Kindly refer to the below information released by INZ today
Status of New Zealand’s border
The New Zealand border remains closed to all but New Zealand citizens and residents. It is important to note that the COVID-19 Alert Level System has no bearing on the border restrictions.
INZ understands there are a number of people who have been caught on the wrong side of the border restrictions. They may hold valid visas for New Zealand but do not meet the criteria for an exception to the Border restrictions. We acknowledge this is a difficult and challenging situation for these individuals, their families and their employers.
The bar for being granted an exception to the border restrictions is set high to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of people already in New Zealand.
Individuals who believe they meet the exceptions criteria need to submit a request for an exception to the border restrictions. The availability of flights to New Zealand and any travel restrictions for any transiting country needs to be considered before a request is submitted. If the circumstances are considered exceptional and justify travel to New Zealand for a critical purpose, individuals will be invited to apply for a visitor visa, or to vary their existing visa to allow them to travel.
Since the border exceptions process was put in place, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has received 9,446 requests for a border exception. Most requests for a border exception have been made by individuals from India, followed by Australia and South Africa.
Around half of the people making requests have done so under the ‘family of a New Zealand citizen or resident’ or ‘New Zealand based family of a temporary visa holder in New Zealand’ category.
Most of the remaining people making requests have done so under ‘critical humanitarian travel’, followed by the ‘other essential worker’ and ‘essential health worker’ categories.
Humanitarian exceptions to border closure
We have received a number of questions about the criteria for applicants seeking an exception to the border closure under humanitarian reasons.
One of the small number of limited exceptions to the ban on travelling to and entering New Zealand is ‘critical humanitarian travel’. This only applies to extreme humanitarian cases, usually regarding urgent matters of life and death.
Humanitarian reasons are exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature that make it strongly desirable for the applicant to travel and enter New Zealand.
The bar for these applications is exceptionally high. When considering whether a person has humanitarian reasons for travelling to New Zealand, immigration officers must consider the purpose of these instructions and the strong public interest in protecting the health of New Zealanders and supporting Government agencies’ response to the risks posed by the COVID-19 situation.
Relevant factors when we consider if humanitarian reasons justify the grant of a visa under these instructions include:
· the applicant’s connection to New Zealand
· the applicant’s connection to the place they are currently located
· whether New Zealand is their primary place of residence, and their period of absence from New Zealand
· whether the applicant has any alternative options
· the impact of not granting a visa and entry permission to the applicant,
· whether the Ministry of Health or a District Health Board supports the provision of any medical treatment that may be required by an applicant.
Employment Visa Escalations (EVE) process
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has a process to respond to escalation requests for urgent allocation for employment related visas.
The Employment Visa Escalations (EVE) mailbox process has been updated due to the impacts of COVID-19. This is to both ensure that INZ is cognisant of the changes to the New Zealand labour market and be attuned to needs of New Zealand businesses in critical need. Additional criteria has been added to the allocation escalation process to reflect this.
A mailbox will be monitored and actioned by a team of dedicated Immigration Managers who will assess these requests for escalation. A request for escalation will be considered against the following criteria:
· compelling personal circumstances,
· humanitarian factors, and
· matters of national interest.
INZ will respond to all requests within two working days to confirm if the application will be prioritised for urgent allocation or not. The EVE Immigration Manager’s determination of any request for escalation is final and they will not respond to further communication about the request and justification around the decision.
All requests for priority allocation of employment related visa applications should be forwarded to the EVE mailbox: EmploymentVisaEscalations@mbie.govt.nz
Extending the deadline for applying for residence following an ITA
Immigration New Zealand understands that as a result of COVID-19, it has been difficult for individuals who have been invited to apply through the Skilled Migrant or Investor 2 categories to submit their applications within the required timeframe.
Normally, applicants have four months from when they are invited to apply to submit their application with all the required documents. However, during the COVID-19 lockdown some applicants found it hard to obtain all the documents necessary for their application or were otherwise unable to submit their application.
As a result, the Government has decided to extend the timeframe that applicants have to submit their application.
Individuals who were issued an Invitation to Apply between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020 will now have an additional six months to submit their application.
This provides applicants with 10 months in total from the date they were invited to apply to submit their application. INZ believe this is sufficient time for individuals to obtain the necessary documents for their applications.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What obligations do employers have for migrants who were employed by them before and during the epidemic notice period?
A: Employers must continue to comply with New Zealand employment law. More information on employment obligations can be found here: https://www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays/other-types-of-leave/coronavirus-workplace/
Q: My employee has had their work visa extended. Do I now have to extend their employment as well?
A: Employers are not required to extend fixed-term employment because an employee’s visa has been extended, unless they wish to continue employing the individual
Q: As an employer, what will be the impact on my ability to employ staff on work visas in the future if we have to declare we have previously made workers redundant?
A: Employers must still demonstrate that they have attempted to hire New Zealand citizens or residents before being permitted to supplement their New Zealand workforce with any migrant labour. They may also need to demonstrate that the business is in the financial position to take on any additional employees they wish to hire.
Q: Can the first entry date on my visa be extended so that it doesn't expire while border restrictions are in place? What about for resident visas?
A: INZ is considering the situation of those currently outside of NZ whose visas have either expired or will expire. More information on this will be provided when it is available. INZ can only permit the entry of people who meet the exception criteria set by the New Zealand Government which can be found on our website: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19/border-closures-and-exceptions