Broadened criteria for returning visa holders

The Government is broadening the ability for residence class visa holders to re-enter New Zealand, Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins has announced.

The change means residence class visa holders not vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to enter New Zealand from 6 May.

The change allows New Zealand Permanent Residents, and Australian Citizens ordinarily resident in New Zealand, to travel in and out of the country.

“Under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border) Order, and because of the public health risk at the time, unvaccinated residence visa holders have not been able to enter New Zealand since November 2021,” Chris Hipkins said.

“I am now directing a variation to the Order, on the basis of the high numbers of people in New Zealand who are vaccinated, combined with how common the Omicron variant has become.  This means the risk posed to our healthcare system from overseas returnees is now much lower.

“I acknowledge the difficulties some residents have faced in remaining overseas during this period and I am pleased we are able to make this change.

“As we’ve previously said, caution has served us well during the past two years. As we continue to move through the Omicron outbreak and peak, we will continue to remove restrictions when advised it is safe to do so – as we always said we would.”

In the first instance, the broadened criteria for return is being enabled by the Director-General of Health signing a class exemption which allows unvaccinated travellers holding either a Permanent Resident Visa or a Resident Visa, and Australian Citizens who live in New Zealand, to enter the country. 

The class exemption will not prevent people in other groups from continuing to apply for exemptions based on their individual circumstances.

From 11:59pm NZ time 5 May, when the class exemption goes into effect, a manual process will be used to approve Traveller Declarations made by unvaccinated people in these groups.  

Travellers whose flights to New Zealand depart after 11:59pm NZ time 5 May, need to call the New Zealand Traveller Declaration Contact Centre (on +64 4 9315799, for international callers; 0800 359 269, for NZ-based callers; and 1800 359 269, for Australia-based callers) for details on how to make their Traveller Declaration.

Then from 13 May, all unvaccinated New Zealand residence class visa holders will be able to do their Traveller Declaration online.

Further amendments to the air and maritime border settings are being considered.