Call for immigration office in Dunedin

Paul Gourlie.
Paul Gourlie would also like to see INZ offices operate more freely so that more people could walk in and seek solutions, without having to book an appointment. Photo: ODT files
The lack of an Immigration New Zealand office is undermining Dunedin's ability to deliver its traditional support for newcomers from abroad, Paul Gourlie says.

Mr Gourlie, the immediate past president of the Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council, is keen to have the office reinstated and will seek support for that in a submission to a Dunedin City Council meeting on October 30.

''It would make the process for everybody so much better,'' he said.

He would also like to see other INZ offices operate more freely so that more people could walk in and seek solutions, without having to book an appointment.

Immigration issues, which could threaten the future of couples and families, were ''hugely stressful''.

Under the present system, it could be difficult for some people to gain face-to-face contact with INZ, and they had to operate via a phone line or internet.

Often, students and other newcomers from abroad had little money, making it hard for them to hire immigration lawyers or licensed consultants.

''It's an absurd situation. It's certainly not the New Zealand way,'' he added.

Dunedin needed more immigration service support, including because it was home to many international pupils studying at secondary schools and students at the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic.

The city was also a resettlement area for former refugees, and many more overseas workers were expected to help build the new Dunedin Hospital, he said.

Dunedin resident Patricia Tsering was married to her Indian-born husband Dorjee Tsering in 2016.

She has since been involved in a long-running immigration case, and strongly believes that having a Dunedin INZ office would help significantly.

The Otago Daily Times asked INZ about the closure of the Dunedin office in 2015, and if people could enter INZ offices elsewhere in the country to seek face-to-face help, or must inquire by phone, or internet.

INZ manager operations support Michael Carley said that, since 2011, with more visa applications being lodged on line, INZ had changed how and where they were processed, to improve customer help, and the processing.

Some service counters were closed, including the Dunedin service.

INZ sought to improve its customer services but had ''no plans to return to its previous approach''.

INZ provided several options for people to discuss their visa applications and immigration-related matters, including requesting face-to-face meetings, which would be held if there was a ''need for them to make sure customers get the help'' they needed.

People could phone the INZ contact centre from 6am on a Monday until midnight on a Saturday, and email and the INZ internet site could also be used for inquiries and applications.

Information services included Migrant Connect, a face-to-face information service for migrants, delivered by Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand in 30 offices nationwide, he said.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

Comments

I thought knowledge of English was a residency requirement? Surely new immigrants have to speak English as a first step to integrate- otherwise we would be creating ghettos as in others countries where integration does not happen. If you can not speak on a phone to INZ then how will they get a job to pay their way and contribute to NZ?

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