Immigration NZ FAQ's

6 May 2020

The following FAQ's are provided by Immigration NZ (INZ). For more information please visit: www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19/coronavirus-update-inz-response


Migrant workers who are currently offshore


My migrant employee was on holiday overseas when the border was closed and didn’t get back. How soon will they be able to return?


The Government’s current border restrictions mean that people on temporary visas who are currently offshore are not able to come back to New Zealand unless they meet the strict border exception criteria. Individuals who believe they meet the exceptions criteria need to submit a request for an exception to the border restrictions. 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.


Any decisions on when to lift the border restrictions will be made by the Government. More information on the border restrictions is available at www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19/border-closures-and-exceptions.


What is the process for holders of work visas who are currently offshore to return to New Zealand?


The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19. However the New Zealand government acknowledges that there may be extremely limited circumstances where it is appropriate for a person who is not exempt from the border restrictions to travel to New Zealand.


For more information about the exception request process, please go to our website: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19/border-closures-and-exceptions. All individuals entering New Zealand will be quarantined.


Future migrant employment


After the lockdown period is over how soon will we be able to employ migrant labour again from overseas?


No decisions have been made by the Government on when the border restrictions will be lifted, but this is unlikely to happen at the same time that lockdown is lifted.


Any decision made in regards to employing migrant labour in the future will need to take into account the wider impacts of COVID-19, including any changes to the labour market.


In the short term employers should consider alternative solutions, for example employing someone already currently in New Zealand.


Should I still be interviewing and planning/recruiting for new migrants to come out in July / August?


No decisions have been made by the Government on when the border restrictions will be lifted, but this is unlikely to happen at the same time that lockdown is lifted.


Any decision made in regards to employing migrant labour in the future will need to take into account the wider impacts of COVID-19, including any changes to the labour market. In the short term employers should consider alternative solutions, for example employing someone already currently in New Zealand.


My employee went overseas and now cannot return for an unknown period of time. His work Visa is to expire in June. Can we promise him his job will be here when he returns? What do we do in the meantime?


The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19. However the New Zealand government acknowledges that there may be extremely limited circumstances where it is appropriate for a person who is not exempt from the border restrictions to travel to New Zealand.


For more information about the exception request process, please go to our website: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19/border-closures-and-exceptions.


All individuals entering New Zealand will be subject to quarantine or isolation.


You may need to think about alternative options, for example employing someone currently in NZ who is either a New Zealand citizen/resident or has a current visa with appropriate work rights


Visa flexibility


What about varying conditions of work visas and changing the definition of full-time work for migrants from the current 30 hours per week?


INZ and other Government agencies involved in the COVID-19 response are engaging regularly with employers and other interest groups and listening to their concerns. Officials are urgently looking at further options to provide flexibility to visa conditions for temporary work visa holders and providing advice to the Government. The Government is actively considering a range of options and will make decisions as soon as possible. However, the priority at the moment is on ensuring the continuation of essential services.


I have a worker on a temporary work visa transferring from another employer to me and who is due to start now. Can they start working for me at the end of the lockdown period if it is not processed by INZ in time?


No. Work visa holders may only work for the employer(s) specified in their visa conditions until a Variation of Conditions or new visa has been granted.


My employer and I have agreed to reduced hours and / or reduced pay during the lockdown. What do I need to do now to ensure that I am not in breach of my visa?


INZ and other Government agencies involved in the COVID-19 response are engaging regularly with employers and other stakeholders and listening to their concerns. The Government is looking at options for temporary work visa holders who have been affected by COVID-19 and will make decisions as soon as possible. However, the priority at the moment is on ensuring the continuation of essential services. More information is available at www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19/coronavirus-update-inz-response.


We are unable to lodge a work visa application with the Skills Match Report because WINZ is closed. Will INZ waive this requirement?


This will be on a case by case basis, and only in exceptional circumstances. You can still apply for a work visa and include an explanation noting you are currently unable to obtain a Skills Match Report.


Visa prioritisation


My application is not in one of the categories being prioritised. When will Immigration New Zealand start processing other applications?


Due to our limited processing capacity during COVID-19, INZ will not be processing application types outside of this list at this time. INZ will be regularly reviewing our processing priorities and any changes will be updated on our website.


My application is not in one of the categories being prioritised. Can I change my current application type to one of the application types listed?


If you believe you meet the criteria to be granted a visa under one of the listed categories and are currently on a visa type that allows you to submit a new application online, you are welcome to do so. Applications will generally be processed in date order.


What happens to me if my current application is declined and I cannot leave the country?


INZ is sympathetic to individuals who are impacted by the current travel restrictions in place around the world and applicants’ individual circumstances will be taken in to account during the assessment of an application.


Why is INZ progressing only certain application types only?


The health and safety of INZ staff is our top priority. While INZ is currently in the process of reopening our onshore offices, this is being done in line with strict guidelines under Alert Level 3 with only a limited number of staff able to work in the office. As a result, we need to focus our available resources on COVID-19 related applications. Alongside this, we now have the capacity to prioritise some other applications where the applicant’s eligibility is unlikely to have been significantly impacted by COVID-19.


Extensions to Visas under Epidemic Management Notice


Why are you automatically extending visas?


The Government has ensured that there is some certainty for temporary migrants in New Zealand as they face the challenges of being in a foreign country at this extraordinary time.


Who does this affect?


The epidemic management notice affects holders of a work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa with an expiry date of 2 April to 9 July 2020 inclusive who are in New Zealand on 2 April 2020. These individuals have had their visas automatically extended to 25 September 2020. Confirmation of extensions will be emailed to all visa holders.


If you think your visa should have been extended but you did not receive an email, please use the Visa Verification service to confirm.


Visas were automatically extended if they expired between 2 April and 9 July 2020 but what happens if the visa expires after that?


The worker will need to either depart or apply for a further visa closer to the time of expiry.


The following FAQ's are provided by Immigration NZ (INZ). For more information please visit: www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19/coronavirus-update-inz-response

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