On 17 April 2020 Immigration New Zealand (INZ) announced that they are now able to start the gradual transition to a fuller service. As a result they can now begin processing some visa categories for applicants who are already in New Zealand.
Most New Zealand employers and their migrant employees will be aware that all INZ offices are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some INZ staff are working out of the INZ head office in Wellington and some are working remotely, however visa processing capacity is currently severely limited and will likely remain limited even when New Zealand moves into Alert Level 3. This is because INZ do not have appropriate capability to deliver their essential services remotely even under Alert Level 3.
To date INZ has focused their processing resources on COVID-19 related applications but are now moving some capacity to start to process the following visa applications:
- Visas for victims of domestic violence
- Partnership category temporary visas (including reassessments)
- Full fee paying international student visas
- Post study work visas
Priority will be given to these application types in the order listed but INZ advised the assessments of these applications or requests may take longer than usual. Applications will generally be assessed in date order and will be allocated to an Immigration Officer as soon as possible.
Applicants will only be contacted if further information is required or once a decision is made on their application. If additional information is required, no deadline will be set to provide this information as INZ appreciates it may be difficult to obtain documentation in current circumstances.
INZ will not be generally processing application types outside of this list at this time, but immigration officers will retain the discretion to prioritise other applications where the circumstances of the application require particular urgency.
INZ has not however provided any guidance as to the factors which may affect immigration officers’ discretion to prioritise other types of applications. We do however expect these decisions only in exceptional cases where a genuine need for prioritisation may exist.
INZ mentioned they will continue to review their priorities and are hopeful they will be able to process more visa types in the near future, however what is clear is a preference to not process any visa applications that are subject to a labour market test at this stage. We would expect resumed processing of those applications at the conclusion of the 12 week Government wage subsidy for employees.
The advice above is current at the time of writing (20 April 2020) and in some instances, represents our predictions of what we expect to see from INZ in policy developments. However, the COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving and so is INZ’s advice. Therefore, our advice would be to keep an eye out for future alerts and updates as more information becomes available. Also, if you need any specific immigration advice then please get in touch with our expert team.
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