Legal Updates

Golden ticket: surprise new resident visa a treat for workers and employers alike 


New 2021 Resident Visa announced



Calls for the government to provide more options for keeping migrant workers in New Zealand long-term have finally been answered.

On 30 September 2021, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi announced the introduction of the new 2021 Resident Visa (“2021 Visa”). The 2021 Visa will offer a one-off residence pathway for around 165,000 migrants, many of whom have helped ease immense labour pressures felt throughout the country during the pandemic.

Work visa holders, facing uncertainty around their prospects of being able to remain in New Zealand, and employers, who have spent the past 18 months grappling with widespread staffing shortages, are delighted by the announcement.

Applications for the 2021 Visa will be carried out in two phases. From 1 December 2021, applications will be open for the following groups:

  • people who had already applied for residence under the Skilled Migrant or Residence from Work categories prior to 29 September 2021; and

  • people who had submitted a Skilled Migrant Category Expression of Interest prior to 29 September 2021 and have dependent children 17 years or older.

From 1 March 2022, all other eligible applicants will be permitted to apply.

The government has signalled that the majority of 2021 Visa applications will be processed relatively swiftly, which will come as particularly welcome news to the thousands of individuals who have spent months, and in some cases years, awaiting decisions on applications made through existing pathways to residence.

Who’s eligible?

Eligibility for the 2021 Visa essentially involves a three-stage test. To qualify, applicants must:

  1. have been in New Zealand on 29 September 2021; and

  2. hold, or have applied for[1], an eligible visa[2] on or before 29 September 2021; and

  3. meet at least one of the following three criteria as at 29 September 2021:

    1. have lived in New Zealand for three or more years; or

    2. earn at or above the median wage ($27/hour); or

    3. work in a role on a scarce list.[3]

All applicants will still have to satisfy standard health and character requirements. Notably though, overseas police certificates will not be required unless an immigration officer specifically requests one, which will save applicants both time and money.

Crucially, those seeking the 2021 Visa will be able to include their partners and dependent children when applying. For many applicants, this will mean the opportunity to reunite and build new lives with loved ones who, through ongoing border closures, have otherwise been unable to enter New Zealand since the pandemic began.  

Disappointment remains for some

Despite the overwhelmingly positive response to the 2021 Visa, some have already voiced concerns that it will not be available to many more thousands of workers who have also had to contend with the stress of closed borders and sudden changes to immigration settings over the past 18 months.

Some of these complaints are not unreasonable. For example, holders of working holiday visas are not eligible to apply for the 2021 Visa, however, many of these individuals have now been in the country for close to if not longer than three years and most have provided invaluable labour support to a number of industries.

At this stage, it remains to be seen whether the 2021 Visa net will be widened to capture a greater number of temporary visa holders.

Help is at hand

We expect that there will be thousands lining up from 1 December to apply for the 2021 Visa. However, although the government has suggested that the process will be straightforward, in our experience, visa applications are rarely cut and dried. There are also a number of fish hooks in the eligibility criteria, some of which we have canvassed in this article, which will be difficult to navigate.

Applications must be submitted by 31 July 2022, so it is imperative that individuals who may be eligible start getting prepared to apply now.

We can help guide you through the visa application process. If you are a work visa holder and want to confirm whether you are eligible for the 2021 Visa, or if you are an employer and want to discuss securing the 2021 Visa for any of your employees, please contact Jaesen or Jordan.



[1] The application must later be granted.

[2] Full list of eligible visas: Post Study Work Visa; Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa; Essential Skills Work Visa; Religious Worker Work Visa; Talent (Arts, Culture, Sports) Work Visa; Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa; Silver Fern Practical Experience Work Visa; Trafficking Victim Work Visa; Migrant Exploitation Protection Work Visa; Skilled Migrant Category Job Search Work Visa; Victims of Family Violence Work Visa; South Island Contribution Work Visa; Work Visa granted under Section 61 (provided the applicant held another eligible visa type within 6 months before being granted a Section 61 visa); Some Critical Purpose Visitor Visas (CPVV): Critical health workers for longer term roles (6 months or longer), and other critical workers for long term roles (more than 6 months).

[3] Includes: jobs on the Long Term Skill Shortage List; Jobs requiring occupational registration in the health or education sector; personal carer and other critical health workers; and specified primary sector jobs.