April 1

Covid-19 Decisions – Temporary Visa Holders

Three months ago it was New Year’s Day.  No-one in New Zealand had heard of a virus in China called Covid-19 and many of us were making plans and resolutions for 2020.  I doubt that anyone’s plans featured a global pandemic.

In the last 3 months our World has been turned upside down.  We are all now facing great uncertainty and especially those people in New Zealand who are not New Zealand citizens or residents and therefore do not have the comfort of knowing that they can continue to live here securely.

For those among us who are here on temporary visas (Interim, Visitor, Student or Work) these are times of great stress and anxiety.  For the time being, everyone in New Zealand on a temporary visa has been given an extension of time until 25 September.   However, this time will pass, the Government will make changes to immigration policy to adapt to the new economic environment and Immigration New Zealand will start making decisions on visa applications again.

If you hold a temporary visa, what does this mean for you?

I am gazing into my Crystal Ball to try and answer these questions.

Firstly, a note of caution.  Crystal Balls are, by their nature, opaque and unreliable.  No Crystal Ball can accurately predict what a change might be and when it might occur.

What my Crystal Ball tells me is:

  • There will be a large increase in unemployment this year. Already we are seeing layoff of workers from large employers such as Air New Zealand.   Many small employers, especially in the tourism and hospitality sector, will go out of business or downsize.    This will result in a flood of New Zealand citizens and residents onto the labour market – especially in lower skilled occupations;
  • There will be a review of the Long Term Skill Shortage List. Expect to see the occupation of chef removed from the list reflecting the downsizing of the hospitality sector.   Those chefs who currently hold Long Term Skill Shortage Work to Residence Visas will most likely be allowed to work out the 2 years on their visa and then apply for a Work to Residence Visa;
  • Skilled Migrant Points for residency will increase from 160 to 180. Before the Covid-19 pandemic Immigration New Zealand was sitting on thousands of unallocated Skilled Migrant Residency Applications.  These have created a backlog of residency applications which must be assessed under current immigration instructions.   To prevent this problem worsening, expect to see an increase in Skilled Migrant Points to reduce demand for residency;
  • Many privately-owned English language schools and private tertiary institutions will fail. Many of these businesses have large overheads paying staff and property rentals.  Institutions owned by universities or other public entities such as polytechnics will survive, but possibly on a reduced basis;
  • New Zealand’s tourist sector will take 3 – 5 years to recover, assuming that international air travel resumes sometime in mid to late 2020. This means that tourist areas like Queenstown and Rotorua will suffer economically.   Jobs will be taken by Kiwis first, and so there is minimal prospect of employment in these areas in the next year or two.  Expect to see Queenstown’s special status for low-skilled work visas revoked, you will need a WINZ Skills Match Report to get a work visa for a low-skilled occupation in the Central Lakes District; and
  • Processing times will take longer. Immigration New Zealand has gone through some major stresses over the last 3 months, firstly with the shutdown of its mega Beijing office, then the shutdown of all of its other processing centers including another mega office in Mumbai.  It will take some time for Immigration New Zealand to get back up to full speed again once all of these offices come online.

The key decision that you face is, do you plan to stay in New Zealand or go home?   The following decision trees are based on the predictions from my Crystal Ball:


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