Border exemptions allow migrant families to enter New Zealand

Venkat Raman

Venkat Raman

Auckland, April 19, 2021

First phase for health workers; flights from India still undecided

                              Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi (RNZ Screenshot)

The New Zealand government is easing its tight grip on immigration by allowing families of health workers to come to New Zealand.

However, they should follow the normal application process and re-apply.

The exemptions will come into effect on April 30, 2021.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi announced the exemption categories at a media conference in Wellington this morning, saying that ‘a small number of skilled workers will also be allowed under the exempt categories.’

No decision on flights from India

The decision will not affect or alter the government’s decision last fortnight to temporarily ban flights from India in view of the alarming rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in that country. According to World Health Organisation Statistics, India recorded more than 275,000 cases on a single day on Saturday, forcing several States to impose dusk to dawn curfew and consider lockdown in major cities.

While one news report said that the increase in the number of cases was the result of ‘aggressive testing,’ other sources attributed the rise in incidence to religious festivals and state elections which saw millions of people moving about, often not observing Covid-19 health regulations.

The federal government is however doing its best to control community spread and educate people to take the Covid-19 Vaccine and follow the pandemic restrictions.

Rights of New Zealanders to return

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a media conference this morning that her government has not taken any decision on resumption of flights from India.

“We are mindful of worsening numbers in India; but we are also aware of the rights of New Zealanders to come home and not be left stateless,” she said.

Ms Ardern said that the government is considering options for tightening up pre-departure testing in India such as reducing the time between the test and flight departure and accrediting some laboratories.

“But pre-departure quarantine within India would be very difficult to run in the current situation with Covid-19 being very rampant,” she said.

 

Jacinda Ardern on April 19, 2021 (RNZ Photo by Nate McKinnon)

 

Partners and dependent children visas

Mr Faafoi said that the border exceptions will also be for partners and dependent children of temporary visa-holder in New Zealand, who hold visas but had not yet arrived in New Zealand when the border closed. Only temporary visa holders who normally live here, but were overseas when the border closed, can currently apply for a border exception.

Some families were separated while in the process of moving to New Zealand, with some family members already here, and the other family members planning to move separately.

“We are allowing temporary migrants working in health care in New Zealand to bring their partners and dependent children. Before borders closed, many healthcare workers were able to bring their family with them when they moved to New Zealand. Those arriving now as a ‘critical healthcare worker’ are also able to bring their families,” he said.

However, Immigration New Zealand cannot process visas for people offshore, unless they have a border exception, and hence their families have not been able to apply for a visa and exception to travel here.

“With this new border exception, those working in New Zealand’s healthcare sector will once again be able to apply for visas to bring their families to New Zealand,” Mr Faafoi said.

Limited numbers

But the number of such approvals will be limited.

“This will allow skilled workers, who could come in with their families as a ‘critical worker’ if they were outside New Zealand, to bring their families to join them without having to leave the country. This limited exception will ensure we can continue to retain highly-skilled temporary workers necessary for New Zealand’s economic recovery,” Mr Faafoi said.

He said that the decision will address the concern that some temporary workers are choosing to leave the country to collect their family and re-enter with them, by allowing workers to bring their family to New Zealand without having to leave themselves.

“We continuously review our border exceptions, and we may consider further family exceptions at a later date, depending on MIQ demand. To be eligible for the new family reunification border exceptions, their family member(s) in New Zealand must have more than 12 months remaining on their visa. The normal visa and managed isolation requirements apply,” Mr Faafoi said.

Ms Ardern claimed that the exemptions are aimed at removing some inequity in the system relating to some migrants whose families had not been able to join them in New Zealand.

She said that there were currently spaces within managed isolation and quarantine.

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