The Disappointment Is in the Details

New border exemptions for the families of split migrants elate a few while deflating many more with their restrictiveness.

Starting 30 April, the New Zealand government will make exceptions to COVID border restrictions for the families of certain temporary visa holders already in New Zealand.

The three groups affected:

  1. Partners and dependent children who hold a New Zealand visa but were unable to join their partner or parent in New Zealand before the border closed
  2. Partners and dependent children of workers employed in critical health services
  3. Partners and dependent children of highly skilled workers who earn over $106,080

To be eligible, the onshore visa holder must have at least 12 months left on their visa.

Immigration Lawyer Aaron Martin’s Opinion

While some will shed tears of joy, many more are bound to be disappointed by the restrictiveness of the criteria. Although the new exceptions are a step in the right direction, those who actually meet the criteria will be few.

Family members separated by border closures are estimated at 450 while those attached to specialist workers number just dozens. The figures for families of critical health workers are unknown, but hundreds will likely qualify. According to Newshub, the number of split migrant families is close to 3000.

The new exceptions show the continued but conservative reopening of the border to avoid overwhelming MIQ. Partners of many workers, especially those stuck offshore with valid visas, will receive some reprieve, but many more will have to wait.

In many cases, visas issued to partners and children have expired because they were not able to enter the country by the date stipulated. And I imagine that visa holders in the high-income bracket were momentarily buoyed by the Minister’s announcement – then quickly deflated by the realisation that being reunited wouldn’t be that simple.

The exemption requires the visa holder to demonstrate that they are an Other Critical Worker and have one or more of the following:

  • Unique experience and technical or specialist skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand
  • A role essential for the completion or continuation of a government-funded science programme and MBIE support to carry out this work
  • A role essential for the delivery or execution of one of the following:

– an approved infrastructure project, government event, or government programme

-an approved government-to-government agreement

-work with a significant benefit to the economy

Unsure what your rights are or whether you meet all the necessary criteria? If you’ve been separated from your family because of COVID, the experts at NZ Immigration Law can assess your situation and offer clear, actionable advice.

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