Resolving your overstayer status in NZ
As part of its coronavirus / COVID-19 response, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) extended the visas of thousands of migrants in New Zealand until 25 September 2020. This would have come as welcome relief to many; however, this extension did not apply to those without a visa, or those whose visa expired on 02 April 2020 and did not manage to make a further application before then.
If you are unlawfully in New Zealand now, it is important that you attempt to ‘regularise’ your status if you have grounds to do so. Even during a global pandemic, it is still the responsibility of an individual to ensure they hold a valid visa at all times and to leave the country if they do not have a visa. The longer you remain in New Zealand without a visa, the higher the risk that you will not be able to obtain a visa again, and the higher the risk of deportation action being taken against you.
The normal way to request a visa when you are unlawful is by making a ‘section 61 request’. Although INZ has suspended most of their processing, they are still encouraging people to submit such a request by email. These types of requests are decided by senior immigration officers who have absolute discretion to grant or refuse your case. The rules which apply to normal visa applications do not apply to section 61 requests.
It is vital that your section 61 request explains all the relevant information fully so that the decision maker has a complete picture of your circumstances. Equally important is that any claims you make are backed up by evidence. If there is something missing, the immigration officer has no obligation to ask you for further information and can make a decision straight away.
In our experience, factors that are relevant to a section 61 decision include:
- Your previous immigration history
- The strength of your ties to New Zealand, especially family ties
- Your potential contribution to New Zealand
- The reasons you became unlawful, and what efforts you have made to obtain a visa since
- Your state of health and character (e.g. criminal record)
- Any reasons that you are not able to leave New Zealand- this could potentially include COVID-19 related reasons
Section 61 officers must also take into account New Zealand’s international obligations, especially if the requestor identifies them. This can be a powerful factor if you are able to show that granting you a visa would enable New Zealand to fulfil its obligations under an international treaty or convention.
Having a specialist immigration lawyer prepare your section 61 request can make a difference to the outcome. This is because an experienced advocate can tell your story in a compelling way and can often pick up on information that you may not realise is important to your case.
If you would like to discuss your situation with us, our immigration team is happy to assist and can be reached by phone, email, or by submitting a query using our online form.
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