Auckland, June 29, 2020
Partners and other first-time visitors whose visas have expired may have to wait for a length of time before seeking to enter New Zealand, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has said.
Many persons who were married last year have obtained temporary (Visit) visas to join their spouses in New Zealand. The validity of almost all these visas have since expired and Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has advised them that the will not be renewed.
All of them will be required to apply for fresh visas.
But the problem is that fresh visas applications are not being considered now.
As per the directives of host governments, New Zealand’s diplomatic missions (that include Trade missions and Immigration) in most countries (including India) have been shut down due to Covid-19 lockdown and immigration issues are now being handled from five centres in New Zealand.
The exact number of such people waiting overseas is not known but it is likely to be in thousands. Based on current pressures, it may take years for partners to arrive in New Zealand. These include those under ‘Culturally Arranged Visas.’
“Immigration rules do not permit reissue of visas to applicants who are unable to travel to New Zealand. My sympathies are with both New Zealanders in New Zealand and their partners and members of their families overseas. We as a government want to be honest and upfront. It will take some more time before we consider reissuing visas, especially those who have not been in New Zealand earlier,” he told Indian Newslink last night during a telephonic interview.
Obligation to New Zealanders
Mr Lees-Galloway said that the government has an obligation towards New Zealand citizens and permanent residents who are keen to return to this country.
“We are in extremely uncertain times and the Covid-19 pandemic continues to grip the world. Thousands of people are dying every day. New Zealand is seen as a safe country since we have been able to contain the virus and there has been no community transmission for many weeks. An increasing number of New Zealanders living overseas are therefore keen to return to their homeland,” he said.
“It may be possible at a later stage to allow partners and family members. But this is not possible in the short-term. It is a medium-term solution,” he said.
It is understood that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in consultation with various governments to arrange special flights to bring back stranded New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.
Three such flights, operated by Air New Zealand, were arranged from India in June. Some New Zealanders returned via Sydney or Melbourne in Australia as a part of Trans-Tasman cooperation arrangements.
Air India has also been operating special flights to New Zealand to carry home stranded Indian nationals and others on need-based, humanitarian grounds. These flights also brought home New Zealand citizens and permanent residents stranded in India.
Two more Air India flights will leave Auckland for Delhi on July 1 and July 3, 2020.
The Indian High Commission in Wellington has been working in conjunction with various departments of the New Zealand and Indian governments to operate these services.
It is not known if more flights will be operated in the coming weeks.
Mr Lees-Galloway said that Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been regularly following up with him on the measures that are being taken to facilitate the return of an estimated 10,000 migrant workers (a majority of them from South Asian countries) with valid work visas.
“I feel for migrant workers caught up overseas. We are developing a policy but it can be implemented only when our Managed Isolation and Quarantine capacity is increased. We are unable to provide a time-frame but it is obvious that bringing back all of them would take considerable time,” he said.
It is understood that the quarantine capacity is being increased from 200 to 500 a day with the overall capacity moving up to 7000.
Mr Lees-Galloway advised migrant workers stranded overseas to carefully consider their options.
“We are experiencing the adverse impact of Covid-19. Thousands of people have lost their jobs and many more are likely to follow. Those affected could include migrant workers since employers in New Zealand would be required to provide jobs to New Zealanders first,” he said.