contract, including research and development exchanges and partnerships, and has the support of the Science, Innovation and International Branch at MBIE to travel to New Zealand to carry out their work, or
  • they are undertaking a role that is essential for the delivery or execution of:
    • a government-approved event, or
    • major government-approved programme, or
    • approved major infrastructure project.

Some events, projects and programmes have been pre-approved and are contained in relevant lists.

Events, projects and programmes approved for other critical workers


If you are seeking the support of the Science Innovation and International Branch of MBIE, you need to provide as much information as you can about the role and why it is critical, including:

  • an explanation of the unique skills of the individual and why they are critical to the science programme
  • the specific project or programme title
  • the title of the role being filled
  • a reference to a named government fund that is fully or partially covering the science programme
  • a contract ID or a copy of the funding contract, or both.

Once you have made the request

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will review the request, and may seek advice from the appropriate government agencies, such as the Science Innovation and International Branch at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), on the merits of the case made by the employer, if needed. INZ will then provide advice to their senior officials about the request. 

Most requests for other critical workers are decided within 2 weeks from submission.

INZ will contact workers whose employers receive approval for an exception to the border restrictions as ‘other critical workers,’ and invite them to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa or a Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions to allow them to travel to New Zealand. We will email them information about how to make their application online.

From 10 August 2020, workers whose employers receive approval for an exception to the border restrictions as ‘other critical workers’ will need to pay the immigration fee and levies (if applicable) as part of their application.

Alert

Approval does not guarantee that visas will be granted to your workers. Applicants must still submit an application, pay the application fee and any levies, and demonstrate they meet all criteria to be granted a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa or a Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions.

Approved workers may need to wait for a space in managed isolation

There is currently high demand for managed isolation and capacity is limited. Workers might not be able to enter New Zealand and begin managed isolation on their preferred date and at their preferred location – we need to keep sufficient space for New Zealanders, and employers need to be flexible. This will mean some workers’ arrival is delayed.

Managed isolation and quarantine

Processing Essential Skills work visas

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has previously had limited visa processing capability, and we have been prioritising visa applications relating to New Zealand’s COVID-19 response. We are now in a position to begin processing a wider range of visas, including Essential Skills work visas for applicants currently in New Zealand. More information about INZ’s visa processing priorities can be found here:

COVID-19 | Key updates

Employers wanting to employ migrant workers must first take all reasonable steps to hire a New Zealander for the role first. INZ must be satisfied that there are no New Zealanders available to do the work being offered.

Supporting a candidate’s work visa

COVID-19 has significantly affected New Zealand’s job market. INZ must take this into account when assessing Essential Skills applications.

INZ may ask employers to provide further evidence to show that, at the time the application is assessed:

  • the availability of New Zealanders to undertake the work remains unchanged, and
  • the employment offer is still valid and the employment is sustainable.

Employers won’t need to necessarily re-advertise the vacancy, however there may be a requirement to provide any further information about why no New Zealanders are available for the role now.
This may include evidence of ongoing recruitment of New Zealanders by the employer for similar roles, or evidence that the employment is so specialised or skilled that suitable New Zealanders continue to be unavailable.

Employers do not need to proactively contact INZ to provide this information; INZ will request it at the time the application is assessed.

We are unable to give exact timeframes of when these applications will be processed. However, we aim to do so as quickly as possible given the current constraints on visa processing resources.

Skill Match Reports

Employers wanting to employ overseas workers for ANZSCO skill level 4 and 5 occupations are required to provide Skills Match Reports and advice from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). This requires employers to work with MSD to place New Zealand jobseekers into the role before offering employment to migrant workers.

ANZSCO skill level 4 and 5

Skills Match Reports are available from the Ministry of Social Development. Employers who require an SMR need to first list their vacancy with the Ministry of Social Development and can do this on the Work and Income website.

Hiring someone from overseas | Work and Income

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 three 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.

Border closures and exceptions | Essential health workers information

COVID-19 Economic Response Package

The Government has announced the most significant peace-time economic plan in modern New Zealand history to support people and businesses as we weather the impact of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Economic Response Package | beehive.govt.nz

We are evaluating migrant employer issues associated with the current Covid-19 outbreak and appreciate feedback from affected sectors.

Your patience is appreciated while cabinet, Immigration New Zealand and other government agencies coordinate to manage this unprecedented situation.

Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) COVID-19 information

Information for employers | COVID19.govt.nz 

Maritime sector

Ship approval

New Zealand crew

Ships may enter if all aboard are New Zealand citizens or permanent residents - quarantine and entry restrictions apply.

Maritime sector | Ministry of Health

Foreign crew on foreign-flagged ships

The following foreign-flagged ships with foreign crew are permitted to enter New Zealand without applying for approval from the Ministry of Health or Immigration New Zealand:

  • an Antarctic ship travelling to and from the Ross Dependency
  • a foreign state ship which is a military craft granted diplomatic clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade 
  • a commercial cargo ship arriving in New Zealand to load or unload cargo
  • a ship that has an emergency and is in distress or it is necessary for the ship to arrive in New Zealand to preserve human life.

The following types of foreign-flagged ship with foreign crew can apply to the Ministry of Health to enter:

  • any other ship that needs to reprovision, refuel, be delivered to a business for non-minor repair, refit or refurbishment or for the running of the business or other humanitarian or compelling need.

The following type of foreign-flagged ship must get permission from Immigration New Zealand to allow its foreign crew to enter:

  • a fishing ship unloading its catch, reprovisioning, refuelling, embarking or disembarking its crew.
  • an Antarctic ship not travelling from the Ross Dependency
  • other foreign state ships granted diplomatic clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • any ship that needs to reprovision, refuel, be delivered to a business for repair, refit or refurbishment or for the running of the business or other humanitarian or compelling need.

Foreign crew on New Zealand-flagged ships

The following types of New Zealand-flagged ships with foreign crew can enter without applying for approval from the Ministry of Health or Immigration New Zealand:

  • an Antarctic ship travelling to and from the Ross Dependency
  • a commercial cargo ship arriving in New Zealand to load or unload cargo
  • a foreign state ship which is a military craft granted diplomatic clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • a ship that has an emergency and is in distress or it is necessary for the ship to arrive in New Zealand to preserve human life.

The following type of New Zealand-flagged ship must get permission from Immigration New Zealand to allow its foreign crew to enter:

  • an Antarctic ship not travelling from the Ross Dependency
  • a fishing ship unloading its catch, reprovisioning, refuelling, embarking or disembarking its crew
  • other foreign state ships granted diplomatic clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • any other type of ship that needs to be delivered to a business for non-minor repair, refit or refurbishment or for the running of the business.

Crew approval

Ship owners, authorised agents and employers of crew can submit a request for foreign crew to travel to New Zealand on approved ships.

Crew must be essential for the operation of the ship to travel to New Zealand. Other types of crew and passengers are not permitted.

Ships seeking to winter over or travel primarily for pleasure are not permitted to travel to New Zealand.

Include the following information on travel requests for all foreign crew members:

  • the ship permission approval document from the Ministry of Health if required
  • a copy of their passport page, including a photograph and passport information
  • completed form
  • a letter from the employer or shipping agent.

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

Requests from individual crew members will not be considered.

Approved crew members will be invited to apply for a visa or variation of visa conditions to allow them to travel to New Zealand.