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NZ Borders Update - Critical Health Workers and Approved Classes of Workers

09 August 2021

In our previous newsletters, we have talked about the 'Other Critical Worker' category as one of the pathways through which NZ employers can request for a border exemption for a worker they believe meets the complex requirements of this category.

The NZ government has introduced various categories of border exemptions for ‘Approved Classes of Workers’  under which workers can travel to NZ with their family.

Approved classes of workers

Since this is an evolving space, we expect that as more industries continue to lobby the Government, and workforce shortages reach a critical level, further classes of approved workers will be added. However, the real impact of these changes are contingent on the timing of these such announcements and the number of requirements that these newly approved applicants will need to meet: 

At a time when businesses are shutting down or reducing business hours due to a shortage of workers, only time will tell how much relief these unknown number of approved class workers will provide.

In the meantime, here is a quick rundown of where the NZ borders are sitting at the moment:

Critical Health Workers 

  • Border exemption instructions for this category have been amended to include physician associates in addition to previously listed occupations such as registered health practitioners, internationally qualified nurses coming to NZ to undertake CAP (Competence Assessment Programs), and workers coming for installation and maintenance of medical equipment, etc. 
  • Critical health workers' eligibility has been extended to include individuals who “work in” but do not necessarily “work for” certain organisations and facilities.
  • These changes are effective on and after 28 July 2021.


  • Allocated spaces = 300
  • From July 2021,border exemption applications have opened for returning teachers. From September 2021, schools and early learning centres that want to employ other teachers (including those who have current job offers in New Zealand, made after March 19, 2020) will be eligible to apply for a border exemption. This process will be led by the school or the early learning centre employing the teachers. 
  • Requirements - Be employed in a Decile 1, 2 or 3 school, or a “hard to staff” school, or be in a position in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics role, or be already working in NZ before the border closure and returning to fill the same role, or be employed in an early childhood education low decile service. 
  • Can bring family along. 

Are you looking to bring in and employ workers from overseas? 
Contact us for a complimentary consultation on how to best start this process.

Dairy Farmers  

  • Allocated spaces of dairy farm assistant managers/managers = 150 
  • Allocated spaces of dairy farm assistants = 50 
  • The groups will need to enter NZ before April 2022.
  • Requirements - Assistant Dairy Farm Managers must earn above $92,000 per year and have 2-4 years of relevant work experience. Dairy Herd Managers must earn above $79,500 per year and have 2-4 years of relevant work experience. Dairy Farm Assistants must earn at or above the median wage per year and fill roles in regions with acute shortages. 
  • Can bring family along. 

Port Crane Operators

  • Allocated spaces = 5 
  • Requirements - Must have at least 2 years of crane operating experience and be paid at or above 1.5 times the median wage per annum.
  • Can bring family along. 


  • Allocated spaces for general practice Vets = 50
  • Allocated spaces for mixed and large animal Vets = 30 
  • Requirements - General practice vets must earn at or above $85,000 per year with 3-5 years of experience, and will be able to travel to NZ. They must meet Veterinary Council of New Zealand registration requirements.
  • Can bring family along. 

Agricultural and Horticultural Mobile Plant Machinery Operators

  • Allocated spaces = 125 
  • Requirements - Must have at least 3 seasons’ experience as agricultural or horticultural mobile plant operators, relevant vehicle licensing qualifications, work under an approved contract agreement in a fulltime role and must earn at or above the median wage per year.
  • Cannot bring family along. 

Deepwater Fishing Crew

  • Allocated spaces = 570 
  • Requirements - Must be employed by an ‘approved’ company to work on any of the shortlisted deepwater fishing vessels. 
  • Cannot bring family along. 


  • Allocated spaces = 40 
  • Requirements - Must be contracted by or through a NZSCA-approved employer, and with more than 2 years’ shearing experience may be eligible. 
  • Cannot bring family along. 

Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers

  • Requirements - workers must be from a Pacific Island country that are approved from the Ministry of Health to be low COVID-19 risk; and from a Pacific Island country who have committed to No Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) 6 the repatriation of RSE workers, as confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and have an employment agreement with an RSE employer and the pay rate specified in the employment agreement is for no less than $22.10 per hour. Only employers with an Agreement to Recruitment (ATR) will be able to employ offshore RSE workers. Eligible employers must commit to certain employment and pastoral care obligations.
  • Cannot bring family along. 

We will continue to update you as new classes of approved workers are added to this list. In the meantime, if you need to bring staff from offshore under any of the above listed classes, don’t hesitate to contact us and explore how we could support you!

- Arunima Dhingra (CEO & Principal Licensed Immigration Adviser #200900407)

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