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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.
“So, where people are here on visitor visas which expire on or before 31 March 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,” Kris Faafoi said.
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.
“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,” Kris Faafoi said.
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,” Kris Faafoi warned.
Immigration New Zealand will email affected visa holders to confirm the visa extension by 05 March 2021.
Meanwhile, a completely inflexible Immigration New Zealand seems hell-bent on disrupting New Zealand’s food supply chain,” says ACT Immigration spokesperson Dr James McDowall and ACT Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron.
“The Government should be on a war footing right now, shoring up export income from agriculture, but it can’t seem to take a common-sense approach to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme,” says Dr McDowall.
“Instead it is complicating the scheme and dictating to employers how they should run their businesses.
“ACT is proposing common sense solutions to see off disaster for the horticultural industry.
“This isn’t just about the Government’s failure to bring in enough skilled workers from Pacific Islands where there is no COVID-19.
“It’s about a lack of collaboration from Immigration NZ around workers who are already in the country, but perversely aren’t being allowed to work because Immigration NZ is being inflexible about who they can work for.
“ACT says Immigration NZ should be as flexible as possible around visa status and where RSE workers can work, but to them it’s as if COVID-19 never happened.
“Despite the best efforts of industry leaders, employers and MPs Immigration NZ seem completely disinterested in discussing sensible, pragmatic policies, like fast-tracked amended visas for those already in the country or overhauling the Agreement to Recruit scheme to offer employment to RSE workers,” said Dr McDowall.
“I don’t think the officials in Wellington have a clue just how dire the situation is,” says Cameron.
“Sector by sector we can disaster ahead, with the apple industry in crisis right now.
“Other vegetable growers are facing similar challenges and the berry and Kiwifruit growers are just around the corner.
“The Government’s approach has been to restrict the numbers of workers from offshore and to incentivise those on welfare to work in the horticultural sector instead.
“While well-meaning, it shows they have little to no understanding of the reality on the ground, and what’s required to harvest New Zealand’s crops.
“This is physically demanding work, and any employer in the sector will tell you the same thing – New Zealanders just don’t want the jobs, and many of those who turn up turn out to be unreliable.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the honest truth.”
“Our food supply chain will be heavily impacted by this failure by Immigration NZ to understand its purpose, and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi needs to wake up to that reality,” said Dr McDowall.
“ACT says we need to take a common-sense approach – fast-track visas, allow those already here to work without delay, and allow workers from COVID-19-free countries to enter without MIQ, with sensible health measures in place on the farm.
“The way MIQ is set up these workers are more likely to catch COVID-19 in an isolation facility alongside people from countries where the virus is raging.
“It’s not too late to avoid the worst of what’s to come under present policy settings, but the Government needs to listen to the sector and move fast.
“If it doesn’t, ultimately New Zealanders will pay the price at the supermarket, and growers will have reduced income, meaning less investment in one of our leading export sectors,” said Dr McDowall.
SOURCE: NZ GOVT/ACT NZ/PACNEWS
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