Offshore Temporary Entry Embargo Extended

Families who have been separated for the past two years due to New Zealand’s border restrictions are facing at least another year apart as the Government extends its suspension on temporary visas being processed offshore from February to August 2022.

The suspension came into effect in August 2020 as it became clear New Zealand’s borders would remain closed for an extended period to all but citizens, residents, and their partners or dependants.

On Tuesday, 1News was alerted to news of the extension, posted on the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) website earlier this week.

“The Government has extended the suspension until at least 5 August 2022. The suspension can be lifted if the border restrictions change,” INZ writes.

This will be a significant blow to employers who were anticipating that from April next year they would – even under a phased reopening of the border – have some prospect of getting the skills they cannot now obtain.

While the immigration minister is deliberately vague and suggests there might be a review, experience tells me that’s not going to happen. It also indicates that either Chris Hipkins didn’t really know what he was on about when he made his announcement, or the All-of-Government approach to the pandemic is an uncoordinated mess and ministers don’t know what’s happening in their colleagues’ portfolios, even when that relates directly to the pandemic response.

Overwhelming workload ahead for INZ

Why do I think there won’t be a review of this embargo? I believe one of the underpinning reasons for the extension is to provide space for Immigration New Zealand to manage its workflow because it simply cannot cope.

The Government has committed to Resident Visa 2021 in the processing of the 165,000-plus residence cases within a 12-month period. Those applications need to be filed before 31 July 2022.

My sources say INZ never applied to the ministry for additional funding for an increase in recruitment to manage that. So they are also going to have an HR crisis to meet the minister’s commitment in terms of processing timeframes.

Additionally mandatory accreditation status starts for employers in July with the application process opening in May. Let’s hope there’s not the website disaster like the Phase 1 Resident Visa 2021 applicants have experienced today. That is going to add significant pressure as employers will be demanding prompt turnaround time so they can begin recruiting.

Then of course we have all those split families who will be wanting to enter as soon as the border permits once MIQ is also relaxed.

So to be blunt, the embargo is in the interests of an organisation that frankly isn’t capable of dealing with the work it’s tasked with completing. Once again, the inadequacy of the government machinery is paid for by those on the receiving end of its services, rather than the organisation reforming itself to ensure it can deliver.

This is a sad indictment on the current government and just another in a series of ongoing failures that are going to see a backlash from the business community. And with recent changes in the National Party, it could be a very rough time at the next election for Labour.

The economic consequences from a continuation of the embargo will also be significant. Inflation is now embedded, and the wage inflation that will continue from this embargo will exacerbate that. There is no easy fix to that economic problem, which is once again a problem that taxpayers and businesses will have the burden of carrying.

With this news and the application system disaster experienced by Phase 1 RV2021 applicants, we can safely score the government performance at 2/10 – that’s being generous.

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