Immigration lawyer Aaron Martin assesses the impact of the announcement of the epidemic notice for migrants.

Immigration New Zealand announced that the government epidemic management notice relating to immigration matters comes into effect on 2 April 2020.

The epidemic management notice means that all visas that are current at the time the management notice starts (2 April), and would normally expire within 14 days after 25 June (which is the date on which the notice expires), will continue to be considered as a current visa allowing migrants to stay in New Zealand, until 25 September 2020.

In short, any person currently in New Zealand holding a temporary visa which expires between 2 April and 9 July, gets an automatic extension to their visa until 25 September.

This will ease pressure on migrants, their employers, and their families during the coronavirus crisis and the level 4 lockdown.

New online application process leaves those on interim visas with uncertainty

The Immigration New Zealand website stated that everyone who has a visa (including interim and limited visas) due to expire between now and 1 April needs to immediately apply for a new visa using the online system. The online application will be accepted and an interim visa issued to allow applicants to remain in New Zealand.

However, the online system does not let you apply for a visa of a different class or type while you hold an interim visa. Immigration New Zealand subsequently indicated that interim visas will just be extended.

Limited visas normally cannot be extended unless the original purpose for which the visa was issued has not been completed.

It appears there will be an exception to this rule as a consequence of the current crises but, again, as IMZ has subsequently detailed on their website that Limited Visas will be extended without the need for further application to be made.

Temporary visas that expire between 2 April and 9 July 2020 will automatically be extended to 25 September 2020.

Immigration New Zealand is still working through the options for temporary visa holders in this group who wish to change the conditions of their visa, so keep an eye on the website.

 The important point to remember is: if your visa expires before 1 April you must immediately apply for a new visa using the online system.

What I find curious is: why is the start date 2 April 2020? Maybe this is timed for when almost all international airline services globally will largely come to an end.

It would have assisted a great number of people if the start day had been same day the lockdown started, Thursday 24 March, rather than next week. It would also significantly ease the burden of work for Immigration New Zealand.

Recently our Prime Minister spoke to Australian PM Scott Morrison about providing some relief to New Zealanders who are not eligible for welfare payments in Australia because they arrived after February 2001 and are considered 'non-protected special category visa-holders'.

Just as we would like compassion to be extended to the Kiwis In Australia (and those who are stuck overseas unable to return due to cancelled flights), we need to consider those overseas tourists, migrant workers, and international students who are stuck here, and extend to them the same kindness we would hope to receive in that situation.

Aaron Martin – Principal Immigration Lawyer at New Zealand Immigration Law.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are of the author's and does not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.