Migrant workers stuck outside of New Zealand

Update from Immigration New Zealand: migrant and employer information
May 29, 2020
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Migrant workers stuck outside of New Zealand

– 15 June 2020

The New Zealand border has been closed since 11:59pm, 19 March 2020. The border closure means that most people cannot enter the country, barring a select few. You can read more about the border closure and who can get an exception here.

There are many people who do not qualify as an exception to the border closure policies. People who normally worked and lived in New Zealand on temporary visas, only to find themselves locked out of the country once the borders closed. What can you do if you want to return to New Zealand but cannot?

The cold reality of the situation is that there isn’t a lot that you can do. The border closures are not to be trifled with and are resolute and will prevent most people from returning to New Zealand even if you have a valid visa. If your visa is still valid after the borders reopen then you may be able to return to New Zealand, depending on what policies are announced at the time. But if your visa expires, your only option is to try and apply for a new visa.

Currently, Immigration New Zealand are prioritising work visas for essential workers like doctors and nurses to help control the spread of COVID-19. Below that, visas for migrants already in New Zealand will be processed. Immigration New Zealand has closed its offshore branches and so the application process will be long and hard for the foreseeable future. This means that you won’t be returning to New Zealand soon, even if your visa is expiring and you applied for a new one.

In addition to this, the labour market test is still in force. To obtain or renew an essential skills work visa, it is normal for an employer to show that there are no New Zealanders available to fill the open vacancy in the workforce and that the employer is all but forced to hire a migrant. However, the effects of COVID-19 mean that there are more job losses and business closures in New Zealand. This means that there are more people looking for work, so the chances of a New Zealander being available to do the work is much higher. The end result means that it is harder to pass the labour market test, and therefore it is harder to obtain or renew an essential skills work visa.

There are currently no plans to allow migrants to return to New Zealand to settle their affairs before returning to their home countries. The border remains closed and is likely to do so for the near foreseeable future. The Minister of Immigration, Ian Lees-Galloway, has recommended that those who are stuck overseas try contacting their consulates, embassies, High Commission, Departments of Foreign Affairs or equivalents, in order to seek advice on what to do next.

New Zealand may increase its bubble to include Australia and there is also talk of doing so with China and Korea, but nothing is solid yet.

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.

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