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May 11, 2016

What’s in a name?

Should Immigration Officers give names when issuing a decision and be contactable by advisers?

Immigration Henderson Area Office in its December 2015 announced that it would no longer provide lists of officer names and contacts electronically. Initiatives across various INZ offices have replaced individual immigration officer names with Team or Office names.

  • On line visas for example often have no officer name in the electronic decision letter.
  • The trend has long been for the Contact Centre not the Case Officer to be the main direct point of client contact.
  • Our requests under the official information Acrtto INZ are met with a policy that only senior managers’ names should be disclosed.

The trend to anonymised processing is clear. Is this a problem? Should advisers be concerned? The short answers is “yes.”

Delegations are still received by individual immigration officers exercising powers under section 380 and elsewhere within the Immigration Act 2009 and under Appendix A15.5 Delegation of Powers to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – Immigration New Zealand.

The Ombudsman has decided that there is no general right of anonymity for public decisions makers, in a Official Information Act decision in PHARMAC in December 2012.

The State Services Commission in its 2009 Review of Visa Processing was clear that the identity of individual officers and any managers involved in decision must be clearly recorded.

In response, INZ Internal Admin Circular 09/12 directs that this must occur. Auto notifications are an exception, but having decisions made and signed off by “the team” carries two risks

  1. Involvement of unwarranted “support” staff in actual immigration decisions.
  2. Undeclared direction by managers who have in fact decided the application.

Pacific Legal insists that the identity of decision makers should be made known in the interests of fairness and transparency. So if we receive a letter signed by “The Team” or “The XYZ Office”, we reserve the right to ask for the name of the Warranted Immigration Officer who actually made the decision.

Richard Small

Adapted Article for NZAQMI “E-News” February 2016