FAQs for Visa Assistance following Cyclone Gabrielle

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Special Counsel

The Government has announced several measures to help migrants and employers managing the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle and other extreme weather events.  These include:

  • A targeted and urgent Recovery Visa to enable workers to enter the country to help with the clean-up.
  • The ability for migrants to change their role and location, for up to two months, as long as they stay with the same employer.
  • Changes to support Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSEs) and their employees, as part of the recovery effort.  
  • Recovery Visa

Who is eligible?

This visa is intended for people coming to New Zealand for a short period of time to assist with:

  • Providing emergency response;
    Undertaking immediate clean-up of the weather-related damage;
  • Assessing risk or loss, from an insurance perspective;
  • Repairing or stabilising infrastructure, buildings and houses, which includes planning roles;
  • Undertaking work that directly supports the recovery (e.g., producing relevant material for road rebuild and transport drivers).

What will the visa conditions be?

The visa will be valid for a maximum of six months.  It cannot be extended. However, the visa holder could apply for a further and different type of work visa, such as an Accredited Employer Work Visa.   Also, this is the first stage of the government’s response, so there may be other options to be announced.

What is the application process?

The first step is to identify and recruit a migrant worker to undertake the permitted work.

The employer then downloads and completes the Recovery Visa – Employer Supplementary form and provides this to the migrant worker.

This is available here.

The migrant worker can then apply online, completing a Specific Purpose Work visa application form.  He or she must upload the completed Recovery Visa – Employer Supplementary Form and specifies his or her proposed length of stay as six months or less.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) processes the application and issues an electronic visa.

The length of the visa means that most eligible migrants will not need to obtain medical or police checks, as part of the application process.

What are processing times?

INZ is aiming to process applications within seven days.

What is the cost?

The application fee is NZ$700. However, if the application is approved, this fee will be refunded, through an automated process, within 15-25 days, to whoever paid the application fee.  

Temporarily moving employees to a different role

Is there flexibility for existing temporary visa holders to work in a different role and location, as stated on their current visa label, as part of the recovery effort?

Yes, temporary visa holders who are already employed in New Zealand, can change their role and location of employment as a direct result of the extreme weather events.  However, they must stay working for the same employer.

How long can an employee work in the different role and location?

The employee will be able to work in a different role and location, for a period of up to 2 months.

What category of visa must be held to be eligible?

The change captures eligible employees who already hold Accredited Employer Work Visas, Essential Skills work visas and other applicable employer assisted visas where an employer is specified on their visa label.

Will the visa holder be breaching their visa conditions if this flexibility is utilised?

No, INZ has confirmed that a visa holder will be able to perform a different role, in a different location, without committing a breach of their visa conditions for this short period of time.

Importantly, the visa holder must remain employed by the same employer, as stated on their visa label.

Does Immigration New Zealand need to be notified if a change of location and position is implemented?

No. The employer is not expected to update INZ of a change to employee’s location of work and position. Equally, the employee does not need to notify INZ. 

An employer and an employee must only reach an agreement, between themselves, to vary the location or role a temporary visa holder is working in. That said, we would recommend formalising the change of location and/or position, in writing.

Recognised Seasonal Employers can move employees around

How are Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) and their employees affected?

There were around 690 RSE workers whose accommodation were affected by Cyclone Gabrielle. Most of these workers were in Hawke’s Bay.

Due to the displacement of resources, an RSE employee who holds a RSE Limited Visa can work for a different RSE employer, in the same region, for up to one month without needing to apply for a new visa. The original employer must agree to this and will remain responsible for welfare of the RSE employee.  

We’re here to help!

Our Immigration Team can assist by:

  • advising your employees are eligible for the recovery visa, depending on what work you are undertaking;
  • advising your employees who require flexible working arrangements as part of the RSE scheme;
  • preparing and submitting the visa application;
  • and advising on longer-term visa options.

For initial advice on how to support your employees, please get in touch with a member of our immigration team, or your usual Duncan Cotterill contact. 

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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