On 5 May 2020, the Minister of Immigration presented an urgent Immigration Bill to Parliament to ensure that the Government can respond appropriately and efficiently to the COVID-19 outbreak by providing additional flexibility in the immigration system.
The Immigration (Covid-19) Response Amendment Bill will enable the government to amend visa conditions for groups of people, extend visas for groups of people for varying periods of time (enabling processing to be staggered), stop people overseas from making visa applications while it is not possible to travel to New Zealand due to border restrictions, and provide the ability to refuse entry to people who are deemed to hold a visa.
Work visa holders
As it was already discussed in our last article (Post-lockdown: Impact on migrant workers), we could expect many migrant workers to lose their jobs. In fact, some of our clients have already indicated plans to lay off some staff, the majority of whom are migrant workers.
In order to address the increasing number of job losses, the Bill will be useful to amend employer specific conditions of work visas. This means unemployed migrant workers might be able stay in New Zealand, especially those who are unable to return to their home country due to border closures. If these workers are able to stay in New Zealand, then other industries that rely heavily on migrant labour will be able to find more workers within the country.
Given the number of business permanently shutting down, work visa holders could struggle find a new job suitable to their skills. Even if they are fortunate enough to find a new job, their pathway to residency might be affected unless they re-train and are able to match their qualifications and previous work experience with their new found job.
Student visa holders
There is a possibility that the Bill may affect international student visa holders who were given the right to work part time while studying. With the increasing rate of unemployment in New Zealand, international students might lose their right to work as the government fills vacant jobs with New Zealand residents or citizens.
On the one hand, we understand the significance of this legislation in helping to manage the backlog of visa applications being processed (even before the Covid-19 crisis began). In addition, the Bill will give Immigration New Zealand a way to prevent any foreseeable problems in late September when all the visas that were automatically extended under the Epidemic Management Notice expire.
On the other hand, this new Bill as discussed above could be of concern to working migrants, their employers, and international students.
This Bill is set to become law on Friday, 15 May 2020.
If you require any specific immigration advice that may affect your current visa or future application due to these changes to New Zealand immigration policies, please contact Oneal Mendoza (email@example.com) or one of our lawyers to assist you.
The advice above is current at the time of writing, 9 May 2020. This article is published for general information purposes only. Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice