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Light at the end of the tunnel: New Zealand's 2021 Resident Visa
Rasyad Che Ismail |  25/10/2021

Litigation Lawyers

In a stunning atypical fit of compassion, the Government recently announced the new '2021 Resident Visa' which sees a one-off residence visa pathway for some temporary work visa holders already in New Zealand. Given the era of uncertainty, this decision will no doubt be exuberantly received by a large portion of the migrant community in New Zealand considering that the selection of Expression of Interest (EOI) for the Skilled Migrant Resident Visa have been suspended for over a year in an attempt to ring-fence the spread of COVID-19 and its flow-on effects.


Interestingly, the new visa casts a wide net in terms of those who are eligible with the public policy imperative to 'reward' migrants that have been critical to New Zealand's economy (especially during this pandemic) a path to residency. In his statement, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi stated that the new pathway is set to affect 165,000 migrant workers in New Zealand and allow for their immediate family members to be reunited that had since been separated from the Government's 'hard border'. 

The criteria

To be eligible, an applicant must have been in New Zealand on 29 September 2021 and be on an 'eligible visa' or have applied for such visa on or before 29 September (which was subsequently approved). 

Additionally, the applicant must meet one of the following criteria:

  • have lived in New Zealand for three years or more; or

  • earn at or on the median wage of $27 per hour; or

  • work in a role on a scarce list. 

The scare list includes:

The list of 'eligible visas' include:

  • Post Study Work Visa

  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa

  • Essential Skills Work Visa

  • Religious Worker Work Visa

  • Talent (Arts, Culture, Sports) Work Visa

  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa

  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Work Visa

  • Trafficking Victim Work Visa

  • Migrant Exploitation Protection Work Visa

  • Skilled Migrant Category Job Search Work Visa

  • Victims of Family Violence Work Visa

  • South Island Contribution Work Visa

  • Work Visa granted under Section 61 (provided the applicant held another eligible visa type within 6 months before being granted a Section 61 visa)

  • Some Critical Purpose Visitor Visas (CPVV):

    • Critical health workers for longer term roles (6 months or longer), and

    • Other critical workers for long term roles (more than 6 months).

As noted above, applicants on a CPVV will be eligible for the new residence visa as long as they arrive in New Zealand and apply before 31 July 2022.


The application process

The process is streamlined in two phases. For Phase 1, the visa will be open for applications from 1 December 2021 if the applicant:

  • has applied for residence under the Skilled Migrant and Residence from Work categories before 29 September 2021, or

  • has submitted a Skilled Migrant Category EOI, and have included their dependent child in the Expression of Interest aged 17 years or older on 29 September 2021.

For Phase 2, all other applications will be accepted from 1 March 2022. Immigration New Zealand has advised that applications should take 12 months to process with most cases less than that. 

Who will miss out on a slice of the immigration pie?

Eligible visa holders outside of New Zealand will miss out on the basis that they will eventually 'get their turn' once border restrictions eases. Also, while CPVV holders are included, this category sees those on short-term or seasonal CPVVs miss out on being eligible which may include fishing crews, agricultural and horticulture mobile plant operators and shearers. Those on student visas, especially Masters and PhD students, are also excluded which have seen a strong reaction from the education industry.


A spokesperson on behalf of the Immigration Minister stated that the Government is "undertaking a review of residence settings as part of a rebalance of immigration policy which will look to target more highly qualified and skilled people to work in New Zealand." With that being said, the Government remains tight-lipped as to when this rebalancing will happen. 

Notwithstanding, this new visa pathway should be seen as a hard-fought win for many in the migrant community that have been left in limbo since the outbreak. It is a step in the right direction and a solid recognition from the Government that New Zealand's "Team of 5 million" also includes those in the migrant community. 

If you are a prospective applicant or an employer and would like to know more about  the new 2021 Resident Visa, get in touch with Amin Osama today.

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