Covid-19 immigration powers to be extended

Temporary COVID-19 immigration powers will be extended to May 2023, providing continued flexibility to support migrants, manage the border, and help industries facing labour shortages, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi announced today.

“Over the past year, we have had to make rapid decisions to vary visa conditions, extend expiry dates, and waive some application requirements across entire visa categories. These decisions have provided more flexibility and certainty to visa holders and employers in New Zealand, and made more migrants available for industries facing labour shortages in a time when New Zealand’s Covid-19 health response needed our borders to be closed,” said Kris Faafoi.

“We have been able to make these necessary changes under the Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill, which expires in May 2021.

“Today, I have introduced a Bill to maintain those powers until 2023.

“The Bill will go through a short Select Committee process and is expected to pass in May.”

Immigration Ministers have used the powers to benefit classes of migrants 18 times, including:

  • Extending visas for 22,500 workers and families members to give more certainty to them and their employers
  • Providing 5,600 offshore resident visa holders more time to come to New Zealand and activate their visas
  • Extending 16,600 visitor visas to give people more time to secure ways to return home, and allowing all visitors the opportunity to study or attend school while here
  • Extending 7,800 working holiday visas and easing conditions to allow holders to work in industries like horticulture
  • Waiving certain application requirements for transit passengers and, more recently, for RSE workers

“New Zealand is making good progress on the vaccines roll out. More will be announced next week regarding a travel bubble with Australia. And we continue to prepare for the eventual safe re-opening of our borders. But we know that COVID-19 is still widespread overseas, and it will take time for other countries to get the virus and its variants under control.

“The extension to 2023 ensures our immigration system can continue to be responsive and flexible, if needed, over the next couple of years.

“The Bill keeps in place existing safeguards. The powers can only be used for COVID-19 related matters and generally must benefit – or at a minimum, not disadvantage – visa holders,” Kris Faafoi said.