COVID-19: Visa extensions and expansions for stranded migrants

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Ongoing coronavirus border closures means that many people are still stuck on either side of New Zealand’s borders. This includes resident visa holders and partners of New Zealanders who are overseas as well as temporary migrants and visitors who are still in New Zealand.

To assist these groups of people, Immigration New Zealand has announced four visa changes:

1. Visa extensions for New Zealand residents overseas

New Zealand residents who are stranded overseas fall into two groups:

  • Residents with visas that have expired or are close to expiring
  • Residents who have received their visas but haven’t had the chance to enter New Zealand due to the world-wide border closures

Immigration New Zealand has said that it recognizes that these people have recently met residency requirements and would’ve entered New Zealand and contributed to the economy under normal circumstances.

For these reasons, Immigration New Zealand has decided to do either one of the following for visa holders who are overseas:

  • A 12-month visa extension, for offshore resident visa holders whose travel conditions are about to expire
  • Issue a new visa that’ll be valid for 12 months, for offshore resident visa holders whose travel conditions expired on or after 2 February 2020

Offshore resident visa holders who were granted their resident visas while overseas but who have never used it to travel to New Zealand will need permission from Immigration New Zealand to do so.

2. Visitor visa extensions

Immigration New Zealand is automatically extending onshore visitor visas that are due to expire between 4 September and the end of October by 5 months.

This will enable temporary migrants and visitors to remain in New Zealand lawfully while making plans to depart the country.

Immigration New Zealand will contact all eligible visa holders who qualify for this extension. Unfortunately, there are some visitor visa categories that do not qualify. These categories are:

  • Critical purpose visa holders
  • Guardians of students
  • Partners or dependants of work visa holders whose visas were extended previously

3. New COVID-19 short-term visitor visa

Immigration New Zealand is introducing a two-month COVID-19 visitor visa for temporary migrants who are still in New Zealand. The visa will allow these migrants more time to arrange their departure from New Zealand.

This specifically includes people reaching the end of their visitor, work, student or partnership visa who do not meet the criteria for another visa.

The most important requirement to note about this visitor visa is that it does not allow the visa holder to work in New Zealand.

4. Critical Purpose Visitor Visa expansion to reunite New Zealanders and their Australian partners

From early October, Australian partners of New Zealand citizens or residents can travel to New Zealand by requesting a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa. Partners can also request permission to travel for dependent children.

At the moment, Australian partners can only travel to New Zealand if accompanied by their New Zealand partner or if they ordinarily live in New Zealand.

It will cost NZ$45 to submit the request for the visa, but there won’t be a visa application fee.

What about partners from visa waiver countries?

Partners from visa waiver countries can also request to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa. The same NZ$45 fee will apply and you’ll also have to pay a visa application fee.

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September has seen a lot of immigration changes. INZ has also announced the loosening of border restrictions for ‘other critical workers’ and that it will resume the processing of some offshore visa applications.

It is likely that we’ll see more changes from Immigration New Zealand as the world continues to battle the coronavirus.

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