NZ COVID-19 Updates
Posted by Iain on April 3, 2020, 11:48 a.m. in New Zealand
No Skilled Migrant Category pool draw yesterday?
It appears no Skilled Migrant Category pool draw took place yesterday. We were advised by a senior INZ Manager a few days ago it was going ahead suggesting even senior management are out of the loop. No one from INZ has explained why, no press releases, nothing on INZ's web site, nothing sent to Advisers - yet again a communications void. I do not know what to read into this.
April 1 - Those stuck offshore
Late last night INZ released further information on who can travel to NZ while the borders are closed beyond the standard NZ citizens, permanent resident visa holders and Australian citizens or PRV holders who are usually resident in NZ. I note that no definition has been provided as to what 'normally' resident in NZ means which isn't very useful. Given a temporary visa is by its very definition for a finite, short stay it is hard to reconcile that with the holder having to show they'normally' live here. For how long? One month? Two months? Six months? Longer?
Government has put in place a process, via an online Expression of Interest, where you include your details and submit it. Someone, somewhere, somehow will make a call based on the information provided whether to approve a variation of conditions to the current visa being held by someone offshore which will, if successful presumably be annoted to includes words to the effects of 'Covid-19 response and during the border closure, the holder may travel to New Zealand before X date'.
You should note however the language used in the release.
'Consideration will only be made for people with exceptional circumstances who have a critical purpose for travelling to New Zealand. The starting point for any consideration is that for the protection of New Zealand the border is closed. Exceptions are only in place for extreme circumstances.'
The key words being 'exceptional', 'critical purpose', 'extreme circumstances' and the 'border is closed'.
That suggests a very high bar and I have a very strong feeling that missing your partner and or the children will not cut it.
Who then might this apply to and who not?
1. Most importantly for our clients - the partner and/or dependent child of a work or student visa holder (who is currently in NZ) may be granted entry as an exception so long as the offshore (not in NZ) visa holder 'normally' resides in NZ. This suggests if you have previously visited NZ, your partner or parent is still in NZ, you may be in with a shot. Without wishing to burst any bubbles, I don't think they will say yes but it may be worth a crack.
If however you have never used the temporary visa you hold to travel to NZ, you will not be approved.
2. Those who have been granted a resident visa but never used it to travel to NZ will not be allowed to enter - unless one of the the criteria in point 3 below applies.
3. Partners, dependent children and legal guardians of:
i. New Zealand Citizens or permanent resident visa holders may be okay, and
ii. New Zealand resident visa holders who are travelling to New Zealand for a second or subsequent time, may be okay and
iii. New Zealand resident visa holders whose resident visa was granted in New Zealand are okay
The kicker however is that the NZ resident or citizen party must themselves also be offshore (not in NZ) and travelling on the same flight as those with temporary visas if they are approved to travel.
There are others but these are the ones critical for our clients.
As we learn more, we will post more.
MARCH 30 - A few Visa changes
Government has today eased the work visa requirements for two groups of workers for a period of 30 days freeing them up to undertake more hours of work or to work in a role different to that specified if they hold a work visa:
Supermarket employees – only those as part of the Woolworths or Foodstuffs groups may now do any sort of work for that employer; and
Student Visa holders – where they were restricted to 20 hours per week, they no longer are (but it is not clear if there is any maximum hours of work they can work – one assumes so long as the amended employment relationship complies with all employment law, then the visa holder will be acting within these new 30 day rules.
MARCH 24 - What Visas Can Be Applied For On Partial Lockdown?
What visas can and cannot be filed?
The Resident Visa Operations Manager has confirmed this afternoon that:
1. Expressions of Interest (EOIs) under the Skilled Migrant Category can still be filed. The SMC fortnightly selection process is still underway or at least no official decisions have been made about stopping them. I do expect delays in getting Invitations to Apply (ITA), if any ITAs are generated at all. No word yet on how INZ will treat Resident Visa applications that cannot be filed within the four month deadline who have received an ITA.
2. Any Resident Visas filed (manually, in paper form, as they must be) will not be receipted nor entered into the system for allocation and processing. However, INZ will it seems ’deem it to have been lodged’ subject of course to checking in due course it meets the mandatory requirements to be receipted and accepted for processing.
3. Temporary visas - work, student and visitor - can still be filed electronically. I think it reasonable to expect delays in processing….
(i) Any person with a temporary visa expiring before 1 April must file a new application prior to 1 April. This needs to be done online. No information on what evidence INZ is expecting to accompany it e.g. are applicants for a work visa for example expected to provide evidence of labour market shortages? No idea…. Minimum lodgement requirements for a visa to be accepted under the Act is form (online), fee, passport sized photo (jpeg) and passport (copy). It should be noted that what is on INZ’s website and what the PM suggested a couple of hours later was slightly different and might be interpreted in a slightly different way. What we think the message here is tough is if you are INZ and your temporary visa is going to expire before 9 July, don’t worry….
(ii) Those with temporary visas expiring between 1 April and 9 July will according to INZ’s website be granted a new visa. What they do not explain is whether that is automatic (but that is what will means) and we note they have not advised if they expect any online application to accompany that. A strict reading of their website suggests not but we learned a long time ago (like Friday) that what they publish in their rule book and on their website are often two different things.
4. Those needing to apply for a variation of conditions on a work visa (changing like job for like job in the same region) must continue to do so manually. It is logical to assume that these applications will be held till the Department re-opens. I am giving the advice to our clients that they take up the new role. I am giving that advice because I know our applications are ‘decision ready’ and there is no reason for INZ not to approve it when they can.
That’s it for now folks.
Hoping the INZ Comms people get a whole lot more detailed in their advice.
MARCH 23 - NZ Complete Lockdown Wednesday
Last Thursday the NZ Government closed our borders to travel only to New Zealand citizens and residents.
A few hours ago, the Prime Minister announced New Zealand will be in full lockdown by Wednesday afternoon for a period of four weeks (initially). This means the immediate closure today of all non-essential businesses. Schools will be closed from Wednesday.
I think in the end the Government just couldn’t get through to enough people how grave this situation is.
Everyone in the country will be expected to isolate (individually or in self isolating groups) from today. This means an extended ‘staycation’. We are not prisoners in our homes, we are allowed to go out for walks and exercise for example but we must only do it with those people that we are isolation with. And stay 2 m metres away from others.
Supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals and pizza parlours will remain open. Just joking. Anywhere where people gather inside or outside is now closed for the next four weeks including pizza restaurants, all bars, restaurants, theatres, gyms - all those communal places that you might imagine - anywhere human beings may gather in any sort of numbers.
This is drastic and even though there was only 100 reported cases earlier today including two believed to be community spread, the Prime Minister has acted decisively and sensibly in my view. As I indicated on Friday in my blog the government has announced further support mechanisms for business owners and their employees.
If we don't do those the Prime Minister stated the medical advice is that ‘tens of thousands of New Zealanders’ would have died. Reading between the lines she still expects many to not survive this outbreak but it does appear that we have got well ahead of where countries like the US, Italy and dare I say it, South Africa are likely to be in the coming weeks.
We are basically cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world apart from freight and the travel of essential personnel across the border.
Obviously clients have a million questions but one million is probably at least one fewer than we have right now. Here is what we can tell you:
1. The Immigration Department has been woeful in their communications over all of this. We know through ‘out of office’ auto replies a number of Managers are not in the branches and a few minutes ago I was advised by a senior official that all staff will now be sent home. I have been told in the past few minutes INZ is closed for business. He awaits advice from the Minister over what functions might continue - the rest are on holiday. I am told the only parts of INZ that are ‘essential business’ is their border unit. Visa processing onshore has now halted. Offshore offices might have some limited processing but given the border is closed it is hard to see the point….
2. Later this evening the Prime Minister will issue an ‘epidemic notice’. What this means is under the Epidemic Preparation Act 2006, anybody who is in New Zealand and whose Visa expires cannot become unlawful. Anyone then reading this in the country who cannot file another application or who has and which now will not be processed, for whatever reason - can stay in the country without fear.
3. Some clients, already in NZ and looking for jobs, are asking us whether they should stay on their visitor visas or head home. We cannot give a blanket answer to that one as everyone’s circumstances are different. The reality is they cannot become unlawful if they feel safer in New Zealand than in other countries (and again I'm thinking specifically of South Africa and my grave fears for how Covid-19 is going to unfold there). Those on visitor visas are not going to have access to the health system beyond the normal accident related issues should they have one but again you must weigh up the realities of what happens when, not if, our hospitals are overwhelmed with New Zealanders needing a bed. It has to be questionable how many employers are going to be offering too many people too many jobs for a number of months. You need to weigh up how long your money will last, what financial or family support you might have here.
4. We have a number of clients who have been separated from their family who want to know if those family members overseas can fly and join them. According to the published rules where one partner is in New Zealand on a work or student visa and the rest of the family is offshore with visas of their own, they can fly - but all our clients trying to fly have been prevented from doing so. We have a number of clients separated by the virus and the border closure desperate for clarity. This is what the rule book says:
1. Humanitarian reasons
2. Essential health workers as confirmed by the Ministry of Health
3. Other essential workers as defined by the New Zealand Government
4. Citizens of Samoa and Tonga for essential travel to New Zealand
5. Partners or dependants of a temporary work or student visa holder, and currently resident in New Zealand where the temporary work or student visa holder is currently in New Zealand.’
Although, in point 5 above, the second part of the sentence is absolute gibberish, the first part is very clear. If you are not in New Zealand but you hold a temporary visa and your partner, or in the case of a dependent child, is in New Zealand currently on a work or student Visa you should on a case by case basis, as an exception, be allowed to board your flight to New Zealand.
We have begged the Immigration Department to clarify this because point 5 above is pretty simple to understand… if anyone is overseas looking to join a partner who is in New Zealand on a temporary work or student visa, and who goes to the airport to check-in, you can expect the airline to call the Immigration Department in New Zealand and while the answer should be that you should be able to travel - they probably won’t let you.
No one can tell us why.
Either we don’t understand English, the rule as written is incorrect or the airlines have been told something different.
What infuriates me is what happens to clients that should have been allowed to fly but were kept out by incorrect advice being given to airline staff, if indeed the idea was they should have been able to come to NZ.
Although there is an awful lot happening at the moment in New Zealand and I'm sure these government agencies are busy, we are mortified that we are all being left in the dark not just in terms of who can still travel to New Zealand but what is happening inside the department itself. It is shameful.
Stay tuned for more updates as we can provide them.
MARCH 19 #2 - Exceptions to the Border Closure
Following on from our newsflash of a few minutes ago, INZ has just posted a very hastily written piece of advice on their INZ website which seems to contradict what the Prime Minister said earlier today. The website states and I quote verbatim:
‘Exceptions can be made on a case by case basis by Immigration New Zealand for:
The holder of a visitor visa who is the partner of (sic) dependent of a temporary work or student Visa holder and who normally lives in New Zaland (sic) and is currently in New Zealand’
There are a number of obvious questions that I have sought answers to including:
1. Is there a formal process to gain an exception and what is the process?
2. Why only visitor visas or is this a typographical error or omission? There are plenty of clients who have partnership work visas for example who I don’t imagine the government meant to exclude.
3. How do we define “who normally lives in New Zealand’?
I have sought some answers from a very senior manager in charge of temporary visas and as soon as we know the answer we will come back to everyone. I do believe that if you do hold a valid temporary visa of any kind and your partner is in New Zealand then they’re not trying to exclude those people.
Presumably however they will require the recently arrived family to go into isolation but I suspect it will be a small price to pay.
Until we can find out more…..
MARCH 19 - NZ Border Closure
At 6 pm New Zealand time the Prime Minister of New Zealand announced that the border is being closed to all non-New Zealand citizens and non (permanent) resident Visa holders, effective 11.59 tonight NZ time.
She has not given any indication how long this ban on people entering will be in place.
Anybody who is “en route to New Zealand” is not covered by the ban and will be allowed to enter. What we cannot tell anyone is if that means your last airport if you are transitting to the country e.g Sydney or where you started your journey e.g. Johannesburg. The not unexpected bombshell (rumours have been swirling al day) is a little short on detail.
It should be noted that anyone who is in New Zealand on a work, visitor or student Visa and who was expecting a partner and/or children to join them, needs to understand this will now no longer be possible. The government has only said that medical personnel and limited “humanitarian" cases will be exempt. Again, no detail on what constitutes humanitarian but I don’t expect it will mean partners and children of those in New Zealand on temporary visas.
I’m hopeful there will be more detail available to us in the morning New Zealand time and I urge you to contact your lead consultant here IMMagine.
I do know the only way we are going to get rid of this virus is for everybody to self isolate, practice strict ’social distancing’ and this is one part of the NZ Government’s plan to ensure the health of New zealandrs and it is a prudent decision which will lead to the quickest way of ridding ourselves of the virus.
MARCH 14 - Mandatory self-isolation for all travellers to NZ from Sunday night
In the interests of getting ahead of the breaking news we are sending this message to all our clients. I intend for all our clients to be contacted who might be affected by this on Monday when the team is in the office and you are welcome to email your lead consultant (or me) any questions you might have in the meantime.
A couple of hours ago the NZ Government announced all passengers arriving in NZ will be required to ‘self isolate’ for 14 days. This takes effect at midnight tomorrow (Sunday).
This is not a travel ban.
Only those travelling on Iranian and Chinese passports or who are transiting through those countries en route to NZ (if that is even possible today) are actually banned from entering New Zealand. Everyone else remains welcome once they’ve done their 14 days of laying low.
We await further details of exactly what self isolation means. I am still in South Africa along with my wife and youngest son and we won’t be home till the new isolation rule is put in place so we are going to find out soon enough but clearly it is going to be a voluntary thing and it’s more ‘taking one for the team’ than anything the Government can actually control. I am assuming that we will still be able to head out to the supermarket and pharmacy (although of course you can order everything you need online and have it delivered in NZ). And I’m not sure how anyone could be stopped anyway….
Part of me says this is an over reaction. Here in South Africa there has been one reported case of the coronavirus although I am sure there are many more not yet reported. The reality is I’d have more chance of getting the virus if I was working in my Melbourne, Australia office!
Another part of me says it is better that we take the hard economic hit this will undoubtedly cause and come out of the ‘pain’ sooner than those countries stiff faffing around (like the US) or who moved too slow and too late (Italy).
I wish everyone though would just listen to the science here - this virus DOES NOT KILL 98% of those that get it. Hells bells, even Tom Hanks thought he just had a cold!
The fact is however the government has made this move and we need to live with it.
To those clients planning on travelling to find jobs our advice it so ‘keep calm and carry on’ with the plan. Getting jobs takes 6-12 weeks for the vast majority of our clients so spending the first 14 das getting over jet lag, chilling and starting to apply for jobs online is not going to be too much of an inconvenience.
Share this post
In-depth analysis and clear explanation of the situation .