Immigration (COVID-19 response) Amendment Act 2020 – What it is, what it does and how will it affect you?

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July 12, 2020
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Immigration (COVID-19 response) Amendment Act 2020 – What it is, what it does and how will it affect you?

– 21 June 2020

This Act is a piece of legislation designed to give the Government emergency powers during the COVID-19 situation. The Act gives the Government a lot of power, so that it can quickly and immediately make big changes to New Zealand’s immigration policies. The idea is that this will allow the Government to remain flexible enough to respond to any changes to the state of COVID-19. However, there are some concerns that these powers are too broad and could potentially be misused to affect migrants in New Zealand and unfairly take their visas away from them. In response to this concern, the Minister of Immigration has promised that the Government will not be using the Act to take away any existing visa rights. In particular, the new powers cannot be used to change visa conditions in a way that would create a real disadvantage for a class of visa holders. This will help prevent cases like  whole class of migrants suddenly being rendered unable to work.

There are 8 time-limited powers under the Act. These are:

  1. The power to impose, vary or cancel conditions for classes of temporary entry class visa holders.
  2. The power to vary or cancel conditions for classes of resident class visa holders.
  3. The power to extend the expiry dates of visas for classes of people.
  4. The power to grant visas to individuals or classes of people in the absence of an application.
  5. The power to 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).
  6. The power to waive the requirement to obtain a transit visa.
  7. The power to suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit Expressions of Interest in applying for visas by classes of people who are offshore.
  8. The power to revoke the entry permission of people who are deemed to have been granted entry permission.

As you can see, these powers are quite generous, and it is worth keeping an eye on how they will be used in the future. They will be used to change visa conditions for groups of people, and in particular they want to stagger out applications to control the number of migrants in New Zealand at one time. It can also be used to prevent people from making applications for visas when they would never be able to enter New Zealand anyway, due to our border closures.

The core of the Act is that it allows for wide sweeping changes to different types or classes of visas at once, that would affect all holders of that visa. For example, the Government might change how many hours per week student visas holders can work for. There are currently around 350,000 temporary visa holders in New Zealand and working through them on an individual basis would be far too time consuming. Of these 350,000 migrants:

  1. Over 200,000 have work visas whose visa conditions may need to be varied due to the effects of COVID-19.
  2. Over 70,000 are student visa holders whose visa conditions may need to be relaxed, to enable them to change their course or work extra hours until education providers are able to reopen.
  3. Over 56,000 are on visitor visas, who may need to have their expiry date extended if flights out of New Zealand continue to be unavailable.

Queen City Law is an award winning law firm that specialises in litigation, commercial, property, and immigration law. Our team of experts would be more than happy to help you with your immigration needs.

We have taken care to ensure that the information given is accurate, however it is intended for general guidance only and should not be relied upon in individual cases. Professional advice should be always be sought before any decision or action is taken as Immigration New Zealand’s instructions change on a regular basis.