New Zealand says it will shut its immigration offices in Pretoria, Mumbai, and Manila in the Philippines by March, “and bring more visa processing onshore”.
Immigration New Zealand, the department responsible for border control, issuing travel visas and managing immigration to New Zealand, said in a statement this week that it is adapting to changing immigration demands, including a sharp decrease in visa applications because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“The immigration system is facing an unprecedented challenge as New Zealand continues to respond to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“With border restrictions remaining in place for almost 12 months, incoming visa volumes from people who are offshore have decreased significantly across a number of visa categories, including visitor and student visa applications which are primarily processed offshore.
“The reduction in visa volumes, combined with new technology capabilities, has provided Immigration New Zealand (INZ) with the opportunity to futureproof and change the way we work,” it said.
Deputy head of INZ Catriona Robinson said that INZ has a responsibility to adapt to the changing environment and ensure it is contributing to New Zealand’s Covid-19 economic recovery.
“As a result, INZ has made the difficult decision to close our offices in Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria by March 2021 and bring more visa processing onshore,” Robinson said.
“This is not a decision that we have made lightly. Our staff in these offices have made a significant contribution to INZ and New Zealand.
However, Robinson said that these offices have been closed since March 2020 and with no certainty about when visa volumes may return to normal, INZ has had to make some tough decisions.
“In addition, INZ is also planning to withdraw visa processing from our Beijing office, while strengthening our risk and verification presence.
“The Beijing office reopened in September 2020 and is currently processing visa applications for individuals who are already in New Zealand. The timing of withdrawal of visa processing from Beijing will depend on a number of factors including visa volumes and changes to New Zealand’s border restrictions. INZ will continue to monitor this over the next six months,” Robinson said.
Data from Stats NZ showed that there were 85,800 migrant arrivals in the country in the year ended December 2020, versus 41,600 migrant departures, representing a net gain of 44,100 people. For migrant arrivals in the September 2019/2020 year, StatsNZ showed that 7,100 South Africans entered the country on a range of visa types.
The office closures will affect 329 staff, who are locally employed in each city.
Catriona Robinson said she is confident that INZ is well placed to increase its onshore processing capacity.
“The roll out of new technology functions aims to improve efficiency and resilience throughout INZ, which will help to us to better manage peaks and troughs in visa volumes while giving users of the immigration system a better customer experience,” she said.