11 Nov 2022

Thousands of family visitor visa applications went untouched for months

12:15 pm on 11 November 2022


More than 3000 visa applications went untouched for up to three months after a systems upgrade failure.

The latest in a series of technology faults that have plagued Immigration New Zealand (INZ) in the past year, it affected 3200 applications for Parent and Grandparents visitor visas dating back to August and September.

A South African migrant said she only found out this week through social media what had happened.

After phoning immigration on Wednesday, her parents have now got visitor visas, but she worried others would still be in the dark.

"I know I've lost days of my life and sleepless nights, it's been all-consuming. And we've been very fortunate because the outcome for us has been positive and our parents are able to travel on the dates that they would like to.

"But the social media forums are flooded with people who have missed their flights, they haven't even been able to come over to see their grandchildren or their children yet. They've still been separated for four years."

INZ was now fixing the problem and issuing visitor visas, but the woman said the rising cost of flights for Christmas was causing extra hardship.

Immigration lawyer Arran Hunt said the fault was one of many with the new online system, known as ADEPT.

He was surprised it had taken so many months for INZ to realise the mistake. Some people who applied at the start of August assumed they would have their visas by November and had booked flights.

"Now Immigration's found this large bunch that haven't gone anywhere and they are trying to resolve them very quickly, but it is several months down the line that they've noticed this."

It was hard on families looking forward to visits from parents and grandparents, he said.

"They've been sitting here waiting - especially for those coming from, say, India - which was absolutely hammered by Covid - and they're sitting there constantly conscious that their parents are in this place which has been locked down and mass numbers of deaths.

"And they finally get a chance to bring them to New Zealand after years apart, only to sit here and see nothing. There's no visibility. It just states 'gathering information' or whatever stages it's at, and when you call up the immigration centre, most of them often say to you 'well, it says it's at this stage and that means this is taking place' when in reality in the background it wasn't taking place. It was just sitting there doing nothing."

'Full of faults'

Hunt said INZ had explained there were several technical issues and other faults causing problems.

Thousands of skilled migrants have put in expressions of interest, but many people were encountering screens that froze as the deadline approached. INZ extended it until this afternoon.

System faults began with the launch of the 2021 residence visa, and there have been subsequent hold-ups in work visas, tourist visas and police checks for residence.

INZ brought in an incident management team at the end of August, which it said made system changes to improve efficiencies in processing and free up capacity, including moving more visa categories to ADEPT.

"INZ recently identified a group of applications for Parent and Grandparent Visitor Visas that had not progressed through the platform as expected, these applications were received between 1 August and 21 September," said its controller Richard Owen in a statement.

"Requests for medical information meant that these applications did not progress as expected. Measures have now been put in place to process applications for these customers, and applications after 22 September are not affected."

Affected applications were now being treated as general visitor visas in a one-off change and customers were being contacted, Owen said.

"As Immigration Online beds in, INZ is continually improving functionality for a better user experience for customers, immigration advisors and employers, and we are committed to ensuring that issues with the platform are dealt with as soon as possible.

"INZ is regularly engaging with customers and stakeholders to inform how we have introduced temporary measures to speed up processing of visa applications, so that people can visit New Zealand."

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