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3 Options for Those Who Missed Out on the 2021 Resident Visa

21 October 2021

The “once-in-a-lifetime” 2021 Resident Visa (2021RV) was released at the end of September 2021. Already though, it is becoming old news. This is because the information released by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) made it clear to see who among the migrant workforce in Aotearoa is eligible, and who is not.

Due to the wide-reaching eligibility criteria, of the 230,000 temporary migrants currently in NZ, approximately 165,000 - over 70% - meet the requirements of this one-off residence visa. But unfortunately that also means that 30% of the migrants in NZ - or about 65,000 people - did not qualify. 

This 2021 Resident Visa is quite different from other types of resident visas. Unlike the more traditional residence categories like Skilled Migrant Category or Residence from Work, there was no opportunity to work towards the visa application, or even to set a plan into motion. This is because the requirements for the 2021 Resident Visa had to be met the day before the announcement was made - on 29 September 2021.

And as there was no advance warning of this visa being introduced, it came down entirely to luck. Those who met the necessary criteria on 29 September were instantly eligible for this visa, while those who did not meet the conditions on that exact same day, did not qualify. And this means that in order to achieve NZ residency in the future, that unfortunate group of migrants will have to look elsewhere. 

Here are some examples where migrants who do not qualify:

  • A migrant worker had a salary increase (from $25.50 to $27 - median wage) planned for 1st October 2021. As this means the employee was not earning $27 on 29 September, they did not meet “skilled” criteria and therefore missed out. 
  • Someone who has been in NZ for a long time but jumped on a student visa prior to 29 September to upskill themselves. Even though they were working towards a better job opportunity in NZ, they were not on the right visa and missed out.
  • Someone who might have been in NZ for many years, but left the country before 29 September 2021 (for any reason) and were offshore on this day - they missed out 
  • An employee earning over $100,000 annually or working a job on a scarce list while on a specific purpose work visa - these migrants missed out too. 

In all of the above situations, the lack of eligibility is due solely to unfortunate timing!

While only about 30% of migrants missed out on this “lottery” residence, their disappointment is obvious. But as with any immigration changes, there are always winners and losers. 

What Are Their Options for NZ Residency?

Short answer: Their residence options are the same pathways they were already working towards. While the news about the 2021RV created so much buzz, many migrants momentarily lost sight of what other options continued to exist beyond it. The usual ones - SMC, RFW, Partnership - are still valid and viable pathways to achieve residency.

Skilled Migrant Category (SMC):

While Expression of Interest (EOI) selection has been on hold since April 2020, the category itself has not been removed. SMC will stay. The SMC policy is expected to be reviewed after 31 July 2022 once 2021 Resident Visa applications close. It is expected that SMC will look different to what it does now, and point requirements might increase. Almost everyone who already submitted their SMCs and are awaiting assessment by an immigration officer would likely be eligible under 2021RV, and therefore will have the option to apply in Phase 1. 

For other SMC hopefuls who did not meet the requirements of the 2021RV (which will now be a relatively small number), they must wait and prepare themselves to meet the basic SMC requirements. While you wait for an update regarding this category of residence visas, we encourage you to review our already published resources on this topic

Residence from Work (RfW):

This pathway would be best for those who did not meet the 2021RV requirements and who were already on Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visas (or were looking to submit their application before this category closes to new applications on 31 October 2021). 

It is important to note that RV2021 presents a much faster and direct route to the end goal - especially if an applicant has not yet held a W2R visa for two years. But for the few that missed out on this one-off opportunity, RfW acts as a secure back up.


The Partnership category of resident visas has remained relatively stable despite the many recent changes in the industry. In order to qualify for a Partnership resident visa, you must not only demonstrate that you meet health and character requirements, but also that you and your partner have been living together in a genuine and stable relationship for 12 months or more. 

Partnership based work visas have been excluded from 2021RV eligibility because these applicants have a pathway to residence through their partner - either through this distinct category of residence or as a secondary applicant if their partner is eligible for 2021RV. 

A Message to the Migrants Who Missed Out on the 2021 Resident Visa

We understand that this is an especially challenging time for you. While your friends and colleagues may be thrilled with these recent turn of events - having been fortunate enough to meet this eligibility criteria on a certain date - we understand that you were not as lucky.

We encourage you to stay resilient, and to remain focused on your immigration goals. Unlike with the 2021 Resident Visa, achieving your residency from a more traditional pathway will require persistence, perseverance, and determination.

Aims Global is here to help you stay on top of immigration updates, and will continue to share the impact of new and changing INZ policies. Subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you never miss an update - after all, we are here to help you and your family get residence and everything else that comes before it.

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