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Temporary Visa Holders with Expired Visas: When Can You Enter NZ’s Borders?

17 March 2021

On 2nd February 2022, the New Zealand government released their long-awaited plan to reconnect NZ with the rest of the world. While the recent announcement included re-entry details for people across a number of different immigration situations, there were also many groups of people who were not presented with a clear timeline as to when they could re-enter NZ, specifically those who are/were on temporary visas.

Per the announcement, temporary visa holders can return to NZ under Step 3

Step 3

As it is written, temporary visa holders can enter NZ as long as their visas are still valid, and the visa holder still meets the requirements of their temporary visa.

While this may sound clear cut, keep in mind that borders have been closed for nearly two years. So while it is possible that many circumstances remained constant over this time period, there are many other conditions - both for the visa holder and the temporary visa itself - that could have changed. Specifically, the conditions of First Entry or Travel to NZ Date, both of which could have expired in one of the following ways over the past two years.

1 - If your temporary visa was granted while you were offshore, it is possible that you were unable to travel to NZ while the border was closed. Thus your visa expired before you were able to meet your First Entry condition.

2 -  If your temporary visa was granted while you were onshore, but you left the country and were unable to get back in due to NZ’s border restrictions, then you most likely did not meet your Travel to NZ Date before your visa expired.

Whichever of these two situations you fall into, the unfortunate and frustrating truth is that due to some unlucky timing, your visa is no longer valid. And as auto extensions were not a possibility for offshore visa holders, you do not qualify for entry under Step 3 of the border reopening plan.

So naturally, your next questions should be: 

  1. What can I do? 
  2. When can I re-enter NZ now that my visa has expired?

While they have not yet been clearly outlined by INZ, you may have three different options. One thing to note is while these options may be possible, none of them have yet to be clearly defined, and details have not yet been put into place by INZ. Our goal is for this article to help narrow down your search, but additional research will have to be done once more information becomes available.

Option 1 - Come to NZ via Other Critical Worker (OCW) Pathway Under Step 2

Before reading too much into this option, it is necessary to mention that this Other Critical Worker pathway is an option only available to skilled migrants, as income level is one of the main determinants.

However, if you are highly-skilled then we urge you to pay attention to some of the changes taking place to the OCW border exception policy under Step 2. From Sunday 13th March at 11:59 pm:

  • The income threshold for an OCW will drop to only 1.5 times the median wage for roles longer than 6 months (NZD $84,240 per year or $40.50 an hour). If you meet this income threshold, then it may become easier for you to be granted an OCW border exception, as you will no longer need to demonstrate that your skills are not readily available in NZ.

Unfortunately, if your income is less than 1.5 times the median wage, you will still need to meet this requirement, which is a common obstacle in the OCW border exception process. And therefore, we urge you to consider one of the other options.

Option 2 - Students Can Re-Enter Under Step 3

Within Step 3 - which takes place on 12th April 2022 at 11:59 pm, we know that up to 5,000 international students can apply for a border exception to enter NZ (this is in addition to the border reopening to temporary student visa holders whose visas are still valid and they still).

However, while INZ has noted that they hope that most students who apply and are granted a border exception will be able to arrive in NZ in time to begin their studies in July 2022, details regarding eligibility and the application process are still to come.

Therefore, if you think that studying in NZ might be a valid pathway for you we encourage you to reach out to our team, and we will be in contact with you once additional details become available.

Option 3 - Accredited Employer Work Visa Under Step 4

If neither of the above options seem feasible for you, you may be able to qualify to re-enter on an Accredited Employer Work Visa under Step 4, which begins in July 2022

While many details about the AEWV have already been released, INZ will be providing information about how these AEWVs will be granted. However, we do know that the AEWV will be mainly limited to roles that pay above the NZ median wage ($27.76 per hour)

What If None of These Options Are Feasible?

Unfortunately, if none of these options seem feasible given your unique immigration situation, you will most likely need to wait until the border completely reopens in October 2022 and application processing for all open, unpaused NZ visas will resume.

We understand that this article may not contain all of the details you were hoping to learn, especially if you’ve been in this unfortunate and unlucky situation for the past two years. We encourage you not to lose hope! Yes, the past couple of years have been incredibly frustrating, but we truly believe that normalcy is just around the corner! If you’re not already, we encourage you to follow us on Facebook for simplified immigration updates. However, if you do have specific questions, you can reach out to our team here, and we will get back to you with information relevant to your unique situation.

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