4 May 2020

Covid-19: New Zealand government to grant itself visa law powers for 12 months

7:23 pm on 4 May 2020

The government is temporarily amending immigration law to make it more flexible and responsive to challenges posed by Covid-19.

Iain Lees-Galloway, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, ACC, and of Immigration.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

It will introduce a bill to Parliament tomorrow, to support more "efficient management" of visa changes.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the bill would offer "pragmatic solutions".

"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," he said.

The bill introduces eight time-limited powers allowing it to:

  • 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)

Lees-Galloway said the Immigration Act had very limited ability to deal with applicants as a class or group of individuals.

"The current Act's small number of emergency provisions were introduced at a time when New Zealand had much lower numbers of temporary migrants.

"We are finding now that the existing settings are not enough to respond appropriately where, for example, large numbers of visas need to be changed or extended at once," he said.

Lees-Galloway said a range of safeguards would be applied, including that these powers expire after 12 months.

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