The detail of the New Zealand Government’s 24 November announcement about opening our borders to international travellers next year is very disappointing for many New Zealand businesses and families. For those in the tourism and hospitality sectors in particular and for employers generally the announcement falls far short of what we would have liked to have seen.
The changes revolve around dismantling MIQ for fully vaccinated international arrivals in favour of self-isolation, but do not expand the range of people who are eligible to enter New Zealand before 1 May 2022 to include those who do not fit the current border entry exemptions eligibility criteria.
In practice this means, that many families won’t be reunited in New Zealand until some time after 1 May 2022.
Immigration New Zealand’s current advice is that processing of visa applications lodged offshore remains suspended until at least 5 August 2022.
For New Zealand businesses, this means that as things currently stand we won’t see an increase in international tourists or students until the middle to late 2022 at the earliest. And even then there are concerns around the number of tourists who will want to come to New Zealand given the need for the fully vaccinated to enter 7 days self-isolation on arrival.
New Zealand employers will also continue to struggle to get skilled workers for a range of vacancies across various sectors.
The changes announced mean that from 17 January 2022 fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens, certain New Zealand residence-class visa holders and other eligible travellers arriving from Australia will be able to self-isolate rather than go through MIQ.
From 14 February 2022, this will also apply to New Zealand citizens, certain New Zealand residence-class visa holders and other eligible travellers arriving from all but high-risk countries. These people are already able to enter New Zealand under the current settings, so the only difference is that their entry is no longer restricted by the availability of MIQ vouchers.
These changes will be welcome news to many stranded overseas but comes too late for those wanting to be home for this Christmas.
From 1 May 2022, fully vaccinated foreign nationals with eligible visas will be able to enter without MIQ, but the Government has not so far announced any changes to visa eligibility settings or when Immigration New Zealand will recommence processing visa applications submitted by people who are outside the country.
So, in terms of immigration for skilled workers, there is little at this stage for us to get excited about. New Zealand still cannot compete with Australia, which is opening its borders much faster.
We will watch with interest to see how the Government’s visa strategy rolls out and whether they will bring forward the timing for processing of offshore visa applications. But our warning to our clients is that the impact of this current curtailment of skilled migrant entry is likely to be felt for a long time – May 2022 is not, as we currently understand it, likely to see a significant softening of visa eligibility for foreign nationals seeking to come and work in Aotearoa New Zealand.
We encourage our clients to contact us for further advice in this area. We are well practiced at navigating the difficulties presented by the current visa eligibility regime and can advise you on the best strategy to support your immigration needs.
We offer an initial 15 minute free consultation to all new clients to discuss your particular circumstances and what services we can provide.
What sets us apart is that we are experts in each step of the immigration process as well as in employment law. This means that we can advise on all immigration, employment and visa-related issues.
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.