15 Dec 2022

Immigration NZ's security check failures prompt GP and family to reconsider staying

10:54 am on 15 December 2022
GP Firas Nasr with wife Charmaine Marshall-Deane, a nurse, and their three children, aged four, eight and 10.

GP Firas Nasr and British wife Charmaine Marshall-Deane, a nurse, and their three children, aged four, eight and 10. Photo: Supplied

A GP says delays in asking for national security checks have left a long wait and a sour taste in his family's application for residence.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) said its systems failed to send requests to security agencies for checks, or these were not received.

Syrian-born GP Firas Nasr and his British wife, nurse Charmaine Marshall-Deane, work in the Bay of Plenty and they applied to settle in March under the 2021 residence visa.

He was hopeful when he was told it was with the quality control team, but dismayed when he then got an email from INZ saying it had experienced "integration issues" with national security checks (NSC).

The couple, who have three children under the age of 11, say they would like to start feeling more settled, especially when looking to buy a family home and planning for schools. They have not applied under the immigration Green List because NSCs would still be needed and they take about six months to complete.

Dr Nasr said the checks should have been ordered at the start of the immigration process, so that those from countries that need them would not be at a disadvantage, and would feel equal in their new country.

"We are professional people, we just work here, we've got integrity and morality and we've got professional obligations. We work day-in, day-out to help patients and we save lives. We provide services who are struggling to access healthcare in New Zealand.

"We find people are very friendly but the bureaucracy and redtape is making it actually questionable whether that was worth all the hassle. Does Immigration NZ really embrace the skilled and the professionals?"

"We don't really object to the fact that every citizen has to be scrutinised, they have every right to do that. But it's quite embarrasing - my colleagues ask me about my visa, why on earth am I the only one who hasn't had it yet - and it's taking its toll. It's quite frustrating and disappointing.

"Doctors, nurses, high-end professionals - they made quite a large commitment and investment to come and so they're kind of trapped and they have to wait for immigration to sort of pull their weight. And actually this is the sad reality for us to think this is what they probably do - because they move on now to the next chunk of recruitment from overseas and they leave the current ones in limbo."

INZ did not say how many applications were affected by the fault.

"For some applications, there have been some challenges with the required NSC process where our system and the external agency's systems did not align correctly," said its general manager of border and visa operations, Nicola Hogg.

"As a result, some NSC requests were not successfully sent or received. Impacted NSC requests have since been identified and successfully resent to the Agency," Hogg said.

"In the case of Firas Nasr, a NSC was requested on 30 June, however it was not done correctly and needed to be requested again on 4 August.

"We can confirm the NSC was successfully requested in August and is now pending a result. We can confirm Mr Nasr's NSC check is required for his application, and therefore the request for him to undertake one was correct."

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