The Government has changed New Zealand’s visa rules so new residents stranded overseas because of Covid-19 will be able to hold on to their residency status.
The new settings mean than anyone 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, February 2 this year – when travel restrictions began – will be issued a new visa, also valid for 12 months.
Under the current settings, once someone is granted a resident visa they must travel to New Zealand within a certain timeframe to have it activated.
But the border restrictions have prevented many people from returning to New Zealand and, as a result, their visa has expired or is about to expire.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the new changes will provide around 5,600 resident visa holders with more certainty about their ability to come and settle in New Zealand in the future.
“The Government recognises that these individuals have recently met the requirements to be granted residence,” he said.
“If not for border closures forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, they would be living in New Zealand and contributing to our team of five million,” Faafoi said.
But he added that 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 they are now exempt from the current border restrictions if they were not previously, Faafoi said.
“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,” he said.