Immigration Post Covid-19

Now that NZ has exited from lock-down and an election is coming up soon, immigration is again going to go through some big changes. This is to be expected and we will all need to adapt to the situation to make the best out of it. NZ has a highly flexible immigration statutory framework so changes are frequent, even without elections and global pandemics.

Work related visas

These are going to be the biggest issue to deal with in the coming year or so I think. Work visas and residence based on work such as the Skilled Migrant category are even now feeling increased pressure. Employer's stability, very strict application of whether the legal criteria have been proved to have been met, suitable workers and correct advertising are all being finely scrutinised. 

Gone are the days where you could drift through a work visa application and assume that INZ would gently ask for the required proof, or they would assume that it had been done properly because it had before. Even professionals are finding that we need to be able to solidly prove every fact in an indisputable way, where such level of proof was not required before. It has changed from in the past being careful not to put in too much evidence which creates an impression of overselling or covering up something, to putting in everything possible and still not having enough.

Employer issues

INZ will still be implementing employer accreditation as planned, but this has been postponed to early - mid 2021. The principles of examining employers and making sure the business is sustainable and legally compliant in every way is increasing post Covid-19 though. There is an assumption that many businesses will struggle or fail, so more pressure and scrutiny is being put on businesses to clearly prove that they are stable and compliant.

This should also be a wake up call for employers to set clear boundaries in how they engage in immigration related issues. retaining reliable staff is essential, so keeping migrant workers may be a big part of this for many employers. To retain a migrant worker is is vital that visa work is done properly, but also that tax obligations and other employer obligations are flawless. Employers must be clear in that it is illegal for them to do immigration work unless they are a licensed adviser. Doing a visa application for an employee is giving immigration advice in 99% of cases and it is reasonable to assume that if a case officer is looking for a way to decline an application, this is one potential reason for doing so.

Residence

The residence program is being reviewed at present, but the Government has implied that a decision on that is not likely to happen until after the election. The skilled migrant category EOI selection is paused, but there is no indication yet when this will reopen. Some internal discussions have indicated that it may be soon, but there is nothing firm on that.

Processing times are at around 1/1/2 years and this is probably not going to change any time soon.

Partnership residence and WTR categories are still running as usual, and being processed as normal. Of all the categories possible the WTR category is the smoothest category for residence. Partnership hasn't changed so much, but at the residence level this has recently been assessed quite strictly.