Delays in visa processing timeframes impact employers and employees

If you employ migrant workers and they are looking to apply for visas you should be aware that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has been experiencing significant delays in the processing of all visa categories lately.  INZ has advised that the delays are mainly due to the increased volume of visa applications received both onshore and offshore.

Once an application has been submitted to INZ for processing, the first step is for it to be ‘vetted’ and assessed to see if all relevant documents and information are included, and all lodgement requirements are met. Provided the application is accepted for lodgement, it will then join a queue to be allocated to a case officer for processing. The delays applicants are currently experiencing tend to be at the allocation stage where the visa application will sit in a queue for number of weeks or months waiting to be allocated to an Immigration Officer for assessment.

Current (approximate) processing timeframes are as follows:

Essential Skills Work Visa: Up to three months
Work to Residence (Talent) Work Visa: Up to 69 days
Work Visa (Partnership): Up to four months
Student Visa: Up to four months
Visitor Visa: Up to 24 days
Skilled Migrant Category Residence Application: Up to 13 months
Residence Application (Partnership): Up to nine months

In our recent experience, there have been longer delays for applicants applying from offshore.  However, there has also been some inconsistency in visa processing timeframes in general, so some applications are processed in two-to-three weeks (which is apparently random).

We understand INZ is attempting to manage the increased volume of visa applications received by arranging additional shifts for its staff members, including weekend shifts.

Our advice to employers and applicants is to begin preparing visa applications well in advance of the intended date of travel and/or expiry of current temporary visas.

Limitations of interim visas

Getting the visa application lodged early is particularly important for applicants in New Zealand on a visa with an upcoming visa expiry date.

If the new visa application has not been processed by the time the visa expiry date arrives, an interim visa should be issued by INZ.  The interim visa allows the applicant to remain in New Zealand lawfully whilst awaiting a decision on their new visa application.   However, it is very important to note carefully the conditions of the interim visa.  The current visa type the applicant holds and the visa type that they have applied for will determine the interim visa conditions.

In most cases where the visa being applied for is different to the visa the applicant previously held, the interim visa will revert to visitor conditions.

Visitor conditions do not allow the visa holder to undertake employment, meaning applicants will need to stop work until their new visa is issued.

Common examples include:

Current visa Applying for  Interim conditions
Working Holiday Essential Skills Visitor
Essential Skills Talent – Work to Residence Visitor
Essential Skills Essential Skills (new role) Visitor
Post Study Open Work Essential Skills Visitor

Understandably, the inability for an applicant to work is likely to have a significant negative impact on both the applicant and their employer.

Interim visas also have no travel conditions, meaning if an applicant wishes to travel out of NZ they will not be able to re-enter on the interim visa, but must wait until the new visa has been issued.

If you, or someone you know, require assistance in preparing an application in light of the above information, the Lane Neave Workplace law team would be happy to assist.

Workplace Law team

If you have any queries in respect of the above, or any other Workplace Law issues, please contact a member of Lane Neave’s Workplace Law team:

Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Gwen DrewittMaria Green,  Hannah Martin, Joseph HarropHolly StruckmanAlex Beal, Giuliana Petronelli, Abby Shieh
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Daniel Kruger, Nicky Robertson, Julia StrickettKen Huang, Mary Zhou, Shi Sheng Cai (Shoosh)Sarah Kirkwood, Janeske SchutteLingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew ShawFiona McMillan

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