A New Dawn

August 5, 2016
Iain MacLeod

While a single swallow a summer does not make, there are tentative signs that the efforts by a small number of us in the immigration industry and the Leadership of INZ to forge a closer relationship, after two decades of what can only be described as ‘mutual distrust’.

As someone who is a strident critic of the failures of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to acknowledge the value of the better Immigration Advisers in the marketplace to applicants (not to mention INZ itself) it seems, at last, those in charge of processing and issuing visas now ‘get it’.

Good Advisers are neither a threat nor a nuisance – we enhance the process for applicants who cannot hope to understand the complexities of the system and make it easier for Immigration Officers to process these applications, the thinking largely done for them.

We do the marketing, we do the ‘sorting’ of those that cannot qualify and might otherwise ‘clog’ up the system and we provide assistance and support to those looking to settle in NZ, taking a lot of the pressure off INZ itself and other Government agencies.

We have pushed INZ for some time for what your local bank might call a ‘Relationship Manager’ to be available to those of us with reputations for professionalism and a track record of preparing high quality applications for high quality migrants. We now have one, and it is like the sun has come out after a long, cold winter.

This new ‘channel’ has allowed us, for example, in the past four weeks to get work visas issued as ‘exceptions to the rules’ for two clients who needed to start work in highly skilled jobs, but whose visas were being delayed by minor medical matters needing to be ‘cleared’ by INZ Doctors. The delays caused by these medical referrals has recently doubled processing times, from 2-4 weeks to 6-8 weeks for work visas. That delay gives further incentive to employers to withdraw job offers or not offer them in the first place.

Many a potential skilled migrant has lost their job offer because of it. Very nice to be able to make a phone call and get these work visas issued as an exception, which, in turn, allows everything else (including these families resident visa applications) to keep moving forward.

We have also now had our first South African client issued his Visitor Visa for the purpose of coming to New Zealand to look for work so he can be part of the Government’s skilled migrant residence programme. A welcome relief all round, as increasing numbers of South Africans are being questioned en route and the internet is abuzz with stories of (a minority it has to be said) South Africans being offloaded or refused boarding on their flights to New Zealand.

As the risk attached to this visa waiver agreement increases with the ongoing deterioration in the South African economy and society, it is nice to have been able to sit down with senior INZ management and come up with a solution for our clients which reduces the risk to all parties – including the NZ Government.

Anything that allows our clients to travel without the added and unnecessary stress of wondering if they will draw the short straw and be stopped and questioned is an understanding I was happy to negotiate and enter into with INZ on behalf of our clientele.

The move toward greater centralisation of processing many resident visa applications in New Zealand is also welcome, as INZ struggles to act consistently in the processing of visas at its many offshore branches.

We have been ‘banging on’ for some years that bringing all the resident visa processing under one roof should enable more consistent decision making to occur. Our biggest gripe (among many) has been that the far flung branches of INZ have historically all interpreted the same rules in different ways.

The same evidence presented in order to prove some criteria when viewed by two officers in different branches constantly leads to two different outcomes. This is highly frustrating and unprofessional and leads to constant conflict. Hopefully bringing all our cases under the one roof is going to improve consistency.

I should add that while I am optimistic that at last INZ is waking up to how to run a real business, there is still a long way to go. Until they have competition (which will never happen) and the disciplines that competition imposes on those of us in a competitive marketplace, they will never function as the private sector must to survive.

At last, however, we now have some light at the end of the tunnel and it is very nice to know that INZ will acknowledge that the ‘one size fits all’ service delivery model is less than helpful and working with companies like IMMagine rather than working against us is going to help all parties – them, us and by no means least, our customers seeking their visitor, work or resident visas in New Zealand.

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