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Pansyspeak: Immigration minus the service

Immigration minus the service

Slowly and quietly, Immigration New Zealand has crept in to replace the New Zealand Immigration Service as the name of choice for the department, despite the latter still being used on official letterheads and it also being known to the public as the Department of Immigration. This constant chop and change between names reflects the confusing changes made to immigration policy over the past six years.

It's also both ironic and maybe appropriate that Immigration New Zealand has dropped the word service from their name on their website, given the rash of complaints about people being left high and dry because of delays and the way they are being treated by the department.

These delays aren't isolated to the department because the Immigration Minister isn't faring much better. I have received many complaints about urgent letters not being acknowledged for months. When I asked him how long it took for his office to answer correspondence he gave his usual evasive type of answer by saying "both my office and the office of the Associate Minister of Immigration, Hon Clayton Cosgrove, endeavour to respond to all correspondence that is received as promptly as possible...". I wonder if his office is professional enough to know the average length of time it takes to respond to letters of an urgent nature!

With attitudes like this I can't help but reflect on the different standards of service required by bureaucracy from their clients. Yesterday the NZ Herald reported the plight of the Penfold family, which has to return to South Africa because the father waited 10 months to notify Immigration New Zealand about a job change, and in their view that was far too long.

Mr Penfold's work visa allowed him to work at a motor vehicle dealership in Whangarei. After six weeks he shifted to a motor vehicle dealership in Auckland. He found out later that he should have told the department about the move, and when he did they revoked his work visa and turned down his residency application.

According to the department, taking 10 months to notify them about a change is too long and unacceptable, but every week I am being told about people facing extremely long delays in having their applications processed. This lack of efficiency by the department is most definitely the pot calling the kettle black.

I was recently told about a woman who has had to depend on her boss and his wife to support her for more than six months because she can't get a reply from the Minister's office. She applied for a work permit last year after her long-term relationship with a New Zealand citizen ended (up until then she had been in the process of applying for residency). In July last year she was told by the department to stop work immediately until a decision was made about her case.

At this stage, her boss and his wife began supporting her. After her application was turned down in October, she and her boss made a plea (which was also backed up by a professional organisation relevant to her line of work) to the Minister asking for a temporary work permit.

This correspondence went unanswered for months until they phoned the Minister's office. They finally got a response after two further phone calls, and were told three months later, in late January, that a decision should be made within two months - five months from the time they made their plea!

Well, the two months is almost up and this woman is still waiting for a reply from the Minister and remains dependant on her boss to provide a roof over her head and to look after her financially. When I asked the Minister about delays in his office he asked me to provide specific examples - I will be forwarding details about this case to him.

The Minister and his department should provide the same standard of prompt service and reaction that they expect from applicants who don't know the policies or processes inside out.

But it doesn't end there. I have also been told that people who hold Long Term Business Visas are facing long waits (some more than 12 months) for their residency applications to be approved, but when I asked the Minister about this he said that he hadn't been advised by the department about any delays.

The lack of urgency displayed by Immigration New Zealand and its Minister is having disastrous outcomes for those they are supposed to help. It's time the department and the Minister re-introduced the concept of service into their work ethic, if not in the title.

Footnote: In my last newsletter I said the Immigration Minister told Indian Newslink that he was planning to regularise the status of overstayers by inviting them to apply under harsher criteria than those faced by people who apply from overseas. One reader has told me that the Minister suggested on Radio Tarana (an Indian radio broadcaster) that overstayers who have job offers should apply for residency (Well!!).

Some members of the Korean community have also said that the Minister has told them that positive immigration changes are on the way for their community. I will be submitting many questions to the Minister in the coming week and should any concrete answers be forthcoming, I will share them all with you.


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