Visa and appeal processing as we move through Alert Levels 

Is Pathways available to assist me with my visa queries?

Our physical offices were closed but we remained open for business throughout the lockdown at Alert Levels 3 and 4. Now that we are at Covid-19 Alert Level 2, our Hamilton and Wellington offices are open again. In order to best protect our staff and our clients we have the following protocols:

• We will work remotely as much as possible by phone, email, skype and zoom.
• Any meetings will be by absolute necessity and by appointment only.
• Strict social distancing to apply – no handshakes.
• Personal details to be recorded for contact tracing.
• Hand sanitiser must be applied by everyone entering our office.

These protocols do not compromise our ability to continue to deliver the high quality, trusted and expert immigration services for which Pathways’ is reputed.

Is INZ still accepting and processing visa applications during Alert Level 2?

To date, the INZ priority has been to focus its limited resources on implementing the Epidemic Management Notice, pushing through applications from individuals who have a critical purpose for coming to New Zealand and processing Section 61 requests. Now that Alert Level 2 has started, INZ processing efforts will be expanded as follows:

Residence Applications

Priority will be given where the applicant is in New Zealand. For onshore applications priority will be given as below:

  • For Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), priority will be given to applications with job offers where:
    • Applicants have an hourly rate equivalent to or higher than twice the median wage (currently $51.00 per hour or an annual salary of $106,080 or more);
    • Applicants hold current occupational registration where registration is required by immigration instructions.
  • For Residence from Work Category applications (Talent (Accredited Employer), Talent (Arts, Culture and Sport), South Island Contribution, Religious Worker and Long Term Skill Shortage List), priority will be given to:
    • Applications which include a job offer with an hourly rate equivalent to or higher than twice the median wage (currently $51.00 per hour or an annual salary of $106,080 or more);
    • Applications which include a job offer which requires occupational registration where occupational registration is required by immigration instructions.
  • Second priority will be given to residence class visa applications where the applicant is out of New Zealand.

Temporary Entry Class Applications

  • Priority will be given to applications for critical workers to support the Government response to COVID-19 and for other temporary visa applicants that are in New Zealand.
  • For Essential Skills work visa applications, Immigration instructions require INZ to consider a range of factors, including the need to help New Zealand businesses provide their services, while protecting the employment opportunities for New Zealanders.
  • For an Essential Skills work visa to be granted, INZ must be satisfied that at the time the application is assessed there are no New Zealanders available to do the work being offered.

Will EOI draws continue?

Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category Expression of Interest (EOI) draws have been deferred. INZ has reduced processing capacity during the COVID-19 Alert Levels, and it is difficult for applicants to obtain the required documents and evidence to submit an application at this time.

The deferrals are a temporary measure, and INZ have stated that they will reassess this policy as the COVID-19 situation develops.

I received an Invitation to Apply just before/during the COVID-19 lockdown, which made it hard to submit an application. Is there any extension of timeframes?

If you:

  • submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) for a Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) residence visa, or
  • submitted an EOI for an Investor 2 residence visa, and
  • received an ITA between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020

–then you now have an additional six months to submit your residence application.

I was issued a Potentially Prejudicial Information (PPI) letter on an application just before the lockdown, or during Alert Level 2, what should I do?

For applications where a PPI letter was sent prior to 25 March 2020, the due date for response is extended until Friday 12 June 2020 (4 weeks after New Zealand entered Alert Level 2, allowing for the statutory holiday on 1 June 2020).

For applications where a PPI is sent on or after the commencement of Level 2 (i.e. 14 May 2020), the applicant has 4 weeks to respond.

INZ recognises that circumstances are difficult and some information may be difficult to obtain at this time. If you require a further extension, INZ will be considered on a case by case basis. It is recommended that you contact your case officer to discuss if necessary. 

I am a New Zealand resident and I received a deportation liability notice, what should I do?

If you have received a deportation liability notice from Immigration New Zealand you should urgently seek professional advice.

If your deportation liability has been previously suspended you do not need to do anything further, you will need to ensure to comply with the suspension terms stated in the notice.  If your deportation liability is not suspended then you have 28 calendar days to submit an appeal to the IPT against deportation liability. There is no extension on the timeframe to appeal regardless of the lockdown and the broader COVID-19 response. If the appeal opportunity lapses then you will be deported.

If you have received a letter from INZ resolutions with a questionnaire you are strongly encouraged to seek specialised professional advice.

I am a temporary visa holder and I received a deportation liability notice, what should I do?

It is our strongest recommendation that anyone facing deportation liability has a specialised adviser or lawyer represent them as there are very serious consequences if deportation proceeds, and these are very complex matters.

There are no options for extension of any of the timeframes provided for response and appeal.  You will have 14 calendar days to give good reasons to INZ compliance to consider cancelling your deportation liability, and 28 calendar days for appeal.  The appeal timeframe is not paused while waiting on INZ compliance to make a decision. There is no extension on the timeframe to appeal regardless of the lockdown and the broader COVID-19 response. If the appeal opportunity lapses then you will be deported.

My resident visa application was declined and I want to appeal, what should I do?

The 42 day deadline begins from when the decision is received.  There are no options for extension of any of the timeframes provided to appeal regardless of the lockdown and the COVID-19 response. If the appeal opportunity lapses then there is no way to later recover this.

Here at Pathways our team includes specialised advisers who work on these matters and who are available to assist you.

Will my appeal be considered during Alert Level 2?

Most appeal considerations were on hold during lockdown but they have resumed.

Visa expiry and visa extensions

My visa has expired and I am now unlawful, what should I do?

If you are unlawful you should urgently seek advice on submitting a Section 61 request to regain your lawful status. For anyone who is unlawful it is always in their interests to make every endeavour to recover their lawful status sooner rather than later.

My temporary (work, student, visitor, limited) visa expires between 2 April and 9 July, what do I do?

Your visa will be automatically extended to 25 September 2020 on the same conditions as your current visa and you are not required to undertake any action. Confirmation of the visa extension will be emailed to you by INZ and you should follow up with INZ if you do not get this email before your visa expires.

I want to apply for a longer term visa beyond 25 September what can I do?

INZ is operational and new applications can still be submitted. The processing timeframes may be longer than usual as priority is being given to applications for “essential workers” and Section 61 requests.

I have an approved visa but am currently offshore. Can the first entry date on my visa be changed to allow me to travel later instead of applying for a variation or new visa? Or, can my visa be extended so I don’t need to re-apply?

INZ are aware of this concern, but have not yet announced a decision. In the case of work visas, INZ have communicated that they will be considering the wider impacts of COVID-19, including changes to New Zealand’s labour market when arriving at a decision. For visitors, INZ are again aware of this concern and working towards a resolution, but it is not a priority at this time.

It is hoped that the recently passed Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020 will help the Government to provide certainty on these questions.

Varying visa conditions

I need to vary the conditions of my visa (such as to change employers) – what can I do?

INZ are currently working on a process to facilitate the high number of applications. We will update this page as soon as this process is announced.

However, if you are already employed as an essential worker, there is a specific protocol. Please contact Pathways if you require assistance. 

I have a work visa and are either working less than, or being paid for less than, 30 hours a week which is the minimum requirement of my visa – will this be a problem for me?

Usually the requirement would be for you to work, and to be paid for, the work hours set out in your employment agreement but given the unprecedented circumstances, and the government enforced restrictions, our view is that it would be unfair and unreasonable for this situation to be held against you and recommend no action is required at this time but to review this situation often. The recently passed Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020 should help the Government to provide certainty on these questions. 

I am a work visa holder and lost my job, what should I do?

Under normal circumstances you and or your employer would be required to inform INZ about this change in circumstance. However these are far from normal circumstances and we believe the government and INZ will be working on interim measures and processes that will be applied to this, and similar situations, to ensure visa holders are not unfairly compromised by something which is completely outside of their, and their employers, control. We recommend no action at this time except to regularly check back to our website or the INZ website for further updates for updates. In the meantime you could seek alternative employment and be prepared to make a new work visa or variation of conditions application.

The recently passed Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020 should help the Government to provide certainty on these questions.

I have been offered a job in an essential work role and need to change my existing visa, or apply for a new visa, before I can begin work. How can I do this?

There is the ability to escalate a work visa application for an essential skills worker. Please contact Pathways to learn about this process and requirements.

Wage subsidy scheme and Wage subsidy extension

I am a work visa holder and my employer wants to know if they can obtain the Government wage subsidy for me and if this will affect my visa?

All New Zealand employers who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 are eligible to apply for the Wage Subsidy. To qualify a business must:

  • be registered and operating in New Zealand
  • have employees who are legally working in New Zealand
  • have experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month, when compared with the same month last year, and that decline is related to COVID-19*
  • have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
  • retain the employees named in the application for the period of the subsidy.

Those who have a New Zealand work visa or a condition on their New Zealand temporary visa that allows them to work in New Zealand, come under the definition of legally working in New Zealand.

*For the Wage Subsidy Extension, an employer must have experienced a revenue loss of at least 50% for the 30 days before the employer applies for the extension, compared to the closest period last year.

I am employed in New Zealand but am currently overseas. Am I eligible to receive the wage subsidy?

If you are overseas on leave, but are normally employed in New Zealand and otherwise meet the criteria for the wage subsidy scheme or extension, your employer can seek the wage subsidy for you. The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has advised that you discuss this matter with your employer and agree whether paid or unpaid leave is being taken.

I am in New Zealand on a Specific Purpose work visa and the project has been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. Will my employer cover my wages under the Government’s wage subsidy scheme?

This will depend on who the employer is as per your employment agreement. If your employer is based in New Zealand then you are most likely to be covered under the Government wage subsidy scheme or extension. In case of employees seconded to New Zealand for a specific project by an overseas company, your wages would be the responsibility of your overseas employer.

I am a work visa holder, can my employer force me to take my leave in this time?

An employer, whether they are using the wage subsidy scheme or wage subsidy extension or not, cannot unlawfully compel an employee to use their leave entitlements. However, your employer may require you to take annual leave, including because of temporary workplace closure due to COVID-19, provided they have first consulted with you and provided 14 days notice before the annual leave is to be taken.

Work visa holder entitlements

Are migrant employees eligible for publicly funded healthcare?

A person is eligible for publicly funded health and disability services if they hold a work visa that either:

  • entitles them to remain in New Zealand for two years or more (work visas start on the person’s first day in New Zealand) OR
  • entitles them to remain in New Zealand for a period of time which, together with the time that person has already been lawfully in New Zealand immediately prior to obtaining the visa, equals or exceeds two years

All temporary visas holders in NZ are eligible for publicly funded healthcare if it is related to COVID-19, regardless of their visa status.

If I am not a citizen nor a resident, will I be able to receive treatment for COVID-19?

All people in New Zealand are eligible for publicly funded services to treat COVID-19. This is regardless of visa status. Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should contact Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453 or their doctor immediately.

INZ have reiterated that immigration status will not impact on a person’s ability to receive healthcare. Their treatment will be in complete confidence and their information will not be passed on to other agencies.

I am a work visa holder can my employer deny me my leave in this time (including sick leave if I am sick)?

Employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave, after each 12 months of continuous employment for their employer.

Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to  allow an employee to take the leave to which they are entitled. However, with regard to when you take leave, your employer may decline a request for annual leave if they are able to provide a genuine business reason for declining.

If you require leave because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme. 

Employer obligations

What are my obligations as an employer surrounding leave at this time?

Usual obligations continue to apply. An employer, whether they are using the wage subsidy scheme (or wage subsidy scheme extension) or not, cannot unlawfully compel an employee to use their leave entitlements. The Government has also clarified that an employee cannot have their receipt of the wage subsidy made conditional on their taking annual leave. However, you may require an employee to take annual leave, including because of temporary workplace closure due to COVID-19, provided you have first consulted with your employee and given them 14 days notice before the annual leave is to be taken.

Similarly, employers cannot unreasonably refuse to  allow an employee to take the leave to which they are entitled. With regard to when employees take leave, you may only decline a request for annual leave if you have a genuine business reason for declining.

My employee is unable to work as they (or a family member they are caring for) has COVID-19, or are considered high risk. What sick leave entitlements are they eligible for?

The employee may be eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme which offers the same rates as the wage subsidy scheme of $585.80 per week full time and $350.00 per week for part time workers.

Do I have to pay the new minimum wage of $18.90 from 1st April?

Employees must still be paid for the work they do.  They must be paid at least the new minimum wage for each hour of work they do, regardless of whether they are working from home or at an essential business.  If you as the employer are unable to amend your payroll system during the Alert Level 4, you should backpay your employees as soon as you are able to do so.

Entering and/or remaining in New Zealand

Are there any exceptions to the travel ban for people who are not New Zealand citizens or permanent residents?

INZ have announced immigration instructions to allow people not included, or excepted under the current travel ban, to be granted a visa or a Variation of Conditions to travel to New Zealand. You can request travel to New Zealand for the following reasons:

  • essential health worker
  • other essential worker
  • Tongan or Samoan national requiring essential travel to New Zealand
  • partner or dependent child of student or work visa holder
  • partner or dependent child of a New Zealand citizen or resident
  • Australian citizen or permanent resident that normally resides in New Zealand
  • humanitarian

The threshold for exceptional circumstances is extremely  high. As at 21 May 2020, INZ have received 9,210 requests from people who believe they are eligible to be granted an exception to the border closure. Of the 9,210 requests decided so far, only 1,879 have met the criteria and have been invited to apply for a visa.

Please contact Pathways if you would like to discuss the process and the requirements for making a travel request.

If I am permitted entry to New Zealand, will I have to go into quarantine?

Yes. From midnight on Thursday, 9 April, anyone entering the country will have to undergo 14 days of quarantine or managed self-isolation in a government-approved facility. The Government will cover the cost of accommodation in these facilities.

I am a temporary work visa holder and am currently overseas. I cannot travel back to New Zealand for my job right now, does this affect the validity of my current work visa?

If the work visa is linked to a specific job and the job is still available, then the visa will remain valid and you will be able to travel to New Zealand once the travel restrictions are lifted. You may be able to travel sooner if you meet the exception criteria.

However, if your job is no longer available, then the work visa will no longer be valid.

Essential businesses and essential workers

What is an essential business?

A list of businesses considered essential can be found here.

What is an essential health worker?

A list of essential health workers exempt from the travel ban can be found here.

I am an essential worker on a temporary visa – there have been changes to my work circumstances because of COVID-19. What should I do?

Effective from 16 April, 2020, essential workers are able to apply for a Variation of Conditions of their visa in limited scenarios. While New Zealand remains at Alert Level 3 or 4 and for the six weeks following:

  • Work visa holders with employer-specific work visas already employed in essential services will be able to vary their hours and be redeployed to do other roles within their current workplace. They can also perform their current role in a different workplace to help essential businesses keep operating.
  • International students who are already employed in an essential services role will be able to work longer hours for their current employer.

Are there any special allowances for supermarkets and their employees?

Previous immigration instructions that allowed you to work more than 20 hours on a student visa if you were employed at a supermarket on 23 March 2020 ended on 25 April 2020. Employers must apply for a short-term variation of conditions if an employee wishes to work more than 20 hours.

I am a healthcare worker on a temporary visa. Are there any changes I should be aware of?

Immigration Instructions have been issued which change temporary work visa settings to support the health sector response to managing COVID-19.

International Students currently employed in healthcare roles (including aged residential care) will now be able to work full-time for three months (from 3 April to 3 July 2020 inclusive) in order to support the public health response to COVID-19. Normally students are only permitted to work up to 20 hours/week and full-time only during holiday periods.

INZ have also advised that ‘Lower skilled’ temporary healthcare workers that are currently in New Zealand can now work in New Zealand for an additional 12 months before they are subject to the stand down period.

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