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Border changes for offshore workers

28 September 2020

A number of changes have been announced recently to allow two categories of offshore workers to cross the New Zealand border.

Other Critical Workers

While this category has been in effect for a few months, the requirements have been changed to make the threshold a bit more achievable. Workers can either come to New Zealand for short term (<6 months) or long term (6-12 months) – each category having a range of requirements. To meet the criteria for long term, at least one of the short-term criteria had to be met.

The most explored aspect of this category is “unique experience and technical or specialist skills that are not readily obtainable in New Zealand”. This means skills or experience that:

  • have been gained in a specialist training institution or by working in a highly-specialist firm
  • can be demonstrated through global experience
  • are inherent to a person

While this definition itself has not changed, how ‘readily obtainable’ is assessed has changed as of 11th September 2020. This is a significant difference. It now implies:

  • there are no workers in the country who could perform the role, or
  • there is a very limited pool of available workers who could perform the role and they are not available to the employer.

Temporary work visa holders normally resident in New Zealand

Several temporary work visa holders were overseas when our border closed and so do not meet current criteria to be granted a border exception. Some of these individuals have lived and worked in New Zealand and have a strong on-going connection. This new category will enable around 850 people to return to their lives established in New Zealand.

Key criteria which must be satisfied:

  • The individual had been living in New Zealand for at least two years (or one year in some specific cases), and
  • Returning to the same job they held before departing New Zealand
  • have departed New Zealand on or after 1 December 2019, on a visa which does not expire before the end of 2020

This category is expected to open early October 2020 and further information on how the job is still genuinely available is expected to be released soon.

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