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Attitudinal shift should follow statutory changes

The Government has put in place a new Immigration regime, with simplified procedures and concepts but the system will be successful only if the officials executing it are dynamic, with progressive attitude.

Many applicants and immigration advisors say that inordinate delays in processing applications and in many instance, even in assigning case officers were frustrating.

“Over the years, many applicants have either lost time or hope or both by avoidable delays. We have lost many aspirant immigrants to other countries. Besides, the inefficiency has done damage to our image,” they said.

However, they hope that the new provisions in the Act would help restore New Zealand’s status as a favourite migrant destination, if the staff efficiency and productivity are improved.

Immigration Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman was however optimistic.

“The (new) Immigration Act 2009 will help us improve the efficiency of the immigration system by sharpening some processes. It is 21st Century legislation, which reflects the changing trends in immigration and will encourage visitors, students, skilled workers and new residents that New Zealand needs to grow its economy,” he said.

The Interim Visa

While the new Immigration Act came into force on November 29, 2010, a few provisions would become effective in stages. Among them is the new ‘Interim Visa’ System due to become effective on February 7.

Visitors keen on extending their stay in New Zealand will be able to obtain an ‘Interim Visa’ to retain their legal status in the country while their application for ‘another temporary visa’ is processed.

The wording has confused some potential visitors who asked, “What is the need for someone holding a valid temporary visa to apply for an interim visa while waiting for another temporary visa?”

According to some insiders, in deserving and exceptional cases, an ‘Interim Visa’ could be issued to those whose applications for Student Permit, Work Permit or even Residence Permit is processed.

But no one is sure of the system until it comes into force next month.

However, the following statement from Immigration New Zealand could somewhat be soothing:

“In most cases, an Interim Visa will be granted automatically by electronic means, and there is no fee and no visa label. People who are granted Interim Visas will be notified by email or by letter. The Interim Visa will be valid until the date a person’s application for a temporary visa is decided (up to a maximum of six months).”

Work Permits

According to Dr Coleman, procedures for issue of Work Permits have simultaneously been tightened and eased. While the new system will permit employers to make checks, verifications and references faster (we are not sure how the system can help in this process), they would also have the obligation to ensure that those recruited are suitable to work in New Zealand and have the necessary qualifications, skills and experience, in addition to a good character.

Indian Newslink understands that Immigration New Zealand would take a ‘more positive and sympathetic’ view of applications for work and residence permits from international students who complete their graduation or post-graduation courses in New Zealand universities and tertiary institutions.

“It is only fair that international students are given an opportunity to become a part of the workforce, since they would have acquired the requisite qualifications and aptitude. It would be a win-win situation,” an official said.

Sponsorship Criteria

The new Act allows Government agencies, public sector organisations and private enterprises to sponsor applications for Visitor, Work or Residence Permits, hitherto restricted to individuals.

“This would make the system more robust, since institutional sponsorship would carry with it corporate responsibility. Besides, companies would invariably have professional immigration agents who are licensed to undertake such work. This will help in creating a better immigration regime,” an immigration lawyer said.

Tougher Regulations

Immigration Act 2009 will also take a less lenient view of defaulters, fraudsters, overstayers and other ‘unwanted elements.’ The Government has a better system in place to deport such people, with more stringent conditions that would keep them away from New Zealand for a length of time.

The establishment of the Immigration and Protection Tribunal under the supervision of the Justice Ministry is also seen as the right step in the right direction. The Tribunal replaces the four bodies of appeal that were in existence prior to the promulgation of the Act.

Dr Coleman said the new system provides for detaining people considered a threat to New Zealand.

“Use of biometrics like iris scans will help to verify the identity of foreign nationals and enhance the ability to share this information with other government agencies, both in New Zealand and overseas,” Dr Coleman said.

Migrants bring skills, trade and links to export markets, investment, ideas and cultural diversity to this country. They are critical to economic growth, those with skills are sought all over the world, and we must compete to attract and retain them.

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