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Some foreign visitors given temporary reprieve with extension

Visitor visa holders will have a temporary reprieve as the government eases restrictions for foreign workers still in the country.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has announced most will receive a two-month automatic extension and a temporary waiver of the rule for time spent on visitor stays.

The automatic extension will apply to roughly 12,500 people whose visas are due to expire on or before March 31.

It follows concerns from visitors and businesses who say remaining foreign visitors can help local economies.

"The government recognises that some visitor visa holders are keen to stay in New Zealand longer while the Covid-19 pandemic is still attacking communities in their home countries," Faafoi said in a statement.

"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."

The extension will be applied from the expiry date on their current visa, but an automatic extension won't apply to those on the special Covid-19 short term two-month visitor visa.

Anyone wanting to stay longer will need to apply for a new visa.

The second temporary change means the rule which excludes visitors who have been here for nine months of 18 from applying for another visitor visa has also been waived.

"Waiving this nine months of 18 rule means that visa holders who are still here can apply for a further six-month visa," Faafoi said.

That meant applicants whose visa expires after 31 March won't be eligible for the automatic two-month extension.

"They can still apply for a new visa that gives them exemption from the nine months of 18 rule if they apply for their new visa before 30 June 2021. That is because the temporary waiver of that nine months of 18 rule will end on 30 June 2021."

Applicants would still need to meet all other requirements set out for a visitor visa which includes proof they have the funds to support themselves while here and pay for their trip home at the end of their stay, he said.

"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."

Immigration NZ will email affected visa holders to confirm the visa extension by 5 March.