New Zealand's efforts to eliminate the coronavirus from the country have shaken up the immigration scene enormously in the last few months. The usual flood of visitors and long-term migrants has been cut to a trickle by the border closure and the limited capacity of managed isolation facilities. Processing of temporary visas for offshore people was halted.
However, many small steps are being taken to fix - or at least to manage - the many complications that come out of the squeeze on travel either into or out of New Zealand.
In the meantime, we continue to solve the problems which people bring to us. This is our specialty, and now, more than ever before, we resolve the situations that confuse and frustrate so many people right now.
Yours sincerely Simon Laurent LaurentLaw Barristers & Solicitors
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Slowly Opening the Door
In the last couple of weeks the clampdown on migration has been eased slightly. The number of policy changes and the tweaking of exemption rules is too great to go through them all here. About the best general resource is Immigration's COVID-19 web pages That where we often go to find things out, because announcements about the changes appear there before the underlying policy has even been written.
What we can say generally is that the Government is selectively expanding the classes of people who can apply to come in, both to address the need for certain skills and in response to public concern about the social dislocation of workers and families caused by the travel ban.
It has also taken steps to manage the large numbers of people in the country whose visa status is in limbo. So, for instance, most Visitor Visas which were due to expire by the end of October 2020 have been extended automatically by 5 months. And at the time of writing, people who held Visitor Visas on 11 September can now study for up to 6 months without needing to apply for a Student Visa - including children who are domestic students. No doubt this has been done in order to help NZ's struggling education market which has been starved for international students.
These and other visa adjustments are announced suddenly and in rapid-fire order. They affect tens of thousands of individuals. People are meant to be notified by email if their visa has changed, but it is taking weeks for their visa conditions to be updated. They understandably don't know where they stand - "Does this really apply to me or not?"
One way to check if your visa conditions have been changed is to use VisaView. You need a Governmental RealMe login to do this. That system really only reflects a change that has already been made, so that it may be of help only if the email notification doesn't get to you.
Residence Appeals - the Movie
In my latest vlog I sketch out what to do if your Residence application is declined. You can appeal in 2 ways:
Immigration misapplied its own rules or processes; or
You have special circumstances which may justify getting Residence from the Minister of Immigration as an exception.
Sahar Shamia recently posted a blog explaining how partners of New Zealanders can apply to come in if they don't already have a relationship-based visa. There are 3 main paths:
The NZ partner travels with you to NZ
You can prove that your normal place of residence is NZ
You put in a request for humanitarian exemption, although the success rate on such requests is low.
Another avenue has just been opened for partners who are Australians, or from visa waiver countries, who can get an exemption without first holding a Partner visa. As with the other types of border exemption requests, it is a 2-stage process:
Complete the online Request for Travel to New Zealand form. The rules require people to provide evidence that they are in the relationship, which is difficult because you cannot upload documents, and there is a 3000 letter limit to write down your explanation;
If the Request is successful:
Australians get a visa to travel to NZ, and a Resident Visa on arrival as they did under normal times; OR
Those from visa waiver countries get an Invitation to Apply for a Critical Purpose visa.
As with many of the new post-COVID processes that have come in since March 2020, we will need to see how such visa requests are actually handled.
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