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New Zealand border fully reopening by July 2022

New Zealand’s border will now be fully reopened by the end of July – three months earlier than originally planned. Some important changes were announced by the Prime Minister that are highly relevant for migrants, international students and employers.

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

“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. "

The Government has also announced significantly simplified immigration processes that provide faster processing for businesses. A key component is the new Green List that includes over 85 hard to fill roles created to attract and retain high-skilled workers to fill skill shortages.

Visitors applying from Pacific Island Forum countries (excluding Australia) will now be able to apply for visas from 16 May as entry to New Zealand from the Pacific is a Government priority. 

“New Zealand cannot return to pre pandemic trends that saw us overly reliant on growing numbers of lower-skilled workers and resulted in the increased exploitation of migrants,” Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said. 

Critical changes for the international education sector include post study work rights for international students and other student visa settings. The recent border exception for up to 5,000 international students will continue as planned, with the first students on track to begin arriving in New Zealand soon.  

Immigration settings: What's changing

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Temporary work visas

From 4 July, through the Accredited Employer Work Visa, will be simpler, reducing categories, bringing more online accessibility and streamlining application processes for businesses Employers won’t need to provide as much information, and most of them will be able to use their existing recruitment processes to meet the job check criteria to prove no New Zealanders are available to fill their vacancies.

Immigration New Zealand’s Accredited Employer Work Visa processing targets across the three stages are:

  • 10 working days for accreditation check

  • 10 working days for the job check, and

  • 20 working days for the migrant check.

This means the first Accredited Employer Work Visas could be granted before the end of July 2022. To make it easier to attract high-skilled migrants:

  • A Green List will help employers hire migrants for specified high-skilled, hard-to-fill occupations, including in the construction, engineering, trades, health, and ICT sectors. Employers won’t need to provide proof of advertising and migrants will have a pathway to residence.

To support sectors to develop more productive and resilient workforces:

  • A median wage threshold is being introduced for most Accredited Employer Work Visas and for Foreign Fishing Crew Visas. From 4 July the median wage will be $27.76 and adjusted annually.

  • Employment as a chef will now require a qualification for migrants on an Accredited Employer Work Visa.

There will be exemptions to the median wage threshold to help some sectors that currently rely on lower-skilled migrant workers.

The Green List: Making it easier to attract and hire high-skilled migrants

A Green List will make it easier for employers to hire and attract migrants for specified high-skilled, hard-to-fill occupations, with guaranteed residence pathways for eligible people.

Eligible migrants working in these occupations will have clear pathways to residence, either through a direct to residence application or after working in New Zealand depending on the role. Their partners will have open work rights. Both residence pathways will be limited to migrants 55 years or younger which is aligned with the Skilled Migrant Category requirements.

The Green List is not the only pathway to residence available. Other employers will still be able to access skilled migrants, and many of them will also have a pathway to residence through the Skilled Migrant Category.

Eligible migrants employed in The Fast Tracked ‘Straight to Residence’ pathway occupations including project builders, civil engineers, psychiatrists and vets - can come to New Zealand on a work visa from 4 July and apply for residence from September 2022. From September, residency can also be applied directly from offshore.  Eligible migrants in The Work to Residence pathway occupations can apply for residence after two years:

  • Anaesthetic Technician

  • Medical Laboratory Technician

  • Medical Imaging Technologist

  • Medical Radiation Therapist

  • Occupational Therapist

  • Sonographer

  • Podiatrist

  • Audiologist

  • All Registered Nurses (including but not limited to Aged Care)

  • Midwife

  • Teachers - Secondary with specialisations and registered ECE

  • Automotive Electrician

  • Diesel Motor Mechanic (including Heavy Vehicle Inspector)

  • Electrician (General) –registered

  • Plumber – registered

  • Dairy Farm Managers

Migrants paid at least twice the median wage in other roles can also apply for residence after two years.

The Green List replaces the existing skills shortages list. Any roles that appear on the skills shortages list but not the Green List won't be exempt from a labour market test unless they are paid double the median wage. For the full list of occupations and frequently asked questions, click here.

Partnership work visas

From December 2022, most partners of temporary migrant workers will be granted visitors visas. If they wish to work, they will need to qualify for an Accredited Employer Work Visa in their own right.

Unlike other work visa holders, all partners can work less than 30 hours a week, reflecting they may have other responsibilities, such as childcare, and are not the primary household earner.

To ensure New Zealand can attract high-skilled migrant workers, partners of migrants working in occupations on the Green List or paid twice the median wage will continue to receive automatic open work rights. There are no changes to automatic open work rights for partners of New Zealanders.

Visa extensions and visa conditions

If you were in New Zealand on 9 May and your work or work to residence visa expires between 9 May and 31 December 2022 (dates inclusive) you may have been granted a:

  • new open work visa, or

  • six month extension of your work to residence visa

If you qualify for one of these, you don’t need do anything and you don’t need to pay a fee. Your extension will be granted automatically.

New open work visas

On 9 May 2022, open work visas were granted to onshore holders of the following work visas expiring between 9 May and 31 December 2022 (inclusive):

  • Essential Skills Work Visa

  • Post Study Work Visa

  • Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa

The new open work visas:

  • are valid from 9 May 2022 until two years from the date of expiry of the previous visa

  • allow the holder to work for any employer anywhere in New Zealand, and

  • allow the holder to leave and re-enter New Zealand

Work to residence visa extensions

On 9 May 2022, the following types of work to residence visas expiring between 9 May and 31 December (inclusive) were extended by six months:

  • Talent (Accredited Employers)

  • Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports)

  • Long Term Skill Shortage List

  • Skilled Migrant Job Search

  • South Island Contribution

“New Zealand is in demand and now fully open for business,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Changes to international education

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Post-study work rights from 11 May 2022

Changes have been made to post-study work visa settings, which will apply to any student visa applications received on or after 11 May 2022, including student visa applications from people in New Zealand.

Students will continue to be eligible for post-study work rights if they are studying a:

  • bachelor’s degree

  • bachelor honours degree

  • postgraduate diploma

  • master’s or doctoral degree that they have studied full time in New Zealand for a minimum of 30 weeks.

Students pursuing non-degree courses at Level 7 and below (excluding bachelor’s degrees), will only be eligible for post-study work rights if the qualification is relevant to an occupation on the Green List. This includes Graduate Diplomas and Diplomas at level 7.

For non-degree students with a Green List relevant qualification, your post-study work rights will only allow you to work in that occupation. Although, you can switch employers and work for less than the median wage.

This change aims to align post-study work rights for non-degree study with skills New Zealand needs. It also addresses some unsustainable post-study working trends seen pre-COVID.

There are 20 roles on the Green List that have direct pathways from Level 7 and below level qualifications. These include:

  • Construction Project Manager

  • Project Builder

  • Civil Engineering Technician

  • Electrical Engineering Technician

  • Secondary School teacher

  • Early Childhood (Pre-primary School) Teacher

  • Automotive Electrician

  • Diesel Motor Mechanic

  • 12 specific engineering roles

The duration of work rights will reflect the period of study undertaken in New Zealand, except for Masters and PhD students who retain the current duration of 3 years. Students will be considered under the ‘old’ post-study rules if they:

  • have already started studying an eligible qualification under current settings, and who have applied for a visa or hold a visa for that specific study

  • got a visa through the current border exception for 5,000 students

However, students who have started a qualification offshore and who apply for a visa from 11 May will be considered under the new rules. There are no changes to in-study work rights for student visa holders.

International students will no longer be able to apply for a second post-study work visa. This is to reduce the length of time that someone can be working in New Zealand without applying for an Accredited Employer Work Visa.

Living costs and fees will change from July 2022

From 31 July 2022, fund requirements will increase:

  • From $15,000 to $20,000 per annum for prospective tertiary student visa applicants

  • $17,000 for prospective international school students

These amounts will be prorated for shorter lengths of study.

  • With the exception of some aviation students, students will need to pay tuition fees for the first year, or first programme of study (whichever is the shorter), and they will have to prove funds for the same period

  • Students transitioning to a post-study work visa from 11 May will need to show funds of $5,000

  • The fund requirements will be reviewed every three years to ensure that students continue to have reasonable expectations about the cost of living in New Zealand

Access the fact sheet on changes to the immigration settings, international education and the Prime Minster's announcement here.

IELTS for migration

When you apply for the new 2021 Resident Visa, you may need to demonstrate that you meet certain minimum standards of English language proficiency (unless exemptions apply). IELTS helps you prove your language proficiency.

Why take an Academic test when you don't need to? The IELTS General Training test examines your English using every-day, non-academic English, and is accepted for migration, secondary education and work experience in New Zealand. It has the same modules as the Academic test but its Reading and Writing sections are based on general interest topics. In New Zealand, you can take the IELTS General Training test on paper or on computer

*Always check with Immigration New Zealand, your migration agent, education consultant or workplace to find out which IELTS test you need.

3 top Reasons to choose IELTS General Training

Immigration and the law

Content on this page is for general information on immigration to New Zealand and does not constitute legal advice or immigration advice. Legislation about immigration changes frequently. It’s important to check the Immigration New Zealand website for changes that may apply to you.

If you are interested in New Zealand student and work visas, or looking to migrate permanently, you need to lodge an application with the New Zealand Government. You may want to consider getting support from a lawyer or registered New Zealand Immigration Consultant.