South Island Visa may help those with Christchurch rebuild and beyond – South Island Contribution Visa – Rupert Ward – Immigration Barrister

South Island Visa may help those with Christchurch rebuild and beyond – South Island Contribution Visa

Very recently Immigration have announced new changes to residency rules.

The South Island Contribution Visa brings exciting new opportunities for residency for those people who have been committed to the South Island – such as those helping with the Christchurch rebuild.

There have been a number of people committed to working long term in the South Island who have been unable to get residency through one of the existing routes.  Therefore, the government has announced a new category for residency – The South Island Contribution Visa – which will start in May.  There will be a quota of 1600 people and their families.   Applications will be accepted for 12 months from the effective date.

To be eligible under this new category the applicant must:

  • presently have an Essential Skills work visa for a job in the South Island
  • hold current full-time employment with an employer who does not have a significant adverse employment record
  • have been employed on an Essential Skills work visa in the South Island for five years or more at the time the policy is implemented (May 2017)
  • be aged 55 years or younger and
  • meet health and character requirements.

At the time of writing application forms are not yet available but are expected closer to 22 May.   The formal requirements will also be announced in due course.

There will be some flexibility in relation to the required five-year period to make sure that those who are primarily based in the South Island, but have spent time in the North Island (due to their employment) are not unfairly treated.  If you are just short of the five years you may also be afforded some flexibility.   Other flexibility may also be available (such as time spent on interim visas) – Applicants should therefore not necessarily assume they are ineligible if they only just fall short of the requirements.    Ensure you get legal advice to fully assess your position.

Full immigration advice is also important as, despite this progressive new development, you may have a faster route to residency.  The rules for the South Island Contribution Visa appear to restrict an applicant’s movements within New Zealand over the next 4 years.  Under the South Island Contribution Visa migrants will be granted an initial Work to Residence temporary visa.  That would make them eligible for residence after two years provided they stay in the same industry and region. They will then be granted a resident visa, with conditions requiring them to stay in the same South Island region for a further two years.
It therefore essentially takes a lengthy 9 year commitment in total to get residency under this new visa (five years on an Essential Skills temporary visa; 2 years on a Work to Residence visa and then 2 years following grant of residency).  Other routes can provide a much faster and less restrictive route to residency but may not be available to all.  A full assessment of an applicant’s position is wholly recommended to ensure they apply under the best route for their circumstances.


Further, the Government announced that it is reviewing temporary visa rules to ensure that long term workers are not left in limbo without a route to residency again. I wait to see what those changes are with interest.