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COVID-19: Immigration Update

Given that NZ has declared a state of emergency and is at Level 4 on the Covid-19 alert system, many of you are sure to have numerous queries regarding their immigration related matters. The main objective of this article is to provide a summary on the updates of Immigration New Zealand that came into effect.

  • According to the epidemic management notice relating to immigration matters came into effect on Thursday 2 April 2020, travellers with a temporary (work, student, visitor, interim and limited) visa expiring before 1 April 2020 who are unable to leave New Zealand must apply online for a new visa. An interim visa will be issued. Travellers with a temporary visa with an expiry date from 2 April to 9 July 2020 inclusive who are in New Zealand on 2 April 2020 will have their visas automatically extended to 25 September 2020.

  • Where flights are available, New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and residents who have been in New Zealand as a resident and their immediate family who are travelling with them can still come to New Zealand.

  • A process has now been put in place for requests to be made for exceptions to the border closure for exceptional circumstances, including humanitarian reasons; health and other essential workers; citizens of Samoa and Tonga for essential travel to New Zealand; and visitor, student or work visa holders who normally live in New Zealand, and who are the partner or dependent of a temporary work or student visa holder who is currently in New Zealand.

  • People who are outside New Zealand and think they may be eligible for an exception can make a request to Immigration New Zealand. Exceptions are only in place for extreme circumstances where people have a critical purpose for travel to New Zealand. Visa applications will be prioritized for key roles necessary for the health response in New Zealand. If their circumstances are considered exceptional and justify travel to New Zealand for a critical purpose, or because they are the family of and travelling with a New Zealander, they will be invited to apply for a visa, or to vary their existing visa to allow them to travel.

  • There are exceptions for those working in the Health sector travelling to New Zealand. An essential health care worker is defined as a current or new employee with a signed offer of employment from one of the listed agencies and who has a commencement date from March to June 2020.

  • The employee will hold an acceptable key clinical or non-clinical position working in the District Health Board, The New Zealand Blood Service, Hospice or palliative care, primary care practice such as urgent care or a medical or healthcare center, Aged residential care, respite or continuing care facility.

Key clinical or non-clinical positions within the agencies listed are as follows:

  • Medical Doctors, Nurses, Midwives

  • Psychologist, Physiotherapist

  • Technical and Scientific staff working in theatre, laboratory, radiology, cardiology, blood service, nuclear medicine, oncology, hematology, pathology, hyperbaric medicine and mortuary and Research staff.

  • Care and Support Workers; Aged Care, Child Health and Palliative/hospice care workers; Mental Health and Forensic care workers.

  • People under this exception must work in one of the listed occupations. For example, they must have an offer of employment or support from a New Zealand employer or the Ministry of Health. Partners and dependent children of essential health workers who will accompany them may also be included in the request.

  • International Students currently employed in healthcare roles (including aged residential care) will also now be able to work full-time for three months in order to support the public health response to COVID-19. Students who are employed in healthcare roles and who want to work more than 20 hours should discuss their plans with their education provider because the student must still meet their study requirements.

  • Lower skilled temporary healthcare workers that are currently in New Zealand can now work in New Zealand for an additional 12 months before they are subject to the stand down period. This will allow those health workers with lower skilled Essential Skills visas who have worked in New Zealand for three years an additional 12 months before they are subject to a stand down period where they must leave New Zealand.

  • For the Section 61 requests whose visas are expiring before 2nd April, priority processing is given to those applicants whose immigration status has been directly impacted by the COVID-19 response. INZ expect to allocate these requests for processing within 2-3 working days. For those approved requests, they will be granted temporary visas valid at least until September 2020.

  • Immigration New Zealand has created a process to respond to escalation requests for urgent allocation for employment related visas (and associated family members) for both Temporary Work Visas and Skilled Resident Visas. INZ will respond to all requests within two working days to confirm if the application will be prioritized for urgent allocation or not. A request for escalation will be considered against the following criteria:

  • compelling personal circumstances,

  • humanitarian factors, and

  • matters of national interest.

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