Driving assessment

Immigration glitch costs hundreds of visa applicants


Migrants vying for a resident visa have been forced to pay thousands of dollars for unnecessary medical tests due to bugs with Immigration New Zealand’s new processing platform

Immigration New Zealand has promised to reimburse “around 1,000” resident visa applicants, some of whom needlessly forked out thousands of dollars for medical tests and x-rays between April and July this year. But an immigration lawyer says that number is likely a vast undercount.

The error occurred when the department moved to a new processing platform for phase two applicants, which did not record that medical assessments had already been submitted.

In a written response to the Education and Workforce Committee earlier this week, Immigration Minister Michael Wood said around 1,000 applicants were affected.

“INZ reimburses the costs incurred by applicants who have been informed that they must undergo a medical examination when their specific situation does not require it.

“Communications have since been sent to all 2021 Resident Visa applicants asking them not to provide medical screening information until they have been specifically contacted by INZ.”

Wood also said immigration said a fix was implemented on July 21 to prevent the error from continuing.

However, immigration lawyer Arran Hunt said the figure was an undercount and that thousands were likely affected.

“I would say about 20% of our customers have been affected by this. A thousand would be about 1.5%…I don’t believe our customers are a statistical anomaly. Whether [the immigration minister] think it’s 1000 so they haven’t fixed the issue yet or correctly identified the impacted number.”

He said many people walked out and got unnecessary medical exams and x-rays with no questions asked.

“At around $400 each, they’re not cheap, especially with the current cost of living situation. If you have a family, you could see thousands.

“We tried to get the message out to people, but migrants are afraid of government services because they often come from places where governments are corrupt.

“INZ’s solution of ‘file a complaint and we’ll refund you’ is something they won’t do as they fear it will mean they will be turned away.”

Hunt also said the issue had not been resolved, citing a letter received from a customer on July 23 requesting a medical evaluation – two days after the patch was supposed to have been adopted.

“And we still have a number of clients who are ‘waiting for you to provide medical examinations’. We uploaded our letter to everyone [and] INZ tells us that’s all we can do and we have to wait for the process for someone to see our letter and let the application proceed.

The 2021 Resident Visa is a one-time visa announced in September as a streamlined route to residency for around 165,000 migrants currently in New Zealand

“We are paving the way for our migrant families who have long been disrupted by Covid-19, while ensuring businesses have the certainty they need to plan for the future and continue to drive economic recovery,” the former said. Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi at the time.

“The changes give migrants certainty about their future here, allowing them to continue putting down roots, and will help reunite many families who have been separated by border restrictions that prevent Covid-19 from entering the community. .”

Phase one applications for those who had previously applied for residency or expressed an interest as a skilled migrant were processed under INZ’s previous system, but phase two – for all other applicants – has begun to process. be processed on April 1 under a new system.

Hunt said the new system was “full of bugs” and that “whoever signed it shouldn’t be working on it anymore.”

“I would recommend anyone fill out an application to see the confusing language used. The application toggles between whether you are applying for the main person or their partner and the terms used. Yesterday I had to give a middle name to a candidate’s Kiwi partner because the application would not be accepted unless she had a middle name.

“For another, a child born in New Zealand who never left the country, he demanded his last address abroad… These are just some of the bugs I’ve seen these last days.”

National Immigration Party spokeswoman Erica Stanford said it was another example of Immigration NZ “in complete and total disarray”.

“So much grief, so much cost, so many lines… some of these people had to wait in line for hours to get an assessment.”

Visa applications close on Sunday.