Our team of experienced Immigration Advisers at Professional Visa Solutions wish to present guidance at this uncertain time to the holders of general visitor visas (purpose of visit being to sightsee, travel or visit family and friends).

There is no doubt that travellers visiting New Zealand when the Pandemic hit have been profoundly impacted. Many travellers have remained, on valid visitor visas, for a variety of reasons and are now worried about looming visa expiries.

The New Zealand Government had instigated two initiatives to ease pressure of travellers last year. Firstly, those holding valid visitor visas due to expire prior 31 October 2020 were automatically given an additional five months. Secondly, a short-term visitor visa avenue could be applied for after 14 September 2020 for those reaching the end of their current visa and required more time to make arrangements to depart New Zealand.

Based on timing, it is expected that many are now in the position of facing visa expiry and the daunting prospect of having to depart New Zealand.

Our main advice for those in this situation currently is this:

Do not overstay your visa through allowing it to expire

This is the worst thing to do for two main reasons – a person becomes liable for deportation where they would bear significant costs associated with any removal or any fight to remain in New Zealand, and any future visa avenues seeking to lawfully spend time in New Zealand would seriously be impinged. It truly is not worth it on both counts.

We have noticed popular articles presented in the media can portray travellers as having no option but to consider remaining in New Zealand unlawfully, often through fear of return to a country struggling with the virus or because of the uncertainties associated with separation from ties to New Zealand. There could be visa options open to a person, even some of which a person may not be aware of.

The short-term visitor visa avenue remains valid for first time applicants under this category, hence the possibility of obtaining a two month reprieve of stay exists. This is a good opportunity to present your situation in order to remain lawfully in New Zealand at least in the short-term.

The criteria includes meeting good character requirements, having a genuine reason for remaining in New Zealand and are not able to leave at this time due the effects of COVID-19 on their intended travel (an array of information can be considered in this area depending on an individuals circumstances).

The special visa application avenue offered by the New Zealand Government does contain a clause that this type of visa is able to be applied for more-than-once. The criteria remains largely the same as per first application (including retention of waiver clause for supporting funds and outward ticket arrangements and the significant bonus of not needing to meet good health requirements or consideration given to length of permitted stay) with the only noticeable addition being that a person will need to demonstrate the steps taken to depart during their last special visa and why remain genuinely unable to depart. A more stringent approach seems is taken by Immigration New Zealand for this subsequent application. These aspects are particular to each person’s situation and should be explored with an industry expert.

We recommend travellers consider taking the opportunity to make new application, regardless of the application fee pricetag, even if a person feels they may no longer meet the criteria and fear refusal, for the simple reason that it demonstrates an attempt was made to maintain lawful status in New Zealand. This is often a considering factor in any future visa undertakings, particularly if visa expires and a special request is made (called a Section 61 request) or when deportation is initiated by authorities.

The visa does not prevent a person applying for a visa of another type or under another category, so it is worth considering speaking with an industry professional to ascertain your options before current visa expiry.

Affected visitors can first get an idea of the COVID-19 short term visitor visa further application rules and criteria by using the Immigration New Zealand online portal (below) and then speaking with an industry expert to ascertain chances.

If a visitor's visa unfortunately is allowed to expire, the more difficult option exists of requesting the grant of a particular visa through the presentation of a request for consideration under Section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009, although these requests are considered futile with no chance of clear success and any decision made is purely at the discretion of the decision making authority. If you are in this predicament, or feel you may be presented with an unlawful visa situation in future, please discuss your situation with an industry professional immediately.

Seek assistance from industry professionals

Don't rely on what you generally hear from others or read in the media. Our team of experienced Licensed Advisers from Professional Visa Solutions are able to give you up-to-date correct information and explore avenues which could be available to you.

We strongly encourage speaking with us where you may find your anxieties and stresses can be alleviated through our good advice. So why wait? Do it today!