5 May 2020 – Immigration (Covid-19 Response) Amendment Bill

The Immigration (Covid-19) Amendment Bill had its first reading last night in Parliament and is due to become law by the end of next week. The Bill gives the Government 8 limited-time powers in order to achieve flexibility to deal with the immigration matters of large groups of people at the same time, such as the ability to:

  • impose, vary or cancel conditions for classes of temporary entry class visa holders
  • vary or cancel conditions for classes of resident class visa holders
  • extend the expiry dates of visas for classes of people
  • grant visas to individuals and classes of people in the absence of an application
  • waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application
  • waive the requirement to obtain a transit visa
  • suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit Expressions of Interest in applying for visas by classes of people
  • revoke the entry permission of people who arrive either on private aircraft or marine vessels (to align them with people who arrive on commercial flights, who can already be refused entry).

Examples given by the Minister of Immigration for when these new powers could be used included:

– making changes to visa conditions in order to allow work visa holders to be redeployed to a different employer or location

-allowing offshore visa holders more time by which they are required to arrive in NZ for the first time on their current visa

– the ability to suspend new applications for particular visa categories until border restrictions are loosened.

While the opportunity for visa holders to change employer or location & extending arrival dates for offshore visa holders are positive moves, I’m a little wary of the ability for applications of certain types to be suspended – selection of Expressions of Interest under the Skilled Migrant Category have already been suspended & I’m concerned that we’ll see the suspension of the ability to make SMC applications for a while. The ‘devil will be in the detail’ and only time will tell how this will play out for sure.