Pragmatic changes to Immigration Act to respond to COVID-19 passed

Published: 14 May 2020

Parliament has today passed legislation to ensure that the Government can respond quickly, appropriately and efficiently to immigration issues arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020 allows us to amend the Act so we have the necessary flexibility and efficiency to address the unprecedented challenge of managing large numbers of migrants who are practically unable to leave New Zealand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or who live in New Zealand but are offshore and are facing difficulty returning," says Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway.

"I am pleased that submitters on the Bill overwhelmingly supported its policy intent."

"We have made it clearer that we won't be revoking visas or suspending onshore applications. Any special direction made under the amended Act will not disadvantage visa holders. Further, we have worked hard to ensure that the Act has the appropriate safeguards in place and that it is fit for purpose," says Iain Lees-Galloway.

The changes to the Act enable the government to amend visa conditions for groups of people and extend visas for groups of people for varying periods of time, for example so that processing of any subsequent visa applications, should people need or want to stay longer, can be staggered. They will also allow for one or more of the prescribed requirements to apply for a visa to be waived for groups of people, while stopping groups of people overseas from making visa applications when it would not be possible for them to use the visa to travel to New Zealand in any event due to border restrictions. These powers are time-limited and will be available for 12 months.

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