Immigration New Zealand is Changing How it Prioritizes Some Resident Visa Applications

INZ is changing the way it prioritises Skilled Migrant Category and Residence from Work visas – Talent (Accredited Employer) Resident Visas not to be prioritised.

Beginning February 24, 2020, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is changing the way it prioritizes Skilled Migrant Category and Work to Residence category visa applications.

Processing times have increased as a result of significantly increased demand for Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) and Residence from Work (RFW) category visas in the last 18 months.

What does it mean for SMC and RFW visa applicants?

Beginning February 24, 2020, INZ will:

  • Resume picking applications that do not fit the prioritization criteria from the general queue
  • Meet the processing numbers for resident visa applications of previous years
  • Continue prioritizing applicants who have occupational registration and those making double the New Zealand median wage (currently NZ$ 51/hour or NZ$ 106,080/year)
  • Not prioritize Talent (Accredited Employer) Resident Visa applications unless the applicant is highly paid or is in an occupation that requires registration (the applicant must be registered to be considered for prioritization) – the list of occupations that need registration can be found at occupational registration page on INZ’s website.

SMC and RFW visa applicants who are already in New Zealand must maintain valid temporary visas during the processing of their resident visas. If your resident visa application is being actively processed or queued, you must apply for a further temporary visa if your current visa is nearing expiration.

More details on this can be found on the INZ website at SMC and RFW prioritisation information for applicants.

What does this mean for employers of SMC and RFW applicants?

Employers will need to be mindful of the changes being made by INZ on how it processes Skilled Migrant Category and Residence from Work Category visa applications.

The changes being adopted from February 20, 2020 mean some international workers may have to apply for further work visas till their resident visa applications are adjudicated.

Note that this change only impacts resident visa applicants and does not change how the INZ prioritizes work visa applications.

This announcement means:

  • Your staff who has applied for either SMC or RFW visa may need to make an application for a further work visa till their resident visa application is adjudicated
  • You may need to support their further visa application with additional documents, such as an Employer Supplementary Form (INZ 1113).

More details on this can be found on the INZ website at SMC and RFW prioritisation information for employers.

How does this impact the processing times for SMC and RFW applications?

INZ is bombarded with a large number of SMC visa and RFW visa applications – these applications are held in a general queue, and an immigration officer is assigned to work on them in the order they are received unless they meet the prioritization criteria.

As of February 24, 2020, INZ was assigning Immigration Officers to work on SMC and RFW visa applications it received in December 2018.

The assigned immigration officer assesses the allocated application to see if the applicant and the included family members qualify for the grant of the visa – the applicants are notified when their application is assigned to an immigration officer.

The processing time for assessing a visa application can vary significantly based on certain factors and depends largely on the quality of supporting documents submitted with the application – any further information or verification of data needed to reach a decision may also lead to extended processing times.

More details on this can be found on the INZ website at SMC and RFW processing times.

Why is INZ changing the prioritization process?

The increase in the number of SMC and RFW applications in the last 18 months has led to an increase in visa processing times as it takes longer to assign an immigration officer to assess the application.

For instance, in the 3 months leading to February 1, 2019, 90% of SMC applications were processed within 9 months. In contrast, in the 3 months leading up to February 1, 2020, 90% of SMC applications were taking 15 months to be processed.

Currently, priority applications are taking up the entire visa processing capacity of the INZ, which has led to the immigration service not being able to allocate applications from the general queue. Things are so bad that the oldest applications waiting in the general queue go as far as the ones submitted in December 2018.

INZ expects the new prioritization approach to result in prioritization of approximately 20% – 25% of the received SMC and RFW applications.

The new prioritization criteria do not stop immigration officers from processing any particular residence class visa application urgently in exceptional circumstances, which are matters of:

  • national interest,
  • compelling personal situation, and
  • humanitarian factors

Professional Visa solutions is following these developments closely, and our immigration experts are well prepared to help you succeed in your work visa application in the light of the new changes. Book a consultation to discuss your case.

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