What We’ve All Been Waiting for….

At last! Action from the government on the issue of residency for migrant workers – and relief for thousands of visa holders who meet the just-announced criteria.

An estimated 165,000 migrants on temporary work visas could be fast-tracked for the 2021 Resident Visa, which will offer a simplified pathway to residency on a one-off basis, primarily to workers in health care, education, and primary industries.

Minister Faafoi says more than 5000 health care workers, 9000 primary industry workers, and 800 teachers will be eligible.

What are the conditions of the 2021 Resident Visa?

Applicants must be in New Zealand on 29 September, hold an eligible class of work visa, and meet at least one of 3 criteria:

  • Lived in New Zealand for 3+ years
  • Earn $27 per hour or more
  • Work in a role on one of the scarcity lists, which can be described as:
    • the long-term skill shortage list
    • in health or education
    • in personal care or other critical health care
    • in a primary industry


Applicants must also meet these conditions:

• Health and character requirements
• Must hold legal status i.e. need to have a valid visa to remain in New Zealand during the entire process of RV

For inclusion of a partner in your application

You must be able to demonstrate that you are in a genuine and stable relationship and have lived 12 months or more together in total.

Dependent children

You can include dependent children under 25 years old.
There’s been discussion from Immigration New Zealand to provide a facility for dependents above that age if Covid had prevented parents applying sooner. However, these rules and criteria have not been finalised yet.

A first cohort of applicants will be pulled from the residence queue and Skilled Migrant Category EOI pool in December and another in March.

Immigration New Zealand will email the first cohort by the end of October with more information about the application process.

Sounds good, but…

Faafoi is saying the majority of applicants will be granted residency by the end of December 2022. Not to rain on their parade, but unless the process is vastly simplified, what makes INZ think they can process that many applications in a year, given the crashing failure the immigration system has already been? Immigration New Zealand isn’t exactly famous for its operational efficiency. Already, a number of details we don’t yet know are raising questions – from me, at least.

If INZ doesn’t deliver on this ministerial promise of faster processing, people will feel like they’ve just been moved from one queue to another.

I always start worrying when INZ starts compiling lists, particularly when the actual rules about how they will be applied have yet to be published. The scarce lists involved are: the long-term skill shortage list, jobs in health or education requiring occupational registration, certain personal care and critical health worker occupations, and specified primary sector jobs.

 Check these lists carefully, especially if you earn below $27 an hour or have been here less than three years.

Which jobs actually qualify?

The job titles listed as eligible for the 2021 Resident Visa come from ANZSCO, but what will applicants be required to demonstrate? Will you just need a job with a matching title or will you also have to prove that your job “substantially matches” the ANZSCO description?

The latter would be a disaster, so let’s hope not. Why? Because applicants would simply make the same old arguments they have been under the existing SMC regime that leads to so many declines – and so many successful appeals. Obviously, this all slows processing to a crawl. Immigration officers end up being bombarded with volumes of evidence that causes them to drown in paperwork and process fewer cases – while applicants wait in limbo.

Accepting applications in stages

For their own benefit in catching up and staying on top of it, Immigration New Zealand is phasing in the ability to apply:

  • From 1 December, you may apply if you already have a work residence or skilled migrant residence application sitting in the queue or have submitted an EOI that includes dependent children over 17.
  • From 1 March 2022, anyone else who is eligible may apply. EOI selection from the SMC pool will remain closed until 31 July 2022.

Critical workers who enter New Zealand and apply for roles longer than 6 months before 31 July 2022 will also be able to apply, but good luck achieving entry by July 2022 given the mess that MIQ currently is.

And for all of those who don’t meet these criteria, the waiting game continues. Given that applicants have already applied for work visas, usually multiple times over the years, INZ should already have all the information they need, so hopefully any additional documentation needed for the “application” should be light.

While most certainly welcome, this latest announcement does beg the question – what happens to everyone else? The answer lies in a ministerial announcement to come, I guess.

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