COVID-19 Update: Impacts on Immigration

COVID-19 Update: Impacts on Immigration (25 March)

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

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. Some temporary visa holders may be able to travel; currently, exceptions to the travel restrictions are:

  • New Zealand citizens
  • New Zealand resident and permanent resident visa holders
  • The partner, dependent children or legal guardian travelling with a New Zealand citizen, resident or permanent resident visa holder
  • Australian citizens and permanent resident visa holders whose primary place of residence is New Zealand
  • Aircraft crew and marine crew
  • People covered by regulation 25 of the Immigration (Visa, Entry Permission, and Related Matters) Regulations 2010
  • Diplomats accredited to New Zealand and who are currently resident in New Zealand

On a case-by-case basis, Immigration New Zealand may also grant a waiver for the following reasons:

  • Humanitarian reasons
  • Essential health workers, as confirmed by the Ministry of Health
  • Other essential workers, as defined by the New Zealand Government
  • Citizens of Samoa and Tonga, for essential travel to New Zealand
  • Partners and dependants of temporary work or student visa holders who normally live in New Zealand where the temporary work or student visa holder is currently in New Zealand.

Immigration have emphasised that the New Zealand border is closed, and these exceptions are only to be granted in very limited circumstances.

A list of ‘Essential health workers’ has been published by Immigration New Zealand on its website. These people qualify for travel under the exception. For other ‘essential workers’, an exception may be granted after Immigration New Zealand has taken advice from government officials.

For the other groups of people, the advice we have from Immigration suggests that a waiver will only be granted in truly exceptional circumstances, such as a medical emergency. If you think you may be eligible under these criteria, you need to contact your airline before attempting to board a flight.

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 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 01 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).

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. All onshore branches are currently closed and many offshore branches; however, they anticipate that their Beijing branch will be re-opening and some applications will be transferred there, and possibly to other offshore locations.

Applications can still be submitted online currently. Paper applications can be couriered to Immigration New Zealand but will 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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