Members of Dunedin's immigrant community say the closure of
the Dunedin Immigration Office could drive away skilled
migrants wanting to settle in Dunedin.
The Dunedin office will be closed from October 2013. It is to
be replaced by a Visa Application Centre (VAC), run by a
Processing of visas for the South Island, including those
submitted through the Dunedin VAC, will be centralised at the
Christchurch Immigration office.
Women-only immigrant networking group Women Across Cultures
drafted a letter to be sent to Minister of Immigration Nathan
Guy, after they heard about the closure in October.
Group member Jean Park said having to travel to Christchurch
to sort out immigration issues would create a huge amount of
stress for immigrants all over the South Island and might
discourage skilled migrants from coming to Dunedin.
''If it's so hard for you to come here, why wouldn't you just
go to Christchurch, or somewhere else?'' Mrs Park said.
The immigration process was complex and took a long time,
often involving several visits to immigration offices, she
Having access to local staff would make things much easier
and less confusing, she said.
''I think before they close it, they should take a good look
at a map and see exactly where in New Zealand the immigration
offices are,'' Malaysian immigrant Monica Abdullah said.
It was ridiculous to think there would not be an office in
one of the country's largest cities, she said.
Zimbabwean immigrant Pamela Welch said although it was
possible to fill out many of the immigration forms online,
this could often be confusing to immigrants not used to
''Often the migrants come from cultures where you deal with
people,'' she said.
''Being with people rather than machines is very important to
She also said providing personal information online raised
concerns about confidentiality breaches.
Other members said English was not their first language and
they found it far easier to make themselves understood in
person rather than talking on the phone.
German immigrant Ute Keck said she had already had to travel
to Christchurch for immigration purposes and this trip had
cost her more than $600.
In many cases, new immigrants were financially vulnerable and
would find it difficult to pay for travel and accommodation,
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said
he could not say whether the loss of the office would mean
migrants might stay away from Dunedin, but the closure was a
disappointment for the community, he said.
''Dunedin will be less well served as a result of this. It is
a disappointing decision''He said immigration was important
to several major Dunedin businesses, especially in the
tertiary education sector, and it was important to have local
people with local knowledge dealing with migrants to the
Whenever offices had closed in the past the city had seen a
reduction in services, even though the government had always
put forward the argument that services would not be affected,
An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said people should not
have to travel to Christchurch under the new scheme.
''Frontline services will be undertaken by the VAC, which
will be in place prior to the branch closing. Immigration New
Zealand is also working on a new ICT system that will, once
available, enable visas to be applied for online,'' she said.
The Dunedin branch employed six staff, she said.
''We will work with staff to find them alternative employment
where possible within the Ministry of Business, Innovation
and Employment. Redundancy will only be considered as a last
There are immigration offices in Auckland Central, Manukau,
Henderson, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Dunedin
and Queenstown. Immigration New Zealand said the Manukau,
Hamilton, Wellington and Queenstown branches had been
identified for review over the next two years. Final
decisions on whether these branches would close or be
retained were expected to be made progressively over 2014-15.
In the year to June 30, 2012, about 3200 work visa
applications were approved for Otago.
- Jonathan Chilton-Towle