Covid-19
COVID 19 and Pacific Legal
March 19, 2020
Covid-19
Covid 19: Update 3
May 27, 2020

COVID 19: UPDATE 2

Covid-19

Our border is now closed

Who is affected?

The New Zealand Government closed our border to almost all travellers from midnight Thursday 19 March 2020  except:

  • New Zealand citizens.
  • New Zealand residents.
  • Their spouse and immediate dependants. Even these people will go straight into isolation for 14 days when they arrive.

What does this mean if I am applying offshore?

  • If you have not been issued your temporary visa it may be delayed.
  • If you have not applied for your visa it will only be for travel after the border has re-opened.
  • If you have been issued a visa or attempt to come on an electronic travel authority “ETA” you will not be allowed to board your aircraft and the airline would be fined if they allow you to board.

How long is this closure for?

No-one knows exactly. It will be reviewed after 16 days but it could be rolled over for a much longer period.  Comments by the Minister of Health on  21 March suggest that the border is unlikely to re-open within 3 months. With the serious overseas spread of Covid 19 there might only be a partial reopening then, or it may stay closed. There is also likely to be bigger backlog of applications then. We’re telling clients to think about a 3-6 month approximate timeframe. This is not the time to visit new Zealand. If your application is in very early stages you could ask to withdraw and for a refund. Check INZ’s processing times. Many are more than 3 months. In that case you could leave your application on hold. A third option might be to withdraw your application without prejudice and to make a fresh application.

We’re also finding Immigration New Zealand is being strict on medical issues, not just in terms of risk of Covid 19 but any other underlying illness because of the strain on our health system.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes, exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis by Immigration New Zealand for reasons listed below.

Case by case means the decision is at the absolute discretion of the decision maker. No reasons will be given and the decision cannot be reviewed. Pacific Legal has decades of leading expertise in this area. For a small fee and with the right information from you we can assess whether your case might be arguable under an exception. The decision however is always up to Immigration New Zealand. Any people granted expectations will still be in isolation for 14 days. Checks are regular and failure to comply can lead to arrest and deportation. The exceptions include:

  • humanitarian reasons. It’s hard to define this but it might include a genuine unforeseen emergency such as a loved one being seriously ill. The standard is very high.
  • health and other essential workers  The first one is clear. But the second one is not. The New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment of which we are members, is seeking clarity from Government. Maybe this includes essential infrastructure.
  • citizens of Samoa and Tonga for essential travel to New Zealand. This might include a terminal illness or funeral of a very close family member in New Zealand – although in both cases the emergency will need to wait will the visitor spends 14 days in isolation. It doesn’t include anniversaries, or birthdays which are in any case being cancelled as large gatherings. They may not be able to return to these countries which are now under states of emergency. We wonder how long this exception will last.
  • the holder of a visitor visa who is the partner of a dependent of a temporary work or student visa holder and who normally lives in New Zealand and is currently in New Zealand. This might be the biggest one. We have had enquires about it. The relationship must clearly meet partnership requirements – for residence that’s living under one roof for 12 months or more. The partner must clearly have a place of residence already in New Zealand. They must actually be here. There are huge delays in partnership processing of 7 months or more so we are wondering how these exceptions will be treated.

 

No other foreign traveller can enter New Zealand. The priority is getting as estimated 80,000 kiwis back. 85% of overseas flights have been or soon will be cancelled. Borders are closing everywhere. Transit is no longer available in the US and host of other countries. Returning residents and citizens must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival.

Branch closures

All three large offshore branches Beijing, Mumbai and Manila are closed. In the Pacific Suva in Fiji has also closed. This leaves just small offices in Apia and Nuku’alofa open. This will lead to delays as other branches have to pick up processing.

I’m already in New Zealand how do these changes affect me?

Resident or long term visa holder

If are you are a resident or have a long term visa you may not be affected. Unless…

  • Your residence visa has conditions under section 49 such as working for a particular employer and you are made redundant due to the economic down turn. Or you become unwell and have exhausted your sick leave. Will you be made liable for deportation?
  • You are a resident and are subject to travel conditions and return back to your home country now you are stuck and your residence conditions will expire.
  • You’re an investor still in your investment period but now with the global downturn your growth investments are shrinking beyond the agreed minimum and you lack sufficient nominated top up funds.
  • You’re a citizen or permanent resident working overseas. You want to return home with your non resident partner.

We’ve assisted clients in each of these situations.  Every case is different. Contact us for a free initial assessment.

Work visa holders

  • You are made redundant or redeployed to a new role due to the economic down turn. Or you become unwell and have exhausted your sick leave.
  • Your partner and dependent children are overseas. You need them to join you here in New Zealand.
  • You are on your third lower skilled work visa and facing the stand down period. Your home country is unsafe to return to.

Visitors

  • You’re on a visitor visa which will soon expire or has expired within the past month. Now you have house bound relatives to care for.

Others

  • You don’t have a current visa but you do have exceptional circumstances caused by the virus.

We’ve assisted clients in each of these situations.  Every case is different. Contact us for a free initial assessment. Be sure to provide as much detail as possible.

Our expertise

Pacific Legal is your go to law firm to navigate the current challenging immigration landscape. We have a reputation for checking carefully before lodging applications. We carefully check Immigration New Zealand’s files saving you cost and delays later.

Contact us

Email us on office@pacificlegal.co.nz or send a query online at pacificlegal.co.nz. If you are in New Zealand ring us on 0800 PAC LEG or 09 666 0440. Because of high call volumes and our office transition you made need to leave a message. If so be sure to clearly leave your name and an email address. The best initial contact is through our online form. We are giving priority to our current clients and to urgent cases for people inside New Zealand. We aim to reply to these calls or emails within 1-2 working days.  We try to get back to all offshore inquiries where we have an email address within 2-4 working days. Our initial free initial information is by email only at this time. Thank you for your understanding.

Pacific Legal is working to minimise disruption

Our systems are portable

  • We’re excellently placed to work remotely. All our systems including phone, email and database can be used remotely and we have contingency planning in place to ensure a smooth transition should this be required. Our Affinity database was recently upgraded.  Providers have been on-site to test systems. Staff will be testing working remotely in stages.  Our DTS phone system is web-based and will work remotely, as if the staff member was in the office. All our files are backed up to New Zealand Law Society standards (encrypted on our virtual server,  with an in-country backup data centre).

For our clients let’s talk…by phone and online

  • We will be using phone skype, zoom or other videoing conferencing for meetings with our clients where ever possible. We are upgrading our skype and video conferencing facilities at the office. We will focus on zoom as our main form of conferencing. To book a video conference with staff you can ring (09 666 0440) or email us at office@pacificlegal.co.nz.  Where ever possible we ask that documents can be emailed or uploaded through our online portal on our web site www.pacificlegal.co.nz.

Most documents can be sent electronically

  • 80% of our applications can be made online. Some residence applications, citizenship applications and appeals are the main exceptions.  We expect Immigration New Zealand will, in that case, relax the remaining categories of physical applications.  There are already regulations in place to allow for this in a pandemic situation.

Drop-offs at the office by appointment: Electronic meetings

We are currently at alert stage 2: reduce contact

  • At this stage, our office is still the best address for courier deliveries (Level 5,130 Broadway Newmarket Auckland 1023).

Our office is closed but our services are open

To protect our staff and yourselves during the current outbreak please also note:

  • Until further notice face to face meetings are suspended but appointments to drop off documents or sign papers will still be possible. This may change based on Ministry of Health Guidance.
  • Within the next week we are likely to install a drop box just inside of door when its unlocked and lockable drop box outside our door. Again please email or ring before dropping off documents.
  • If you or an immediate family member, have symptoms (including general flu symptom), are in isolation or have tests pending, please do not come into our office but let us know and we will make other arrangements.

Our apologies for any inconvenience this causes and thank you for your understanding.

 What if there’s a lockdown?

  • Should the alert level move to stage 3 it occur our office will close but our services will continue remotely. Our back up courier address will be PO Box 9394 Newmarket Auckland 1149 which is serviced by courier post who can uplift to any address we give them. In that case please add a few working days for delivery. In a lockdown, we would expect nearly everything could be scanned.

Will there be processing delays for onshore clients?

There are already delays for most of our clients. For residence applications, the government recently announced its priorities. The temporary closure of the Beijing Office may add to this. We have not been told of other delays specific to the COVID 19 outbreak. Obviously with a tight workforce if INZ staff are unwell that may well have an impact.  You can check average processing times at this link.  We will work with clients and INZ in urgent cases. We’ve achieved some great results in reducing delays where applications are “decision-ready.”

We will send updates to clients on any major changes. However, as there are almost daily developments we encourage clients and employers to check the above websites.

Richard Small
Richard Small
Director and Senior Lawyer | richard.small@pacificlegal.co.nz