RSE COVID-19 information

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

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2,000 Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) workers can enter New Zealand


Employment laws

Travel to pacific islands

Sending money home

2,000 Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) workers can enter New Zealand

From January to March 2021, 2,000 experienced RSE scheme workers from the Pacific can travel to New Zealand for the 2021 horticulture and viticulture season.

The first arrivals will be approximately 600 workers from Samoa arriving mid-January and they will transfer directly to government managed isolation facilities for a 14 day stay.

Only workers who have completed at least 1 season in New Zealand already will be eligible.

All Pacific countries have been invited to participate in the 2021 season, however the countries will need to demonstrate they can meet the criteria, which includes a guaranteed return flight home at the end of their season.

INZ is supporting Pacific officials with information and updates on the changes for this season, to assist them to support and prepare workers pre-departure, especially with the tight timeframes to prepare for travelling to New Zealand. This includes a list of items to pack and what to expect when staying in managed isolation facilities.

Employers need an Agreement to Recruit (ATR)

Only employers with an ATR will be able to employ offshore RSE workers. The ATR requires employers to show they have taken all reasonable steps to train and employ New Zealanders before seeking a migrant worker. The Ministry of Social Development is consulted in this process.

Eligible employers will be required to make additional commitments regarding flight costs, managed isolation and quarantine requirements, work conditions including paying workers NZD $22.10 an hour, and pastoral care. They will also be required to ensure workers are employed for the full period of their visa, help workers move to areas of greatest demand and provide progress reports.

The horticulture and viticulture industries consulted with employers to provide INZ a list of nominated workers to recruit from Pacific countries.


RSE visa extension

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 these additional 6 months can apply to stay longer.

All RSE scheme workers granted a flexible visa will be able to re-enter the scheme and work again for a Recognised Seasonal Employer with 30 hours per week average pay. These conditions differ slightly from the 2,000 border exception conditions, as industry has indicated that experienced RSE workers are already earning the living wage, or higher.

RSE workers who want to leave New Zealand at the first available opportunity can discuss with their employer whether re-entering the scheme is the right option for them.

Employers remain responsible for the pastoral care of RSE workers even when they are approved to work in other sectors.

Verify visa date and other details | Visa Verification Service

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

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.

Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visas

Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visas allow the holders to work until 30 June 2021 in horticulture and viticulture seasonal roles where there are not enough New Zealanders or RSE workers available.

Employers should prioritise RSE workers for roles.

Employment laws

Workers in New Zealand with the same employer for more than 12 months are entitled to 4 weeks of paid holidays. They can ask to take a break and then return to work if their employer agrees. They do not have to take the whole 4 weeks at once.

Those who worked for 12 months in New Zealand but for different employers on fixed-term employment agreements, are not entitled to 4 weeks holiday leave. Employers can either include holiday pay as part of weekly wages or hold the holiday pay and offer a lump sum payment when the contract finishes.

Workers with their current employer for less than 12 months may still ask to take a break. Employers can choose to approve or not approve the request.

The employer still has responsibility for pastoral care so should know where workers are going and any changes that may breach visa conditions.

Businesses must ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place. Employers 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 Ministry of Health recommendations. 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.

Travel to pacific islands

New Zealand and Pacific Island governments are working to support the repatriation of RSE workers who want to return home. RSE workers can continue to work, while they wait for flights or for their home country border restrictions to be lifted.

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


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

Sending money home

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