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May 12, 2020

COVID-19: Essential Services variation of conditions

Short-term variation of conditions for essential services

The Government has agreed to relax visa conditions for a short period to allow temporary migrant workers and international students to further assist with our essential services during the COVID-19 response.

New Zealand employers who were operating during Alert Level 4 as an essential business can apply for a short term change in work conditions on behalf of their employees.

This short term Variation of Conditions process applies while New Zealand is at Alert Level 3 and six weeks after that.

After this point, the original visa conditions will apply – employees will need to return to their substantive role, employer, hours of work, and/or study. Temporary visa holders wanting to change employers, jobs or regions permanently will need to apply for a new visa or Variation of Conditions (note: the approval of a short-term variation does not guarantee that an application for a permanent change will be approved).

Work visa holders with employer-specific work visas already employed in essential services can be redeployed to do other roles within their current workplace. They can also perform their current role in a different workplace in the same region to help essential businesses keep operating while New Zealand remains at Alert Level 3 and for six weeks after that.

Visa conditions for international students, who are already employed in an essential services role, can be varied to enable them to work longer hours for their current employer while New Zealand remains at Alert Level 3 and for six weeks after that. Students who are employed in an essential services role and wish to work more than 20 hours must still meet their study requirements and should discuss their plans with their education provider.

Students who have been working in essential health care roles since 3 April are exempt from the need to apply for a variation until 3 July.

Essential health care roles

The policy also applies to work and student visa holders working in supermarkets. Changes to immigration instructions to relax visa restrictions for these two groups were made in March 2020 for a period of 30 days up until 25 April 2020 to help manage labour supply issues. These changes have now finished as planned, but employers can instead apply online for a short term Variation of Conditions if needed.

This short term Variation of Conditions policy does not apply to workers who hold a limited visa under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

There are no fees or levies payable for a short term Variation of Conditions under this special category.

The changes came into effect on Thursday 16 April 2020. Employers or an immigration adviser acting on their behalf must submit a request using this form.

Healthcare Sector

Visa applications will be prioritised for key roles necessary for the health response in New Zealand.

As a temporary measure, the Government has also changed temporary work visa conditions to allow some lower skilled temporary healthcare workers that are currently in New Zealand to work in New Zealand for an additional 12 months before they are subject to the stand down period. This will allow those health workers with lower skilled Essential Skills visas who have worked in New Zealand for 3y ears an additional 12 months before they are subject to a stand down period where they must leave New Zealand.

This will provide additional certainty for those impacted, some of whom will be affected by the first stand down period from 28 August 2020, and it will also help maintain existing workforces at this critical time.

Student visa holders that were employed in an essential health worker role on 3 April 2020, will be able to work more than 20 hours for the period 3 April 2020 to 3 July 2020 in order to support the public health response to COVID-19. This includes aged residential care and applies to interim visa holders who immediately prior held a student visa.

Note: If you had already downloaded the spreadsheet to enter your employee details into, the original form is available to submit your request until 5pm 20 May.