Good news for Skilled Migrant applications, bad news for Residence from Work Applicants.

It is fair to say that Immigration New Zealand is currently under significant strain.  Various factors have resulted in skyrocketing processing times and a major headache for administrators.

The newly announced re-prioritization of Residence applications is good news for Skilled Migrant Applicants and applicants on salaries above $106,000 but bad news for Residence from Work applicants whose applications will now languish in the general managed queue rather than the priority queue.

The general queue has not moved for quite some time, with applications made in December 2018 not being touched yet.  This is because the INZ has previously prioritised Residence from Work applications, which have increased significantly. Around 90% of applications are now being completed within 15 months of submission, as opposed to 9 months in February 2019.

The reprioritisation of applications will mean that the general queue of Skilled Migrant Applications will once again start being allocated.  As approximately 75% of applications fall outside of the prioritized queue, the adage of first in first out will be reinstated, except if you have occupational registration OR earn a significant income.

The Immigration New Zealand team responsible for temporary applications are prioritizing visitor and student visas from countries that can travel to New Zealand (ie excluding applicants from mainland China which are covered by the temporary travel ban) over work visas in order to deal with the backlog.  Work visa processing will be delayed, likely increasing the current processing times sharply.

The student visa backlog is mostly of Immigration New Zealand’s own making, with increasingly high levels of verification and in-depth examination of the origin of student funds. There has been a noticeable increase in the decline rate of student visas, especially for lower level courses.

Within every election year, immigration numbers become the proverbial soccer ball between parties.  The Labour/Greens/New Zealand First coalition have yet to announce new planning ranges for the New Zealand Residence Programme. (NZRP).  The NZRP provides a “target/quote” for the number of residence approvals.  For the 18 months from 1 July 2018 until 31 December 2019, the planning range was 50,000 to 60,000 residence approvals. A total of 52,048 people were approved residence during those 18 months.

The delay in announcing this new range appears linked to an intra-coalition political tussle between Labour and New Zealand First.  New Zealand First have always made it known that they are targeting a range around the 10,000 residence approval mark, well below current levels.  However, Labour may well be listening to employers , who are still battling to find suitable, skilled New Zealand staff in many industries.

Either way, residence visa applicants should expect their application processes to take between 12-18 months from date of submission – a long time to be in limbo and increased uncertainty.

by Vanessa Sharratt

Licensed Immigration Adviser