Information about skilled residence visas mistakenly posted on Immigration New Zealand's website appears to be an advance copy of the government's new residence criteria.
About 34,000 people are waiting to find out when expressions of interest (EOI) ballots for the skilled migrant and parent categories will re-start.
It has emerged the Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi made decisions at least two months ago about reopening both residence streams to new applicants. EOI selections - when migrants are invited to apply for residence - were frozen in March last year.
The details posted online about skilled residence visas show more points being allocated to jobs needing occupational registration such as nurses and teachers, or in areas of absolute skill shortage.
The information has since been taken down. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has refused to confirm or deny the uploaded points calculator showed part of the new criteria, and the minister has not responded to requests for comment.
Immigration adviser David Cooper said it appeared to be an advance copy of the new policy and would suggest INZ had been preparing its website for the changes.
He said it signalled an increase in the current points threshold was on the cards, and that would mean some people would no longer qualify for residence.
"Is it a precursor for what the minister is about to announce? I don't know, but it's certainly along the lines of some of the noise that we've been hearing in terms of points for jobs requiring occupational registration, jobs in areas of long-term skill shortage.
"Undoubtedly, if they go ahead with these changes and push the pass mark up, not all of those 11,000 expressions of interest will get selected."
How soon is now?
Many migrants and their representatives have expressed anger and frustration that Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi had been saying since March thedecision on EOIs would be made soon.
But some members of the immigration advice community had written confirmation from the minister back in late June that decisions had been made.
Cooper said, while some of the delay in making an announcement could be accounted for in the time INZ needed to prepare, action was now urgently needed.
"He said he had made decisions in regards to the selection criteria and an announcement would be made soon - and we're at the end of August and we don't have one.
"The damage to New Zealand and individuals is more significant than I think most people understand.
"I think what's really important for the government is to just to get on with it and not delay anymore because people and businesses need to get on with their lives, and there are no excuses for not making the decision - unless not making a decision was a decision itself.
"In other words, there's a reason why they're not making any announcements, that none of us quite understand."
RNZ asked the minister why the June decision had not been announced and when it would be, but no response has been received.
In a statement, a spokesperson said: "The skilled migrant category points calculator on Immigration New Zealand's website was inadvertently amended.
"This was an error and has since been corrected and restored back to the correct points allocation. We apologise for any confusion as a result of this error. Ministers have been considering how and when to reopen EOI selections for the SMC, but no decisions have been made yet."
Evidence decisions made already
However, RNZ has seen evidence that decisions were made at least two months ago.
Data released under the Official Information Act shows 25,844 people (11,660 EOIs) are now waiting to be drawn from the skilled migrant (SMC) ballot, including 5000-6000 applications from people with occupational registration.
That is in addition to more than 8500 parents (with 5463 EOIs lodged) under the parent residence category.
The EOI announcement is only part of the problem, as once residence applications re-start, they will join 14,000 unprocessed SMC residence applications dating back to the end of 2019.
The government has not updated its policy on residence numbers for almost two years.
"I've been in this industry with the government and the private sector for almost 40 years and I've never been as angry as I am right now," Cooper said.
"The residence programme ended at the end of December 2019. We're now almost at the end of 2021 and nothing's been done and the numbers [of applications] keep ballooning.
"Poor old Immigration New Zealand are constantly in the firing line but they don't have the resources - 70 staff to process 14,000 residence applications."