September 26, 2020

5,600 residents stuck offshore to keep their residency status

The Government is making changes to help new residents stuck offshore keep their residency status while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place. This will benefit around 5,600 resident visa holders currently offshore have travel conditions that are either about to, or have recently expired.

“The Government understands the uncertainty that COVID-19 has had on a number of visa holders, particularly individuals overseas who have not been able to travel to New Zealand to activate their new resident visa, or who have been unable to return to New Zealand before their travel conditions expired,” Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said.

Individuals who are granted a resident visa must travel to New Zealand within a certain timeframe to activate their visa. However, current border restrictions have prevented many individuals being able to travel or return to New Zealand, and, as a result, their visa has expired or is about to expire.

“Individuals whose travel conditions are about to expire will receive a 12 month extension to travel to New Zealand, and those whose travel conditions have expired on or after 2 February 2020 (when travel restrictions began) will be issued a new visa, also valid for 12 months.

“These changes will provide around 5,600 resident visa holders, who have invested a lot of time and money to be granted a resident visa, with more certainty about their ability to come and settle in New Zealand in the future,” Kris Faafoi said.

Individuals will only be able to travel to New Zealand if they are exempt from the current border restrictions or have been granted an exception. Extending travel conditions for these visa holders or issuing a new visa does not mean these individuals are now exempt from the current border restrictions if they were not previously.

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“It has been important to run tight border restrictions to keep COVID-19 contained while also prioritising the return of New Zealanders. But we are now able to start making some adjustments to immigration settings which will allow a small number of people who, under normal circumstances, would have the right to come to New Zealand to know that will still be possible,” Kris Faafoi said.

Holders of a resident visa who have had their travel conditions extended or have been granted a new resident visa will be contacted by Immigration NZ (INZ) via email by the end of September. The email will be sent to the most recent email address held by INZ.

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