The initial introduction of the 2021 Residence Visa in December 2021 was a technical disaster. Immigration New Zealand who has had past problems with IT upgrades promised that it could handle large numbers of applicants. In fact INZ’s website crashed within hours of applications for the new visa opening up on Wednesday 1 December leading to confusion and disappointment for clients, lawyers and immigration advisers alike. We then had the longest outage ever for most applicants as the system limped along for the next four days. Even when we were able to lodge applications it took hours to do so.
Pacific Legal welcomes the comments of June Ranson, Chair of the New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment in the media. Director Richard Small as a senior member of the immigration legal community added his concerns on behalf of our clients at this debacle.
“Immigration lawyer Richard Small joined NZAMI in calling for the auditor general to look into what was going wrong at INZ. A problematic reform programme, Vision 15, was exonerated in a 2017 AG report and he said there was no further oversight from there of the remainder of the programme’s implementation and results.
Issues that came out of an older report were meant to be solved by Vision 15 and had slipped out of sight. “The core issue for me is management culture,” he said “Everything else are symptoms. I would like to see an AG investigation into both this debacle but also the wider but linked issues of decision making, information handling, which is a major issue, complaints handling and transparency by INZ.
“Crucial information disappears off the pages of AMS (INZ’s computer records) into Word documents, often not acknowledged – we’ve had three Ombudsman’s findings from our office alone in the last two years, and dozens of useless complaints are just shrugged off. Every instance is apparently a one-off accident. There’s a difference between substance and window dressing.”
Pacific legal has been at the forefront of raising concerns about lack of transparency in immigration systems. These affect fairness and efficiency for all visa applicants.
With the support of the Auckland District Law Society Immigration and Refugee Law Committee Immigration New Zealand have agreed to a project to review record keeping and disclosure concerns. There have been electronic meetings with senior staff including the incoming head of Immigration New Zealand Alison McDonald on these issues.
“ We’ll judge the project by its results.” Said Mr Small. “We are determined to bring the system back to a more balanced approach as was intended in the 2009 review of visa processing and with the new Immigration Act that year.
“Immigration New Zealand is not just a regulator: It’s located within public service. So it still has obligations of service to clients which it seriously breached through its website being out of action for days on end. Immigration New Zealand has a key border enforcement role, but migrants , their employers and their families are part of the “public” that it serves. At times they seem to be forgotten.”
“ Current events including files being kept out of access when requested for clients, senior staff influencing decisions without records being kept of their input and a constant creep of black ink covering what we do receive show the need for this.”
Pacific Legal has had dozens of cases turned around when we have been able to get disclosure of contested information which turns out to be incomplete or misleading. The trend towards not even acknowledging much of that information since the auditor-general effectively removed supervision of immigration New Zealand around 2016 is very concerning.
We will continue to keep you posted about developments.
If you have any concerns or questions about the 2021 Resident Visa category or your file held by Immigration New Zealand, we are field experts for both of these matters. Please contact our friendly team.