Immigration (Covid-19 Response) Amendment Bill
Earlier in the week we saw a fast-tracked immigration Bill introduced to Parliament to deal with the complex and ongoing issues associated with Covid-19.
The Bill introduces 8 limited powers, allowing the government to:
- Impose, vary or cancel conditions for classes of temporary-entry visa holders
- Vary or cancel conditions for classes of resident-class visa holders
- Extend the expiry dates of visas for classes of people
- Grant visas to individuals and classes of people in the absence of an application
- Waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application
- Waive the requirement to obtain a transit visa
- Suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit expressions of interest in applying for visas by classes of people
- Revoke the entry permission of people who arrive either on private aircraft or marine vessels (to align them with people who arrive on commercial flights, who can already be refused entry)
With significant processing issues existing prior to Covid-19, it’s fair to say recent weeks have left Immigration New Zealand (INZ) over-stretched; and with very few staff being able to work from home, most processing has ground to a halt.
The practical elements of this Bill will hopefully address much of the uncertainty now experienced by many migrants either in NZ, or wanting to come here.
However, we are also concerned that the powers given to the Minister under this Bill are far reaching and provide a platform to implement significant change within a system that has been struggling for some time.
Whilst we are hopeful the directions of the Minister under these new powers will resolve the plight of those migrants left essentially in limbo by current events- e.g. people offshore who were issued visas to come to NZ but now can’t travel - we are concerned that those with existing rights under the current legislation may be adversely affected.
These additional powers are only to be exercised in response to Covid-19, according to the wording of the Bill. However, exactly what this entails is open to interpretation.
Certainly, we expect to see some significant actions taken by the Minister, some of which may be directed at protecting employment and other opportunities for New Zealanders over migrants - as is the Government’s prerogative. To this end, submitting a visa application before any policy changes are introduced may put potential migrants in a slightly more secure position than those who do not have any application before INZ.
We understand this Bill will be enacted on the 14th May, after which directions made under the new amendments will be made. We will post updates on our website, but should you have any questions on this or any other immigration matter, please don’t hesitate to call.
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