Friday, 1st July, 2016

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced that the INZ Queenstown Office will close before the end of August 2016. This announcement follows a lengthy review of the position of the INZ Queenstown Office. Officially the review has concluded that as a large proportion of Queenstown applications are being submitted online, hardcopy applications can be managed by other INZ branches, without impacting the timeliness of INZ’s processing services.

It should be noted that this general office closure actually reflects a strategic direction of INZ to close smaller processing branches, and centralise processing in New Zealand to a limited number of larger processing offices. In the future, as well as the closure of smaller onshore offices, we expect a number of international consulates and INZ offices offshore to also close/stop visa processing for two main purposes (among others). First, a financially driven/cost saving motive. To reduce the cost of application processing offshore by centralising the processing of applications onshore to larger offices.

Second, increasing efficiency and the quality/consistency of decision making by having a smaller number of offices processing larger volumes of visa applications in New Zealand.
The Queenstown Office of INZ processes a significant number of work visa applications for the Queenstown region, and it will be interesting to follow processing times for visas in that region without a physical office onshore that has local understanding that Queenstown employers have relied on for many years, especially the larger employers in the region who were given preferential processing treatment under the trusted partner initiative, as they will no longer be provided that service.

After the Queenstown Office has closed, applicants will need to submit hard-copy applications to INZ branches elsewhere in New Zealand. Alternatively, applications can also be submitted using INZ’s online processing platform.
A transitional period of 12 months after the closure of INZ’s Queenstown Office will see the introduction of a Queenstown Business Advisor provide immigration policy, and visa processing advice and support to Queenstown employers to assist with what will be a difficult transition for a number of Queenstown based employers.

Our advice therefore in relation to filing applications for Queenstown is for employees to tender applications much earlier than normal, because of increased processing times. The closure of the office will mean that INZ will lose a certain amount of “market intelligence”, particularly around labour market testing, and therefore it is our view that processing times will initially be pushed out as other INZ offices get to grips with the unique Queenstown market.