The 2021 One-Off Residence Visa

Uncategorized Sep 29, 2021

Well, well, well.   It's the grand announcement of a generation.  One we have all been awaiting for so very long now with so much anticipation.  The words "soon", "very soon" ringing hollow, they had been said by the Minister so many times.  In the backdrop, there has been much so much speculation.  Inner circles mused what was sensible and right and then, what the Minister would actually do.   So much pressure has been applied - migrants marching on the streets of Auckland; candlelight vigils and protests on the steps of Parliament.  Greens, Act and National all standing in support and variously coming up with strong statements about the need for pathways to residence, among other things.  We always said the problems could be fixed with the stroke of a pen and here we are.  That stroke has been struck!

Well, I guess when your back is up against the wall and you have created such a terrible mess, one sure way to get out of it is to come up with a "knock your socks" response to blow all else out of the water.  This is what this is.  This is what the government wants to be remembered by and to claim the glory of a policy that will now change the lives of up to 165,000 people.

Looks like we really are going to be the team of - ahem - 5 million plus plus.

So let's start to dissect this new set of policies and see what's in store.

The Criteria:

  • To begin with this is for most work visa holders.  It does not apply to students or visitors, Working Holiday or RSE visa holders.   We know for sure Essential Skills, Work to Residence and Post-Study work visas are included.  You must either have held or applied for one of the qualifying visas on 29 September.  If you applied the visa does need to have been subsequently granted.
  • Secondly, you must have been in New Zealand on 29 September which is a new terrible blow to those who had been on work visas before Covid and got stuck while on a trip out.  We know of 5,600 post-study work visa holders in that situation.  
  • Then you must meet one of the following:
    • living in NZ for at least 3 years - this now has been further clarified to mean you must have spent at least  821 days in New Zealand between 29 September 2018 and 29 September 2021 (inclusive).  
    • be earning above $27 an hour - we have immediately raised whether the wording here is correct i.e. "above" rather than "at or above" and we will post on that as soon as we know the answer - Beehive releases are sometimes a bit loose with language and it would be anomalous if suddenly you have to earn above median wage to qualify.  We also need to know if you had to be on that wage as at 29 September of whether you can now be increased to meet this before the new category opens..this has now been clarified and it's median wage as at 29 September.
      • be working as a personal carer or other critical health worker
      • hold occupational registration and work in the health or education sector
      • be working in an occupation on the Long Term Skills Shortage List - query here as to whether you also must meet the specified qualifications and work experience specified on the list - so far it does not seem so
      • those working in certain primary industry roles - no detail is yet known around which roles but we imagine dairy farming to be a front runner - we now do have a long list:

This will also be open to anyone coming into NZ as a critical worker of any type for more than 6 months until 31 July 2022.

Crucially, we see no age or English language criteria.  So this also needs to be confirmed but if true will bring much-needed relief to many.


So here it gets interesting.  This one-off visa will open on 1 December and close on 31 July 2022.

There will be two cohorts:

  1. from 1 December 2021 - this will include anyone who has already put in an SMC or Residence From Work application that also meets the new criteria and also - wait for it - those in the SMC EOI pool with children aged 17+.
  2. from 1 March 2022 - the rest

Evidently, the plan is for INZ to start contacting all those potentially eligible for the first cohort during the month of October.

Applicants for this new visa will experience a streamlined process whereby the only matters to be checked will be health, character (normal residence requirements to be met) and also the base criteria.  Gone will be the key issue in any SMC of checking points and ANZSCO.  All that falls away.  This means that INZ can deploy or hire case officers to do this work without much training.  The Minister then states he expects most 2021 Residence Visas to have been granted by December 2022.  That is going to be an interesting space to watch but bring it on.  We can't wait to say goodbye to the backlogs at INZ and I'm sure INZ relishes that thought too.  

What we are all going to have to understand is:

  • what fees will apply & other practical matters around process - forms to be used; whether this will be paper or online
  • whether someone who has applied for residence already but wants to convert to this new category will have to pay again
  • whether there would be any queue advantage to remain with the application already lodged e.g. will priority processing remain in place for SMC/RFW applicants which could otherwise be lost if opting for the new category
  • if someone is close to being assessed under SMC but could risk being assessed as not meeting the points or skilled criteria, would it be better to give up one's place in that queue and opt for the new category or will they simply convert you from one to the other without losing you place...
  • whether having kids aged 17+ will actually make it better to be in the EOI pool now so that you get put into the first cohort
  • whether the usual dependency criteria for the 21-24 year olds 
  • those finer points already raised around English language, age, the at or above median wage; the LTSSL criteria etc.


The Minister has finished his release with some closing remarks:

“The Government is committed to rebalancing the immigration system for those who can come to work, study and live in New Zealand once our borders re-open. The 2021 Resident Visa is part of this,” Kris Faafoi said. 

“This initiative addresses that immediate issue while work on the immigration rebalance looks longer term at preparing for the eventual reopening of New Zealand’s borders. 

“But our message to industries and employers remains clear; they need to look for ways to build resilient workforces and to attract, train and retain local workers and reduce their reliance on low-skilled migrant labour,” Kris Faafoi said.

We know there is a good deal to unfold here and we will work to peel away the layers.  

Since writing this initially very late into the night more details have been released and some of our own questions above have already been answered so have a good read through:

 Book a free chat also if you want to talk about your options.


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