The Government has opened the doors by introducing a new border exception category. This category permits the return of certain temporary work visa holders who have powerful and ongoing links with New Zealand and are unfortunately stranded overseas due to the unprecedented pandemic situation.
In an announcement, the minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi declared that the specific visa holders who still retain their jobs and maintain their business-related connections with New Zealand and also have their partners and dependent children in the country will be permitted to apply for the announced exception. This category will be operational from October and will enable the eligible work visa holders to apply for the exception.
The minister expressed his compassion saying that several of the aforementioned visa holders and their families have resided for years in New Zealand and their primary motivation for establishing their life and livelihood in the country was to stay long-term in the country. The minister feels that the Government has done a fair job in giving these visa-holders the chance to return and maintain its long-standing and ongoing amicable relations with the country.
According to Kris Faafoi, the Government has prioritized facilitating the return of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, and the endeavors have been fruitful, bringing approximately 40.000 residents home since April 2020.
Now, the Government believes that it can offer certainty to those small numbers of people who under normal circumstances would have the right to make their way back to the country. Therefore, according to Faafoi, the Government is taking up every initiative in implementing adjustments in the COVID-impacted immigration settings to allow welcome those people back to the country.
The procedure is not easy but Faafoi believes that the Government is leaving no stones unturned and is taking every preparation to balance the number of returnees and manage them in isolation facilities to contain any possible outbreak of COVID-19. The country has the capacity to keep at least 7000 people in managed isolation facilities simultaneously and it will initiate every action to manage the incoming returnees in those facilities along with the residents and the citizens of New Zealand. These people who avail the border exception category will be expected to use the managed isolation allocation system when it goes live and maintains themselves in a safe and healthy environment, thus preventing further transmission of the deadly virus.
There are certain criteria that the work visa holders need to abide by to present themselves as eligible to apply for the new border exception. These criteria will be instrumental for them to exhibit their strong and ongoing connection with the country and vouch for their prospects of staying here for a prolonged duration. The following are the announced criteria.
- Visa holders should be retaining their jobs in New Zealand or continue to operate their businesses in the country.
- The visa holders can be considered if they possess an entrepreneur visa. Apart from this, they will be also eligible for the border exception if they hold an essential skills visa which is non-conditional to the stand-down period or work to residence visa.
- These individuals who are currently overseas must have departed New Zealand on or after the 1st of December, 2019.
- These individuals should have spent a minimum of two years in New Zealand. If their stay in New Zealand has not been more than a year, then it is dependent on the following conditions:
- They must possess an entrepreneur work visa and have an operational business in New Zealand which was operational even before their departure
- They have their dependent children who continue to reside in New Zealand
- They either have their parents or adult siblings who are ordinarily the official residents of New Zealand
- They have already submitted an application requesting their residence in New Zealand prior to the 31st of July, 2020.
- These individuals must be in possession of a visa while they have departed from the country that is valid and does not expire before the end of 2020. In any case, if the visa has already met its expiry date, then these individuals must have applied for a further extension of their visas by the 10th of August 2020.
While the Government is expecting around 850 visa holders to take advantage of the border exemption category, it will keep a close tab on the number of people applying for the same.