Auckland, September 10, 2020
Foreigners holding Residency Visas stranded overseas can have a sigh of relief since their validity has been extended by 12 months.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has said that Visas that are about to expire will be extended for another year, while those that expired on or after February 2, 2020 (the day on which travel restrictions began) will be extended for 12 months from the date of expiry.
Facilitating new arrivals
The move is to facilitate new migrants unable to arrive in New Zealand to validate their residence status, required under the Immigration New Zealand rules.
“The government understands the uncertainty that Covid-19 has had on a number of visa holders, particularly individuals overseas who have not been able to travel to New Zealand to activate their new resident visa, or who have been unable to return to New Zealand before their travel conditions expired,” Mr Faafoi said.
He said that he has exercised the powers vested in him as Immigration Minister to make the move.
“These changes will provide around 5600 resident visa holders, who have invested a lot of time and money to be granted a resident visa, with more certainty about their ability to come and settle in New Zealand in the future. The government recognises that these individuals have recently met the requirements to be granted residence. If not for border closures forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, they would be living in New Zealand and contributing to our team of five million,” Mr Faafoi said.
Covid-19 rules still apply
People will be able to travel to New Zealand only if they are exempt from the current border restrictions or have been granted an exception.
Mr Faafoi said that the extension of visa validity did not mean that people are now exempt from the current border restrictions.
“It has been important to run tight border restrictions to keep Covid-19 contained while also prioritising the return of New Zealanders. But we are now able to start making some adjustments to immigration settings which will allow people who, under normal circumstances, have the right to come to New Zealand to know that will still be possible,” he said.
Other concessions to date
These changes build on other changes made by the Minister of Immigration using his new powers under the Act, including (a) extending by six months onshore temporary work visas and those of their families due to expire by the end of 2020 benefitting about 16,500 workers and their families (b) extending onshore visitor visas that were due to expire before the end of October 2020 for five-months (c) extending Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) visas by six months for workers who are still in New Zealand and unable to return home and (d) allowing more flexible hours and roles for those RSE workers still in New Zealand.