New Zealand to close South African immigration office

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced plans to bring the bulk of its visa processing service back onshore.

This will include the shutdown of eight overseas offices – including Pretoria Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bangkok, New Delhi, Moscow and Shanghai – as well as two offices in New Zealand.

INZ said that it will still retain a skeleton presence in these parts of the world to gather market intelligence, manage risk and carry out verification activities.

“We estimate that as a result of these changes there will be a net reduction of between 250 and 300 jobs offshore, mainly locally engaged staff,” said the head of Visa Services, Steve Stuart.

“This has been an unsettling time for our staff and I do want to take this opportunity to acknowledge their professionalism, dedication and commitment,” he said.

“Even for customers who don’t apply online there is no need for visa applicants to physically go into an INZ office to lodge their applications,” he said.

“Visa Application Centres (VACs) have been operating effectively all over the world for more than five years and provide services on behalf of INZ, including receiving applications.”

“Using VACs to undertake administrative tasks allows INZ staff to focus more on managing risk and making decisions on visa applications. This improves services for customers and leads to quicker decisions on visas,” he said.

The changes will be affected by 1 April 2018.

Stuart stressed the closure of offices will not have an impact on customers, which means the only significant change for South Africans should be the loss of face-to-face applications.

However the changes should also be read with a number of changes announced by Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, which has made it significantly more difficult for South Africans to move to these countries.

Harder for South Africans to emigrate

In April 2017, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that he will be abolish the country’s popular temporary work visa system and increase the standards of its citizenship test in an effort to promote “Australia first” values.

The new requirements to gain citizenship into the country require candidates to be permanent residents for at least four years (as opposed to the previous one-year requirement). In addition applicants must be competent English speakers, must show a job record and prove they have integrated into the local community.

In addition, Turnbull said that he would also abolish the country’s popular temporary 457 work visa programme in an effort to focus on creating jobs for Australians first

New Zealand announced that it would be following Australia’s suit by drastically tightening access to its skilled work visas.

These changes, which would now require a minimum income requirement and limitations on seasonal workers, would be implemented at a yet undecided date later in 2017, said immigration minister Michael Woodhouse at the time.

“These changes are designed to strike the right balance… and encourage employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them,” said Woodhouse.

Read: Changes to UK emigration rules you need to know about following the latest Brexit talks

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New Zealand to close South African immigration office