20 February 2021

Two changes announced to grant reprieve to visitor visa holders

The Government has announced two temporary measures impacting visitor visa holders, to grant some relief to those who are currently in New Zealand on visitor visas and who wish to remain here for longer, rather than returning to uncertain and unsafe circumstances in their home countries as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.


Those changes are as follows:


Two-month extension to visitor visas

In much the same character as the previous automatic visa extensions that have been announced (which have so far largely focused on work visa holders), those currently in New Zealand on visitor visas expiring on or before 31 March 2021 will have their visas automatically extended by 2 months. These should be confirmed via email to all eligible visitor visa holders by 5 March 2021.


Those extensions will apply from the expiry date of the current visa and will cover most visitor visa categories; notably however, it does not apply to anyone holding a special COVID-19 short term visitor visa, which were introduced in September 2020 to facilitate departure from New Zealand.


Temporary waiver of “9 in 18” rule

Ordinarily, applicants can only stay in New Zealand on a visitor visa for 9 months in any 18-month period, although this can be extended to 12 in 24 in certain circumstances. However anyone who entered New Zealand as a visitor before the border closed in early 2020 and is still here, has already exceeded this 9-month limit which would ordinarily exclude them from applying for a further visitor visa. Given the current global situation, the Government has therefore agreed to temporarily waive the “9 in 18” rule, from now until 30 June 2021, allowing those currently here to apply for a further visitor visa, despite their total stay exceeding 9 months.


Any visitors looking to stay beyond the automatic 2 month extension or whose visas expire between 31 March and 30 June (who will therefore not receive the automatic 2-month extension) can utilise this temporary waiver to submit a new visitor visa application while their current visa is still valid, to allow them a longer stay in New Zealand.


Anyone applying for a new visitor visa will still need to demonstrate that they meet all other requirements, including that they are of good health and character, and that they have enough funds to pay for their accommodation, maintain themselves while in New Zealand, and pay for their travel home at the end of their stay.


For further information on visitor visa policy and whether the above changes may impact you, please contact us.