The Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Act 2020 has been fast-tracked by the New Zealand Government to allow them to respond efficiently to immigration issues arising from COVID-19 and came into effect on 15 May 2020.
But what does this Bill mean for visa holders currently in New Zealand or those who hope to enter New Zealand in the future?
12 month limit
First of all it’s important to note that this Bill has a time limit on it, the new law will only increase Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) powers for 12 months from the date it took effect, 15 May 2020.
It’s not designed to take away existing visa rights
The Minister of Immigration has also assured the migrant community in New Zealand that the Government will not use the powers in this Act to take away any existing rights. The Act is designed to enable the Government to amend visa conditions for groups of people, extend visas of groups of people for varying periods of time, so that processing of any subsequent visa applications, should people need or want to stay longer, can be staggered.
And a key point: The new powers cannot be used to change conditions if that change would materially disadvantage the class of visa holders concerned.
Eight new powers
INZ will now have eight new time-limited powers:
- To impose, vary or cancel conditions for classes of temporary entry class visa holders
- Vary or cancel conditions for classes of resident class visa holders
- Extend the expiry dates of visas for classes of people
- Grant visas to individuals or classes of people in the absence of an application
- Waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application (that is, waive any prescribed requirements that people need to fulfil to have their application accepted by INZ for assessment).
- Waive the requirement to obtain a transit visa
- Suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit Expressions of Interest in applying for visas by classes of people who are offshore
- Revoke the entry permission of people who are deemed to have been granted entry permission
A final word
The Government have said that they have no plans to cancel the visas of those who are already living and working in New Zealand. They view the Act as a pragmatic solution to practical challenges that they expect to arise from the COVID-19 crisis. With such a large group of temporary visa holders in New Zealand, approximately 350,000 onshore, there’s too many to deal with individually. This Act hopes to address this issue.