News centre

Changes to humanitarian border exception

Changes have been made to the humanitarian border exception category to better reflect the Government’s policy on people who are allowed to travel to New Zealand during the current border restrictions.

29 November 2021
2 minute read

The Government intended the humanitarian category to only apply to cases where individuals have an exceptional need to travel to New Zealand. The category was established in March 2020 to facilitate entry, on a case-by-case basis, for people who have a compelling humanitarian reason to enter New Zealand, such as the closest relative of an orphaned child to travel to New Zealand to support the child temporarily, due to a lack of New Zealand-based alternatives.

But a recent High Court ruling has made it clear that the wording of the current immigration instructions – which are used by immigration officers to assess applications – need to be clarified to reflect the Government’s policy intent.

As a result, the existing humanitarian border exception category will be renamed the compassionate entry border exception category. Immigration instructions have also been updated to clarify that the category is not intended as a pathway for those affected by international humanitarian crises. 

Two sub-categories have been created under the compassionate entry border exception to reflect the two general situations which would justify entry to New Zealand:

  • Exceptional family emergencies occurring in New Zealand
  • The requirement for a person to undertake urgent medical treatment in New Zealand, which would not be available to them in their home country.

The amended instructions also cover applicants who have already been issued an Invitation to Apply for a critical purpose visa under the previous humanitarian instructions.

Reasons you can travel to New Zealand