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Government eases visa restrictions for visitors in New Zealand

Visitor visa holders will be able to stay in New Zealand a little longer as the Government eases restrictions for those still here, the Minister of Immigration has announced.

"The Government recognises that some visitor visa holders are keen to stay in New Zealand longer while the COVID-19 pandemic is still attacking communities in their home countries," Kris Faafoi says.

"We have also listened to New Zealand’s business sector, including tourism ventures, which say foreign visitors who are still here can help our local economies.

"So, where people are here on visitor visas which expire on or before March 31, 2021, the Government will allow their visitor visas to be automatically extend by two months. During that two month extension, which will be applied from the date of expiry on their current visa, they will need to apply for a new visa to stay longer," Faafoi says.

The automatic extension will apply to around 12,500 visa holders.

The extension does not apply to visitors on the special COVID-19 short term two month visitor visa, which was introduced in September last year.

In a second temporary change to immigration settings, the Government has agreed to temporarily waive a rule which states that visitor visa holders can only be in New Zealand for nine months out of an 18 month period.

"Most visa holders currently in New Zealand will have been here for more than nine months by now, which would have excluded them from applying for another visitor visa.

"Waiving this nine months of 18 rule means that visa holders who are still here can apply for a further six-month visa.

"While applicants with visitor visas expiring after March 31, 2021, won’t be eligible for the automatic two month extension, they can still apply for a new visa that gives them exemption from the nine months of 18 rule if they apply for their new visa before June 30, 2021. That is because the temporary waiver of that nine months of 18 rule will end on June 30, 2021.

"Applicants will still need to meet all other requirements for a visitor visa, including proof that they have enough funds to support themselves in New Zealand, as well as pay for their travel home at the end of their stay," Faafoi says.

"While we have made these changes to help many visitors facing uncertain and worrying situations back in their home countries because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government wants to make clear that people who are here on visitor visas are here as guests for a limited time. We cannot guarantee further extensions or waivers when these changes expire," Faafoi says.

He pointed out that the Government expects all migrants in New Zealand to ensure they are here lawfully and are able to support themselves.

"Temporary migrants who are in New Zealand without the means to support themselves, or who become unlawful, are at risk of migrant exploitation or not being able to meet their basic needs. Migrants who stay here after their visas have expired also risk having their unlawful status count against them should they wish to travel to New Zealand or elsewhere in the world in the future," Faafoi warned.

Immigration New Zealand will email affected visa holders to confirm the visa extension by March 5, 2021.

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