GUEST POST BY BRIDGET ROMANES, MOBILE RELOCATION
New Zealand’s COVID elimination strategy, built around a tightly closed border, has come at considerable disruption to expat assignments and business travel for the past 18 months, but Jacinda Ardern’s recent announcement of a roadmap for reconnecting New Zealand with the world has been widely welcomed.
This article outlines the changes that lie ahead and the implications for international assignees and business travellers.
The ultimate goal is quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travellers, but there is no timeframe on this yet.
In the meantime Isolation requirements will ease, starting in 2022
New Zealand is moving towards differentiated isolation and testing programmes for arriving travellers, including home isolation or shorter MIQ stays. The requirements will depend on whether travellers are vaccinated, and the level of risk in their countries of origin.
Vaccinated travellers who have been in low risk countries will qualify for quarantine-free entry.
Vaccinated travellers who have been in medium-risk countries will undertake a combination of self-isolation and/or reduced managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).
The system will include a new traveller health declaration system, new testing technology for rapid testing on arrival at airports and reliable pre-departure testing, and strengthened public health measures in New Zealand such as contact tracing.
Travel bubble arrangements with Australia and some Pacific Island nations will remain, subject to amendment according to the COVID situations in those countries.
What does this mean for assignees relocating to New Zealand?
The best way to ensure your assignees can take advantage of the new system is to ensure they are vaccinated. This is the action over which employers and assignees have most control.
During the coming months, the government will release further information on vaccine recognition requirements, and the risk profiles relating to different countries of origin.
No change this year
The new system will be implemented in phased way, starting in the first quarter of 2022
So, for people traveling this year, the current system will remain in place.
Demand currently far exceeds supply of MIQ places and this is a major constraint on travel to New Zealand.
A limited trial of reduced MIQ or home isolation will take place Oct-Dec 2021 for New Zealand-vaccinated business travellers travelling to and from medium-risk destinations.
While this won’t directly benefit people wanting to travel to New Zealand, it may mean that more MIQ slots open up if these business travellers are able to release their vouchers.
There are no further information updates on immigration settings at this stage. Most offshore visa categories are currently suspended until February 2022. There are entry provisions for partners/families of Kiwis, and a border exception application process for a limited set of circumstances.