Major changes may be just around the corner. The Immigration Minister is proposing a bill which will give him powers to extend certain types of visas, suspend the ability to make applications for visas or EOIs, cancel visa conditions, etc.
What can happen? Most likely some visa applications will be temporarily suspended (ie visitor visas), just like it happened to SMC, and some visa types may be extended by the Minister (ie essential skills or student). We also think that some resident visa conditions may be cancelled (ie travel conditions for resident visa holders stranded overseas).
While the changes may be positive for some applicants (those who’d benefit from possible visa extensions), some migrants will suffer (ie those who will be unable to apply for the visas they wanted to, including resident visas).
RNZ reported that the bill introduces eight time-limited powers allowing it to:
- Impose, vary or cancel conditions for classes of temporary-entry visa holders
- Vary or cancel conditions for classes of resident-class visa holders
- Extend the expiry dates of visas for classes of people
- Grant visas to individuals and classes of people in the absence of an application
- Waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application
- Waive the requirement to obtain a transit visa
- Suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit expressions of interest in applying for visas by classes of people
- Revoke the entry permission of people who arrive either on private aircraft or marine vessels (to align them with people who arrive on commercial flights, who can already be refused entry)
Lees-Galloway said the Immigration Act had very limited ability to deal with applicants as a class or group of individuals.
“The current Act’s small number of emergency provisions were introduced at a time when New Zealand had much lower numbers of temporary migrants…We are finding now that the existing settings are not enough to respond appropriately where, for example, large numbers of visas need to be changed or extended at once,” he said.
Lees-Galloway said a range of safeguards would be applied, including that these powers expire after 12 months.