28 Aug 2020

Visa delays could make 77-year-old an overstayer

7:01 pm on 28 August 2020

One of thousands of coronavirus-stranded visitors in New Zealand says the long wait for news about extending visas has left him fearful of becoming an overstayer.

Visa application form to travel Immigration a document Money for Passport Map and travel plan

Immigration New Zealand figures from May showed almost 35,000 visitor visas and 27,000 work visas were due to expire in September. Photo: 123RF

Immigration industry sources say the government is considering another blanket visa extension, possibly with staggered expiry dates.

In April, the government extended temporary visas due to expire between 1 April and 9 July until 25 September.

Dave Ashcroft, 77, had been due to fly home to Scotland in May after visiting his daughter and grandchildren in Auckland.

He was pleased with the initial extension but has been trying in vain to get information from Immigration in the lead-up to the new visa deadline.

"As we get closer to September, I'm becoming quite nervous I must admit," he said. "As far as I can make out if I become illegal and finish up being deported then I won't be able to return to see my family for at least three years."

He would be looking to buy flights if there was no announcement in the next fortnight, but was worried it may be hard if everyone tries to buy scarce seats at the same time.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) figures from May showed almost 35,000 visitor visas and 27,000 work visas were due to expire in September, although some of those visa-holders have since left the country.

RNZ has asked for updated numbers and the immigration minister has been approached for comment.

Many people will be relieved if reports about an extension to visas were true, Ashcroft said.

"I am getting quite elderly, I'm in my late 70s," he said. "So I'm trying to enjoy the last few years - six months with the family here, six months with the family back home - and I don't want anything to spoil that."

In a statement, INZ said the government is considering options for visitor visa holders who are in New Zealand and expects to make some announcements soon.

"In July, the Minister of Immigration extended all employer-assisted temporary work visas in New Zealand due to expire before the end of 2020.

"This extension aimed to provide some immediate relief and flexibility for both migrant workers and employers in the short-term while they recover from the impacts of Covid-19 and adjust to the changed labour market conditions. Partners and dependents of employer-assisted temporary work visa holders also had their visas extended in line with this extension.

"The Minister of Immigration also recently extended RSE visas by six months for workers who are still in New Zealand, which allowed workers with visa expiry dates between 18 August and 31 December 2020 to stay and work in New Zealand for longer.

"Temporary visa holders who have not had their visas extended will need to apply for another visa that best suits their circumstances or make plans to return home before their current visa expires. All visa applications will be assessed on a case by case basis against immigration instructions against the relevant immigration instructions but INZ will also take into account the current coronavirus outbreak and any relevant travel restrictions."

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