NZ employer COVID-19 information

How COVID-19 affects you as an employer of migrants in New Zealand.

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’ (this group was previously called ‘essential workers’).

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

Requests for approval of critical workers are made by employers, and considered on a case-by-case basis by senior Immigration New Zealand officials.

There are two categories under which you can bring employees into New Zealand each of which have a set of criteria which must be met:

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

Requests from individual workers will not be considered. Holding an Essential Skills work visa is not enough to qualify as an ‘other critical worker’.

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)

employerborderexceptions@mbie.govt.nz

Criteria for short term 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 obtainable in New Zealand, or
  • they are undertaking a time-critical role which:
    • is essential for the delivery of an approved major infrastructure project, or 
    • is essential for the delivery of an government approved event, or
    • is essential for the delivery of an major government-approved programme, or
    • is in support of an approved government-to-government agreement, or
    • has significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy.

‘Unique experience and technical or specialist skills that are not obtainable in New Zealand’ means skills, qualifications or work experience which can only be learnt or gained overseas, for example in a specialist training institution or by working in a highly-specialist firm, or are inherent to a person. 

These skills are not considered unobtainable if they are available in New Zealand but not to the employer or supporting agency, or are available but are developed to a particularly high standard in the worker.

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 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

Once you have made the request

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will review the request, including seeking advice from the appropriate government agency on the merits of the case made by the employer, if needed. MBIE will then provide advice to the senior Immigration New Zealand (INZ) officials about the request. Workers whose employers receive approval for an exception to the border restrictions as ‘other critical workers’ will be contacted by INZ and invited to apply for a visa or variation of visa conditions to allow them to travel to New Zealand.

Alert

Approval does not guarantee that visas will be granted to your workers Applicants must still submit an application and demonstrate they meet all criteria to be granted the relevant visa or 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.

Employers are expected to meet the costs of managed isolation or quarantine for critical workers.

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

Visa changes to support essential services during COVID-19

The Government agreed to relax visa conditions for a short period to allow some temporary migrant workers and international students to 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 was a temporary measure in response to COVID-19. 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).

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.

Student visa holders that were employed in an essential health worker role on 3 April 2020, are 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.

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

Foreign-flagged and New Zealand-flagged ships are permitted to enter if all aboard are New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. Restrictions apply.

Maritime sector | Ministry of Health

Foreign-flagged ships

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

Only the following types of foreign-flagged ships with foreign crew can apply to Immigration New Zealand to enter:

  • an Antarctic ship
  • a foreign state ship granted diplomatic clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (such as a visiting naval ship)
  • a commercial cargo ship arriving in New Zealand to load or unload cargo
  • has an emergency and is in distress or it is necessary for the ship to arrive in New Zealand to preserve human life
  • a fishing ship unloading its catch, reprovisioning, refuelling, embarking or disembarking its crew.

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.

New Zealand-flagged ships

Only the following types of New Zealand-flagged ships with foreign crew can apply to Immigration New Zealand to enter:

  • an Antarctic ship
  • a commercial cargo ship arriving in New Zealand to load or unload cargo
  • has an emergency and is in distress or it is necessary for the ship to arrive in New Zealand to preserve human life
  • a fishing ship unloading its catch, reprovisioning, refuelling, embarking or disembarking its crew
  • any other type of ship that needs to reprovision or refuel, 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.

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.