Covid-19 immigration powers to be extended

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi. File photo.

The passing of a bill to extend temporary Covid-19 immigration powers means continued flexibility to support migrants, manage the border, and help industries facing labour shortages, says Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.

“Over the past year, we’ve made rapid decisions to extend visas, vary visa conditions and waive some application requirements across entire visa categories," says Faafoi.

"These decisions have provided more flexibility and certainty to visa holders and employers in New Zealand, and made more migrants available for industries facing labour shortages.

“The Immigration (Covid-19 Response) Amendment Act 2021 has been passed by Parliament to maintain those powers until 2023.”

The Minister has used the powers to benefit classes of migrants 19 times, including:

  • Extending visas for 22,500 workers and family members, to give more certainty to them and their employers.
  • Providing 5600 offshore resident visa holders with more time to come to New Zealand and activate their visa.
  • Extending 16,600 visitor visas, to give people more time to secure ways to return home, and providing all visitors the opportunity to study or attend school while here.
  • Extending 7800 working holiday visas, and easing conditions, to allow holders to work in industries like horticulture.
  • Waiving certain application requirements for transit passengers.

“On Monday, I exercised these powers again, this time to exempt around 5500 Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme workers already in New Zealand from the need to take a day off work to undertake a chest x-ray before they apply for their next visa. This is another pragmatic use of these powers in response to the impacts of the pandemic.

“The extension to 2023 ensures our immigration system can continue to be responsive and flexible over the next few years. The law change keeps in place existing safeguards. The powers can only be used for Covid-19 related matters and generally must benefit – or at a minimum, not disadvantage – visa holders,” says Faafoi.

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