Who can apply for a border exception as Critical Worker?

Critical Workers can apply for a visa that will allow them to travel to New Zealand while the borders are still closed to most people.

Do you wonder whether you might be able to travel to New Zealand now under the Critical Worker scheme?

Our principal Licensed Immigration Adviser Dr. Carsten Hallwass says:

When assessing a migrant for eligibility for a border exemption, this is relatively straightforward for health professionals.

It is a lot more difficult to determine if a migrant might qualify for a border exemption as 'Other Critical Worker'.

However, we have a number of clients who were able to move to New Zealand throughout 2021 after being able to secure a job offer and successfully obtain their border exemptions.

So who is considered a 'Critical Worker' in New Zealand?

Critical workers included staff with unique experience and technical or specialist skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand, or those creating a significant benefit to the economy.

Criteria for exemptions also include migrants delivering major infrastructure projects and government-approved events or programmes.

Requests for critical workers are considered on a case-by-case basis by Immigration New Zealand officials.

There are 3 categories, each with their own criteria:

  • worker needed for a short term role — less than 6 months in total
  • worker needed for a long term role — more than 6 months
  • worker for an approved class.

Cases where border exemptions have been granted

As these criteria are more or less subject to interpretation on a case by case basis, it might help to take a look at a few examples, where border exemptions were granted by Immigration New Zealand during the Covid pandemic.

  • By 12 April 2021 Immigration New Zealand had approved 1666 requests for other critical workers, representing 7114 migrants.
  • Since January 2021, one in 10 places in managed isolation were allocated to overseas critical workers.

Among those, who were classed as other critical workers, were:

  • Co-owners of America's Cup yachts
  • Before the category was created last June, the cast and crew of the Avatarsequel were among those approved by government ministers.
  • More than 100 exemptions were for the Lord of the Rings TV series, with others for and Jane Campion's Power of the Dog, Power Rangers, Cowboy Bebop, Sweet Tooth and Greatest Beer Run Ever.
  • In addition to entertainers, sportspeople and sailors also qualified, with more than 1000 overseas visitors approved to attend the 36th America's Cup.

Major government approved programmes

  • Rocket Lab launches
  • Kāinga Ora build and urban development programme
  • NZTE Investment Attraction programme
  • Innovative Partnerships
  • Replacement international fishing crew for foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating in international waters

Government-approved events

  • 36th America's Cup
  • Bledisloe Cup
  • BWF Junior World Championships (Badminton)
  • Crankworx
  • FIFA Women's World Cup 2023
  • Fijian Rugby Team Tour of New Zealand
  • ICC Women's World Cup
  • ICF Junior and U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships
  • International Pakistan Men's Cricket Tour of New Zealand
  • International West Indian Men's Cricket Tour of New Zealand
  • IronMan 70.3 World Championship 2020
  • New Zealand Golf Open
  • Ocean Race 2022
  • Rugby World Cup (Womens)
  • Taini Jamison Trophy
  • The Constellation Cup
  • The Pioneer
  • The Summer of Cricket Series
  • Winter Games
  • WSL Challenger Series Piha Pro
  • XVI WSBC Men's Softball World Championship

'Critical worker' border exemptions: Entertainment industry about 12% of approvals

General manager of border and visa operations Nicola Hogg says:

"The 848 approved workers in the entertainment/arts/film and television sector represent only 12 percent of the total.

The 848 entertainers and crew who met the critical worker criteria included a Queen tribute band, the stage show and the Wiggles.

They were among more than 7000 migrant workers allowed across the border.

Read more about character:

Read more Visa FAQ's:

Which Visa is Right for You?

Read more about the Points System:

Read more about health:

Read more about Critical Workers:

The Skill Shortage Lists

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