The travel ban applies to all arrivals into New Zealand whether it is by air or sea. Only New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and residents with valid travel conditions (excluding people granted a resident visa outside New Zealand and who are travelling to New Zealand on that resident visa for the first time) may travel to and enter New Zealand.
The good news is that there are a small number of additional, limited exceptions to the ban on travelling to and entering New Zealand. This applies to people who already hold a temporary visa as well as to people who don’t. To see the list of people who may be considered for this travel exception read Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) Border Closures and Exceptions article.
In addition to the above-mentioned list of people, there may be opportunities to request an exception for candidates that are required in New Zealand for a critical purpose. This is a very limited group. The Government will specifically identify and consider exceptions for these “other” workers critical to delivering the response to COVID-19 and/or maintaining critical infrastructure. These essential workers are not the same as the holders of Essential Skills work visas, or people seeking to begin working in an essential service.
The process is as follows:
- Employers should first contact their sector’s lead agency for approval;
- Once they have approval from their lead agency, they can submit an Expression of Interest (EOI);
- If the EOI is approved, they will receive an invitation to apply (ITA);
- With the ITA, they will get details of what documents are required to go with the application;
- Submit the ITA and if a visa is granted, it will be granted as a Critical Visitor Visa (with work rights) for up to six months.
Who got an automatic visa extension?
Any temporary visas for candidates that were in New Zealand on April 1st and that are or were going to expire between 2nd April 2020 and 9th July 2020 should have received an automatic extension from Immigration New Zealand via email – valid until 25th September 2020. This extension will have the same conditions imposed on it as the original visa. For example, if the visa was an open work visa, then the extended visa will also be an open work visa. This extension should have been emailed to the email address that INZ have on file for your candidate. If the candidate does not have this confirmation email, then use VisaView to verify the visa extension.
Will an employee’s salary sacrifice or reduced hours have an impact on their visa?
Yes, a salary sacrifice or reduced hours will more than likely have an impact on a work visa holder that has a visa based on their employment offer. It is important that the visa holder informs INZ about the change in their circumstances. This may not be possible right now because INZ offices are not currently accepting paper-based applications yet. Our advice is to ensure that INZ are informed when they are back up and running and to take the appropriate action. If a visa holder is keen to understand the implications on the change to their employment, then we can offer our assistance.
Government made an announcement this week that they are considering a range of “practical solutions” to allow for efficient changes to large numbers of migrant’s visas. Watch this space as further details about this emerges.
Varying visa dates for those unable to enter New Zealand by their entry by dates
No decisions have been made on this issue yet. This is a rapidly evolving situation and the government will need to consider the wider impacts of COVID-19, including any changes to the labour market.
Residence under the Skilled Migrant Category selections deferred
The Skilled Migrant Category (“SMC”) is subject to a two-step process that requires intending applicants to submit an EOI and then be invited to apply. An application must be made within four months of a person being invited to apply and must contain all information required for INZ to decide.
We have now been advised that the fortnightly selection of EOIs from the SMC pool will be deferred until further notice due to the difficulty in obtaining the required documents and evidence to submit an application and INZ’s limited visa processing capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Please contact Caren Donald, Immigration Manager, if you would like assistance with any of the above.