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Don’t despair a declined work visa

Changes to New Zealand’s immigration policy now provides work visa holders with a 21-day grace period should their visa application be declined.

The process of securing a work visa requires a lot of blood, sweat and paperwork, from all parties involved – the visa applicant, the employer and the immigration lawyer. But when the work visa is issued sheer elation is experienced by all. The hard work has paid off!

But that feeling of elation can also turn to one of despair if a subsequent visa application is declined. Fortunately, the New Zealand Government has made some changes to the policies surrounding declined visas. Ben De’Ath, managing director of The Regions, looks at what these changes mean to work visa holders.

New three-week grace period

If you have employed a holder of a work visa, they are eligible to work in New Zealand for a period of one year, with the option of extending the work visa for a further 12 months. But this extension is not always guaranteed. This has meant that for some work visa holders, their employment has been terminated overnight leaving both employee and employer in an extremely difficult situation.
However, welcome changes announced by Immigration Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, have taken place.

Now, if a work visa has been declined, pursuant to the updated Immigration Instruction I 1.15 and I 1.20.1, and the last visa has expired, the applicant has a three-week grace period where an interim visa will still be valid. This allows the work visa holder to continue living and working in New Zealand on the same conditions as their last interim visa and, allows you, the employer, some breathing space to find an alternative employment solution if required.

This is a not so subtle favour to work visa holders who stay in the same job with the same employer and apply to renew their work visas. This means if a visa is declined, and the interim visa had work rights, the 21-day grace period also has work rights.

Equally, if a work visa holder is changing jobs or employers, or changing their status from visiting or studying to working, they will only have visitor visa rights.

Challenging a declined visa

This news has come as welcome relief to many dairy farmers who have experienced recent visa declines of their migrant farmworkers and assistant herd managers. This 21-day grace period now allows the farmer to challenge the basis of the decline while having their employee remain legally working.

We commend the Immigration department for taking this long-standing policy feedback onboard and addressing the impossible situation both employers and employees were placed in when they were required to cease work with a moment’s notice following visa declines.

In cases where the Immigration Officer has engaged in questionable process, rationale or decision making in reaching their decline, the most likely scenario post-visa decline will be to file a request for reconsideration, and gently ask the assessing branch to ensure they complete the request within the 21 days. While the applicant may still be declined following their reconsideration, the 21-day period will allow both employer and employee to plan accordingly and contemplate how they will go forward, should the request for reconsideration be declined.

Good health and character

At The Regions, our immigration and legal expertise enables us to help both farmers and farmworkers through the work visa application process and, if required, through the process of challenging a visa declined. From our experience working in the industry, it is our belief that if a visa has been declined and the applicant is of good health and character, it is likely they will be able to attain a work visa to start and/or continue working on a New Zealand dairy farm.

Need immigration support?

If you would like to further understand these changes or discuss the merits of a current work visa case, please contact our friendly team on 0800 100 274 or email:

Our team can guide you through the process and advise you on whether you or your employee is permitted to continue working in the period following a declined visa.


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