INZ Hypocricy Exposed Again

April 16, 2021
Iain MacLeod

Trust us, we’re from the Government.

This has been ringing in my ears more times than I can count lately as I try to understand how it is that Devon Conway, a cricketer of prodigious talent with a bright future representing New Zealand in all forms of cricket, was the recipient of an INZ decision to ‘escalate” his partner’s non-priority residence application into the priority processing queue…all so he could travel with the national cricket team to the UK in a couple months without needing a border exemption to return.

For the record I love cricket, especially test cricket, I will be watching NZ play in the world test championship final, I hope they win and my calling this out is not aimed at Devon Conway. He played no part as best I can tell in this outrage. This is about the arbitrary, capricious and cruel nature of immigration management decision making and little to no oversight by a seemingly disinterested Minister. A Government department where there appears to be zero accountability.

What we know from public statements is that Conway, who is from South Africa, has been living in New Zealand for a number of years with his partner, Kim, also a South African who works in a marketing role in Wellington. Conway was quoted recently confirming his partner, the primary applicant for residence, filed her application for residence under the skilled migrant category roughly 12 months ago (now). He was in possession of a partnership based work visa. He said he’d been told by INZ processing of their residence case was delayed owing to Covid.

If they did tell him that INZ was at best confused, at worst lying. It actually had nothing to do with Covid.

It had everything to do with the fact it did not meet the priority processing criteria. INZ management decided among themselves around 18 months ago to only prioritise the processing of those skilled migrant cases where the primary applicant earned $106,080 per annum or worked in an occupation requiring NZ registration. Clearly Kim ticked neither of these boxes or her residence would have been allocated and processed within two to three months of filing along with every other ‘priority’ application.

Media reported if Conway didn’t have residence and he was selected to travel to the UK (he since has been), he risked not being able to return to NZ because as a non-resident he’d require a border exemption and that couldn’t be guaranteed.

That is not true.

INZ could so very easily have said to Conway’s employer, ‘Chill boys, it wouldn’t be fair to the other non-priority cases to allow Kim to queue jump but we can confirm today, that if he files a border exemption online when he lands in the UK, these things take a couple of minutes to decide and it will be approved. He already holds a multiple entry work visa or at worst we can give him a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa with work rights, so he can easily re-enter the country following the tour and keep working. Given the tour is several weeks long he has nothing to worry about, he can focus on his cricket. We will see him right. That’s the best we can do out of fairness to all those waiting longer than he has in the non-priority residence queue’.

But no, INZ pushed this residence application ahead of several hundred other ‘non- priority’ applicants like our clients Odette and Mike Dintchev and their daughter Isabelle. Also from South Africa. The Dintchevs are among the ‘split families’ group the Minister promised six weeks ago he’d look at doing something for, but has so far done nothing. These families, owing to the border restrictions, numbers perhaps several hundred who will be granted residence visas in time are not allowed to have their partners and children join them while they wait. You might have read about Odette and Mike in an article in last week. Odette did everything Devon’s Kim from marketing did. Came to NZ, found a skilled job, we secured a work visa for her and filed the family’s residence under the points system. The border shut before Mike and Isabelle could get here. Like Kim from marketing, they don’t meet the priority processing criteria. Mike and daughter Isabelle have been denied 26 border exemption applications including on humanitarian grounds, to join Odette. Isabelle has not been hugged by her mother for 15 months.

Because Odette, a mid level manager working for a major national retailer, earns less than the minimum salary to be prioritised, INZ has refused our requests to escalate her residence and process it as priority so the family can be reunited. If residence was approved today (it has been decision ready for a year and could be approved in 15 minutes) then Mike and Isabelle don’t require a border exemption and could immediately fly to New Zealand. The family sold their home in order to fund their migration. When I first consulted with Mike, I advised him INZ may well take issue with his weight. So he lost 56kg over the past year. You want commitment to your new country? He lost 56kgs on my advice so the one reason INZ might decline him was not going to be a problem! Legend.

Why did INZ not agree to prioritise the Dintchev’s residence application?

They told us it wouldn’t be ‘fair’ on the others waiting their turn in the queue. They are after all, all about ‘fairness’ or so they keep saying.

And the reason given for bumping Kim from marketing’s application into the priority queue where it was swiftly approved? ‘National interest’ according to INZ.

What precisely was the ‘national interest’ in granting Kim residence, given she, not her partner, was the primary applicant? That she was in a relationship with a very talented sportsman should have had nothing to do with anything. Devon was not invited to apply for residence because of his skill set, Kim was. Devon did not meet the criteria for residency, Kim did. It was her attributes that NZ wanted and which on the face of it met the aim and objective of the skilled migrant category, not his.

So too Odette Dintchev. She won’t get residence because of her husband Mike, even though in his own right he has much to offer New Zealand with his skills.

I was and remain incensed over this. I asked a very senior manager to define this so called ‘national interest’ test and what the criteria were to meet it. His written answer was brief. There isn’t any criteria, published or unpublished. He did offer that it was designed like this and kept ‘deliberately broad’ which is not very subtly telling me INZ can do anything it wants for any reason it wants. And it did. There must be some cricket fans among the INZ Managers that decide which non-priority cases get to queue jump.

So Devon Conway now has the chance to help NZ win a game of cricket (and I sincerely wish him well) and Odette sits in her rental accomodation on the North Shore, realising she’s probably another 8-12 months away from hugging her daughter and seeing her husband again, all the while watching their savings evaporate and placing God only knows how much mental strain on this couple and their much loved only child.

The Dintchev’s case could have been escalated and approved in place of Kim from marketing. Devon could have been told he would be granted a border exemption because it wouldn’t be ‘fair’ to put his partner’s residence application ahead of Odette and Mike but INZ will facilitate his return. Easy. Fair. Sensible.

Interesting priorities INZ Managers have if you ask me.

If Devon had realised all this being the humble guy he appears to be I suspect he’d have said fine, no worries, all I want is certainty I will be able to return to NZ after the tour. Our residence can wait. As a fellow South African I wouldn’t want Odette to be denied reunification with her husband and daughter because of me.

But that didn’t happen. Some Manager at INZ applied some undefined and unpublished national interest ‘test’ to his partner and rushed through her residence. No explanation of why Kim deserved that priority has been offered by INZ when the media has pressed because, most likely, there is nothing about her as primary applicant that warranted this special treatment.

Hardly fair. Certainly not transparent.

Just because INZ can do something does not mean they should. I get that.

When we are talking about not reuniting families torn apart by the border restrictions, people the Minister invited to apply for residence, who will in time be approved residence because my team and I filed a decision ready application and INZ encourages and supports queue jumping by those like Kim and Devon, there’s something badly wrong with INZ and their priorities.

No pressure Devon. I hope you score big at Lords. I don’t blame you for this.

Enjoy the cricket Odette. Watching that will presumably give you something to do while you wait for Mike and Isabelle to get here next year.

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