Fully open border and immigration changes speed up economic growth

New Zealand’s border will reopen to all tourists and visa holders from 11:59pm 31 July 2022.

Key points

  • The border will fully open 2 months early from 11:59pm 31 July 2022.
  • Significantly simplified immigration processes that provides faster processing for businesses.
  • New Green List that includes over 85 hard to fill roles created to attract and retain high-skilled workers to fill skill shortages.
  • Green List will provide streamlined and prioritised pathway to residency incentivising high skilled healthcare, engineers, trade and tech sector workers to relocate to New Zealand long term.
  • Visa extensions for around 20,000 migrants already in New Zealand to ensure skilled workers stay in country.
  • New sector specific agreements, to help industries transition from a reliance on low-wage, low skill migrant labour, including additional measures to support the rebuild of our tourism sector.
  • Cruise ships able to return with the opening of the maritime border from 31 July 2022.
  • Full resumption of international education from 31 July 2022.
  • Apprenticeship Boost extended to the end of 2023, supporting an extra 38,000 New Zealanders into trades.
  • Online visitor visa applications reopen to Pacific Island Forum countries (excluding Australia) from 16 May 2022.

A major package of reforms announced today include an early opening of New Zealand’s border and a simplification of immigration settings, to address the immediate skill shortages in New Zealand and speed up the economic recovery from COVID-19.

Border to fully open from 31 July 2022

New Zealand's international border will reopen to all tourists and visa holders 2 months earlier than planned on 31 July.

This will be welcome news for families, businesses and our migrant communities. It also provides certainty and good preparation time for airlines and cruise ship companies planning a return to New Zealand in the peak spring and summer seasons.

A major constraint on business is access to skilled labour. This plan will increase the available pool of labour, while also speeding up tourism recovery.

This follows our previous reconnecting work which has seen approvals granted for over 29,000 critical workers, 5,000 students, working holidaymakers, Australian tourists, and visa-waiver visitors already able to enter the country.

By helping to relieve urgent skills shortages, opening up tourism and putting our immigration settings on a more secure footing, we are building on the plan to secure New Zealand’s economic future.

Accredited Employer Work Visa applications will open from 4 July 2022

Through the Accredited Employer Work Visa, employers:

  • will not need to provide as much information
  • can use their own recruitment processes to prove no New Zealanders are available for work
  • once accredited, Immigration New Zealand will endeavour to have these visas processed within 30 days.

The Government has worked closely with businesses on these reforms.

Wage thresholds for the Accredited Employer Work Visa

The Government recognises that shift for some sectors is more challenging than others by establishing new sector agreements to assist with the transition. They will provide access for specified sectors to lower-paid migrant workers, and all those employers can continue to hire working holidaymakers at any wage.

The tourism and hospitality industries in particular have been hit hard by the pandemic. The Government has agreed to temporarily exempt tourism and hospitality businesses from paying the median wage to recruit migrants on an Accredited Employer Work Visa into most roles. Instead, a lower wage threshold of $25 per hour will be required until April 2023. This follows the recent $27 per hour border exception that was granted around certain snow season roles to help the sector prepare for winter tourists.

New sector agreements for the care; construction and infrastructure; meat processing; seafood; and seasonal snow and adventure tourism sectors will provide for a short-term or ongoing need for access to lower-paid migrants.

Hiring migrants on the Accredited Employer Work visa | immigration.govt.nz (external link)

International students can apply to enter New Zealand from 31 July

The full reopening is a significant milestone for the international education sector, which can now start to rebuild sustainably, with a big focus on value and by attracting students.

More than 5,000 international students have already been confirmed for entry as part of previous border exemptions, which means they can be here by mid-July. From the end of July, all international students who meet normal entry criteria can enrol for study here.

Other changes for international students

Changes announced today seek to attract students to New Zealand to learn, while also shutting the backdoor route to residency. These changes include:

  • Students in non-degree level courses will not get post-study work rights except where they are studying and then working in specified shortage and skilled occupations.
  • For degree-level and other eligible international students the length of time they can work after their studies will mirror the time they study in New Zealand. Currently some students can work for up to 3 years after just 30 weeks’ study. Masters and PhD students will retain the right to work in New Zealand for up to 3 years after their studies.
  • Students will also not be able to apply for a second post-study visa in New Zealand.

New Zealand has a strong international education brand and is universally regarded as a place that students want to come to study. It enriches us as well as connecting us to the world, and strengthens our reputation offshore.

Changes for the international education sector | immigration.govt.nz (external link)

New immigration settings

The Government has also announced new rebalanced immigration settings which will help businesses access the key skills they need while ensuring wages and working conditions are improved for everyone.

Our plan is to grow skills at home. Over the past 2 years, over 190,000 New Zealanders have benefitted from Government investment in trades training, including apprenticeships. An extension to the Apprenticeship Boost scheme has already been announced, which will see a further 38,000 New Zealanders supported into a trade.

The cornerstone of the immigration rebalance is the new Green List which will incentivise and attract high skilled migrants to New Zealand, by providing a new streamlined pathway to residency for those globally hard to fill roles. The list features 85 hard to fill roles including construction engineering, trades, health workers and tech.

Our rebalanced immigration system will be simpler, reducing categories, bringing more online accessibility and streamlining application processes for businesses.

Extension to visas expiring before 2023

Also announced today, is around 20,000 visa holders with visas expiring before 2023 are being granted either a 6-month extension or a new 2-year visa with open work conditions, so they and their employers will not be affected by this changes and we can keep the skills we need within the country.

Cruise ships returning from 31 July

The decision to bring the final border opening date forward allows us to fully reconnect to the world of international tourists and business travellers in time for our traditional peak visitor season.

Our wider tourism sector is on the way to recovery. We will be fully open to the world in mid-winter, traditionally our quietest period for visitors. Bringing forward the date allows prospective travellers to apply for visitor visas well ahead of time before taking the next step to book a flight or a cruise for future travel.

Approximately 90% of cruise visits are during the warmer months of October to April, and summer is our bumper tourism season overall. Today’s announcement means it is full steam ahead for the industry who can plan with certainty for the rest of the year and beyond.

The full details of the immigration rebalance, including changes to settings, can be found on the Immigration New Zealand website:

New Zealand border fully reopening by July 2022 (external link)

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