Relaxed Visa Conditions for Essential Workers: FAQs
Who is eligible for the relaxed visa conditions?
The new visa conditions apply to some migrants who are working in essential services role in New Zealand.
If you hold an employer-specific work visa (for example; Essential Skills or Talent work visas) and are working in an essential services role, then you will be able to work longer hours and work in a different position or location than what is stated on your visa label. If you are a student visa holder and working in an essential service role, then you will be able to work longer hours for your current employer.
Within essential services, there are two specific industries- healthcare (including aged residential care) and supermarkets- that have their own special rules to help these critical industries continue operating.
In the healthcare space, the main change is that ‘lower-skilled’ temporary healthcare workers who are normally subject to a stand-down period will be able to work an additional 12 months before the stan-down period applies.
Is any migrant working in the healthcare industry eligible?
Not necessarily. The Ministry of Health are maintaining a list of essential health and disability services on their website; if you fall into one of those specified categories, you will be eligible to apply for a variation of conditions. If not, you may still be eligible as it is possible for your employer to make a case to the Ministry of Health. As a starting point, Immigration New Zealand are likely to prioritise applications for “key roles necessary for the health response in New Zealand”.
What if I am an essential worker but on an open work visa?
If you are currently working in an essential service but hold an open work visa, then you will be able to work in a different location or position without making an application, provided that your work continues to come within the definition of essential services.
What if I am currently on an interim visa?
You cannot apply for a variation of conditions if you are on an interim visa currently. However, you may continue working within the conditions of the last work visa you held, if your interim visa conditions allow you to do so. Whether or not you have work conditions depends on a number of factors.
There is an exception to this rule: under the special rules for healthcare workers, you may be able to work more than 20 hours if you are currently on an interim visa and held a student visa immediately prior.
What is the process for varying your visa conditions?
At present, it is not possible to submit a variation of conditions application as these are normally paper-based. Immigration New Zealand are setting up a new application process to allow people to submit their request online (no fees or levies payable). We expect this to be released in the next few days.
What if I have already started working in a different position or location?
Your employer may have asked you to work longer hours, or temporarily in a different role or location, in order to cope with high levels of demand. Depending on the circumstances, this could be a breach of the conditions stated on your visa label if you have not had your conditions formally varied.
However, Immigration New Zealand is aware of the critical need for businesses to maintain their labour pool now when it is virtually impossible to recruit for positions during lockdown. The announcements they have made on 01 April and 15 April indicate that they may show lenience where there are technical breaches arising from the COVID-19 response.
Immigration are establishing a process to have visa conditions formally varied. The fact remains that for the present, it is still a technical breach of immigration instructions to work outside of your visa conditions without a formal variation.
We trust that Immigration will be flexible about these technical breaches where it can be shown that there was a genuine COVID-19-related need. If you are concerned about how this might affect your future applications, we suggest you seek detailed advice about your situation. Our immigration team are available to help with any questions you might have about the new visa conditions, or any immigration matter in general.
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