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Immigration changes will result in more staff in New Zealand Updated Monday, 18 December 2017

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced that more jobs will be created in New Zealand as a result of a decision to bring home much of the high-risk, high-value processing of visas currently done overseas.

Following consultation with staff INZ has confirmed it will reduce the number of offshore processing offices from 17 to five over the next two years. The head of Visa Services, Steve Stuart, says the increasing popularity of online visa applications has provided the opportunity to develop a new model that will ensure faster, more accurate and consistent visa decision-making. It will also specialise visa processing by customer sector such as business, education and tourism, consolidate visa processing to fewer, strategically chosen sites and introduce a new leadership model.

Under the changes Auckland Central and Henderson visa processing will cease and relocate to Manukau with existing staff having roles available to them. There will be a greater presence in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Porirua and Christchurch. Between 50 and 60 new jobs will be created as a result over the next three years. 

Two large processing offices will remain offshore – Beijing, which will process visitor visas and Chinese student visas, and Mumbai, which will process student visas for the rest of the world. Six offshore offices will close altogether – Ho Chi Minh; Hong Kong; Jakarta; Moscow; New Delhi and Shanghai.  Processing will also cease in six other offices – Bangkok; Manila; Washington DC; Pretoria Dubai and London but a presence will be retained in those parts of the world to gather market intelligence, manage risk and carry out verification activities.

The three offices in the Pacific (Nukualofa, Suva and Apia) will remain as processing offices at this stage to provide additional service delivery stability as INZ works through this significant period of change.  

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

“Despite the personal impact, our staff recognised that leaving our model unchanged was not an option. I’m confident that we will now have the right operating model in place to meet our ongoing commitment for world class service delivery and customer excellence in a digital world,” Mr Stuart says. “There will be greater transparency and certainty for our customers and it will be easier for them to apply for a visa through simpler processes and instructions. At the same time we will save around $23 million a year by the 2021/22 financial year.”

Mr Stuart stresses the closure of offices will not have an impact on customers.

“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 says. “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.”

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Questions and answers

How many submissions were received during the consultation period?

There were more than 850 comments by INZ Visa Services staff on the proposals and around 90 submissions from other stakeholders. The submissions were on a number of themes, including the proposed office closures, transition issues and the proposed organisational design. Each individual piece of feedback was analysed and a series of workshops was held with staff to ensure decisions were as well informed as possible.

Why are office closures now taking place over two years instead of the original three?

A requirement of the new model is that it is responsive to fluctuations in visa numbers.   Since the original proposals were developed visa numbers have softened. As a result we no longer need to build in additional capacity and the office closures can now be achieved earlier than originally thought.

When will the affected offices close?

The indicative closure dates for the six offshore offices that will shut altogether are as follows:-

Hong Kong - March 2018
Ho Chi Minh - May 2018
Moscow - June 2018
Jakarta - July 2018
Shanghai - October 2018
New Delhi - March 2019

The indicative dates for processing to cease at the six other offshore offices are as follows:-

Dubai - March 2018
Pretoria – April 2018
Bangkok – September 2018
Washington DC – November 2018
London - February 2019
Manila - June 2019

As mentioned above a presence will be retained in the above six offices to gather market intelligence, manage risk, carry out verification activities and maintain relationships with key countries. 

The indicative closure dates for the two onshore offices are as follows:-

Auckland Central - July 2018
Henderson - June 2019

How many roles are there in INZ offices now and how many will there be when the closure programme is completed?

There are currently approximately 840 staff roles onshore and about 560 offshore. The actual number of roles affected as a result of the changes will depend on the volume of visa applications. But it is anticipated that by the end of June 2019 the number of roles onshore will increase by around 50 and the number of roles offshore will decrease by at least 160.

Originally it was stated that more than 100 new jobs would be created in New Zealand. Why has the final number halved?

As mentioned above visa volumes have softened, which has an impact on the number of staff we need. The exact number of jobs that will be created will depend on volumes over the next three years, but new roles will be visa processing related and based at our offices in Manukau, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Porirua and Christchurch.

Will staff at the Henderson or Auckland Central offices lose their jobs when they close?

INZ will work closely with all affected staff and those at the Auckland Central and Henderson offices will have roles available to them in Manukau. We’re confident that the majority of staff from Henderson and Auckland Central will continue to work for INZ. There may be a minority for whom the additional commuting won’t be practical and redeployment options will be considered. Redundancy will be considered as a last resort.

What will the changes mean for customers in countries where offices are being closed?

INZ encourages people to access the services they require through our online channels and the Immigration Contact Centre, which currently has an average phone waiting time of around two minutes. Applicants have been able to apply for student visas online since August 2014 and for work and visitor visas since June 2015. Applications for visas not currently available online - such as residence - can be posted. Applicants can also use the services of a broad network of licensed immigration advisers or lawyers.

There is no need for visa applicants to physically go into an INZ office to lodge their applications. Visa Application Centres (VACs) have been operating effectively for more than five years at 39 locations worldwide providing services on behalf of INZ, including lodging 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.

What other changes have been made following the consultation process?

Additional resources are being allocated so that a risk and verification presence is retained in Bangkok and Pretoria in addition to the originally proposed locations of Manila, Washington DC, Dubai and London.  There will also be two locally engaged verification roles in each of these locations.

A decision has also been taken for the Beijing office to process first time Chinese student visas, in addition to being the offshore visitor visa processing site.

In addition, an additional relationship manager in the Manukau office to be responsible for the day-to-day relationship with licensed immigration advisers.

What will you do with the money saved as a result of these changes?

Reduced visa processing costs will enable INZ to invest more in other parts of the immigration system, such as risk management. Bringing more visa processing onshore will deliver tangible economic benefits for New Zealand.