New Covid-19 border exceptions announced for families of healthcare workers, some skilled workers

Source: 1News

From the end of the month, families of healthcare workers and certain skilled workers can be reunited under new Covid-19 border exemptions announced today.

The Government is introducing border exceptions which will allow families of healthcare workers currently in New Zealand to apply for visas offshore. The same will apply to a small number of other highly-skilled workers in other sectors who are currently in New Zealand.

A new border exemption is also being created for the partners and dependent children of temporary visa holders in New Zealand who already hold visas and normally live in the country, but were overseas when the New Zealand border closed.

Those who are eligible will be able to request a border exception from April 30.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said, to be eligible, the family member currently in New Zealand must have more than 12 months remaining on their visa.

“We have introduced additional exceptions throughout the past year as circumstances permitted, and I’m pleased to announce today we are granting further exemptions that will allow hundreds more families to reunite,” Faafoi said.

“We are in the midst of a global pandemic, which requires strict border restrictions. But we have been mindful of the difficulties migrant workers and families have faced.”

He added: “These changes, together with the quarantine-free travel arrangements now in place with Australia, are part of government moves to find safe ways to ease Covid border restrictions and open up New Zealand to post-Covid opportunities, and we will be looking at further adjustments in the weeks and months ahead, including work on immigration policy reforms.”

It comes as many families separated by the border told 1 NEWS of their plight, including South African architect Gray Todd. 

He told 1 NEWS yesterday he's not been with his family for more than a year because of the border closure caused by the pandemic. 

Todd is working on Auckland residential projects to help fix New Zealand's housing crisis while his wife Natalie Sanders-Todd and daughter Ella have been stuck in South Africa. 

Todd is in the country on an Essential Skills Work Visa to fill gaps in the construction sector. He was already in the country when the border shut, his wife and daughter were in South Africa getting ready to move.

The family's plight has become more difficult, as four-year-old Ella has been diagnosed with depression.

"To be away from a parent like this, it's almost like the parent has died," Todd said. 

Despite there being room available in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), the family's applications for a travel exemption had been denied.