Immigration authorities in New Zealand are considering closing a number of offshore visa processing centres as they move to more online applications streams.
The country’s visa authority Immigration New Zealand has confirmed it is looking at reducing the number of overseas visa processing sited from 17 to five.
It is also looking at streamlining the application process by sectors as the recently introduced online visa application platform, Immigration Online, is expanded. It currently accounts for about half of all eligible visa applications.
Under the proposed changes, offices in Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bangkok, Moscow, New Delhi, Pretoria, and Shanghai would close, along with the Auckland Central and Henderson offices.
‘It is proposed that over the next three years, our offshore presence would be reduced from 17 locations to five. There will be processing centres in Beijing and Mumbai, with our three offices in the Pacific also remaining,’ said Steve Stuart, general manager of visa services.
A further four offices in Manila, Washington DC, London, and Dubai would cease processing visas but would remain open for other activities, such as market intelligence and verification activities and maintain relationships with key partner countries.
Retaining the Pacific offices provides additional service delivery stability as INZ works through a significant period of change. Mumbai and Beijing are proposed to remain to reflect the high volume of student and visitor visa applications made in those markets and for business continuity reasons, Stuart explained.
‘There is a diminishing need for public service counters at our offices, and we already operate a contact centre for customer inquiries,’ he said, adding that significant amounts are being invested in the online services and this will result in more accurate, timely and consistent visa decision making with more visa processing being done in fewer, strategic locations.
The New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment (NZAMI) cautiously welcomed the proposal. NZAMI director Simon Moore said he was concerned that verification in risk markets could suffer by not having overseas officers with an understanding of cultural intricacies and trends of fraudulent behaviour.