COVID-19: Government implements extension measures for temporary visa holders, updates transit guidelines

26 Mar 20

NEW ZEALAND

IMPACT – HIGH

The government has implemented visa extension measures for temporary visa holders who cannot leave the country because of the COVID-19 travel restrictions. Additionally, it has updated its transit guidelines.

Key Points:

  • Temporary visa holders whose visa will expire on or before April 1 must apply online for a new visa if they are unable to leave New Zealand because of travel restrictions. An interim visa will be issued for these applicants.
  • Temporary visa holders whose visa will expire between April 2 and July 9 will receive an automatic visa extension until Sept. 25.
  • Visa holders who do not comply with instructions from health officers can be detained and deported.
  • Immigration New Zealand (INZ) overseas offices are closed until further notice. INZ is currently processing only urgent visa requests related to COVID-19, e.g., for health workers.
  • Anyone transiting through New Zealand to anywhere other than Australia must depart by 2 a.m. March 26. Australian citizens, residents and their immediate family, and New Zealand citizens, residents and their immediate family, who normally live in Australia may transit New Zealand but must not enter the country. Returning New Zealand citizens, residents and their immediate family may transit Australia but must not enter that country.

Background: New Zealand closed its borders on March 19, and the visa extension measures and transit restrictions represent the government’s latest effort to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigration processes.

Analysis & Comments: The visa extension policy is good news for employers and their foreign national employees, as it should lessen compliance concerns amid travel restrictions and quarantine measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure of the INZ offices overseas as well as INZ operating with skeleton staff in NZ will most likely result in visa processing times being increased. Deloitte will alert clients to additional changes or restrictions as information becomes available.

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