Immigration relief measures by country during Covid-19

Immigration relief measures by country during Covid-19:(an International Bar Association Project of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee)

New Zealand


David Ryken, Ryken and Associates, Barristers and Solicitors, Auckland New Zealand

Inbound travel/border restrictions

3 February 2020: Travel from China banned except for New Zealand citizens, residents and foreigners who have been outside of China for 14 days.

16 March (at 1.00 am): All persons arriving (including foreigners) must self-isolate for 14 days. Did not apply to travellers from the Pacific islands. The rule applied to those arriving on a flight that departed after 1.00 am (and not to those already in the air).

17 March: Announcement that tourists flouting the self-isolation rules would be restricted and deported. Two tourists were put into forced quarantine and later deported for defying the restrictions

18 March: Overseas New Zealanders (believed to number at least 80,000) urged to return home.

19 March: All foreigner arrivals banned. Returning residents and citizens (including partners and children when accompanying a New Zealander) required to self-isolate for 14 days. Some exemptions to apply including for humanitarian reasons (mainly essential workers on work visas). Returning New Zealanders and citizens includesd the three pacific island countries who hold New Zealand citizenship: The Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. Some exceptions for citizens of Samoa and Tonga coming for medical treatment and other emergencies.

25 and 26 March:. State of emergency announced, providing wide powers to ensure compliance with lock-down. New Zealand began a complete lock-down (referred to as Covid-19 level four) beginning at midnight on the 25th. All non-essential businesses closed, including retail and construction; all travel inside the country except for essential workers or trips to the supermarket or for medical reasons, banned.  All persons were required to be at home except for medical trips to a doctor a hospital or to a pharmacy, and to exercise locally. Exceptions included all medical and essential workers (which included the media, transport, food-supply and supermarkets). Foreign persons not symptomatic and not awaiting a test, are permitted to travel domestically to an international flight provided they have ticketed and transit arrangements in place. The inter-island ferry was not available for this purpose but (limited) domestic flights between the islands are available.

9 April at 11.59 pm: All arrivals at the airport (by now only returning citizens, residents, immediate family and Australian citizens and residents normally resident in New Zealand) to be placed in government-paid accommodation for 14 days. All returnees are unable to leave the facility but can get fresh air (on the premises of the facility only). Essential travel (to supermarkets etc.) not permitted. Those who are symptomatic are placed in full quarantine (not able to leave their room even for exercise). The cut-off time was the time of flight departure from an overseas port. Facilities are at each of the three major international-airport-cities, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (but not Queenstown). Domestic flights are not permitted until after the 14-day period. No end date has been given to enforced 14-day isolation for all arrivals. The government continues to pay for this, as an emergency measure, though it has fore-shadowed that this will not necessarily continue and other mechanisms for returning residents and citizens and their families and essential workers on work visas etc will be set up.

20 April: The government announced Covid-19 level 4 will continue until 11.59 on 27 April. On 28  April, New Zealand will be at level 3 for two weeks with a further revision on 11 May.  Level 3 will allow businesses to restart (but without any customer face to face contact), and some return to school and early childhood care. Self-distancing rules of one metre between employees must be practiced in the work place. Restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and retail will remain closed until level 2 is reached. Construction and manufacturing may begin but only where person-to-person distancing can be accomplished. Border measures requiring government-paid quarantine at the international-airport-cities will continue. No end date has been given. The restrictions on non-nationals arriving as tourists (non-residents and citizens except from Australia) will continue as described above.

Outbound travel/border restrictions.

There are in fact no restrictions preventing New Zealand citizens or residents from leaving the country, or for Australian citizens or residents (who are exempt from the requirement to hold a residence visa) from returning to Australia. A number of countries including pacific island countries have restrictions relating to travel to their countries or conditions that must be met and indeed international travel for New Zealanders is currently not available in any case.

16 March: As a protection measure and because New Zealand is a main transit point, travel to Pacific Islands, for those symptomatic or close contacts of known cases, departure to the pacific islands was banned. There were no other bans on outward travel.

26 March: During the four-week lockdown internal travel to access repatriation flights has been permitted but not for those who are symptomatic or have had contact with a known case and are awaiting test results.

7 April: The government announced transit agreements allowing New Zealand citizens and residents and immediate families, Australian citizens and residents and immediate family, to transit through New Zealand with a requirement to remain airside. This would also apply to citizens and residents of Chile and citizens and residents of a number of countries in Europe and South America, transiting through New Zealand to a hub in Canada or the US (Auckland airport is a major transit point between Australia and South America and similarly between the pacific islands and either Europe, South America or Australia). Similarly returning New Zealand citizens and residents may transit through airports in Australia on the basis of a reciprocal agreement and presumably Santiago in Chile (though this has not been confirmed)

Because of the difficulties involved in transiting intermediate ports a number of specially arranged flights have been arranged, in particular a significant airlift of German citizens (visitors and holiday workers) stranded in New Zealand (Air New Zealand and Lufthansa), Many other special flights to numerous other countries have been on-going. Commercial flights and cargo flights have continued throughout.

Relief measures for temporary visa holders

The New Zealand government has exercised an omnibus extension to all temporary visas (student visitor or work) expiring between 2 April and 9 July. They  are automatically extended to 25 September with email notifications to the visa holder being sent off.

Those who have applied for further visas on line will be issued with interim visas in the meantime.

Students that work at supermarkets were temporarily permitted to work more than the permitted 20 hours per week, and those on work visas already employed at supermarkets are permitted to work in positions outside of their stated job descriptions (to assist with a short supply issue at the supermarkets, deemed an essential service).

Student visa holders will be able to defer their studies to later in 2020 or to 2021. Their visas will be made valid. Travel dates will be changeable.

As horticulture and viticulture are essential industries workers already in New Zealand or who have had an automatic work visa extension through to 25 September will be able to apply for work in other regions etc. (employers will be required to obtain Immigration New Zealand’s confirmation to change work visa conditions however). Horticultural workers still overseas at the time of the lock-down may apply for an exemption to the arrivals ban as they are essential workers, being part of the food-chain). This will need to be done prior to travel, however as in the case of all travel exemptions involving non New Zealand and Australian citizens and residents normally residing in New Zealand, and their immediate family.

Health screenings and/or quarantines on arrival

 16 March All persons arriving in New Zealand were required to self-isolate, but it soon became evident that travellers were arriving with no plan to self-isolate and the request to self-isolate was being flaunted, including by tourists.

10 April Health screening became compulsory for all arrivals (prior to going into isolation or where symptomatic into quarantine arriving on any flight that departed after 11.59 on 9 April. No end date to compulsory testing has been given.

Other relief measures

All cruise ships banned on 16 March from docking until 30 June 2020.

State of emergency announced on 25 March, providing wider powers to the police for breaches of the level 4 stay-at-home and essential-travel only requirements.

Citizenship ceremonies have been cancelled and are not currently required (citizenship when approved will proceed without the need for a ceremony, for now).

Residential rent increases are frozen for 6 months.

All businesses can access a wage subsidy for 12 weeks at NZ$585.80 gross per full-time worker and $350 for part-time workers, per week, designed to assist employees to retain their staff during the lock-down.

Legislation to extend statutory deadlines, inter alia under the Immigration Act 2009, has not been enacted but is believed to be under consideration.

In certain circumstances immigration appeals can be filed electronically with the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, without the physical filing of an appeal form.