Government planning for Covid-19 immigration powers to be extended

On 1st of April 2021 the Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament by Hon Kris Faafoi, Minister of Immigration. The Bill amends the Immigration Act 2009 by:

  •  extending the expiry dates of the eight powers exercisable by the Minister of Immigration (or, where permitted, a delegate) introduced in 2020 by a further two years (until 15 May 2023); and
  •  extending the duration of regulations, made under the power to suspend the ability to make applications for visas by classes of people, from three months to six months (the power to suspend applications from offshore, which requires an Order in Council), as the government has indicated that its frequent renewal is causing excessive operational costs and inadvertently signalling that the border may reopen imminently.

The government is aiming for the Bill to pass by 14 May 2021, at the latest.

This Bill signals the government’s intention to further suspend applications from offshore (the current suspension of temporary visa applications is due to expire during May 2021), as well as an option for the government to suspend the ability to submit expressions of interest in applying for visas.

Currently, selections of expressions of interest for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category and the Parent Category are suspended. However, it is still possible to lodge expressions of interest. We have been advised that Immigration NZ are waiting on key policy decisions to be made by the Government during the month of April 2021, which would enable them to announce whether selections of expressions of interests is likely to resume in the near future.

So far, there has been minimal commentary in the press about this Bill and its implications. We encourage stakeholders to comment on the Bill and question whether a two year extension is warranted. There should be more scrutiny of the proposed two year period given the very broad powers bestowed on the Minister and his delegates.

Public submissions are now open and can be made to the Education and Workforce Committee by midnight on Friday, 16 April 2021.

We will continue to monitor the developments in this area and will provide further updates as needed. We encourage interested parties to subscribe to our Publications page.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.

Topics: All Select

Mike McMellon

Position: Consultant
DDI:  +64 3 545 6710