RSE COVID-19 information

Key updates for Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSEs) in New Zealand.

On this page:

Scheme annual cap


Travel to and from Pacific Islands

Travel to New Zealand

Travel within New Zealand

Employment laws

Sending money home

Scheme annual cap

The current cap of 14,400 workers will be maintained for the 2020/2021 season.

Due to disruption caused by the pandemic the stand-down period for RSE workers wishing to return for the 2020/2021 season no longer applies.


Visas of RSE workers expiring between 18 August and 31 December 2020 have been extended by 6 months.

Those who wish to continue to work in New Zealand for the same purpose after this additional 6 months can apply to stay longer.

An epidemic management notice relating to immigration took effect on 2 April 2020. Visa extensions made on that date still apply. Temporary visas expiring from 2 April to 9 July (inclusive) were extended until 25 September 2020. Conditions on extended visas are retained.

Immigration New Zealand has contacted all RSEs whose workers hold visas that expired on or before 1 April.

New legislation gives the Minister of Immigration the power to issue visas by special direction to stranded RSE workers without application so they can earn money while waiting to return home.

RSE workers may be granted a limited visa if:

  • they do not currently have any RSE work because the Agreement to Recruit (ATR) associated with their visa has expired, and
  • their employer has provided an undertaking and other documentation from the Ministry of Social Development and Labour Inspectorate to Immigration New Zealand.

The minimum number of work hours has been reduced to 15 per week.

RSEs can work with any sector however the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) must check no New Zealanders are available.

Employers remain responsible for the pastoral care of workers with valid visas.

Apply for a visa

Verify visa date and other details | Visa Verification Service

Special direction – Grant of limited visa to stranded RSE workers PDF 149KB

Travel to Pacific Islands

New Zealand and Pacific Island governments are working to support repatriation of the thousands of RSE workers however some cannot leave due to home country border restrictions and lack of flights. We recommend they continue to work if able to.

Pacific workers here who need to go home urgently should register with their High Commission or Consulate.


High Commission of Fiji


Consulate of Kiribati


Nauru Consulate General

Papua New Guinea

High Commission of Papua New Guinea


High Commission of Samoa

Consulate-General of Samoa

Solomon Islands

High Commission of Solomon Islands


Consulate of Tonga


High Commission of Tuvalu


High Commission of Vanuatu

Translated materials | Immigration New Zealand’s Toso Vaka o Manu on Facebook

Safe Travel | Pacific Island countries

Travel to New Zealand

Border control is tight – RSE workers who are currently outside New Zealand will not be able to travel to New Zealand until border restrictions are lifted.

COVID-19 | key updates


Visa holders who do not comply with instructions from a Health Officer can be detained and deported.

Travel within New Zealand

Travel within New Zealand depends on the COVID-19 Alert Level a region is at. Check the government's COVID-19 website to find out more about travelling restrictions at different Alert Levels.

Local travel |

As essential workers, RSE scheme employees can travel to work.

Travel to Auckland International Airport to return home is allowed.

Employment laws

Businesses must ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place. RSEs are responsible for supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees.

Employers and employees need to work together to protect New Zealand and keep each other safe. Employment laws still apply.

Guidelines for businesses | Ministry of Health

If an RSE worker in New Zealand is required to isolate themselves for 14 days their employer must make appropriate accommodation and pastoral care facilities available for them.
As part of the COVID-19 Economic Response Package announced on 18 March 2020, RSE workers are entitled to government funding if they fall sick, have to isolate themselves while working in New Zealand (from the start date of their contract) or if they cannot work because the employer’s business is affected by the lockdown. Employers are responsible for applying for this wage subsidy to pay their workers.

RSE workers are able to access Essential Workers Leave Support if they can’t work because of MoH recommendations. This equates to NZD $585.50 per worker per week - normal tax rates apply. Only one subsidy at a time is payable.

The entitlement covers the 14 days for workers in isolation and for the entire period of sickness for any worker who gets COVID-19. RSE workers are insured for medical treatment for any presenting conditions, including COVID-19.

RSE workers with little or no work are eligible for assistance to help meet basic needs.

COVID-19 Economic Response Package |

Sending money home

Workers sending money back to their families are advised to do this online as face to face services are limited.