The New Zealand government has decided to introduce a new bill to Parliament, in order to support more efficient visa changes, amid the Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19).

The government has decided to temporarily amend immigration law in an effort to make it more flexible during the Coronavirus crisis, VisaGuide.World reports.

According to the Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, the bill would offer pragmatic solutions, adding that one of the practical challenges is to quickly manage visa changes for large numbers of migrants who are unable to leave New Zealand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The  new bill introduces eight time-limited powers:

  • Impose, vary or cancel conditions for classes of temporary-entry visa holders
  • Vary or cancel conditions for classes of resident-class visa holders
  • Extend the expiry dates of visas for classes of people
  • Grant visas to individuals and classes of people in the absence of an application
  • Waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application
  • Waive the requirement to obtain a transit visa
  • Suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit expressions of interest in applying for visas by classes of people
  • Revoke the entry permission of people who arrive either on private aircraft or marine vessels (to align them with people who arrive on commercial flights, who can already be refused entry)

Immigration lawyer Lauren Qiu said that the new changes could potentially be a powerful tool. Qiu stressed that as INZ has a lower processing capacity during the lockdown, this could allow for a faster way to provide solutions to those who are bound to their work visas with specific conditions.

“It could offer faster solutions for migrants who are bound by their employer-specific visa conditions and have recently lost their jobs. They currently need to apply for and be granted a new work visa or a variation of conditions to update their existing visa before they can start their new job,” she pointed out.

As per temporary-entry visas, Qiu stated that the new rules could allow for some “creative ways” for immigrants stuck in New Zealand to work and earn a living. According to her, while the proposed changes can help, it is important to note that they are also very robust powers and may hinder some visa categories.

“One of the proposed changes is the ability to suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit expressions of interest in applying for visas by classes of people,” she stressed.

Qiu clarified that it could potentially prevent people from applying, adding that it could mean that if strict border restrictions remain for a while, offshore applications may be put on hold.

According to Qiu, assurances were needed about checks and balances and about having a say in the legislation.

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