The Covid-19 pandemic has had a terrible effect on international travel which has in turn made it difficult for employers and employees relying on work visas. Unfortunately this situation has been exacerbated by Immigration New Zealand.
We have provided answers to some of the most common questions. However, please do contact Anthony Harper’s immigration team if you would like some more advice.
1 – Are there any exceptions to the travel ban?
Only New Zealand citizens and residents with valid travel conditions can enter the country. Everyone else needs to apply for special permission before travelling.
Immigration New Zealand has said that it will only give special permission to the following people to enter:
- Partners of New Zealand citizens or residents, but only if they are travelling with the New Zealand citizen or resident.
- Australian citizens or residents if they are ordinarily a resident in New Zealand.
- Dependent children of NZ citizens or residents, but again only if they are travelling with the New Zealand citizen or resident
Essential health workers, such as medical doctors, nurses, midwives, psychologists.
- Other “essential workers” who have been pre-approved by the government.
It is important to be aware that an “essential worker” does not mean anyone who has an “essential work visa”. Instead, it means that the employer has applied for special permission from a government department, which has been granted, to allow the employee to travel. It is very difficult to get this permission.
2 – Will I be deported, if I lose my job?
If your work visa stipulates a specific job and employer and you lose that job then, under the law, you are liable to be deported. This is unless you get a new job and your visa conditions are changed to allow you to take that job.
If you become liable for deportation, INZ can send you a deportation liability notice. You would have 14 days to give good reasons why you should not be deported. You then have a further 14 days, from when you get the notice, to appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal against being liable to be deported. To successfully appeal you must show that there are exceptional circumstances, of a humanitarian nature, that mean it is unjust or unduly harsh for you to be deported and that it would not be against public interest to allow you to stay.
We understand that INZ is not yet starting the deportations process against migrants who lose their jobs. However, if you do lose your job and cannot find another one, it would be best to leave New Zealand as soon as you can and certainly before the appeal time-frame expires. If you cannot leave because there are no flights, you should advise INZ of this and get legal advice.
If you lose your job, you won’t be immediately deported but it is important that you get advice as soon as possible. Firstly, get employment law advice about the redundancy. Followed by speaking to an experienced immigration lawyer if necessary.
3 – How do I apply to change my visa if I have found a new job?
You need to apply for a Variation of Conditions. The application form can be found here: Variation of Conditions form. At the moment, the application needs to be sent by post.
You need to include a certified copy of your passport, your proposed new employment agreement and a completed Employer Supplementary Form from your employer.
Immigration New Zealand are prioritising these applications, so the application should hopefully be processed fairly quickly.
Don’t forget that under the current rules, you cannot vary your visa if you are moving to a different area in New Zealand or if you are changing your occupation. In either of these cases, you need to apply for a new visa.
4 – I applied for residency months ago, when will the application be decided?
It is very difficult to know. However, INZ is now prioritising residency applications for people who are in New Zealand.
5 – If I lose my job, will my residency application still be approved?
If your resident visa application is based on your job and you lose that job, the application will be declined. This is unless the government changes the law, which it now has the power to do.
If you think you will likely lose your job, the best thing to do is try to get the same type of job with another employer. You need to update Immigration New Zealand about your new job and of course get your visa changed, as explained above.
6 – My work visa has been extended until 25th September. Should I wait until then to apply for a new one?
It is difficult to be sure, as the laws may change between now and then. However, it could be better to renew your work visa now. There are likely to be a lot more New Zealanders looking for work later in the year. This could mean that your employer will be unable to support your work visa application because they can find a New Zealander for the job instead.
Nicola Tiffen heads Anthony Harper’s immigration team. The team provides expert immigration solutions to employers and individuals alike. For further information, visit www.anthonyharper.co.nz. Or contact Nicola Tiffen at firstname.lastname@example.org.