Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill passed on 13 May 2020

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In a previous post, we shared the news that the Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill was introduced to New Zealand’s parliament on Tuesday, 5 May 2020. Now we can tell you that the government passed the bill on 13 May 2020.

What is it that the Bill allows?

Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill passed on 13 May 2020

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway explains it in his press release that was published last week:

“The Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020 allows us to amend the Act so we have the necessary flexibility and efficiency to address the unprecedented challenge of managing large numbers of migrants who are practically unable to leave New Zealand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or who live in New Zealand but are offshore and are facing difficulty returning.”

In a nutshell, the Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill enables the New Zealand Government to respond quickly, appropriately and efficiently to immigration issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

There were concerns from some corners – including our own office – prior to the New Zealand Government passing the bill. These concerns were specifically around the type of visa applicants the Bill will affect. Minister Lees –Galloway has provided some clarity about this by mentioning in his press release that the New Zealand government “…won’t [be] revoking visas or suspending onshore applications. Any special direction made under the Amendment Act will not disadvantage visa holders.”

The Bill introduces eight time-limited powers

As we explained above, the Amendment Bill enables the New Zealand Government to amend visa conditions for groups of people. The Bill also enables the government to extend visas for groups of people for varying periods of time. The purpose of the latter is to enable Immigration New Zealand to stagger the processing of visa applications whenever people need or want to stay longer in New Zealand.

Further to the above, the Amendment Bill also enables the government to waive visa requirements for groups of people. The Bill also makes provision for preventing groups of people overseas from applying for visas when it is impossible to travel to New Zealand due to border restrictions.

All of these changes to the Immigration Act are available for 12 months and are captured in these eight powers:

  • imposing, varying or cancelling conditions for classes of temporary entry class visa holders
  • varying or cancelling conditions for classes of resident class visa holders
  • extending the expiry dates of visas for classes of people
  • granting visas to individuals or classes of people in the absence of an application
  • waiving any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application, in other words any requirements that applicants have to meet to have their application accepted by INZ for assessment
  • waiving the requirement to obtain a transit visa
  • suspending the ability to make applications for visas or submit Expressions of Interest in applying for visas by classes of people who are overseas
  • revoking the entry permission of people who are deemed to have obtained entry permission

Where does this leave us?

In our opinion, there are still uncertainties. If we go back to our earlier post on the Bill, you’ll see that the changes that worry us the most are those that now make it possible for the government to stop groups of people from applying for visas and to stop groups of people from submitting Expressions of Interest.

We’re going to keep a close eye on the situation to see how the government and Immigration New Zealand acts upon the changes introduced to the Immigration Act.

Our advice to you stays the same…

It is now more important than ever that you know if you’re eligible for immigration and that you understand the process of applying for a visa seeing that it’ll soon be much more complicated.

For these reasons, we suggest that you book a consultation call to discuss your immigration options. Our licensed advisor will assess your visa eligibility and then discuss the best way forward with you.

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