As of 1 August 2022, New Zealand has completely reopened its borders. Students and tourists can apply for visas again, and immediately did so in large numbers. New Zealand employers are also anxiously awaiting approval of visa applications for new international workers.
Reopening for visa applications
New Zealand completely reopened its borders in a few stages. The latest phase began on 1 August 2022. Travellers who need a physical visa for New Zealand have also been able to reapply since then. On the first day, 3,000 applications were immediately received. That is almost double the number of applications compared to 2019. The New Zealand Immigration Service says it aims to process these standard visitor visa applications within four weeks.
Until recently, only travellers from countries without visa requirements could travel to New Zealand. UK and Irish travellers, among others, have been able to travel to New Zealand with the NZeTA “visa” for some time since 1 May 2022. Strictly speaking, this is not actually a visa, but an electronic travel authorisation for travellers who do not need a visa for New Zealand. An application for an NZeTA is usually approved within 5 days.
International students have also been able to apply for visas again since the beginning of the month. EU citizens could already re-apply for a NZeTA for short-term studies. Before the COVID-19 crisis, New Zealand universities, colleges, schools, and language schools had a combined turnover of over €3 billion ($5 billion New Zealand dollars). It is expected to take several more years for the number of students and scholars to recover.
Long-term visa applications continue to be difficult to process
Yet there also seems to be scepticism. Since 4 July this year, working and family members can again apply for an extended stay visa in New Zealand. However, the processing and approval of these applications seems to be taking a bit longer than expected. There were previously some exceptions for family members, but a poll on 1 August showed that not much more than 5% of the usual applications have now been approved. Some applicants are even currently still awaiting the outcome of an application they had submitted before August 2020.
Despite shortages in the New Zealand labour market, employers are struggling to pass the mandatory checks, for recruiting and hiring staff from other countries. The process consists of three steps, two of which lie with the employer. The second step in particular, which looks at the type of vacancy a New Zealand employer wants a migrant worker to fill, has caused delays. For this step, as of 20 June this year, the immigration department had promised to complete employer applications within 10 days. However, over 60% of the applications made have still not been processed. For those employers who reapplied for accreditation for the first time in May 2022, after more than 11 weeks, only less than 700 overseas workers have been able to apply for the work visa. Of these, only 21 were granted. The long processing time is partly explained by new employees at the New Zealand immigration department itself, but also the introduction of a new application system that both applicants and the immigration department still need to get used to.
Tourism sector and the Working Holiday visa
The tourism sector in particular is struggling to cope with the shortage. In the first year of the pandemic, 90,000 tourism jobs were lost in New Zealand. That is about 40 per cent of the number of jobs in this sector. To address the shortage, New Zealandʼs Immigration Minister has announced measures to increase the number of workers, especially for the New Zealand summer season (from December to February). To widen the choices for employers, they will be allowed to continue recruiting foreign workers with a valid Working Holiday visa for positions below the minimum wage for longer. The hope lies with international work students and Working Holiday visa holders. Indeed, 17,000 Working Holiday visas have been issued up to mid-August this year. Yet only 2,000 of these temporary migrants have actually entered the country so far.
Apply for an NZeTA
Those who do not wish to do paid or unpaid work in New Zealand and do not wish to pursue long-term studies can get by just fine with the NZeTA. The NZeTA is valid for two years and is suitable for travel for up to 3 months (at a time). During these two years, you may stay in New Zealand for a maximum of 6 months per year.
Take note: this news article about the visa for New Zealand is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the visa for New Zealand.