COVID-19 Immigration FAQ22 May 2020

Visa and appeal processing during the lockdown

Is Pathways available to assist me with my visa queries during the lockdown?

Although our physical offices are now closed we remain open for business and 100% committed to our clients and anyone who requires visa assistance at this time. We are pleased to confirm Pathways has the technology in place for all our Licensed Immigration Advisers to work from home and we are now doing so – and if you continue to telephone and email as normal you will not notice any difference in our availability and in our ability to receive and respond promptly to any of your communications.

Is INZ still accepting and processing visa applications?

INZ is still very much open for business however their staff too are also affected by the lockdown which means that they are working with a greatly reduced capacity at the moment. Applications can still be made through the online visa platform and processing will be prioritised based on urgency and applicant profile – as this may relate to an essential service role. Visa applications for essential workers who are urgently required to support the fight against COVID-19 are given highest priority and Section 61 requests for those who have become unlawful are also being given priority. Other applications will be queued in the order received so there is a benefit to still making a visa application now to ensure a place in the queue for when normal processing resumes.

On 17 April 2020, INZ announced that they will be gradually transitioning to a fuller service. This means that they will now begin processing some visa categories for applicants who are already in New Zealand, including Visa applications for Victims of Domestic Violence, Partnership category temporary visas (including reassessments), Full Fee Paying student visas and Post Study work visas.

If you have made an application in one of these prioritised categories, and have family who have applied for visas dependent on your application, their applications will also be processed.

My visa application has already been lodged with INZ. Will the application continue to be processed?

The INZ Branches have closed and any paper-based applications, such as Skilled Migrant residence, are not able to be progressed further until the Branches re-open. However some INZ staff are able to work from home and are able to continue to process online visa applications such as temporary visa and partnership residence applications.

INZ has also announced that processing will commence for a limited number of visa categories for applicants who are already in New Zealand. Family members who have applied for visas dependent on a prioritised application, will also have their applications processed.

Will EOI draws continue during the lockdown?

Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category Expression of Interest (EOI) draws have been deferred. INZ has reduced processing capacity during the COVID-19 lockdown, 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 have submitted a skilled migrant residence application – will this still be processed during the lockdown?

We are aware that some Immigration Officers are able to work from home such as those undertaking certain online applications such as partnership applications and which do not require hard copy paper documents. As SMC applications are paper based these applications and supporting documentation must remain at the INZ offices. Consequently we understand that SMC applications, and other paper-based applications such as Investor, Entrepreneur, Parent Retirement, PRV and Variation of Conditions applications, will not be able to be progressed until the lockdown is over and all Immigration Officers have returned to work.

I was issued a Potentially Prejudicial Information (PPI) letter on an application and the deadline for response is during the lockdown, what should I do?

You should attempt to make contact with your Immigration Case Officer to see if it is still appropriate or possible for you to provide your response or obtain an extension to the deadline. Our understanding that due to the current lockdown an extension of time for a response is likely to be granted in the interest of fairness. In some cases where the Case Officer is working, and you have everything required to make a response, it could be in your best interest to make the response now and receive the application decision.

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, 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 recommended to write to them requesting an extension until 2 weeks after lockdown ends, and 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, 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, 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 still be considered in the lockdown?

Most appeal considerations are on hold during lockdown and will continue afterwards. There are limited exceptions with some oral hearings which the IPT has contacted directly and these are being directed by the IPT on a case by case basis – if you have no such contact from the IPT then this will not apply to you.

Will my appeal be decided in lockdown?

Most appeal considerations are on hold during lockdown and will continue afterwards. There are limited exceptions with some oral hearings which the IPT has contacted directly and these are being directed by the IPT on a case by case basis – if you have no such contact from the IPT then this will not apply to you.

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. INZ have stated that priority is being given to Section 61 requests at this time. 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’s online application system is still operational and new applications can still be submitted. The processing timeframes maybe 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.

Varying visa conditions

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

A VOC application is usually a hard copy application and cannot be submitted during the lockdown period. INZ are currently working on a process to facilitate these applications to be made online or by email. We will update this page as soon as this process is announced.

However, if you are already employed as an essential worker, it is possible to make a VOC application.

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 every few weeks.

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.

We understand the government is considering the possibility of allowing work visa holders who have lost their jobs (and possibly other visa holders) flexibility so that they can work in much needed horticultural roles. An announcement may be made soon – please watch this website or the INZ website for any changes.

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

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.

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, 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 lockdown. 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. 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 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.

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 are an essential worker for a qualifying essential business, you may be eligible for the Essential Workers Leave Support.

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 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. What sick leave entitlements are they eligible for?

If the employee is an essential worker for a qualifying essential business, they may be eligible for the Essential Workers Leave Support 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.

If the employer/employee is not considered essential, they can use existing sick leave entitlements. If paid sick leave is not available, special leave or other leave should be considered. The employer and employee should discuss this in good faith.

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
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.

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.

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?

Immigration Instructions have been slightly amended to make it easier for student and work visa holders, already employed by a supermarket, to work extra hours from 25 March to 25 April 2020.

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.