On Tuesday, 23 February, Immigration New Zealand announced plans to close three overseas offices by the end of March 2021: Mumbai, India; Pretoria, South Africa; and Manila, the Philippines.
INZ’s Beijing office will no longer perform visa-processing functions but will continue its risk and verification functions, providing advanced verification in support of visa decision-making and identifying risks, issues, and trends arising from markets that may affect the immigration system’s integrity.
Staff in the Beijing office will continue to be employed until at least 30 June 2021, with the timeline subject to review over the next few months and dependent on visa volumes and when NZ borders are likely to reopen.
According to INZ, these changes are in response to a sharp decline in visitor and student visa applications, processed primarily in overseas offices closed since March 2020, when COVID-19 border closures to all but New Zealanders were enacted, with few exceptions.
“Visa application volumes have decreased significantly, by over 80%, in some instances. As INZ is predominantly funded from visa fees, the decline in revenue poses a funding challenge. We have a responsibility to operate in a financially sustainable way.”
Changes under way to protect New Zealand’s interests include right-sizing the organisation to cut costs, introducing new technology, managing offshore risk more effectively, and moving visa processing onshore.
Skilled migrant setting changes yet to be announced
Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi will review the skilled migrant residence category by the end of March and has made it clear that employers who relied on migrant workers in the past need to “think differently about how to do that in the future.” The emphasis will be on upskilling New Zealanders to avoid reliance on migrant workers.
The minister also said that they would be “working with employers who identify specific skill shortages and having them, in the new system, be the ones that apply for visas and not the other way around.”
What will this mean for migrant workers? Read immigration lawyer Aaron Martin’s opinion here.