Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has taken on 100 staff and is recruiting more as it prepares to close its Beijing office.
INZ shed more than 300 jobs overseas as it shut branches in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but recruitment had been on hold due to financial constraints.
It today announced its Beijing visa processing office would shut by the end of August, joining closures in Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria earlier this year.
Before Covid-19 struck, the Beijing office decided half of all New Zealand's temporary visas.
The only overseas processing offices that will remain are those in the Pacific when the branch in China closes, although risk and verification staff will continue to work in other offshore locations.
"This is a continuation of INZ's adaptation to the impact of Covid-19," a spokesperson said.
"INZ is taking this opportunity to reduce costs, introduce advanced technology to improve efficiency, manage offshore risk more effectively and move visa processing activities onshore."
Some of the newly recruited staff in New Zealand are understood to have been taken on to process residence applications.
The government asked for 50,000 to 60,000 new residents to be approved in the last 18 months under the residence programme (NZRP).
The NZRP is the framework for granting residence to skilled, family and humanitarian migrants. With one month left before the NZRP expires, it is 3500 away from the lowest end of that range.
In a statement, INZ said that from January 2020 to last month it had approved 46,562 people for residence.
"INZ continues to ensure that resourcing for the processing of skilled residence applications remains in line with the levels agreed to under the previous NZRP, as agreed with the previous Minister of Immigration," INZ border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg said.
"Skilled residence applications are processed in INZ's Manukau office. As at 21 May 2021, 85 immigration officers are responsible for processing skilled residence applications. Residence applications take time to process given how much there is at stake and the level of scrutiny required for each application.
"Recruitment throughout Immigration New Zealand's onshore visa processing network is under way, with 100 vacancies recently being filled. This recruitment will allow INZ to increase its onshore visa processing capacity."
The government is reviewing how it will draw up residence targets in future, alongside policy work on the skilled migrant category.
Among skilled migrant residence visas, the number of residents decided last month fell to 658, down from a high of 1925 in November. Rejection rates increased from 7 percent to 21 percent over the same period.
A quarter of applicants have been waiting two years for a decision.
For the past two months since March 2021, INZ has been working on applications made in August 2019.