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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.

My visa application has already been lodged with INZ. Will be 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.

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.

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.

My temporary (work, student, visitor, limited) visa expires before 2 April, what do I do?

You must urgently submit a new visa application online for the appropriate visa to suit your circumstances. In most cases this will be to submit a new application of the same visa type as your current visa. While your new visa may not be immediately processed you will be issued an interim visa to maintain your lawful status through until when your new visa application is decided. Our view is that INZ are very likely to be sympathetic to the situation of all visa holders in New Zealand due to the current travel restrictions.

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 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.

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 (& 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 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 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.

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 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.

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.

The Government is working on arrangements for those in essential work who require sick leave due to COVID-19.

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.

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

INZ have communicated that Immigration Instructions will soon be 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 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.

‘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.

Despite the current COVID-19 Level 4 Alert, the timeframes for lodgement of appeals to the Immigration and Protect Tribunal (IPT) have not changed. The nationwide lockdown means that though appeal deadlines remain the same, the IPT’s physical office is closed.

Appeals can be sent via email to [email protected]. The IPT will consider the date received as the date the completed appeal form is received by email, provided the form is signed and payment details for the lodgement fee ($700) are included. The IPT has advised that hard copies of all documents can be sent when services are operating again. Submissions and evidence on new appeals can be provided later when the offices re-open.

Submissions and evidence on active appeals are to be sent to the same email address as above. If you have an IPT hearing in the coming weeks, it will be adjourned unless you are specifically contacted and told otherwise.

Appeal against a declined residence decision

If your residence visa application to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has been declined, and you wish to appeal, IPT must receive your appeal no more than 42 days from the date on which INZ notified you of its decision.

If you are considering lodging an appeal on the basis of a declined resident visa application, it is critical to be aware that an INZ residence decision can only be appealed if you believe:

a. the Immigration New Zealand decision is wrong because you do satisfy the residence instructions in place when you applied for your visa, and/or

b. you have special circumstances that mean the Minister of Immigration should make an exception to those instructions. See section 187(4) of the Immigration Act 2009 to find out more about “special circumstances”.

Understanding whether or not you can reasonably make one of these arguments, and knowing how to do so, can require specialised knowledge. As an appellant, you are permitted to represent yourself in IPT proceedings. However, given the technical expertise and advocacy skills necessary, we recommend representation by either an experienced immigration lawyer, or a licensed immigration adviser.

Appeal against deportation on humanitarian grounds (non-resident) – unlawful appellants

 If you have unlawful status (e.g. because your visa expired or interim visa lapsed) in New Zealand and wish to appeal to the IPT, you should make sure to meet the applicable appeal deadline for your situation. Depending on your circumstances, different timeframes apply. If you are unlawful because you no longer have a valid visa, you have 42 days in which to lodge your appeal. If you have been served a Deportation Liability Notice, your window in which to appeal is only 28 days.

In any case, for your appeal to succeed, you must show the Tribunal that:

a. there are exceptional humanitarian circumstances that would make it unjust or unduly harsh to deport you from New Zealand, and

b. letting you stay in New Zealand would not be against the public interest.

As with residence visa appeals, if you are a non-resident appealing against deportation, you are permitted to represent yourself, but given the complexities of immigration law, and the severe personal consequences of a failed appeal, we highly recommend that you seek representation. This is our recommendation for any IPT proceedings you may choose to bring, including Deportation Appeal by a Resident/Permanent Resident, Refugee and Protection Status Appeal, or a Deportation Appeal (Cancelled Refugee and/or Protection Status).

If you would like to enquire about making an appeal, or have any questions related to this blog post, please contact Pathways NZ to discuss your options with one of our Licensed Immigration Advisers. All of our staff are working from home during the lockdown, and remain contactable by email and phone.

Details on the process for lodging a residence visa appeal, including the necessary form, are available on the IPT webpage.

New Zealand Courts and Tribunals are currently operating with limited capacity. Details of closures and restricted access can be found here.

An epidemic notice has been issued under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, in effect from Thursday 2 April 2020. This means temporary visa holders whose visas were due to expire between 1 April 2020 and 9 July 2020, will receive an automatic visa extension.

The uncertainty around coronavirus intensifies uncertainty for New Zealand work visa holders.

Residence Visa applicants face continued wait times, as Immigration New Zealand (INZ) struggles to get through lodged applications. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of clear Government direction on aspects of immigration policy, and this uncertainty is likely to persist until after this year’s election.

Three years ago, there were about 150,000 people in New Zealand on all types of work visas and about 50,000 people a year were being approved for residence. Today there are almost 300,000 people – six percent of New Zealand’s population – now holding work visas and only 35,000 people a year are being approved for residence.

The number of people, under all categories, who can be approved for residence is determined by the New Zealand Residence Programme which is the name the Government gives to the number of people able to be approved for residence in any period. The most recent Residence Programme ran for the 18-month period ending 31 December 2019 and allowed for between 50,000 and 60,000 people to be approved for residence during that timeframe.

The Government has yet to decide on the Residence Programme numbers from the beginning of 2020 and this has left Immigration New Zealand in the difficult position of having to manage its residence application processing without any Government guidance or targets. This Government indecision is likely an outcome of the competing (and perhaps discordant) priorities within the coalition Government, intensified by election year politicking. However, even if a new Residence Programme is introduced in the near future, the number of residence approvals is highly unlikely to see an increase over the previous Programme number. In all likelihood, the number will be the same or reduced.

It is an understandable consequence of the high number of people now holding work visas, that a greater number of people can now qualify for residence and have lodged their residence applications. This has resulted in a greater number of mainly Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) and Residence-from-work (RFW) residence applications in the queue. This increase in residence applications, together with the limitations imposed by the previous Residence Programme, and now the lack of any Programme, has rendered INZ unable to process residence applications in a timely and transparent manner.

Late last year, media reports (extrapolating from INZ figures) stated that the number of days it took for 75 percent of resident visas to be processed had increased by 76 days. This was despite INZ hiring 177 more staff. High staff turnover and the diverting of Immigration Officers away from residence processing to undertake the increased volume and urgency associated with work visa applications (at historically high levels), has not helped to relieve the significant pressure on residence visa processing times.

The outcome is that there are SMC applications lodged in December 2018 that are still waiting for allocation to an Immigration Officer and, at the end of January 2020, there were some 25,600 people with SMC applications and over 4,100 people with RFW applications in the residence queue. This number of people, in just these two residence categories, is sufficient to almost fill the expected annual Residence Programme from applications already on hand – and yet even more residence applications are being lodged daily.

INZ will have received a high, and increasing, level of enquiries from frustrated and anxious applicants regarding what is happening with their application and, in response, INZ has now published new criteria for which residence applications will prioritised for processing:

  1. SMC applications with job offers, with priority given to applicants:
    a. with a pay rate equivalent to $51.00 per hour or more
    b. who have jobs for which Immigration Instructions require occupational registration
  2. All business categories (Investor & Entrepreneur)
  3. RFW (Talent/ Accredited Employer, Religious Worker, Long Term Skills Shortage), with priority given to applicants:
    a. with a pay rate equivalent to $51.00 per hour or more
    b. who have jobs for which Immigration Instructions require occupational registration

Family category applications also now have particular criteria for being prioritised.

In essence, the now published priority criteria simply puts on paper what has actually been happening in practice over the past six months as INZ has been grappling with how to manage the increased application numbers in the absence of any clear Government directive. We do not see that much will now change in regard to processing times for most applications except for the increased transparency, and the heightened expectations of those applicants who can meet the priority criteria.

It should be appreciated that the updated priority criteria will neither reduce the current backlog nor will it defuse the fundamental tensions in the immigration system. These tensions have yet to fully play out and we see the above changes as, very much, an interim measure while INZ and the Government decide on more long term and definitive solutions to manage residence numbers and application processing.

In the meantime, if you meet the eligibility criteria for a Residence Visa, applying now will at least place your application in the queue for processing. Once in the queue, immigration instructions in effect at the time you submitted your application will continue to apply to that application. This can afford some measure of protection against the yet-to-be-announced changes to immigration policy and the uncertainty and indecision symptomatic of an election year.

If you wish to apply for a Residence Visa and would like to discuss your options, contact Pathways NZ to speak with a licensed immigration adviser.

A major shake up of essential skills work visa instructions is due to affect thousands of current work visa holders and their employers from the end of August.

The government has just confirmed the main details of the changes to essential skills work visa instructions which will be effective from 28 August. The changes will mostly affect those in lower skilled roles and will now limited the period of time they can remain in New Zealand before an enforced stand-down period and restricting their ability to support partnership and dependent visa applications.

Under the new rules, similarly to the SMC changes salary bands have been introduced that will determine whether an applicant is considered Low, Mid or Higher Skilled. The salary band’s are set based upon national median earnings.

  • Higher skilled individuals can be working in an ANZSCO occupation regardless of ANZSCO skills level and must have a minimum salary of more than $35.24ph and may be issued a work visa for up to 5 years in duration.
  • Mid-Skilled individuals  only applies to ANZSCO occupations skill level 1,2 and 3 with a salary of between $19.99 and $35.24ph, they be granted a work visa up to 3 years in duration.
  • Lower skilled individuals applies to ANZSCO occupations skill level 1,2 and 3 with a salary less than $19.99ph and ANZSCO occupations skill level 4 and 5 with a salary under $35.24, they will be granted a work visa up to 1 year in duration.

Changes to Lower Skilled Work Visa Holders

There are two significant changes that will affect lower skilled work visa holders.

  • They will only be able to work for a maximum of 3 years in lower skilled roles before they are required to spend 12 months outside of New Zealand before they can be granted a further lower skilled work visa.
  • They will no longer be able to support partnership work visas nor student visas for dependents as domestic students. Accompanying family members will be required to be eligible in their own right for essential skills or fee paying student respectively.  They will be able to access short term visitor visas.

Transitional instructions for those already in New Zealand holding Work Visas

A transitional policy has been put in place to protect those people and their families who are already in New Zealand and hold work visas that will be classified as lower skilled.

  • The 3 year period will not be retrospectively applied. It will begin from the time the next lower skilled visa is issued.
  • Accompanying family members already in New Zealand will be eligible for visas that have the same rights and conditions as those they currently hold and when the changes are implemented for the period of time that the main applicant remains lawfully in New Zealand. This means accompanying partners who hold work visas will be eligible for further partnership work visas for up to a further 3 years, and accompanying dependents  student visas with domestic student for the same period.
Further Review of Policy

A further review of the policy along with associated graduate work visa policy will take place later this year. It has been indicated that the review will look into whether there is a need for more specific regional and/or industry sector application of policy to recognise the variances that exist. The review will also attempt to better classify those roles that exist but do not have a clear ANZSCO occupation and how these should be treated to fit in the salary matrix. There will also be a review of graduate work visa instructions in respect to the ability of these visa holders to support accompanying family members.

It is always highly recommended professional advice is obtained from a licensed immigration adviser to best determine how these or any other policy changes may affect a person’s current immigration situation and future visa pathways.