Immigration News

Covid-19: Migrants Urged To Act Fast For Visa Applications

Migrants wanting to apply for a work visa to New Zealand urged to act fast

Potential migrants to New Zealand should act fast to apply for visas as New Zealand closes its borders to migrants from countries with outbreaks of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

The country has already put travel restrictions in place for visitors and migrants from some countries and is evaluating whether further restrictions are needed on a regular basis.

That’s prompted calls for anyone who intends on coming into New Zealand for work or study to expedite their visa applications before additional travel bans are put in place.

The need for urgency

Immigration New Zealand is reviewing which countries face travel bans every 48 hours. It has already closed its borders with some countries including China and Iran, and has suggested that people avoid travelling to Japan and South Korea unless it is essential.

Travelers from Iran have been bared since Friday 28 February while visitors from China have been banned since Monday 3 February after a Chinese man died from the virus in the Philippines.

New Zealand closed its Beijing immigration office on 24 January which had been processing around 10,000 visa applications per week making up nearly 50% of all temporary applications, Immigration New Zealand reported. The wait for a work visa application could now rise from 10 days to six weeks or so with a backlog of applications pending approval.

The Chinese office had 150 immigration officers with around 13,400 pending visa applications which are now expected to be processed by other offices. But some applications may face indefinite delays depending on whether they were paper-based or submitted electronically. Any applications from China’s citizens are unlikely to be approved.

There is normally a significant backlog of visa applications with Immigration New Zealand and this situation will only cause additional delays. If more countries are added to the banned list of countries, other New Zealand Immigration offices could close and leave more applications pending approval.

Travel ban in place for countries most affected by Coronavirus

All foreigners who have been in or transited through affected countries 14 days prior to departing for New Zealand will be denied boarding or refused entry into New Zealand. The ban currently includes everyone from Iran, Mainland China, and passengers or crew who were on board the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship unless they have been in isolation outside these areas for 14 days (336 hours) and do not show symptoms of the illness. The ban does not apply to New Zealand citizens, permanent residents or residents with valid travel conditions and their immediate family.

Any material change in a migrant’s circumstance must be declared to Immigration New Zealand. Anyone contracting COVID-19 while their work visa application is being processed must inform Immigration New Zealand of the change in their status. Migrant workers are subject to deportation after their arrival if they do not disclose that they have COVID-19.

Advice for employers

New Zealand businesses looking to employ workers from overseas during this coronavirus outbreak could face significant delays.

Employers should be getting their overseas recruits the appropriate work visas and get them into the country as quickly as possible. If a business is looking to hire overseas workers in a few months or so, they should be processing work visas right now. Delaying an application might mean that documentation has to be redone, police clearances might have to be re-issued and medical assessments might have to be repeated.

As more countries are put on the entry prohibition list, employers may find they are not able to hire workers from infected countries.

If the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic, the ability of employers to get workers into the country could be significantly constrained. Greater restrictions would likely be placed on the border depending on the status of the outbreak. Any recruitment from Asia is likely to face difficulty.

Foreigners already in New Zealand

Anyone who is already in New Zealand on a visa or work permit should check when their visa expires. If your travel back to your home country is not possible based on current travel restrictions, you should contact New Zealand Immigration immediately. Immigration is sympathetic to those in this situation and can extend visas but only on a case-by-case basis based on the current coronavirus outbreak.

The threat from the virus

The COVID-19 virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan on 31 December 2019 and is believed to have come from live wild animals sold at a local food market for human consumption. The virus has now killed more than 3600 people worldwide and infected at least 103 countries.

The New Zealand government is attempting to minimise the impact and transmission of the outbreak of Covid-19 virus in New Zealand by placing these travel bans. It is likely as more cases are reported in other countries that further travel and visa restrictions could be applied.

If you’d like help with any type of New Zealand visa application, or have any other queries, you can contact the office here.