Coronavirus and the Law

Coronavirus and the Law

FAQs for Immigration

Visa conditions and extensions

My visa expired but I wasn’t able to leave New Zealand because of Covid-19 – what do I do?

If your temporary visa expired on a date after 1 April 2020, and you are still in New Zealand, your visa has automatically been extended to 25 September 2020. This applies to  student visas, visitor visas, limited visas, and interim visas.

You should have received an email from Immigration NZ confirming that your visa has been extended to 25 September.

If your visa expired on 1 April 2020 or earlier, you must apply for a special temporary or resident visa so that you can remain in the country lawfully. You need to email an application to: s61@mbie.govt.nz. In your email, you will need to explain your situation, including giving the following information:

  • your personal details: your full name and date of birth
  • a copy of the personal details page in your passport
  • your Immigration NZ (INZ) client number, if you know it
  • your contact details: email address, phone number and postal address
  • a description of your situation
  • what type of visa you would like – for example a visitor visa
  • how long you think you might need to extend your stay in New Zealand.

For general information about these special visas and applying for them, click here.

My visa is expiring soon – do I need to apply for an extension to stay in New Zealand?

If your temporary visa was due to expire between 2 April and 9 July 2020, and you are still in New Zealand, your visa will automatically be extended to 25 September 2020. This applies to student visas, visitor visas, limited visas, and interim visas.

You should have received an email confirming this extension. If your visa was extended, you continue to have exactly the same visa conditions as before.

I have a temporary work visa – what do I need to do?

Immigration NZ has extended all existing employer-assisted temporary work visas by 6 months.  This applies to people who were in New Zealand on 10 July 2020 and who have visas that are due to expire before 31 December 2020. The extension is automatic – you don’t need to apply. All the other conditions of your original visa remain the same, like the specific occupation, employer and location. You are also covered if your visa had been previously extended to 25 September.

If you have a partner or dependent child, and their visa is based on a relationship with you, the expiry date of their visas will NOT be extended and they will need to apply for a new visa.

Essential Skills work visas

All lower paid Essential Skills work visas that are lodged with Immigration NZ from 10 July 2020 onwards will now have a 6 months expiry date.  People who applied for their visa before 10 July will still be able to get the old 12 months visa.

Stand-down period for lower paid workers

The introduction of the 12 month stand-down period for lower paid workers who have had their employer-assisted work visa extended will be delayed.

If you work in a lower paid role where you must stand down between 20 August and 31 December 2020, you will be able to stay in New Zealand and work for the same employer for up to 6 more months. There will be a stand down period if you apply for another visa to work for another employer, or if you change location.

If you are required to stand down from February 2021, you will have to leave New Zealand for 12 months before you can apply for another lower paid work visa.

I lost the job that my work visa depended on – can I change my visa conditions to allow me to work for a different employer?

If your visa conditions tie you to a specific employer and you want to start working for a new employer, you will usually need to apply for a change in your visa conditions, or for a new visa.

But there are some exceptions:

  • If you are in New Zealand under a working holiday scheme or partnership work visa, you can work for a new employer without notifying Immigration NZ.
  • Restrictions on changing jobs have been temporarily relaxed for migrant workers in essential industries until 25 June 2020 – for more information, see the next question.

Workers in essential industries: Special short-term rules allowing job changes

In some cases, migrant workers in essential industries have been able to get their visa conditions changed for a short time to allow them to do different jobs. The Government agreed to allow this during Alert Level 3 and for six weeks after the end of Level 3, which means these temporary rules apply until 25 June 2020.

The changes apply in these cases:

  • Work visa holders working in essential industries can change the type of work they do (change their occupation) if they keep working for the same employer and in the same region.
  • Work visa holders can also work for a different employer if the new employer is in an essential industry, and it’s the same type of work and in the same region.
  • Student visa holders working in essential industries can work full-time, rather than just part-time, if they are working for the same employer and in the same region.

Your employer must apply for the change in visa conditions on your behalf. They should use this form.

From 25 June 2020 these temporary rules will end and your old visa conditions will come back into force. This means that from 25 June you will only be able to work in your original job, or go back to studying, unless you apply for and Immigration NZ approves a new variation to your visa conditions or a new visa.

The fact that Immigration NZ had approved the short-term variation doesn’t guarantee that they will agree to a new variation or visa.

I lost the job my visa depended on when my employer made me redundant – is there anything I can do to get the job back?

Whether you’re a migrant or a New Zealand citizen, New Zealand employers must follow New Zealand employment law, and this includes following a proper consultation process when they make someone redundant. If your employer didn’t follow a proper redundancy process, it may be worth negotiating with them to get your job back so that you can keep your work visa.

Your employer may have been given wrong advice when they made you redundant, or been confused about their legal obligations in the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic. They may now be eager to avoid having you take legal action against them by bringing a “personal grievance”. As the Covid-19 restrictions ease they may also be needing more staff again.

If you approach your employer about getting your job back, you may want to discuss with them options like them applying for the Covid-19 Wage Subsidy, or you going on unpaid leave while the business is closed, or you working reduced hours or for less pay.

Before you start talking to your employer about this, make sure you’re aware of your rights and your employment’s obligations when it comes to redundancies. You can get more information about this here.

How is Immigration NZ working under Level 1?

Earlier in the Covid-19 crisis, Immigration NZ had limited capacity to process visa applications, and gave priority to those that would help New Zealand respond to the pandemic. Under Level 1 they are able to process a wider range of visa applications.

For temporary visas (that is, work, student, visitor, limited and interim visas) Immigration NZ are giving priority to “critical workers” who can support the response to Covid-19, to applications from victims of family violence, and to applications from other temporary visa holders who are already in New Zealand. For more details, click here.

For residence visas Immigration NZ are giving priority to applications from people who are already in New Zealand, rather than from overseas.

All Immigration NZ offices within New Zealand are open under Level 1, but their offices overseas are still closed. Immigration NZ strongly encourages you to apply online rather than in person with a paper application.

Income support

I am in New Zealand on a temporary visa and don’t have any income – what support can I get?

There are no Work and Income benefits available to migrant workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there are some options available to you if you need help:

  • Immigration New Zealand’s advice is to contact your embassy or consulate to ask for help
  • Your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group may be able to help if you urgently need essential supplies like food – click here to find your local 0800 number for help from Civil Defence with essential supplies
  • Your local council may also be able to help you with essentials – click here to find an alphabetical list of local councils and their contact details
  • Community groups and food banks in your area may be able to offer support
  • The Government Helpline 0800 779 997 may be able to direct you to the relevant organisation for your situation.

Support for victims of family violence

My visa is based on my partnership, but my partner is being abusive towards me – what can I do?

You may qualify for a work or residence visa under Immigration NZ’s Victims of Family Violence visa category. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Immigration NZ is giving priority to processing work visa applications for this category.

For more information on this visa category, click here.

In an emergency, call the New Zealand Police on 111. The following groups are also available to support you:

  • Women’s Refuge crisis line | 0800 733 843 – 24 hours
  • Shine National Helpline | 0508 744 633 – 9am to 11pm
  • Shama – sexual violence crisis support for ethnic women – email them on crisis1@shama.org.nz
  • Shakti – family violence crisis support for ethnic women 0800 742 584 – 24 hours
  • Gandhi Nivas – supporting men to be free from violence – 0800 426 344
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Check out Frequently Asked Questions and Answers related to COVID-19 on our website here

Community Law Centres in the Auckland region will be operating remotely. Centres across the rest of New Zealand continue to operate face-to-face, with some restrictions.

Find the contact details of your nearest Community Law Centre here

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