Interim Visas were essentially introduced seven years ago to prevent applicants becoming unlawful while waiting for the decision of their further temporary visa application. But surprisingly, Interim Visas appear to have contributed to the number of overstayers and Section 61 Visa Requests. They can, in some situations, adversely affect applicants and other associated parties involved.

Introduction to Interim Visa

An Interim Visa is only granted if the applicant holds a valid temporary visa[1] and has applied for a further temporary visa before the previous one expires, whilst in New Zealand. One cannot ask for or apply for one.

In most cases, Interim Visas are generated by an automated system and are sent by email to the applicant a few days before their last visa runs out.

It is important to note that not everyone is granted Interim Visas automatically by default. If for example, a person has alerts or warnings related to character or are liable for deportation, an immigration officer must carry out a manual assessment to determine whether to grant one. And in some cases, the officer may decide not to grant an Interim Visa.

Interim Visa Conditions

Interim Visas are issued with various visa conditions which could potentially lead to loss of employment or a job offer and/or breach of visa conditions.

Let me give you an example where things could potentially go wrong if you do not check your interim visa conditions and fail to comply:

B is on a 1-year Post Study Work Visa (open) which allows him to work for any job, any employer in any location. While on this visa, B works as a Retail Manager for Company ABC in Auckland. B’s employer agrees to support B for a further Work Visa allowing him to continue his job.

Say that B decides to apply for:

  1. a Post Study Work Visa (employer-assisted); or
  2. an Essential Skills Work Visa; or
  3. a Partnership Work Visa (open) based on a partnership relationship.

B’s Interim Visa, if granted, would have “Visitor” conditions which will not allow him to work in New Zealand. B must present his Interim Visa to his employer and only work until the end date of his Post Study Work Visa (open). If he continues to work even after the expiry of the Post Study Work Visa, whilst on an Interim Visa with Visitor conditions, that will result in a breach of visa condition and will become a “character issue” for all his future visa applications.

Access the full table of interim visa conditions here.

At the moment, temporary visas lodged onshore seem to be taking close to 2 months from the date of lodgement to be allocated to an officer for an assessment. Employers may not be open about leaving the position vacant for 2 months or more, which could result in you losing your job or job offer. We would therefore advise visa holders to act promptly and seek a further visa a few months before their current visa expires.

Validity of Interim Visa

Interim Visas, once issued, are valid from the day after the current temporary visa expires. If you hold, for example, a Work Visa until 20 March 2018, then your Interim Visa (if granted) will be effective from 21 March 2018.

Interim Visas are valid until the earlier of:

  1. the date the further temporary visa is granted, declined or withdrawn; or
  2. 6 months from the date the Interim Visa is granted.

If, for example, you are on an Interim Visa and your temporary visa application is declined on 21 March 2018, or you withdraw the application and Immigration New Zealand (“INZ”) acknowledges your withdrawal on 21 March 2018, then 21 March 2018 is the date your Interim Visa is valid to (visa end date).

Also, if you leave the country whilst on an Interim Visa, it ceases the moment you depart New Zealand. You will have to wait offshore until a decision is made on your temporary visa application.

When do you become unlawful?

According to the Immigration Act 2009, the expiry of a visa is the day after the visa end date[2] and a person becomes unlawful in the country on the day after their visa expires[3]. That means, if for example your Interim Visa was valid until 21 March 2018, then that Visa expires on 22 March 2018 and you will become unlawful on 23 March 2018.

Most applicants are not prepared to lodge yet another visa application one day after the decline decision or are ready to depart immediately to avoid becoming an overstayer. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of applicants becoming overstayers, and an increase in the volume of Section 61 Visa Requests which has been an ongoing problem for INZ.

Word of advice to those who are planning to seek a further Temporary Visa – Do not wait until the last month before your visa is about to expire. Prevent yourself from becoming an Interim Visa holder if you can. Apply for a further Visa at least 2-3 months before your current temporary visa is due to expire. If you have time left on your temporary visa after the application is declined, you can have another crack at it without becoming unlawful in the country and being subject to deportation.

[1] Temporary visas include visitor, student, work, military and diplomatic, consular and official visas. Temporary visas do not include interim visa, limited visa and residence visas.

[2] Section 63(1)(a) of the Immigration Act 2009.

[3] Section 9(2)(b) of the Immigration Act 2009.