The impact of Covid-19: Changes to NZ Immigration Policy



The Covid-19 pandemic has had an undeniable impact on NZ Immigration policy. Over the past year and a half, Immigration NZ has made many immigration policy changes that affect NZ migrants, residents, and international travellers. From delayed visa processing to strict border control, learn more about these unprecedented changes below.


Delayed Processing Times for Resident Visas & EOIs

Processing of resident visa applications in NZ has always been a time-consuming process, but the impact of Covid-19 has increased the processing times dramatically. There are currently around 13,000 skills-based residence visa applications waiting to be processed, with a limited number of immigration officers available to process them. Expressions of Interest (EOIs) under the Skilled Migrant Category are also suspended, which has had a significant impact on the New Zealand skilled migrant work force. These delays have led the government to introduce a 2021 Resident Visa to fast track people who have been sitting in the Skilled Migrant queue for almost two years and are currently working in New Zealand.


Partnership applications based on a relationship with a NZ citizen or resident continue to be processed. Investor applications are being processed but resident visas are not being issued to people offshore until the border reopens. The Parent category remains on hold with no timetable to reopen.


A Shift Towards Online Visa Processing

One of the ways Immigration NZ (INZ) has adapted to the impact of Covid-19 is by moving more visa applications online. Before Covid-19, most resident visa applications were paper based. At Alert Level 3 and 4, most NZ Immigration officers can work remotely, and can process online visa applications but not paper based residence applications (due to security risks). The shift towards online visa applications and processing activities will allow INZ to reduce costs and improve efficiency. At the moment only Partnership and Dependent Children residence applications can be lodged online. We expect more residence categories will go online during 2022. Meantime paper based applications still involve a lot of paper moving around the globe and NZ in courier bags!


The NZ Border is Closed to Most Non-Residents & Citizens

New Zealand’s immediate response to the Covid-19 pandemic was to close the border to non-residents and citizens. These tough restrictions have affected thousands of people who were planning to study or work in New Zealand. Temporary visa applications such as the student visa and visitor visa are not being accepted or processed, and this suspension will likely remain in place until the border reopens. The absence of international travellers and students has had a big impact on local tourism in NZ. The border restrictions have also affected NZ resident holders who had not activated their visas and whose travel conditions were set to expire. Only those who have been granted a travel extension will be allowed back into the country.


Strict Travel Procedures in Place

Travelling to New Zealand during Covid-19 can be very unpredictable, and travellers must prepare for disruptions to their plans. For those who can legally enter New Zealand, there are set of strict rules that all travellers must follow before and after their flight. For example, all travellers must have a managed isolation voucher and spend 2 weeks in quarantine upon arrival. Most travellers must also present a negative Covid test before their flight. From 1 November 2021 all non-New Zealand citizens must show they are fully vaccinated before boarding a flight to NZ.

Has Covid-19 Affected your Immigration Plans? Speak to Malcolm Pacific Immigration Today

If your plans have been affected by Covid-19, you are certainly not alone, and there are ways to overcome these difficult challenges. Malcolm Pacific Immigration has the largest team of licenced immigration advisers in NZ who can manage the process for you and remove uncertainties. We have solved a wide range of immigration cases, from the simple through to the complex. Get in touch today for trustworthy information and advice about NZ Immigration Policy.

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