Return of working holidaymakers a boost to economic recovery


The Minister of Immigration, Kris Faafoi, says the return of working holidaymakers and more skilled workers from this coming Monday will accelerate New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19 by helping to fill workforce shortages and support tourism.

“Before COVID-19 we welcomed around 50,000 working holidaymakers to New Zealand each year, so it’s a key milestone in our economic recovery that we’re opening our doors to this group of tourists and workers again,” Kris Faafoi said.

“From Monday, the critical worker border exception for roles lasting longer than six months will also be widened by reducing the salary criteria to 1.5 times the median wage and removing the requirement to have skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand.

“These expanded settings will benefit a variety of sectors seeking to attract skilled workers, including early to mid-career professionals for roles in the tech sector, business and accounting services, education, construction and the primary industries.

“Getting more working holidaymakers and skilled migrants into the country in the coming weeks and months is a priority for the Government in order to accelerate our recovery, which is why we have reopened this category early in our reconnection plan.

“In order to get people coming to New Zealand as soon as possible we’ve granted a new 12-month visa to the approximately 19,500 people offshore who previously held a Working Holiday Visa but were unable to use it because of our border restrictions. They will need to use this new visa within the next six months.

“Working holidaymakers returning to New Zealand will be welcome news for employers, especially those in hospitality and the primary sectors, who are facing worker shortages right now.

“The primary purpose for a Working Holiday Scheme is to travel. So the return of working holidaymakers also provides a much-needed boost for our tourism sector ahead of the reopening of our borders more generally to tourists.

“Working holidaymakers tend to travel to multiple regions during their time in New Zealand, which is beneficial for the tourism sector and local economies right across the country.

“Our response to COVID-19, including having the lowest number of cases and deaths in the OECD for the last two years, makes New Zealand an attractive place for working holidaymakers to visit, and we look forward to welcoming them very soon,” Kris Faafoi said.

The Working Holiday Schemes will reopen in stages, with all uncapped schemes, which account for around three quarters of all working holidaymakers, opening for applications at 10am on Monday 14 March. Capped schemes are being staggered after that. All schemes will be reopened by 13 September.

The uncapped schemes opening on 14 March are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, and USA.

Other capped Working Holiday Schemes will re-open in the following order:

16 March
17 March
22 March
30 March
31 March
Hong Kong
5 April
7 April
20 April
21 April
3 May
4 May
10 May
11 May
17 May
24 May
31 May
7 June
14 June
23 June
30 June
6 July
7 July
14 July
21 July
4 August
10 August
11 August
18 August
30 August
6 September
13 September


  • More information about the Working Holiday Schemes can be found on the Immigration New Zealand website: 
  • The new income criteria for the critical worker border exception for roles longer than six months is $40.50 per hour (1.5 times the current median wage) or $84,240 a year for a 40-hour week.
  • The family reunification border exception for highly skilled workers will be aligned with the expanded settings for long-term critical workers to allow more families to reunite.

Border exceptions for workers will be phased out once applications open for the new Accredited Employer Work Visa in July.

Information about the Accredited Employer Work Visa can be found at: