There is a list of (mainly Western) countries, the citizens of which may travel to NZ without needing to apply for a visa. Sometimes, the visa of someone from a visa-free country expires and the person becomes an overstayer.
If they leave NZ voluntarily, the airport automatically issues an Alert stating that the person has previously overstayed and they should not be allowed in without
their referral to nearest visa officer to get a visa or to cancel the alert. In the future if they try to return then they could face the major inconvenience and humiliation of either not being allowed on their flight at all, or – even worse – being “turned around” when they arrive at Auckland Airport. Hardly an attractive prospect if you have flown 30 hours from the UK!
Anyone from a visa-free country who has stayed in NZ without a visa needs to actually apply for a visa to come in again, even if it is only for a visit. There is always a risk that the application will be declined because Immigration treats you as not being a “bona fide temporary entrant”. Still, that is better than paying a significant airfare and being turned away at the border.
If you can show that you have strong ties back home, such as a job to go back to, partner and children, or that you own valuable property which you are unlikely to leave behind, then it may not be too difficult to get a visa issued. We have helped a number of people in such situations either get their visa approved or to get the border Alert neutralised.
Immigration NZ has been issuing letters to overstayers which set out their options – including being deported and having to pay the Government back for the cost of being thrown out. Some of us in the industry have raised the concern that these letters are deceptive, because they suggest to people that if they leave under their own steam, then they can apply to come back as if nothing had happened. This has been done to encourage overstayers to get out without Immigration having to hunt them down.
The news is that overstaying is a significant issue for Government officials. If you don’t have a very good explanation of why it happened, or something else to catch their attention to make them sympathetic, then it is more likely that any application for a new visa will be declined despite the fact that you have “done the right thing” and left on your own. Even couples who are clearly in a strong and committed relationship face being unable to resume their lives together in New Zealand, simply because one of them forgot to keep their visas up to date. In some cases it may be better to stay on here and fight for a visa – but I do stress that this may only work for some people.
So, if you are an overstayer and thinking of getting things sorted out, get professional advice on your options. A wrong choice could be very expensive and may in fact worsen what is already a difficult situation.