Covid-19 Alert Level 4 - What happens to migrants on temporary visas?

The Government has released an Epidemic Management Notice which provides some guidance for migrants on temporary visas.  The Notice states that temporary visas will be extended. This includes work, student, visitor or limited visas. 

So what should you do?  There are two categories you need to be aware of:

  1.  Your temporary visa expiries on 1 April 2020 or earlier: In this case, you must apply online for a new temporary visa.  Once you have applied online, Immigration New Zealand (“INZ”) will issue you an interim visa the day following the expiry of your current temporary visa;

 

  1.  Your temporary visa expiries between 2 April 2020 and 9 July 2020: In this case, your current visa will be extended.  This means you do not have to submit a new application, you will receive the extension automatically. Extensions will be issued to 25 September 2020. INZ will email your extension visa to you directly.

The visa extensions will simply allow you to continue to stay in New Zealand lawfully.  However importantly to note, the extensions will mirror the exact conditions under you current visa.  If you currently maintain a visitor visa, you will continue to be a visitor.  If you maintain a work visa with conditions, those conditions will remain in place. 

 

You currently have a temporary visa application processing:

If you currently have a temporary application submitted for processing, it is very likely there will be no further movement on that application during the Covid-19 Alert Level 4 period (the next 4 weeks).  Visa processing branches have closed down, having only New Zealand based case officers working from home.  This means if you have submitted a new temporary application it has been put on halt until further notice.

This is a serious issue for people who have submitted a new application with a change in circumstances, say a new condition on their work visa such as change of employer, or a visitor visa holder applying for a work visa.  These new requests will not be assessed until further notice.

Example:

  • You have received a new job offer after losing your job and have submitted a new Essential Skills Work Visa application to work for the new employer.  Your extension will not allow you to work for the new employer yet. 
  • You are on a Visitor Visa and have submitted a work visa under a partnership application; the extension will only allow you to continue to stay as a visitor.
  • You are on a Limited Visa and have submitted a new work visa application; the extension will only allow you to continue to stay on the conditions of your Limited Visa.

 

Uncertainty with breaching visas

The pandemic is causing all kinds of uncertainty; however for migrants it is immediately evident.  Queenstown’s work force is highly populated by migrant workers and as holders of Essential Skills Work Visas (sponsorship visas) it is a requirement of your employment to work full time, which is a minimum of 30 hours a week.  It is obvious to say that most migrants will not be working 30 hours a week in the coming weeks.  However, there may be opportunities for work in the essential service workplaces or other workplaces after the Alert Level 4 has lifted.  It is important to note that if you are on an Essential Skills Work Visa (sponsorship visa), before commencing employment for a new employer, you are required to change the conditions of your visa.  This requires you to submit a Variation of Conditions application to INZ.  If you do not have your visa variated before working for someone else, this is a breach of conditions and will cause serious issues for you in the future.

It is evident that during this time, migrants need to work when they can, however it is advisable to try as much as possible to comply with your conditions.  INZ have advised they are unsure of how this will pan out in the immediate future and indicate they will provide more information once it is available.  We can hope there will be some form of an exception to the rule during this pandemic, yet it is not best practice to assume.

If you are in a situation where you need to vary your conditions, it is best to contact INZ to notify them of your intentions.  If you would like advice before doing so or any assistance in submit a visa online, please contact us.           

 

Chantal Ryan 26 March 2020