GUEST POST BY TOM LAWLER, MANAGER, EY
New Zealand immigration in 2022
2022 is shaping up to be a re-energised year for New Zealand immigration. The Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this month of New Zealand’s phased border reopening signalled a welcome easing of border and immigration restrictions which have severely limited access to global talent over the past 24 months. However, the policy wheels have not stopped turning during the border closure and those who are active in the New Zealand mobility space will be aware that 2022 heralds not just the return of travellers, but also significant reform which will reshape how the majority of New Zealand employers engage with the immigration system.
Border reopening progress
The phased reopening approach sees a staged removal of border restrictions for travellers combined with the cessation of the Government-administered managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) requirement.
From the end of February, travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and complete mandatory pre-departure and arrival testing will be permitted to enter and self-isolate at pre-arranged accommodation. Balancing numbers of arrivals against New Zealand’s capacity to manage COVID-19 cases means that the border will reopen gradually:
- Step 1: 27 February, 11:59pm – New Zealand citizens and residents who are arriving from Australia and have spent the 14 days prior to arrival in either Australia or New Zealand
- Step 2: 13 March, 11:59pm – New Zealand citizens and residents arriving from elsewhere in the world, as well as holders of Working Holiday Visas
- Step 3: 12 April, 11:59pm – Holders of current work and student visas travelling from anywhere in the world, provided that the grounds upon which their visas were granted remain current. An allocation of 5000 new student visas will also be made available
- Step 4: July 2022 – Australian citizens and permanent residents, holders of Accredited Employer Work Visas and holders of current visitor visas (including visa-waived travellers)
- Step 5: October 2022 – Holders of all other New Zealand visas, combined with the reopening of the remaining visa categories suspended due to COVID-19
At each of the stages above, holders of border exceptions, dependents of New Zealand citizens or residents who are travelling with that person or are themselves ordinarily resident in New Zealand, and Australian citizens and permanent residents who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand are also permitted to travel.
Self-isolation requirements for travellers are intended to work in lockstep with the isolation requirements for close contact cases in the community, meaning that the duration of self-isolation required when entering New Zealand is anticipated to reduce over time. We have recently seen a reduction of the self-isolation duration from 10 days to the current 7 days.
While the border reopening framework is subject to change in response to developments with the virus, this reopening timeline allows businesses to resume international recruitment and prepare for the re-entry of personnel to New Zealand.
Broader immigration changes
A major overhaul of the current work visa framework sees six existing work visa categories replaced with a single Accredited Employer work visa (AEWV) from 4 July 2022.
In a significant departure from the status quo, employers in New Zealand will be required to obtain mandatory accreditation from the Government in order to employ any migrant worker who requires an AEWV. Businesses are able to apply for accreditation from 9 May 2022 and this requirement extends to employers who currently hold existing accreditation under previous schemes.
Many specifics of the AEWV are yet to be confirmed, but there is some suggestion that eligibility may be restricted to employees earning above the median wage, with work-to-residence pathways requiring a salary of 200% the median wage. Stronger links between remuneration and visa eligibility will require some employers to review their reward strategy and settlement options for low wage earners may become limited. A revised 3-step visa application process will change the shape of the visa lifecycle for migrant workers and mobility professionals alike.