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June 3, 2016
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February 28, 2017

Look before you leap – please obtain disclosure!

Importance of Requesting for INZ File

Two recent cases have underlined how important it is for advisers and lawyers to request for the INZ file when commencing to act for at risk clients.
Details below have been anonymised.

A client came to us who had a refused s61 request based on partnership. Adviser line had been phoned, but no request for file had previously been made to the INZ Privacy Team. Then we got the file. It turned out that the client has been included as a dependant in another application during the time they claimed their partnership and had not declared that status. No reasons were disclosed for a s61 refusal.
The onus is on the adviser to check all facts and to address all issues upfront.

For an offshore residence application we were PPI’d and have made an urgent request for the decision-making template. We found adverse issues left out of the PPI letter. We then asked the offshore office to confirm that the undisclosed issues would not be relied on at all.

Clients misunderstand and forget details (and worse!). There may be a case for requiring advisers and lawyers acting for new unlawful clients to request the whole file where practicable.

So…what to ask for?

When we start acting for a client we ask for both physical and electronic AMS records to be sent to us as PDF scans by email. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • The client information report: an overview of the client’s identity, family details, alerts, travel and visas etc. Effectively this is the index to all the other information.
  • Customer interaction notes: a record of all of their interactions with INZ arranged by date.
  • Application notes: a summary of processing steps arranged by application.
  • E-docs: these are copies of all template letters to the client.
  • Compliance case manager notes. If there has been compliance, or fraud related action.
  • Physical files that have been retained. Residence files are kept longer than temporary entry files. Destroyed files should also be listed in the decision letter.

Information about the clients as individuals comes under the Privacy Act 1993.

When should you get the information?

MBIE’s Privacy Act Policy requires that these requests be treated as core business by INZ. Timeframes are set out in IAC10/07 which is still current and can be found at https://www.immigration.govt.nz/documents/internal-administration-circulars/iac-10-07.pdf

Under s40 of that Act INZ is required to make a decision as reasonably practical and no later than 20 working days from your request.
We usually get AMS records within 1-2 weeks.

INZ is required to employ, or redeploy sufficient staff in its privacy teams to reach decisions within this maximum timeframe. Extensions beyond 20 days can only be for specific reasons in the particular case.

If there is a deadline, request urgency under s37 of the Privacy Act. If you are just asking for a single decision-making template then it should be possible to send you a PDF within a week.

INZ’s contacts for onshore requests

Offshore branches will have their own privacy or documentation officers. The rules above still apply.

Richard Small: Director Pacific Legal/ Director NZAMI