MP hails improvement in visa processing

Hamish Walker
Hamish Walker
An Opposition MP claims he has successfully encouraged Immigration New Zealand to improve its processing of Queenstown work visa applications.

Clutha-Southland National MP Hamish Walker said employers regularly complained to him about the length of time Immigration NZ took to process applications, and about inconsistencies in how they treated cases.

Queenstown’s tourism industry is heavily reliant on recruiting foreign labour.

Mr Walker said that at the start of the year visas were taking up to 30 days to process and people in identical situations were often getting different advice from Immigration NZ.

"Some employers would have [prospective] employees in exactly the same situation, but one application might go through in 10 days, the other could take 40 days."

Mr Walker said he had lobbied the department for several months to increase its level of service for Queenstown.

He said it will now provide employers with an email address and phone number for urgent cases.

"Immigration NZ has also informed me it will now prioritise Queenstown work, which has resulted in applications being turned around in 10 to 15 days max."

"I’m delighted to hear they have now increased their level of service for Queenstown."

Mr Walker, however, said he also wanted Immigration NZ to provide a specialist who only dealt with Queenstown cases, due to the resort’s unique employment environment.

"It is pretty tough trying to attract and retain staff in Queenstown at the moment," he said.

Tracy Pool, general manager of Republic Hospitality, which owns eight outlets, said her business could not survive without foreign labour.

She agreed Immigration NZ had been "very inconsistent" in dealing with visa applications, and welcomed its intention to provide "more consistency and more speed or urgency in its processes".

Immigration NZ closed its Queenstown office two years ago, after a review concluded a high proportion of applications were being submitted online.

It confirms its Queenstown processing times have improved, due to more streamlined and online visa services.

Queenstown visa applications are now allocated to an Immigration NZ officer within 10 to 15 working days of being received, senior engagement and communications adviser Julia Craven said.

"Our allocation timeframe has nearly halved since April, when it was between 20 and 30 working days, and we expect improvements to continue."

Updated contact information for urgent queries was now provided to employer networks, following feedback from a Queenstown employers’ reference group.

Asked about Mr Walker’s plea for a Queenstown specialist, she said there were no plans to change staffing arrangements.

"Queenstown visa applications are processed across a large team, who hold good local market knowledge."

- Philip Chandler

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