top of page

New Zealand reopens - the end of this long tunnel is now in sight - but how long a tunnel for some?

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

This really has been a long, and at times dark, two years. Hard to believe we're only 6 weeks off the 2 year anniversary of the border closure.

Yesterday was a day to be remembered: 3rd Feb 2022. The day we were given an 8 month, 5 step journey to re-opening.

The PM said these steps could be brought forward, not back. But of course, our covid response Minister has also said we can't guarantee anything when in a global pandemic.

Our 'phones and all messaging inlets were awash with desperate messages yesterday and overnight. Journalists were calling. Politicians wanted a briefing. Employers needing to know what of this new roadmap. Most were anxious migrants wondering when they can get their families in. An air of complete desperation about them. After 2+ and in many cases nearing 3 years, separated from partners and children. While hardened to the stories after my own involvement with so many for so long, hearing from a man last night set me off all over again. He has, through his own sense of guilt and shyness, never come to the fore before. Guilt that he last saw his baby aged 10 days. Guilt that he left his wife overseas with postnatal issues, but to forge ahead with a family's plan for a better life here in New Zealand. Or so he thought. He came to do a Master's and is now in good work. He never imagined getting separated like this. These stories are not outliers - they abound. But this one for some reason, triggered me after a raw day. Why? Because in the 5 stages of re-opening, many discovered that it would be October until they could even begin the process of reunification.

In providing the following information, I stress we still only have the bare details. Announcements set the general tone and intent. They are always followed by immigration instructions that provide the "devil in detail" stuff. While awaiting those instructions, it is unsafe to guess what the fine print may be - we are very much ones for getting the written word and analysing. We do not have a date for that but given 27 Feb is the kickoff, we expect to have something by then.

Now if you have over an hour to spare you can watch the full announcement which was made at Mindlab in Auckland, yesterday at 11am at this link:

You can also access the PM's full speech here;

Or you can read on for a synopsis of just what happened there.

Let's look at the re-opening plan in detail with a bit of commentary you won't find on the INZ website. There are 5 steps.

All involve:

  • pre-departure PCR testing

  • 10 days (which the PM indicated would likely become 7 before step 1 opens) home isolation - you will be given a stash of 3 Rapid Antigen Tests on arrival.

  • Being double vaxxed ((although that could become triple according to the PM). Our current rules also apply only to children aged 16+ but it is as yet unclear if travelling with unvaccinated children will lead to having to go into MIQ - details we will be looking for in the coming days and weeks

  • Fines of up to $12,000 for any breach of the rules

  • MIQ for the unvaccinated. This is a general statement. We await detail of what happens in the case of children (the current rules exempt children under 16) and whether any non-citizen will even be allowed to travel at all if unvaccinated, even into MIQ. There is no detail on this as yet. Currently, only Kiwis can come unvaccinated unless we're talking a child or someone with an accepted exemption. Those all pass through MIQ.

So what are these 5 steps? This table produced by INZ is rather helpful in summarising but further details - still evolving - are set out beneath it:

Taking the steps in turn with more detail (click on the arrow to expand):

Step 1: 11.59pm 27 February 2022: New Zealanders in Australia

The above table actually mentions not only New Zealanders who are, by the way, Citizens or Residence/PR visa holders, but also other :eligible travellers". Eligible travellers are defined as:

  • New Zealand citizens

  • New Zealand permanent residents or resident visa holders

  • Australian citizens or permanent residence visa holders where New Zealand is your primary place of established residence

  • people with border exceptions

  • those exempt from border entry restrictions such as diplomats and air crew, except those that are travelling from Very High-Risk countries, and

  • partners, dependent children or parents of a dependent child who:

  • holds a visa based on the relationship to a New Zealand citizen or resident

  • is travelling with a New Zealand citizen or resident

  • is ordinarily resident in New Zealand.

In the finer print, we learn that those eligible to travel in Nauru, Tuvalu and American Samoa will also be able to enter from Step 1.

Step 2: 11.59 pm 13 March 2022: New Zealanders & "other eligible travellers" from around the world...

Step 3: 11.59pm 12 April 2022: Some Temporary visa holders and International Students

Step 4: By July (date unspecified and note the word "by"... all eyes will be on whether this can come forward): Australians, Visitors from Visa Waiver Countries and the new Accredited Employer Work (AEWV) Visa holders:

Step 5: October (date unspecified): All others. This is when normal visa processing is said to resume.

There is clearly much more analysis to come as the instructions flow through. In the meantime, hopefully, this gives some sort of clear starting point - as far as we can go. Though mixed elation and sadness in here, we do at least now have some sort of roadmap we did not have 48 hours ago.

If interested in what is likely to become of MIQ: here's an article from 4 Feb:

And lastly, an article in which I was able to express the reality around what this "opening" means for most split families.

Ka kite,

Katy & Team (Nishi, Amitabh, Lilian, Vivian, Virginia, Loren and Navya).

1,345 views1 comment

1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
Katy Armstrong
Katy Armstrong
Feb 11, 2022

We have since had confirmation from INZ that in April, the reference to temporary visa holders will cover those temporary visa holders in New Zealand who travel out and want to get back in. As always, the terms of the visa will still need to be met. So if a visa is dependent on a job then that job will need to still be in place and at the border, checks can be made e.g. through a call to the employer. If a job offer has been held for two years we can probably expect to see some digging going on!

bottom of page