COVID-19 Immigration Update December 2020
The closure of the New Zealand border as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant bearing on immigration to New Zealand. Nevertheless, there remain a number of opportunities available for migration to New Zealand, and we are experiencing consistent enquiry from those offshore and onshore.
The following is a summary of current immigration settings:
6-month suspension of Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category EOI selections
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) have further delayed the re-opening of the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) and parent category with the announcement of a further 6-month suspension of EOI selections.
A range of factors have contributed to this decision, foremost of which being that residence is now taking up to 2 years from an applications lodgement in many cases. Hopefully, this will mean good news to many onshore applicants, as their applications could possibly be allocated to a case officer faster; and this suspension should allow INZ to clear the backlog.
At present there is no indication of when the SMC will re-open, but this decision will be reviewed in March 2021. For those who are wishing to submit EOI applications, you can still do so. However, you will not be selected and invited to apply for residence under current settings.
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Temporary visa suspensions for offshore applicants
August 2020 saw INZ suspend assessment of most offshore visa applications - this suspension has been extended to February 2021.
For those that have already submitted applications, this means a wait of at least 4 months before your application will be looked at.
However, the following applications are not affected:
- Partnership based visa application, where the supporting partners are NZ citizens or residents;
- Dependent child visas, where the supporting parents are NZ citizens or residents;
- visas for diplomatic, consular and official staff and accompanying dependants;
- Antarctic Traveller Visitor visas and Antarctic Work visas;
- Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Limited visas.
Changes for offshore Resident visa holders
Applicants who have obtained their NZ Residence while offshore and have never entered NZ on that resident visa are subject to border restrictions.
This has meant many resident visa holders have been unable to enter New Zealand within the ‘first entry date’ timeframe noted on their visa. Clearly, this creates issues relating to the validity of these visas.
The government has taken measures to address this issue, with the Immigration minister announcing the following on 11 September 2020:
- Travel conditions are extended to 11 September 2021: for those visa holders with travel conditions expiring within one year of 11 September 2020;
- New resident visas are granted to the visa holders with travel conditions that expired between 2 Feb 2020 and 10 Sep 2020 (inclusive). All new resident visas granted will have their travel conditions valid until 11 September 2021.
This announcement will benefit many offshore Resident visa holders, allowing them more time to wait for border restrictions to be lifted.
Further changes on medium wage?
INZ has been consistently providing updates in recent months, and we believe the review of the median wage will be reviewed shortly – this is traditionally reviewed around November every year. Any change may affect those people who are wishing to apply for new work visas, or Skilled Migrant Resident Visas. It would be a good idea to get your application prepared if you or your employees are likely be affected by these changes.
If you wish to discuss your visa options or have any questions about visa changes, please feel free to contact our experienced immigration team.
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