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The 2021 Residence Visa

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

On the basis of better late than never, the Minister of Immigration has, this morning, come up with a policy that will see up to 165,000 - YES, 165,000, no mistake - temporary migrants qualify for residence under a new streamlined pathway. The criteria represent a one-off relaxation of the criteria that normally have to be met to transition from a temporary visa to residence. This is a dreamt of answer to the prayers of many migrant workers who have felt bereft of a future in New Zealand.

Migrant Workers Association 2021

The Criteria

In essence the criteria are:

  • on 29 September 2021 your status in New Zealand needed to have been the holder of most types of work visa including Essential Skills, Work to Residence or Post-Study work visa. Student, visitor, RSE and working holiday visa holders are not included in the scheme.

  • you must also:

    • be in New Zealand (note: this is a major blow for those post-study and other work visa holders who got shut out of New Zealand while on a trip overseas in March 2019)

    • have lived in New Zealand for at least 3 years or

    • earn above the median wage of $27 per hour (note: we are yet to confirm if it really is "above" or "at or above" the median wage) or

    • work in a role on the Long Term Skills Shortage List or

    • hold occupational registration and work in the health or education sector or

    • work in personal care or other critical health worker roles or

    • work in a specified role in the primary industries we really don't know what those are as yet but dairy farming will no doubt be one or

The visa will also be available to those who enter New Zealand as critical workers and their families for roles of 6+ months who enter before 31 July 2022.

Aside from the above criteria you will have to meet health and character requirements as per normal. There appears to be no English language requirement and there is no mention in this first communication around age limits.

You can include your dependents.


  • A first cohort will be able to apply from 1 December 2021. Immigration NZ will contact those eligible to apply in that cohort by the end of October. This cohort will include all those in the SMC EOI pool with children aged 17+.

  • A second cohort will be able to apply from 1 March 2022.

  • The Minister has said most of these applications should be granted within a year of the category opening which is therefore by 1 December 2022.

What now happens to the SMC EOI Pool?

  • All those in the EOI Pool who meet these new criteria will be able to apply for this visa from 1 December 2021 or 1 March 2022 depending on which category they fall into. It remains to be explained in more detail precisely who will fit into each date. We only know so far that in the 1 December cut will be:

  • anyone who has already applied for SMC or Residence From Work who meets the new criteria (now here the biggest question people will no doubt want answered is why, if I have already applied for SMC or Residence From Work, submit again. The answer needs more detail to come out but one possible advantage we can immediately see e.g. for an SMC applicant who may be in an "iffy" ANZSCO role, may fare better by applying under this new category. Similarly there may be advantages around English language for dependents - we will be delving further into this)

  • those in the SMC pool with the dependents aged 17+

  • The EOI Pool remains closed until the 2021 Resident Visa closes on 31 July 2022. Again, we assume that pretty much everyone in the current pool will be qualifying for the new visas except for a very small number that may have submitted on $25.50 an hour that have not been increased to $27 and who also don't meet the other criteria for the new visa

To sum up the timeframes:

  • >> This month of October: Cohort 1 will be contacted by INZ

  • >> From 1 December: Cohort 1 can apply

  • >> From 1 March 2022: Cohort 2 can apply

  • >> By 1 December 2023: the Minister says most applications will have been decided

As a final word from the Minister

“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,”

“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,”

As a commentary from me

This pathway is beyond what anyone expected. I am personally delighted to see something like this happen in my lifetime. For years, we have advocated for migrants to be treated equitably. Those that know our work, understand where we have stood in terms of the border closure. I believe the government has done this because, to be frank, it had dug such a deep hole for itself. The only way out politically has been to come up with something huge that tries to steal the thunder of the opposition parties that have worked so hard to advocate for a rational immigration policy. We, for our part, will not forget the

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