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Thread: INZ visa processing during lockdown

  1. #1
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    Default INZ visa processing during lockdown

    I've received confirmation from the adviser enquiries email address that visa processing will cease after today for the lockdown. Only Border Operations and the contact centre will continue during lockdown. I will update here with any further details I receive going forward.

    INZ have advised that those with temporary visas due to expire before 1 April need to apply for a new visa online and an Interim visa will automatically be issued.

    All those already in NZ with temporary visas expiring between 1 April and 9 July will have their visas automatically extended until late September as these will be covered by the epidemic notice which comes into effect on Thursday 2 April.

  2. #2
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    Thank you, Erin. That's very helpful.

  3. #3
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    Thanks Erin. I am on Job search visa and couriered my employment agreement to INZ on Monday. The tracking id is showing that it has reached Penrose but still with the delivery guys. I am really worried if they will receive it or not. I guess they might start working on the application and job verification after July

  4. #4
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    Message sent out to licensed advisers last night from General Manager of INZ:

    Today we are moving to Alert Level 4 at 11.59pm. Like many New Zealand businesses, we are required to close our onshore visa processing offices. This significantly reduces our ability to operate, so we are only able to process a small number of priority applications.

    For all of us, this is a rapidly-evolving situation. We are currently working through our alternative working arrangements. More information about this will be available on our website soon.

    The New Zealand Government has also issued an epidemic management notice that comes into effect on Thursday 2 April 2020.
    This means travellers with a temporary visa due to expire between 2 April and 9 July 2020 will have their visas automatically extended to late September. Those expiring before 1 April 2020 who are unable to leave New Zealand must apply online for a new visa and an interim visa will be issued.

    During this time of uncertainty, we know many of you will have questions and concerns about what this and a COVID-19 Alert Level 4 will mean for immigration-related matters.
    We are continuing to provide advice to Ministers on the issues being raised and plan to send you our frequently asked questions and answers as soon as possible. These will also be published on our website, which remains your best place for up to date immigration-related information.

    You will appreciate our contact centre remains under extraordinary pressure so please only call that number for matters that are absolutely urgent.
    We will contact you again with more detail as soon as we can.

    Best regards
    Steve McGill
    General Manager – Strategy, Engagement and Education
    Immigration New Zealand | Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

    The New Zealand Government has announced that we are moving to Alert Level 4 at 11.59pm today (25 March 2020). This means that people are instructed to stay at home and all businesses except essential services and lifeline utilities must close. We are required to close our visa processing offices in New Zealand. This significantly reduces our ability to operate, so we are only able to process a small number of priority applications. This is a rapidly-evolving situation and we are currently working through our alternative working arrangements. More information about this will be available on our website soon.

    The Government has also issued an epidemic management notice that comes into effect on Thursday 2 April 2020.
    We know there are people currently in New Zealand who are unable to leave because of travel restrictions around the world. We hope that today’s announcement helps people understand the visa options during this uncertain time.

    Temporary visas can be extended
    The epidemic management notice means all temporary entry class visas can be extended for people who are currently in New Zealand. This includes:
    temporary work visa holders
    student visa holders
    visitor visa holders
    interim visa holders, and
    limited visa holders.

    We are sympathetic to individuals who are currently in New Zealand and unable to return to their home country at this time.
    If the expiry date stated in your visa is on or before 1 April 2020 you must apply for a visa online before your current visa expires.

    If you cannot provide information required by the online form, such as a new medical certificate, upload an explanation instead to complete your application.

    When you apply for a visa online it is accepted automatically. This means after you apply, you will be granted an interim visa automatically when your current visa expires. An interim visa will allow you to remain lawfully in New Zealand for six months.

    Travellers with a temporary visa due to expire between 2 April and 9 July 2020 will have their visas extended to late September. Confirmation of extensions will be emailed to all visa holders.

    If travel plans have changed due to the travel restrictions, visa holders can request a change to their travel dates and visa conditions or apply for a new visa. Visa fees or levies paid for completed applications will not be refunded or deferred for another visa.

    We are aware that some individuals may wish to apply for a change of visa conditions. We are currently working through the options for this and will contact you soon with more information.

    Transiting
    The Government has decided that for a time-limited period people who meet certain requirements will be able to transit New Zealand. The details and conditions for transit are on our website.

    Travellers are not required to register transit intentions. However they must contact their airlines and other travel providers for the most up-to-date information about flight availability, transit and entry eligibility for areas affected by border measures.

    Entry restriction exceptions
    Exceptions to the border closure can be made on a case-by-case basis by Immigration New Zealand for:
    humanitarian reasons
    health and other essential workers
    citizens of Samoa and Tonga for essential travel to New Zealand
    the holder of a visitor visa who is the partner or dependant of a temporary work or student visa holder and who normally lives in New Zealand and is currently in New Zealand.

    If travellers have a valid New Zealand visa and think they may be eligible for an exception, they can contact their airline.

    No other foreign traveller can enter New Zealand. Returning residents and citizens must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival.

    Information about exceptions
    Travel to and from the Pacific Islands
    New Zealand citizens from Tokelau, Cook Islands and Niue travelling to New Zealand must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival.
    Travellers to the Pacific Islands must meet the entry requirements of the country they are travelling to. Check flight availability and entry requirements before starting your journey. Health Officers are screening travellers from New Zealand to the Pacific Islands. Airlines will not allow any passenger with COVID-19 symptoms to board.
    Safe Travel | Pacific Island countries

    Detention
    The notice also affects people in immigration detention by:
    resetting all warrants of commitment that were in place on the date the notice takes effect to have a validity of 28 days from the issuing of the warrant of commitment if it was issued for a shorter duration
    allowing certain detention matters dealt with in the District Court to be dealt with on the basis of documents only (a person will not need to be brought before a judge)
    excluding time spent in detention during the period of the notice when calculating whether a person has been in detention continuously for 6 months
    allowing court imposed conditions placed on individuals detained under the Immigration Act 2009 but released on conditions by a judge, to be varied by agreement without returning to the court

    The Epidemic Management Notice has been made under section 8(1) of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006.

    Health measures
    Health Officers are screening all travellers arriving in New Zealand. Travellers deemed high risk will be assessed.
    Warning: Travellers must obey self-isolation rules and any other government health measures.
    New visa conditions: Visa holders who do not comply with instructions from a Health Officer can be detained and deported.

    Visa processing information
    Residents with expired travel conditions cannot travel to New Zealand. They may apply for reinstatement of resident visa travel conditions.

    Check our website
    We are currently receiving a significant number of calls and emails.
    Our website is the best place for up-to-date immigration-related information. We are updating this regularly.

  5. #5
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    May 2017
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    I know that at this point it is a guessing game, but what do you guys think about NZ going into level 3 and INZ resuming processing SMC applications?

    https://covid19.govt.nz/alert-system/alert-level-3/

  6. #6
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    I can't say what INZ will or won't do, but I believe that their focus should be on supporting actions to get the economy up and running again. At the same time, they'll have to implement significant social distancing to get staff back in offices processing visa applications.

    To this end, I believe that INZ should only process onshore applications for new Work Visas, or a variation of Work Visa conditions, under Level 3. With a whole bunch of people who will be needing to change roles or find new employment, getting those applications processed as priority will be in the national economy's interest (don't forget that most Work Visas have conditions limiting the work that may legally be performed under them).

    All other visa applications can, in my opinion, remain on hold until Level 2 -- unless INZ staff can safely work from the office under Level 3 conditions. The safety and wellbeing of INZ staff has to be put above visa processing right now.

    Also, I believe that, due to the border restrictions, INZ should consider lapsing all offshore applications in progress (including offshore Resident Visa applications), and issuing refunds to those affected. There's no point in issuing visas to people (and therefore no point in even processing their applications) who can't enter the country due to the border restrictions, and those border restrictions are likely to remain for the foreseeable future. I believe the fair thing to do is to therefore lapse those applications, refund the fees paid for them, and let those applicants re-apply when the border is reopened.
    Last edited by Kelerei; 16th April 2020 at 05:56 PM.

  7. #7
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    Purely speculation
    I have a feeling you're going to find INZ will look to first process visas that do not have an attached employer and are unlikely to have things that require clients to provide additional information.

    Think onshore partnership, onshore post study work visas and onshore student visas. The decisions on these will be quite easy as a lot of these groups will trend towards younger people. Younger people as a generalisation are more likely to be healthier and therefore won't require follow up tests to be done by doctors etc. The open work nature of these visas also means that they don't have to dive into complex issues regarding the economy.

    The problematic areas will be in places such as visitor, VOC's and specific work visas.

    In the residence space, I think it's more likely to be partnership than SMC because partnership can be done online, so officers will have less contact with each other and could just discuss cases at a distance, unlike the physical files like SMC which require handling etc, in partnership there is no sustainability questions to be asked, although the impact of being locked down with their partner for 28 days may have changed things.

    I wouldn't hold out hope that suddenly SMC is going to resume, I think they'll be looking elsewhere for easy wins first before tackling the difficult space of SMC.

  8. #8
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    I think their first course of action needs to be to figure out what applicants even need looking at. So many things will have changed for so many people now, partnerships may have ended in lockdown, employment offers withdrawn or people made redundant, all of which technically now don't meet criteria for their applications, this will apply to current work visas and residency applications.

    I'm not expecting them to throw all of those out but they will need to figure out how many of those are still valid then figure out what to even do with them, it seems silly to process those as they are and waste case officers time for something with such drastic changes to circumstances that under the regulations when they applied will now be rejected, but without knowing the scale of the problem they will struggle to make an informed decision. Part of me wonders if they might essentially follow up on and relodge every application in certain categories and defer those who don't meet the original application criteria until they know the extent of the problem, they may opt to vary conditions on work visas to then allow those people to seek alternative employment with a view to unfreeze their application should they find suitable work in the next 12 months.

    If I've learnt anything from the last 16 months it's not expect INZ to do the logical rational thing, they are kings of left field and it wouldn't surprise me if they just completely ignore this entire situation and return to processing as normal when they are allowed to while the minister discusses changes to happen at some point in 2021.

  9. #9
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    You would expect them to prioritise onshore applications, for the exact reasons Kelerei highlights. Even if NZ moves to Level 2 or 1 fairly swiftly I would expect the borders to remain closed for quite some time. In that context, what is the point of processing offshore applications? Surely you would want to give those already in NZ some certainty?

    I say this as someone with an onshore Partnership Residency Visa application waiting to be processed, so obviously self-interest plays a part in my reasoning. Having said that I don't think it's unreasonable, in these turbulent times, to want a decision ASAP so that my partner and I have some certainty.

    Who knows what will happen, though?

  10. #10
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    To be honest looking at how INZ has operated ever since I arrived in the country back in 2017 and have gone through 2 separate visa application processes during the "normal times" I have absolutely no illusion that anything will pick up for us SMC on-shore applicants. Once they re-open (I'm assuming only once we're back to Level 2) INZ will be overwhelmed with variation of conditions applications and we shall continue living in a limbo for who knows how long with our residence applications getting pushed further and further back, as NZ's focus will be provide employment opportunities for kiwi's first and then look at shortages for migrants to fill (if any). Obviously, nobody knows what's going to happen and I'm lucky to have retained my full time job during these strange times, but my heart goes out to everyone who hasn't and will be in for an even longer and more complicated process once the processing picks up again.

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