7 July 2020

INZ Visa Extensions and Changes

INZ confirms visas will again be automatically extended (with trade-offs) and also releases the date for Essential Skills policy change.


Immigration New Zealand announced on 7 July 2020 that there are more significant updates for temporary work visa holders in New Zealand.


There are 3 key changes.


Automatic Visa Extensions


All existing employer-assisted temporary work visas for people who are in New Zealand, and whose visas are due to expire before the end of 2020, will be automatically extended by 6 months from their date of expiry. For example, if an essential skills work visa is expiring on 31 December 2020, it will be extended to 31 June 2021.


This extension also covers those visas automatically extended through to 25 September 2020 earlier this year, who will receive extensions until 25 March 2021.


Visa holders do not need to apply for this extension. It will be issued automatically.


This extension does not cover partners or dependants who will still need to apply for visas to stay lawfully in New Zealand.


The conditions of any visa being extended will remain the same. If a change is required to the location or job or employer, a Variation of Conditions or new Work Visa application will still need to be lodged.


Delay to Stand-Down Period


The 12 month stand-down period for lower-paid workers, who are nearing the end of their third low-skilled visa, will therefore not be subject to that stand-down period while their visas are being automatically extended.


The stand-down period will instead apply from when the extended visa expires. For example, a third low-skilled visa due to expire on 30 November will be automatically extended until 30 May 2021, and the stand-down period will apply from 30 May 2021 unless the visa holder becomes eligible to lodge an application for a mid-skilled visa in the meantime.


Changing employers and lodging a new application during that 6 month extension period will trigger the stand-down period, if the new employment is also low-skilled.


Shorter Visas for Low-Skilled Workers


The third change is to reduce the duration of all low-skilled Essential Skills work visas awarded as a result of an application submitted to INZ after 9 July. This policy will be in place until 10 January 2022.


The short turn-around on this implementation means there is very little benefit in submitting an application for a low skilled Essential Skills work visa now, which at best would yield a visa expiry in July/August 2021.  Whilst utilising the automatic extension with a subsequent 6 month visa will see most with visas to around the same date, if not later.


You can read more about these changes here.


Possible Risks to Waiting


While the above will certainly provide relief for many, for some it will require a weighing up of the pros and cons. A choice to wait and lodge an application later, may come with some inconveniences or risks, such as:


  1. A need to obtain a higher pay rate in order to obtain a longer visa under the new Essential Skills policy due to be released
  2. The cost and time involved in obtaining new medicals, x-rays or police certificates, if such documents become invalid in the meantime
  3. Having to ask employers for new documentation, or to advertise the position again, if this has already been completed in preparation for a new visa application, but which will be outdated by the time any extension has run its course


It would therefore be prudent to consider these factors when deciding when the best time might be for you to lodge your new visa application.


Date Confirmed for Pay Rate/ANZSCO change to Essential Skills Policy


While the official policy has not yet been released, INZ has confirmed that the date for the Essential Skills policy changes to take effect from, whereby ANZSCO will be replaced with a simple salary threshold for determining the skill level and thus the duration of an Essential Skills work visa, is 27 July 2020.


Those paid below $25.50 will require a Skills Match Report from the Ministry of Social Development as part of the labour market test process and received visas of shorter duration, while those paid $25.50 or above will not require a Skills Match Report and will be eligible for a visa of a longer duration. This is irrespective of duties.


We will provide a more detailed analysis of this policy change as soon as the official policy is released.