New Zealand Government Gets Temporary Visa Powers – Key Updates as of May 13, 2020

The bill to provide temporary visa powers to the New Zealand government has made its way through the legislature. Here are key updates as on May 13th, 2020.

We had reported earlier that a bill was to be introduced to provide temporary visa powers to the New Zealand Government.

The latest update is that the bill has made its way through and the New Zealand government can now support the management of visa changes during COVID-19 as per the new regulations. For the next 12 months, the government will have the power to amend and extend visa conditions for large groups of people and be able to stagger visa processing. This will allow easier facilitation of temporary visas, travel, border measures, and support of essential services.

In general, this legislation does not allow you to apply for a visa while the border restrictions are in place and you are outside the country.

What does the May 13, 2020 update mean for visa extensions?

If you currently hold an interim, temporary, limited, visitor, student, or work visa that expires between April 2 and July 9, 2020, including the ones who were in the country on April 2, 2020, your visa will automatically be extended to September 25, 2020. And, you will get an email confirmation of the same.

It is recommended that you confirm the expiry data on your visa on the INZ (Immigration New Zealand) website’s Visa Verification Service.

Note that INZ will not be extending any visas not covered by the terms of the epidemic management notice. You may withdraw your undecided application, but the fees paid for the submitted applications will not be refunded. Also, note that the NZeTAs that have been issued stay valid for 2 years.

How does the May 13, 2020 update impact NZ visa processing?

Given that New Zealand has now moved to Alert Level 2, you can expect the INZ staff strength to increase at their immigration offices.

INZ had already picked up pace on April 28, 2020 with New Zealand moving to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 on that day. As of now, the offshore offices are closed, but the onshore offices have been reopened with staff as per the COVID-19 guidelines – with the requirement of having the employees work from home whenever possible.

With the increased processing capacity, INZ can now resume processing of resident and temporary visa applications as per the guidelines we reported in the post New Zealand Moves to Alert Level 2 – Increased Visa and Immigration Processing Capacity.

What about variation of conditions for people engaged in essential services?

Visa conditions for international students and temporary migrant workers who are assisting in COVID-19 response will be relaxed.

New Zealand employers operating as an essential business during Alert Level 4 can apply for a short term variation of conditions for their employees – this applies till the country is at alert Level 3 and six weeks beyond that. The original visa conditions will be applicable after this period.

Work visa holders bound to specific employers can be redeployed to other roles in their current workspace. They will also be allowed to perform their current job in a different workplace in the same region to assist their essential business to operate.

International students employed in essential services can be allowed to work longer hours during this phase. However, students who want to work for longer than 20 hours must meet their study requirements and are advised to discuss their work plans with their school.

Note that the students working in essential care jobs since April 3 are exempt from having to apply for variation of conditions till July 3, 2020.

Similar relaxations are also allowed for the student visa holders working in supermarkets.

Note that this policy does not cover workers holding a limited visa under the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme. These changes have been made effective from April 16, 2020.

As a provisional relief, the lower skilled temporary healthcare workers who have worked in New Zealand for 3 years on an Essential Skills Work Visa can now work for an additional 12 months without worrying about the stand down period.

What about other visa programs and travellers?

The following visa programs have been postposed:

  • EOIs (Expressions of Interest) for the Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Visas.
  • 19 Working Holiday schemes that were to open in the next months.
  • Ballot restrictions on the Pacific Access Category (PAC) and the Samoan Quota (SQ).

Besides this, you can transit through country if:

  • You are a resident, citizen, or an immediate family member of one and you belong to a country on the agreed list.
  • You will be going directly to an approved transit hub to gain entry to a country on the agreed upon list.

Agreed Country List

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States of America and Uruguay.

Approved Transit Hubs

Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Qatar, Republic of Korea, and the United States of America.

Professional Visa Solutions is an Auckland based team of professional immigration advisers serving all your New Zealand visa and immigration needs from their Auckland office. Our licensed immigration experts understand the problems being faced by foreigners in these difficult times. We are following the COVID-19 developments thoroughly and are in tune with the latest New Zealand visa changes and travel restrictions. Book a consultation to discuss your situation with our qualified visa consultants.

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