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Covid-19: Immigration Issues

2 April 2020

The closure of New Zealand borders means the tourism industry, and in particular Queenstown, has been hit hard.

Tourists are no longer allowed to enter New Zealand’s borders. Lack of tourists means lack of work, and tourists who are already here on a working visa are facing job losses.

Unexpected Job Loss

If you have lost your job you need to check your visa conditions. If the condition is to work at the named place which you now no longer work, you will need to change your visa by applying for a variation of conditions or a whole new work visa.

If your work visa comes with conditions you can apply to change:

  • The employer you work for
  • The job you are doing
  • The location you are working
  • How long you can study for

Even if you change the conditions of your visa, it will still expire on the same date.

What is Immigration New Zealand doing?

Immigration New Zealand are monitoring the situation and have said that they are sympathetic to those in New Zealand who are unable to return home due to the outbreak and travel restrictions.

This means individuals who are currently in New Zealand are able to apply for a further visa which will be assessed on a case by case basis against Immigration instructions.

Changes to Immigration New Zealand

Over the next 18 months, Immigration NZ will be bringing in changes that affect some employers and the migrant workers they employ. These include:

  • introducing a new employer-led visa application process that will involve 3 stages — the employer check, the job check and the worker check, and a new temporary work visa that replaces 6 temporary work visas
  • classifying jobs as low- or high-paid based on whether they are paid above or below the median New Zealand wage, instead of using a combination of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) classification and pay to determine skill bands
  • strengthening the labour market test for low-paid jobs and open access for high-paid jobs in rural regions and lists in cities
  • introducing sector agreements for a range of industries that regularly employ migrant workers, and
  • reinstating the ability for lower-paid workers to bring their families to New Zealand.

The new process will be designed over the next 18 months, so there is a lot of detail that is not yet available. This includes information about fees, processing times and evidence that employers and migrants will have to provide in support of their applications.

New Work Visas

From 2021 employers will lead the visa application process for this new visa. Before they offer you a job they must be an accredited employer and, in some cases, will have to check that no New Zealander is available to fill the role. As part of this check they may have to do a labour market test.

When you apply for the new temporary work visa, you will need to meet the normal identity, health and character checks. You will also need to show that you have the right skills and qualifications to do the job you have been offered.