Interim Visas – not quite what they seem

One of the simplest and best additions to the immigration system came in section 80 of the new Immigration Act 2009, which sets up the system of Interim Visas.  I described this in my paper to the Law Society last year.

The way it works is that if you are in NZ and apply to renew your visa before your last one runs out, you should normally get another visa to cover your stay here while you are waiting for a decision.

This makes a lot of sense because it reduces the danger of being an overstayer while Immigration is processing your application – which can often take at least 3 months in the case of a Work or Student Visas.  The Minister proudly announced the new system when it came in on 7 February as being especially beneficial to students.  As an example, a student applying to extend a Student Visas to go to a particular college gets an “open” Student Visa while they are waiting, so that their study isn’t interrupted.  This is especially relevant after the Minister’s embarrassment earlier last year about the shocking delays in student processing at Palmerston North.

However, what was not made so clear to everyone at first is that the Interim Visa that you get may not match what you are applying for.  Someone on a Visitor’s Visa who has a good job offer and applies for a Work Visa will only get a Visitor’s Interim Visa until the main application is completed.  They cannot start working in the meantime and could lose the position because the employer may not want to wait 3 or more months for them to be allowed to work.  Or if someone wants to switch jobs in the same industry, again they revert to a Visitor’s Visa instead of being able to continue working.

This sort of situation undermines the object of matching people up with the right jobs and helping the economy.  It is the kind of thinking that runs through New Zealand bureaucracy.  It is holding us back when we most need to act boldly to shake the recession off.


About Simon Laurent, Lawyer

Principal of LaurentLaw Barristers & Solicitors. NZ immigration law specialist.
This entry was posted in Immigration Visas and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Interim Visas – not quite what they seem

  1. Samuel Ames says:

    Indeed. In some instances, people can be prejudiced by the interim visa scheme, if they’re not careful. For example if a person has completed a qualification in skills shortage, then gets a graduate job search work visa and towards the end of their 1 year work visa, get an Invitation to Apply for Skilled Migrant Residence, they might not be able to work lawfully in the time they apply for another work visa. This happened to a client of mine. Immigration New Zealand then said ‘your job offer is not sustainable because you have not been working for four weeks’. Yet they were only sticking to the conditions of their interim visa.

    The visa conditions scheme for interim visa can be pretty complicated, especially for applicants wishing to continue their employment and who naturally don’t know much about the process. In fact the system is almost antagonistic to potential skilled migrants who try to gain more work experience in New Zealand, say in IT.

    In particular, if you’re moving from a graduate job search work visa to a 2 year practical work experience visa, you will only be allowed to ‘visit’ on you interim visa in the meantime, not work. This is because you are moving to an ’employer-specific’ visa. Immigration New Zealand considers that in the three months while that visa is being processed you shouldn’t be allowed to start work, even when you have a job offer ready and waiting.

    It’s worth noting that some applicants already come to New Zealand with enough years of comparable work experience to score sufficient points for an EOI, on top of their recently-gained New Zealand qualification. They should be allowed to keep working without being beaten up by the system.

    The sole purpose of the interim visa scheme is to ‘maintain an applicant’s lawful status’. Unfortunately this seems to be restricted to treating people with top skills as mere ‘visitors’ when they could be contributing to an economy facing possibly a second recession…


  2. hieptran says:

    its good to know someone out there also have the same situation as mine. I graduated at the end of last year, and got a job offer so I started working since. I went to apply for my work visa mid Feb this year. Unfortunately, my medical check is not clear. While i was waiting for more check up, my current visa got expired. Immigration put me to Interim visa, and so now I can not work anymore. My medical check might take one to two months to get the final result. Now, I am facing the risk of loosing my job as well. As they can not wait for me that long. I am really upset with the system and do not know what to do. I wish somebody can help me with this.


  3. Aashna Khan says:

    Hi..`i am facing the same situation.`i applied for open job search visa after graduating and my partner also for open visa under visa expires on 29 june and my company has put me on hold for 3 weeks only.`i will be on interim visa form 30 june 2015.`i did not get any response or mail from case officer if something is required or more documents needed. my Hb and `iron level was low but `i do not know if that is the reason. My partner already got visitor and open work visa earlier while i was studying and now applied again.`i will loose my job and will have to pay my expenses without any earning.Stressed !!!!!..`i believe open job search visa is my right and should get it.


  4. Prakash says:

    What if some one is in interim visa from open work visa to employer specific work visa. In this case when applicant feel the visa may get decline and will be unlawful can he request immigration for changing his application as visitor so that he can have some time to decide to study or travel and apply for visa accordingly later on.

    your reply is highly appreciated


  5. Jaromir Kovar says:

    I had working holidays visa and am applying for partnership based working visa. Does my interim visa allow me to work? I couldn’t find this combination in the official Immigration info sheet. Thank you for your help.


  6. Kelly catherine says:

    I am in the exact same situation. My working holiday expired on the 4th of March and am now on an Interim visa. I thought I was allowed to work until one of my bosses told me today they can’t employ me anymore on the interim visa. I turned in my partnership work application 3 weeks ago and was told it would take 25 days but then went up to 2 months and now its up to 4 to 6 months wait!!!!! I’m so stressed because with bills and everything I have to pay I do not have enough to cover myself. I am hoping my visa gets approved rather quickly.


  7. John says:

    Hello Simon,

    Thanks for your article which is just spot on.
    Now, I am holding an Intern Visa when they are processing my employer-specific Work Visa. If I find a new employer during this period, can I change my employer based in the current application?

    Thank you for your help.



  8. Anu says:

    I am on a visitor visa and it finish at the end of this month.I applied for a work visa 2 months early and still waiting for decision and they said there are chances that it might be declined due to employer not advertising the post.I am looking for a new job but can I apply for another work visa while in interim visa


    • No, you cannot start another application for Work Visa while you are on an Interim Visa. You should contact Immigration to substitute the new (better) job for the one which may result in the decline of your present application.


  9. Chhaya says:

    Hi I am on interim visa Can I put visitor visa file so I will be lawful in this country if my file will be decline or any other issue come?


  10. Chhaya says:

    Thanks Simon
    But just wondering If I apply visitor visa they could ask me to consider new application and cancel earlier workvisa application in interim visa?


  11. Chhaya says:

    Hi Simon
    My work visa file is the decline, they mention our course not match with duties.
    How many changes to get work visa again in section 61?
    we are already unlawful in this country. 😦


  12. Fabio says:

    Hi Simon,

    If I currently hold a Open work visa (Post study) and I apply for the resident visa, can I continue working until the visa is approved? Meaning, will my interim visa let me keep working or it will guarantee only the visitor status?



  13. 3dwipbrasil says:

    Hi Simon,

    If I currently hold a Open work visa (Post study) and I apply for the resident visa, can I continue working until the visa is approved? Meaning, will my interim visa let me keep working or it will guarantee only the visitor status?



  14. kang li says:

    INZ publicize on its website that interim visa will be valid until the decision for further visa application is made or up to six months. But section 80 of Immigration Act 2009 does not authorize INZ to nullify applicant’s interim visa when a decline decision is made before the expiry date of interim visa. As this situation would directly affect the eligibility of applying for reconsideration for onshore visa applicant. who could give me an answer?


    • The currency of an Interim Visa is set out in Immigration Instructions I1.5. Immigration Instructions are certified by the Minister of Immigration (s 22 Immigration Act 2009). An interim visa is valid until either the decision on the main application is made or the application is withdrawn, or 6 months has elapsed.


      • kang li says:

        Hi Simon, Thank your for the reply. I think there is possibility for Immigration officer to make use of the interim visa abusively for declining further visa application in order for depriving applicant’s right of reconsideration. Immigration instruction does not have prevention mechanism to against this kind of abuse. Is it a kind of bias for interim visa holder being deprival of rights of reconsideration. Do you think we could use judicial review or ombudzmen to challenge the bias of Immigration Instructions I1.5.


      • Any such action would depend on the particular circumstances of the case. There is no apparent bias in the Immigration Instructions on their face.


  15. Ariel says:

    Hi Simon, thanks for this post.
    I’m in the same situation now, an interim visa was granted but with visitor conditions. Since January I’m working but I don’t know what is supposed that I should do, do I have to quit to my job? or do you know if I can ask for annual leave in the meantime until the new visa is granted?. Thanks for your help.


  16. Bohn says:

    My current application for a essentials work visa was declined however my visa is still valid and I want to put in a new application and will be granted an interim visa. However incase my application is declined I will become unlawful so will that negatively affect my future visa applications to NZ or other countries in the future even if I leave within a week of my application being declined?


    • It probably won’t have much effect on a future NZ visa application, but we cannot comment on the effect on applying to another country. If you become unlawful you must leave NZ within 42 days of the date of expiry of the last visa (including an Interim Visa) in order not to be deemed to have been deported if you later leave NZ while still unlawful.


  17. Luka says:

    I applied for Entrepreneur Work Visa and I got an Interim Visa six months ago. I do not know why I became unlawful because INZ works so slowly. what should I do?
    Thank you!


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