Visitors and temporary migrants stuck in New Zealand due to COVID-19 will have their visas extended to give them more time to organise flights home.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has announced those already in the country with visitor visas due to expire before the end of October will have their visa automatically extended for five months.
Temporary migrants unable to leave due to international travel restrictions will receive a new two-month COVID-19 short-term visa, which will kick in when their current visa expires, he says.
There are roughly 19,000 people in New Zealand who hold visitor visas that will be eligible for the automatic five-month extension.
Faafoi says about 268,000 foreign nationals have departed New Zealand since March 2020.
He says the changes are specifically to help those people already in New Zealand with no immediate option to return home.
"Temporary migrants need to have a valid visa to remain lawfully in New Zealand, otherwise they are required to leave the country.
"However, we know that international travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have affected many people's ability to leave New Zealand before their visas expire," Faafoi says.
"These changes will provide visitors and other temporary migrants stranded in New Zealand with more certainty and time to organise travel arrangements home.
The new two-month COVID-19 short-term visitor visa will help people reaching the end of their visitor, work, student or partnership visa who may not meet the criteria for another visa, and need time to arrange travel home, Faafoi says.
"To be eligible for the COVID-19 short-term visitor visa, Immigration New Zealand must be satisfied visitor visa holders are genuinely unable to leave New Zealand as a result of COVID-19, they are intending to depart, and they meet normal good character requirements.
"However, temporary migrants who choose to apply for the COVID-19 short-term visitor visa will not need to meet other usual visitor visa requirements, such as demonstrating that they have enough money to support their stay, having existing onward travel arrangements, or that they've met time limits for their stay in New Zealand," he says.