The Ombudsman in New Zealand has looked into fourteen complaints received by the office recently which claimed that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) offices in New Delhi and Mumbai had not properly assessed applications from partners and spouses of work and student visa holders who are currently in New Zealand. The complaints were based on the fact that the two offices had appeared to concentrate too much on whether applicants for New Zealand partner visas in these cases had incentives to return home. The Ombudsman agreed that this was the case and so the New Zealand immigration department has been forced to reassess not just the fourteen cases in question, but hundreds of similarly declined applications for New Zealand spouse and partner visas.
In the course of looking into the New Zealand partner visas in question, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) Indian offices were found to have wrongly declined another sixty applications, and a further investigation has also identified 459 more possible mistakes. These cases will not necessarily now result in acceptance, but they are all being reassessed. Some people have had applications for New Zealand family migration visas turned down more than once and for them the situation remains frustrating as they are now not able to have a reassessment if they are in the process of a third application. Apart from the distress that this is clearly causing these families, the actual monetary cost has been substantial as each application costs NZ$200. Some applications have been declined despite there being more than adequate paperwork to prove that the relationship is genuine, and also when the couple involved have high-earning capacity and professional qualifications.
The fourteen complaints to the Ombudsman were made by immigration advisers and New Zealand’s leading professional association for immigration specialists, the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment (NZAMI). The complaints mainly covered applications for New Zealand spouse visas and New Zealand partner visas under the family migration policy. The chairman of NZAMI, Walter Stone, has expressed his feelings on the decisions very clearly, saying, ‘They show a lack of training and bias. This reflects poorly on Immigration New Zealand.’
NZAMI had looked into percentages of declined New Zealand family visas from other offices and found that the rate from the Indian branches was far higher than through any other branch. Because of the inconsistent and poorly judged decisions from the branches in New Delhi and Mumbai, the New Zealand taxpayer will be footing a substantial bill for reassessing almost 500 cases. The New Zealand decision to allow partners to join international students in the country is a sound one as they contribute 28,000 jobs and NZ$2.6 billion a year to the economy. Many of the students then go on to become residents, keeping a great deal of talent and expertise in the country.
Immigration New Zealand’s manager, Michael Carley, has said that the department had now contacted all applicants who have been affected by the problem. The applicants have been advised that their applications for New Zealand partner visas and some others are now eligible for reassessment. A new team of immigration officers who did not deal with the original applications will be dealing with them for the purposes of reassessment and a programme of retraining has been set in motion in India. Finally, he said, ‘INZ would like to apologise for this error and wants to reassure affected customers that their applications will be reassessed as a matter of priority by dedicated specialists in our Indian offices.’