Many of us will be aware of the fact that it is taking significantly longer for Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to allocate and process residence visa applications. This is largely due to the increased number of Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) residence applications and Residence from Work (RfW) applications. This coupled with the uncertainty and challenges brought on by COVID-19, many migrants are feeling understandably anxious about this. For that reason, INZ have released an update to try and explain why this is happening, what they are doing and what migrants can or can’t expect.
NEW ZEALAND RESIDENCE PROGRAMMEOur role is to process and approve residence applications in line with the New Zealand Residence Programme (NZRP) which is set by the Government. INZ (Immigration New Zealand) is resourced in line with the NZRP, not in line with the number of residence applications received. The Government has not yet finalised the new NZRP. In the meantime, we are continuing to process applications at the same volume and with the same level of resourcing the previous NZRP allowed for. We are not able to process and approve more residence applications than the NZRP allows for. We understand that the uncertainty individuals face while waiting for an application to be decided can be distressing and we are committed to processing applications as quickly as possible in line with the NZRP. Processing timeframes are published on our website and are updated fortnightly.
SMC and RFW Category applications are currently prioritised for allocation if the principal applicant is onshore and:
- is paid twice the median wage or higher (currently NZD $51 an hour or NZD $106,800 a year), or
- works in an occupation where registration is required by immigration instructions and holds that registration.
Applications that don’t meet either criterion for prioritisation are allocated to an immigration officer in the order they are received. Since 22 September 2020, we have been allocating:
- non-prioritised SMC and RfW applications received in March 2019, and
- prioritised SMC and RfW applications, within 2 weeks of their submission.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR APPLICANTS
To be granted residence in New Zealand is a privilege, not a right. Being in New Zealand or having lodged a residence application does not automatically give an individual the right to remain in New Zealand permanently and does not guarantee that their residence application will be approved. Criteria for residence visa approval must be met at the time an application is assessed, not when it was submitted. It is the responsibility of the individual to ensure they remain lawful if they are in New Zealand while their residence application is being decided. There will be some people who will not have their applications processed before their current temporary visa expires. We understand this may be distressing.
Applicants who do not meet the prioritisation criteria for allocation and are no longer eligible for another temporary visa should make a plan to depart New Zealand if they can no longer remain here lawfully.
We will continue to provide you with regular updates on SMC and RfW processing. Our website remains the best place for up to date information.