Exemption for exceptional circumstances

Exemptions from managed isolation can only be granted in exceptional circumstance. The need to protect the New Zealand public from COVID-19 will always be the primary consideration.

Managed isolation is a critical part of keeping COVID-19 out of New Zealand. Everyone returning to New Zealand must undertake at least 14 days of managed isolation. This requirement has been set because it allows us time to test people for COVID-19 and identify any cases before people enter the community. There are very few situations where we can safely allow people to leave managed isolation early.

The need to protect the New Zealand public from COVID-19 is our primary consideration.

Note: We cannot approve applications for exceptional circumstances until you are onshore in New Zealand. Please refer to the “When to Apply” section below.

Who can apply

Applications can be made by anyone who is required to enter managed isolation. However, very few applications are approved due to the need to protect New Zealand from COVID-19.

Exemptions for exceptional reasons are approved only in rare circumstances

'Isolation' means that you must be completely separated from anyone who has not travelled with you, for 14 days after you arrive in New Zealand. Any contact that you have with another member of the community increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

If your situation is not exceptional, an application to leave managed isolation will not be granted.

We are unlikely to approve applications to:

  • attend a funeral or tangihanga where there may be multiple people gathered. This would create an unacceptable risk of potential COVID-19 transmission.
  • isolate in another location such as your own home, without an exceptional reason. Most situations, including health conditions and dietary requirements, can be managed safely within our facilities.
  • leave managed isolation without having been tested for COVID-19 on days 3 and 12, as the public health risk is too significant.
  • travel anywhere that involves using public transport, or is more than 3 hours away by motor vehicle.
  • leave after Quarantine Free Travel with Australia begins (if you arrived from Australia) without an exceptional reason.
  • be exempt from managed isolation because you have been vaccinated against COVID-19. We don’t know yet how long you’ll be protected for, or if it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus. Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines being used in New Zealand(external link) — Unite against COVID-19 website

When they are granted, exemptions are generally approved for a temporary period and you will need to return to the managed isolation facility to complete your 14 days.

Any exemption from managed isolation requires a strict release plan which you must agree to before it is granted. This includes a requirement to maintain a 2 metre distance from other people – including family and friends – and you will be closely monitored by government or security personnel. You should think about whether you are comfortable with this before you apply.

How we assess an application

When making an assessment whether or not to grant an exemption from managed isolation or early or temporary departure from a Managed Isolation Facility (MIF), MBIE and health officials may take into account the following:

  • The results of any medical examination and COVID-19 testing that the applicant has undergone while in the MIF
  • The length of time the applicant has been isolating
  • The level of risk associated with the applicant's occupation, the country/countries visited during the last 14 days and the journey to reach NZ
  • The level of risk associated with the activity that the applicant wishes to participate in and the number of people they are likely to come into contact with
  • Travel time to destination (must be under 3 hours) and mode of transport (must be private vehicle)
  • Letter of endorsement from receiving venue/facility
  • The precautions to be taken by the applicant and by those they have contact with

When to apply

If you are travelling from a low-risk country (Australia or the Pacific Islands), you can apply once you have received a day 3 negative test. If you are travelling from any other country, you can apply after you have completed 7 days in managed isolation, and received a negative day 3 test. An approval is not guaranteed at any time.

You will need to spend 14 days in managed isolation if your application is declined, and you should be prepared for that possibility before travelling to New Zealand.

Get the information you’ll need ready

Information you will need:

  • the full name on the passport you use to enter New Zealand and check in to the facility
  • your date of birth
  • your passport number
  • your arrival details – either expected or actual date and time of arrival in New Zealand and the flight number
  • the city you’re arriving at and the country you left from.

For an exceptional circumstances exemption:

  • You will need a statement of your reasons for needing an exemption and why it cannot be delayed.
  • You must attach all supporting evidence to your application, such as medical evidence of a family member’s terminal illness.

You must have a Managed Isolation Allocation System voucher

Travellers must have a Managed Isolation Allocation System voucher securing their place in a managed isolation facility. If you don’t have one, do not go to the airport because you will not be allowed to board a plane to New Zealand without a voucher unless you are exempt from using the system.

Find out more about Exemptions from using the allocation system(external link)

The grounds on which an exemption from the requirement to enter a managed isolation and quarantine facility are set out in the:

COVID-19 Public Health Response (Isolation and Quarantine) Order 2020(external link).

These do not include the inability to secure a Managed Isolation Allocation system voucher.

What happens next

The purpose of managed isolation is to keep our communities safe from COVID-19, and given the public health risk, there is a high threshold for approving applications.

Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis based on urgency and within 5-7 working days. We’ll contact you to let you know the outcome of your application, or if we need more information.

Applications undergo strict assessments based on an evaluation of the public health risk and the risk associated with your individual circumstances, such as where you apply to go and how many people you might come into contact with.

Generally, a negative day 3 and day 12 COVID-19 test and a full health assessment are needed in order to consider an exemption application.

If you are considered too high risk for spreading COVID-19, or it is deemed that the risk cannot be appropriately managed, your application will be declined.

The final decision on your application is made either by the Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine or by the MBIE Deputy Chief Executive for Managed Isolation and Quarantine.

If your application is successful you will need to agree to a strict release plan. Travel will be provided with an approved escort, such as security or government personnel. Physical distancing from other people will be required, as will the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

If you have new information

If your application is unsuccessful but you now have new information that supports your application, you can resubmit it for assessment. Send your new information to IsolationExemptions@mbie.govt.nz.

Complete an online application form

Apply online if you believe you have exceptional reasons to be considered for an exemption.

Apply for exemption for exceptional circumstances(external link)

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If you need help completing the form or for any other enquiries please email IsolationExemptions@mbie.govt.nz.

Last updated: 16 April 2021