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May 14, 2020

COVID-19: Key updates on Visa processing information

Visa processing information

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) expects visa processing capacity to increase significantly under Alert Level 2 as more staff are able to access immigration offices.

INZ had already increased its processing capacity following the movement to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 on 28 April 2020. All offshore offices remain closed, but onshore offices have reopened with limited staff numbers due to COVID-19 guidelines and the requirement to work from home when possible.

Since New Zealand was at Alert Level 4, processing efforts have been largely limited and have focused on implementing the Epidemic Management Notice, applications from individuals who have a critical purpose for coming to New Zealand and some temporary visa categories for applicants who are already in New Zealand.

With increased processing capacity and the ability for some staff to access offices, INZ is now able to resume the processing of residence class visa applications from Thursday 14 May 2020 and prioritise both residence class and temporary entry class visa applications.

Residence applications

Applications where the applicant is in New Zealand will be prioritised over applicants where the applicant is overseas.

Temporary visa applications

Priority will be given to applications for critical workers to support the Government response to COVID-19 and for other temporary visa applicants that are in New Zealand.

For Essential Skills work visa applications, Immigration instructions require INZ to consider a range of factors, including the need to help New Zealand businesses provide their services, while protecting the employment opportunities for New Zealanders.

For an Essential Skills work visa to be granted, INZ must be satisfied that at the time the application is assessed there are no New Zealanders available to do the work being offered.

Further changes may be needed to the prioritisation criteria as international travel restrictions change, and more information becomes available about the effects of COVID-19 on the domestic labour market.

Immigration officers can prioritise other applications where necessary.

As INZ transitions through the various alert levels processing will be resumed for most of the application categories.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply online for eligible visas. Paper applications will take longer to process because of the reduced capacity of staff in onshore offices. There will also be an increase in the time and effort required in processing some visa application types due to additional requests for information or comment being required.