Changes in New Zealand since the COVID-19 pandemic?

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Updated 2020-07-17 09:58

The COVID-19 crisis had an impact not only on New Zealand's economy but also on the labour market, real estate, education, etc. If you are considering a move there after the crisis, here's what you should expect.

What are the current regulations for entering New Zealand?

Currently, New Zealand only allows essential travel, for medical reasons and critical work, as well as the return of its citizens and residents, including their spouses and children. They must apply for an exception to the border closure at New Zealand Immigration. Upon arrival in New Zealand, they will be either placed in isolation or quarantined if they show any COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days. All travellers are required to wear a mask as soon as they get off the plane. You should also expect medical tests and COVID-19 screening. New residents and temporary visa holders are required to comply with strict visa conditions. Otherwise, they risk detention or repatriation. Find out more on the New Zealand Immigration website.

Have there been any visa changes recently?

Expats who are already in New Zealand and whose temporary sponsored visa expires before December 31, 2020, a 6-months visa extension is granted. The sponsored visa includes critical skills, work to residence, special skills visas for the Chinese, Indonesians, South Koreans, Filipinos and Vietnamese, special category visas granted to Japanese interpreters and Thai chefs, as well that employer-specific work visas granted under section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009. However, the spouses and children of these visa holders are not included. For expats whose employment contract has expired or whose working conditions have changed, they can either request a variation or apply for a new visa. Work, visitor, student, interim and limited visas that expired on July 9 are extended until September 25, 2020. Regarding applications for residence, expats who are already in New Zealand are prioritised. For temporary visas applications, expats having essential skills, including health professionals, are prioritised. On the other hand, the government has temporarily suspended selections for Expressions of Interest in the Skilled Migrant Category and Parents Category, as well as the working-holiday visa.

Is it easy to find work in New Zealand following the crisis?

The local labour market looks gloomier than ever with thousands of employees who have already been laid off. Today, more than 200,000 people are benefiting from the Jobseeker Support or the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance and Support plans. Small and medium-sized businesses are the most affected, with more than 24,000 layoffs in March 2020. A second wave of layoffs is expected by September 2020 when the subsidy program for employers comes to an end. Some 80,000 more jobs are at risk. In the aviation industry, nearly 130,000 positions are at risk added to the 4,100 jobs that have already been cut. The crisis also had a huge impact on hospitality and food, with almost 31,000 layoffs in restaurants, bars and cafes and 7,100 layoffs in fast-foods. Add to that 46,000 layoffs in the tourism industry, 50,600 job cuts in the retail and 15,000 layoffs in the real estate sector. However, New Zealand authorities expect a gradual recovery once all border restrictions are lifted, especially in the manufacturing, construction, real estate and import-export sectors. But keep in mind that New Zealand citizens and residents will be prioritised unless you have essential skills that are not available locally. Regarding interns, the New Zealand government has set up a special fund to assist and retain interns from August 2020.

How has the local healthcare system performed during the crisis?

In early June 2020, New Zealand became the world's first COVID-free country, even though new cases were reported a few days later. However, the government took all the necessary crisis-management measures to contain the crisis, such as keeping borders closed, isolation and quarantine on arrival, and COVID-19 screening. Today, more than 70% of primary medical consultations are being conducted online or by phone. Prescriptions are also being emailed so that people do not have to go to the hospital. Regarding travellers who have been quarantined, they are being tested twice, that is on the 3rd and the 12th day of isolation. Also, to better inform and protect the population, the New Zealand Ministry of Health advocates the regular upgrading of the NZ Covid Tracer app and encourages more people to use it.

Has anything changed regarding universities and schools?

All restrictions for students and teachers have been lifted since the reopening of schools. However, social distancing is still recommended whenever they come across people they do not know. Cultural and sports activities, as well as events, have also resumed, without any limit on the number of participants. What about those who wish to study in New Zealand? For now, with the current travel restrictions, don't even bother. International students will not be admitted to New Zealand until 2021. However, you can register for online courses and apply for a student visa once the restrictions have been lifted, as long as you can prove that you have been taking online courses. To be eligible for a student visa later on, even if you started the courses in your home country, you will have to prove that you are a genuine student, sufficient funds to support yourself in New Zealand and have good health and character. Starting your studies in your home country can also have a negative impact on your application for a post-study work visa which required you to study in New Zealand for a minimum of 30 weeks for level 7 qualifications and 60 weeks minimum for levels 4 to 6.

How is the real estate market following the crisis?

Compared to other countries, including Australia, New Zealand's real estate market is bouncing back in spite of border closures. The demand is mainly coming from large cities with people looking to move to the South. In the past 12 months, prices have increased by $ 70,000. In May 2020, the average price of housing in the Waikato region, for example, went from $ 667,517 to $ 680,961. Growing demand for properties in this region was recorded during the recent months, according to online research. In Canterbury side, property costs $ 556,000 on average following a 10.7% rise. Meanwhile, there was a 20.1% rise on the North Island. Across the country, a 9.2% rise was recorded in June 2020 compared to the same period last year. The median price of property is now $ 639,000. On the other hand, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand indicates a 57.1% rise in the number of requests since April. To support property investment, the Reserve Bank is also cutting off loan-to-value ratio for low deposit loans for at least one year. Regarding rental, the demand kept steady during the COVID-19 crisis. Hence, median rent prices went up by 3% in Auckland and by 5% in Wellington.

Has the cost of living changed because of the crisis in New Zealand?

Unlike other countries, the New Zealand economy is doing its best fight the economic downturn following the COVID-19 crisis. For now, only real estate prices and rents have been affected. Since the local economy is mainly driven by exports, price rises haven't been reported yet. Also, to help its residents and soon-to-be expats, the government has designed a cost of living calculator. It's easy to use; you simply have to indicate the city or region where you are planning to live, who is accompanying you, as well as your activity and position to calculate your weekly or monthly costs.

How about lifestyle? Have there been major changes in habits following the sanitary crisis?

Restaurants, shops and modes of transport reopened without any social distancing regulations. It is also possible to attend community sporting events, by paying attention to certain tracing requirements. Still, people are increasingly conscious of the importance of COVID-19 testing.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.