Parliament has passed legislation on 13 May 2020 to ensure that the Government can respond quickly, appropriately and efficiently to immigration issues arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Bill introduces eight time-limited powers which will be limited and will be available for 12 months:
to impose, vary or cancel conditions for classes of temporary entry class visa holders
vary or cancel conditions for classes of resident class visa holders
extend the expiry dates of visas for classes of people
grant visas to individuals or classes of people in the absence of an application
waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application (that is, waive any prescribed requirements that people need to fulfil to have their application accepted by INZ for assessment).
waive the requirement to obtain a transit visa
suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit Expressions of Interest in applying for visas by classes of people who are offshore
revoke the entry permission of people who are deemed to have been granted entry permission.
Currently there are approximately 350,000 temporary visa holders onshore.
Over 200,000 have work visas whose visa conditions may need to be varied.
Over 70,000 are student visa holders whose visa conditions may need to be relaxed, to enable them to change their course or work extra hours until education providers are able to reopen.
Over 56,000 are on visitor visas, who may need to have their expiry date extended.
Over 20,000 skilled migrant resident visa holders are onshore (where their residence start date was on or after 27 April 2018).
The changes to the Act enable the government to amend visa conditions for groups of people and extend visas for groups of people for varying periods of time. They will also allow for one or more of the prescribed requirements to apply for a visa to be waived for groups of people.