Covid-19: Immigration Update for New Zealand

Covid-19: Immigration Update for New Zealand (31 March 2020)

Over the last weeks, Immigration New Zealand has made several announcements relating to the COVID-19 outbreak which affect many temporary and residence class visa holders and their family members, both onshore and offshore.

People outside of New Zealand

Travel Restrictions

From 19 March 2020, the New Zealand Government closed its borders to almost all but New Zealand citizens and residents. This will remain in place indefinitely, until the government re-assess the COVID-19 alert level.

On 31 March 2020, Immigration New Zealand released new immigration instructions which clarify who is exempt from these restrictions, and who may be granted entry permission despite the restrictions.

The following groups of people continue to be exempt from this restriction:

  • New Zealand citizens (including those of the Realm of New Zealand countries)
  • permanent resident visa holders
  • resident visa holders who have entered New Zealand as the holder of a resident visa, or were granted a resident visa in New Zealand
  • Australian citizens and permanent residents who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand
  • Diplomats accredited to New Zealand and currently resident in New Zealand
  • Australian citizens and holders of permanent resident visas issued by the Government of Australia transiting New Zealand and whose final destination is Australia
  • The spouse, legal guardian and minor dependents of Australian citizens and holders of permanent resident visas issued by the Government of Australia who are transiting New Zealand and whose final destination is Australia
  • People described in Regulation 25 of the Immigration (Visa, Entry Permission, and Related Matters) Regulations 2010 (this includes certain aircraft and naval crew and military staff).

For all other travellers, entry permission will not be granted unless there is a ‘critical purpose’; they must follow a special process for this, whereby people with a critical purpose may express their interest in travelling. An immigration officer will consider the information and based on this, may invite them to apply for a Restricted Temporary Entry visa, or to vary the conditions of their existing visa to allow travel. Applicants must meet health, character and bona fide requirements, and must also have sufficient funds for their stay and for onward travel.

The following people are considered to have a critical purpose to be in New Zealand:

  • Essential health workers, as confirmed by the Ministry of Health, and their partners and dependent children
  • Essential workers and their partner and any dependent children
  • Citizens of Samoa and Tonga making essential travel to New Zealand
  • People coming to New Zealand for humanitarian reasons
  • The partner, dependent child or legal guardian of a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident visa holder who is travelling with that New Zealand citizen or permanent resident
  • The partner, dependent child or legal guardian of the holder or a New Zealand resident visa that was granted in New Zealand and who is travelling with that New Zealand resident visa holder
  • The partner, dependent child or legal guardian of the holder of a New Zealand resident visa holder where that resident visa holder is arriving in New Zealand for a second or subsequent time as the holder of that visa, and who is travelling with that New Zealand resident visa holder
  • People who hold a visitor, work or student visa and: i. are ordinarily resident in New Zealand; and are the partner or dependent child of a work or student visa holder who is in New Zealand.

When considering a request for travel, Immigration New Zealand’s starting point is that the border is closed for the protection of New Zealanders. Any visa granted as an exception must still align with the overall objective, which is to minimise the risks to New Zealand posed by the COVID-19 virus.

If a visa is granted under the new Restricted Temporary Entry instructions, appropriate conditions will be imposed on the visa, including that the holder must carry out their critical purpose. More information about the criteria, including a list of essential health workers, is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

People in New Zealand

New Visa Conditions

New visa conditions were introduced on 18 March 2020. All temporary visa holders are now required to comply with instructions from a Medical Officer of Health which relate to a notifiable or quarantinable disease, including any requirements to self-isolate. Failure to comply with these instructions is a breach of visa conditions and may make a visa holder liable for deportation.

Expiring Visas

On 24 March 2020, the New Zealand Government announced an epidemic management notice relating to immigration matters. This will come into effect on 02 April 2020.

As a result of this notice, onshore temporary visa holders who cannot leave and whose visas expire on or before 01 April 2020 must apply online for a new visa. They will be granted an interim visa, which will allow them to remain lawfully in the country for up to 6 months while the application is being processed.

Onshore temporary visa holders whose visas are due to expire between 02 April and 09 July 2020 (inclusive) will have their visas automatically extended until 25 September. This includes people who are currently on interim visas. If you are in this situation, you can expect Immigration to send an email to you (or to the person whose email address you registered for your visa application).

Healthcare Workers

On 31 March 2020, Immigration has announced plans to change temporary work visa settings to support the health sector’s response to COVID-19. These changes include:

  • Prioritising visa applications for key roles necessary for the health response in New Zealand
  • Allowing a further 12 months in New Zealand for lower skilled temporary healthcare workers who are subject to the stand down period
  • Allowing international students currently employed in healthcare roles, including aged residential care, to work full-time for three months in order to support the public health response to COVID-19.

It is expected that further detail about these changes will be provided over the coming days.

Visa Processing

Immigration New Zealand are suspending all non-essential processing, which will impact on processing times for all applications. They are working to get processes in place for urgent applications, particularly healthcare workers. All Immigration New Zealand branches, both offshore and onshore, are closed for the foreseeable future.

Applications can still be submitted online currently. Paper applications delivered to Immigration New Zealand are likely be held until normal processing resumes.

If you would like to discuss any of the above, or would like to clarify how you are affected, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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