Principal lawyer for NZIL Aaron Martin explains the implications of the announcement of border closers for migrants and their partners.

On Friday the 20th of March the government announced that it has closed New Zealand borders subject to very limited exceptions.

At the time of this restriction being put in place, many migrants and travellers were returning to New Zealand from overseas – leaving them uncertain of their ability to enter or re-enter the country – with some people being turned away.

This sudden restriction has sent a shockwave through the immigrant community, and left many people wondering what their status is, or what their partner’s status is under various visa conditions.  

“It’s still very unclear what the specific restrictions means to some visa holders, so I have been in contact with Immigration New Zealand to try and resolve this situation.  They are still resolving some of the terms themselves; but as of today, I’m updating the information that I’m aware of and giving my advice to people concerned on whether they’ll be allowed to travel to New Zealand or not.

This is a summary of what Immigration New Zealand posted to their website last night:

COVID-19 update: temporary border closure

The New Zealand Government has further strengthened travel restrictions, closing our border to almost all travellers, effective from 23:59 on Thursday 19 March 2020.

Those who can still enter New Zealand are:


  • New Zealand citizens,
  • New Zealand permanent residents,
  • New Zealand residents with valid travel conditions and their immediate family (partner or spouse, legal guardian and dependent children under the age of 24) can still come to New Zealand. Note: Immediate family members cannot travel by themselves. They must travel with the New Zealand citizen or resident family member on the same flight to New Zealand. They must have a valid visa or NZeTA
  • Australian citizens and permanent residents who normally live in New Zealand can still come to New Zealand.

All those returning to New Zealand must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival.


Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis by Immigration New Zealand for the following:


  • humanitarian reasons
  • health and other essential workers
  • citizens of Samoa and Tonga for essential travel to New Zealand
  • the holder of a visitor visa who is the partner of dependent of a temporary work or student visa holder and who normally lives in New Zealand and is currently in New Zealand.

No other foreign traveller can enter New Zealand.

There is no application process for consideration as exceptions.

These border restrictions will be reviewed in 14 days.


My assessment of the situation as of today 23/3/2020

After speaking to Immigration New zealand this morning to clarify the announcement criteria this is my understanding of what these restrictions actually mean for each visa type

If you are currently overseas, we explain your ability to (re)enter New Zealand

For an application for a Partnership Visa if the visa has been issued, traveling with a New Zealand resident partner or citizen

An exemption is being granted to partners of New Zealand citizens/resident visa holders but only those who are traveling with their New Zealand partner who is also returning.

If you have been issued a Partnership Visa, but are trying to enter without your New Zealand partner because they are already on shore, do not make travel plans at this stage.

Holders of Work /Student Visa based on partnership of a work visa holder

The specific exemption published only mentions visitor visa holders who have been granted that on the basis of being the partners or dependent children of temporary work or student visa holders who are in New Zealand.

The official rules don’t specify the visa type. It just says partner and dependents of work or student visa holders.

The exemption only applies to those who have previously arrived and settled themselves here and if their spouse is onshore.

So, it contemplates those who have been in New Zealand and temporarily left and are seeking to return.

Entry is not however guaranteed.

If the visa is still valid, we recommend you don’t make travel plans at this stage until the published advise is clarified. INZ are trying to establish parameters for case-by-case consideration at the border, and another update will be available soon, we are told.
The exemption DOES NOT apply to those who have been issued their visa and are entering for the first time. Those people should not travel.

Regardless, if your visa is valid don’t plan any international travel at this point.

If your application for a partnership visa to a New Zealand resident is currently in process and you are offshore

At this stage, as the visa application is still in process and the closure is temporary there is no immediate impact on any application in process. This may change.

There will be updates to come, no doubt, as to the impact this may have on those whose application is in process. Once we know what that impact will be, we will inform you.

We are monitoring the news from Immigration New Zealand, and we will be updating our website and social media as soon as we have more information or clarity, sharing our assessment of any new insights. As soon as we can help with further advice and information, we will.

If you need Immigration advice about your visa application get in contact with our team today.

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