Bringing Overseas Workers to New Zealand During Covid-19 Border Closure

With effect from 11 September 2020, the New Zealand Government has implemented changes somewhat lowering the very high bar initially set for New Zealand employers to be able to bring in workers from overseas on an exception basis.

Immigration Minister, Hon Kris Faafoi during a recent press conference explained that the changes were in response to concerns various sectors have raised with the government and their aim is to “… strike the right balance between protecting New Zealand from Covid-19 and ensuring businesses have the critical workers they need to help in our recovery”.

Currently, the default position is that the New Zealand border is closed. But there are some exceptions to this rule, including for specified ‘critical health workers’ or ‘other critical workers’ who may be able to come to New Zealand provided that the criteria set by the government is met.

Critical health workers are those who have been offered a role needed to deliver critical health or disability services in New Zealand, a role that is included on a published list of medical occupations. Furthermore, these workers must demonstrate that they are going to be employed in one of the specified employment settings (for example hospital, or medical centre, or aged residential care homes). For new employees the start date of employment must be from March 2020 to 31 December 2020.

This fairly narrow criteria must be met by the worker, otherwise the request for border entry will be refused, as there is no discretion for the delegated decision maker to take into account any other factors.

Other critical workers are now able to come to New Zealand if their employer can establish that these workers have a unique or specialist skill set which is not readily obtainable in New Zealand; or are required for a time-critical role in a major infrastructure project or Government-approved scheme or for work that brings significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy.

These types of applications must be made by an employer and not the visa applicant. There is a fee of $380 for each application/request that can include numerous workers as required by the employer. Immigration NZ advises that these requests are currently taking on average two weeks to process. However, there was a significant backlog of these requests as at 10th of August 2020, which may have an impact on the current processing times. There is a high decline rate for these requests.

The onus is very much on the employer to demonstrate that the applicable criteria is met. Simply filling out the specified application form and submitting it to the specified email address is not going to give employers a favourable result. Immigration NZ is not going to go out of their way to seek out information or contact industry leaders or other sources. The delegated decision maker is going to make the decision based on the information provided to them.

From our experience with these requests, it is clear what is required is a strategic and very thorough approach to each request, carefully addressing how the criteria is met and providing as many supporting documents as possible. It is essential to make the case why the particular worker or workers are required and what damage would be done if they are not able to enter New Zealand, focusing on sustaining or creating Kiwi jobs.

Examples of workers of who have met the criteria include: helicopter pilots, highly specialised installers, wind turbine technicians, highly specialist veterinarians, vendor-appointed engineers required to install major equipment, film crew or actors in key film roles.  

Get professional advice

Before embarking on a border entry exception request sound legal advice is essential, particularly on the prospects of success. 

We have a thorough understanding of the applicable immigration instructions and our team has successfully assisted a number of Kiwi employers to obtain approval under the ‘other critical workers’ exception.  

Talk to us

If you have any questions about border exceptions, please contact Nick Mason today on 03 548 8349 or for professional legal advice that will give you a peace of mind.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.

Topics: All Select

Nick Mason

Position: Partner
DDI: +64 3 545 7897