ChallengesWhy is it more difficult to get an NZ visa now?

The processing of visitor visa and work visa applications has changed in the last 12 months. Applications which were previously relatively straightforward have now become obstacle courses. But what has led to this increase in difficulty and is it likely to remain difficult in the future?

With over 15 years of experience in the immigration industry, at Greenstone Immigration we know that Immigration is an ever-changing field. Over the longer term, difficulty tends to oscillate up and down depending on public sentiment towards immigration, which drives political decision-making. However, in the short term, the visa process is subject to the whims of politics and news, which can lead to sudden swings in the difficulty of getting a visa from one day to the next.

In 2022, the NZ border reopened to the world. NZ’s tourism and education sector were looking to get back into business and NZ’s employers needed migrant workers to sustain their business growth. This demand brought political pressure on Immigration NZ to process visas as fast as possible and that is what happened. The pressure to process applications quickly and the opening of the NZ border resulted in Immigration NZ skewing its processing towards speed over and above its mandate to protect the integrity of NZ’s border.

Therefore, for the rest of 2022 and the early parts of 2023, visitor visas were being approved with little to no evidence provided, and accredited employer work visas were being approved as long as there was a potential job. Unfortunately, the work visa approvals led to a major problem in the visa system whereby some bad eggs were able to exploit a gap in the system to bring migrant workers (who often paid thousands of dollars for their job offer) to New Zealand even though there was in fact, no job available. This blew up in the news in mid-2023 when it was found that hundreds of migrant workers were living in poor conditions without the work that they were promised. Leaks from Immigration NZ then identified that employers and migrant workers were having applications approved without any verification or indeed without any checks at all.

Immigration NZ reacted to this news by swinging their processing from the extremely lenient system they had been following to becoming overly strict. Employer accreditation and job check timeframes ballooned from a week to 8 weeks overnight, and all visa applications were now being scrutinised in great detail.

Work visas – current status

Right now, the work visa process has mostly recovered to a median point. Applications are being scrutinized more than in the past and it is more important than ever to ensure every step of the process is carried out properly, but good applications are proceeding smoothly. However, it is important to be aware that Immigration NZ is conducting more verification work on all applications, including interviews with employers and work visa applicants to ensure that the exploitation issue does not arise again.

Visitor visas – current status

For visitor visas, the focus has been on getting back to basics at Immigration NZ. Between 2022 and mid-2023, applicants could be granted visitor visas based on basic information such as a written itinerary or invitation and proof of funds. However, the current visitor visa applications require not only clearer explanations but also sufficient evidence to ensure the three most important requirements for a visitor visa are met, including:

  • That there are sufficient funds to support a stay in NZ. ($1,000 per month/$400 per month if accommodation is pre-paid)
  • That there is a valid reason and a plan to visit NZ for the length of time you want to stay.
  • That there are strong ties to the home country means the applicant is not likely to breach visa conditions and/or remain in New Zealand unlawfully.

An important note here is that Immigration NZ often assesses visitor visa applications from the perspective that an applicant will want to remain in New Zealand forever and therefore the applicant must show that their situation is strong enough to convince the immigration officer that they will return home at the end of the stay.

Possible future focus

The screws will likely continue to be turned on the immigration pipeline, given a falling unemployment rate and an economy that is likely to slow over the next year.  It is therefore even more important to submit a work or visitor visa application that has been well crafted, is decision-ready and has a high likelihood of success.

Get in contact with us to discuss your NZ visa situation or requirements. We’re happy to assist in ensuring the process goes as smoothly as possible, and can also help you understand the risks in your situation.

Steven Dunning
Licensed Immigration Adviser