Have you recently received a PPI letter from Immigration New Zealand? Are you unclear on how to respond?

Before you do anything that could jeopardise your case, read this first. Our easy-to-understand guide explains the particulars around PPI letters, what to expect, and what’s involved in mounting a successful defence.

When applying for a visa, whether temporary or for residence, it’s essential to provide evidence that meets all the criteria for the specific category. Immigration New Zealand’s responsibility is to thoroughly assess the validity of everything you’ve submitted, which may include contacting third parties for verification.

These third parties could be past and current employers, individuals who have provided support letters, or organizations holding records such as law enforcement, medical providers, or educational institutions. If INZ identifies any potential issues, they are legally required to issue a PPI letter.

“Whatever you say has to be backed up with good-quality corroborative evidence,” explains immigration lawyer Aaron Martin at NZIL. “If it’s not good-quality evidence, there is room for Immigration to make assumptions, which in turn might result in a PPI letter.”

If you’ve received a PPI letter, don’t panic – we’ve got you covered. In the following sections, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know to understand and navigate this process successfully.

What is a PPI letter? What does PPI stand for?

PPI is short for “potentially prejudicial information.” When Immigration New Zealand obtains information that could negatively affect the outcome of your visa application, under the principles of natural justice, they are obligated to give you, the applicant (or your nominated representative), the opportunity to comment on that information. PPI letters may be issued for applications under any visa category and you will be given a deadline by which to respond.

This does not mean your application has been declined. Yet. It simply means that the immigration officer assessing your case has a concern about your application and is asking you to provide more information. How you respond to that PPI letter will influence, if not directly determine, INZ’s final decision.

Why did I get a PPI letter?

People receive PPI letters for a variety of reasons, including character or medical issues or simply not meeting the criteria as they thought they did. “INZ is basically saying, ‘We don’t think you’ve proven that you meet the criteria based on the evidence provided,’” says Aaron.

For example, your immigration officer may feel that your employment arrangement doesn’t satisfy the criteria of the visa type you applied for: “You might have lodged a work-to-residence visa application based on being a chef. Immigration might say, ‘Well, actually, we think you’re a cook, not a chef, therefore not on the long-term skills shortage list.’”

Or they may say that the evidence submitted doesn’t adequately demonstrate that your employer conducted a proper labour market test – “say, if Immigration felt that their reasons for not hiring New Zealand applicants weren’t valid or that the attempt wasn’t genuine.” Or the evidence may suggest that your purpose or intended length of stay in New Zealand is outside the bounds of that particular visa type.

In other cases, INZ has received potentially prejudicial information from third parties: “For example, ‘We’ve got information from the labour inspectorate that your employers are non-compliant’ or ‘We’ve got information from the New Zealand police that there was a callout to your property as the result of an argument between you and your partner.’ Or ‘We’ve got information that indicates your documents are fake.’”

Your character may be called into question if you’re facing criminal charges, including drunk driving. “Or there may be inconsistencies in information given to INZ on previous applications, so they’re making allegations that they’ve been intentionally or accidentally misled.”

I got a PPI letter. What should I do? When should I seek help?

First of all, don’t panic. But do make sure you do something about it – and well before the deadline. Depending on the complexity of your case, you may need to request an extension. More time may be needed to allow your lawyer to get up to speed, fit you into their caseload, and request and receive files and internal notes from INZ. The Privacy Act 2020 allows agencies up to 20 working days to furnish the requested information.

“Sometimes they take the 20 days and sometimes they don’t. It’s standard practice, so people shouldn’t be concerned about extensions,” says Aaron. Except in cases where other factors at play drive the need for a speedy response. “For example, ‘My existing visa is running out and if I don’t get a new one, I’m going to have to stop work.’”

Are there simple cases where you can handle a PPI letter yourself? Yes, says Aaron. “There might just be a small gap in the information provided, and you can see very quickly that if you supply it, the immigration officer will be satisfied. But when it starts getting more like, ‘Justify this, validate that’ and you’re stumped as to how to respond, you should reach out for professional help.”

Especially if the issue INZ has raised is like any of those already described.

What kind of response is INZ looking for?

Any PPI response given by yourself, your immigration advisor, or immigration lawyer must be clear, logical, and complete, with a well-articulated explanation and evidence that definitively backs up what you’ve said.

Directly address the identified issue in adequate detail for the immigration officer to make a decision. How much detail is enough? If you’re at all in doubt, seek professional advice.

Bear in mind that if you’re on an interim visa when your application is declined, you become unlawful in 21 days and can therefore be subject to deportation action.

Onshore versus offshore applications: What’s the difference?

Also be warned that offshore temporary visa applicants are subject to a slightly different set of rules and may receive less consideration than onshore applicants:
“If you are an offshore applicant for a temporary visa and INZ determines that the prejudicial information is already known to you, they do not have to issue you a PPI letter and can just make a decision using the prejudicial information. If you’re offshore and it’s a residence visa case, they must send you a PPI letter, however.

“So the rules are: Everyone onshore, it’s a requirement for INZ to issue a PPI letter. They will do that in every instance where the applicant is onshore and something that indicates they don’t meet criteria for the visa they have asked for.

“They will also do it for an offshore residence case. And they will do it for an offshore temporary visa case but only if it’s new information and something not already known to the applicant.”

To recap, here are the official definitions:

Onshore applications: If you are currently in New Zealand, PPI is defined as any information, data, or material that may adversely affect the outcome of the lodged visa application.

Offshore applications: If you are currently outside New Zealand, PPI is defined as any material, data, or information that:

  • was not obtained directly from the applicant or their representative
  • is not publicly available
  • may adversely affect the outcome of the application AND
  • the applicant has not previously had an opportunity to comment

If I go with New Zealand Immigration Law, what will you do for me?

Whatever you need! Whether it’s a qualified opinion on a response you’ve already drafted or help building a case and formulating a compelling response, our expert legal team is here for you.

In general, our process at NZIL is as follows: “I digest the PPI letter, meet with the client to get background information, and ask any questions I have that might indicate to me a potential solution or explanation.

“Then I often ask INZ for two things: an extension of the deadline and a copy of what’s been submitted. Also, a copy of INZ’s file so I can see the internal assessment notes. Once I have all the evidence, I prepare the response, which might necessitate going back to the client to ask for further explanation so that I can identify what further evidence needs to be provided.”

The bottom line: There’s no point in trying to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist.

“If you know there may be an issue and you’re engaging with a lawyer or an adviser, let them know about your worry up front so that they’re not caught out down the line. That way, you’ve got a plan in place to deal with it, if and when gets raised, rather than scrambling to formulate a plan on the fly. Because then you’re under time pressure and that’s when mistakes get made.”

If my application is declined, what can I do?

Whether or not you can reapply depends on the context. “Is it a temporary visa application or a residence visa application? Your rights of reconsideration and appeal will be determined by those things, but also whether you are still under lawful status.”

Whatever you do, don’t leave it too late and potentially jeopardise your case. For timely, expert advice or help handling your PPI letter, contact New Zealand Immigration Law today.

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