INZ grants Kiwi's Iranian parents entry, admits 'system error' holding up applications

12:42 pm on 8 February 2023
Hayley Abedi’s son with his grandmother on a previous trip to New Zealand.

Hayley Abedi’s son with his grandmother on a previous trip to New Zealand. Photo: Supplied

An Iranian couple denied entry to New Zealand because Immigration NZ (INZ) officials suspected they might not leave, have had a new application approved.

And INZ says the reason so many parents applying to visit their children in New Zealand lately appear to have been denied is because system faults last year prompted the agency to grant general visitor visas instead of the specific parent and grandparent visas they applied for.

Hayley Abedi was struggling after the birth of her second child last year, so applied for her parents to visit in September.

Four months later, officials told her they had "bonafide concerns" they would not return to Iran because of the "current geopolitical uncertainty and security risks" - despite having visited three times before.

Abedi has lived in New Zealand for 12 years, and is a citizen. She told RNZ it felt like they were being punished for being Iranian, in contrast to the opening arms shown to Ukrainian refugees.

But on Tuesday she was told her parents' renewed application had been successful, "following consideration of the new information they submitted", according to INZ.

Since July last year, statistics show more than half of all parents needing visas have been turned down, compared to one in 12 before the pandemic.

INZ said in a statement while "some will be declined on the basis that they do not meet the requirements to be granted a visa", not all of the applicants were denied entry into New Zealand - some being recorded as such "for administrative reasons".

"Examples include where an applicant has withdrawn their visa application, where Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has replaced the application with a new one (such as where someone has applied under the wrong visa category), or where INZ has made a data entry error," Michael Carley, acting general manager border and visa operations, said.

"The number of declines listed for parent and grandparent visitor visa applications this financial year is misleading because about 3200 of these applications were replaced by, and assessed as, general visitor visa applications."

Carley said INZ has since become aware of a "unique situation" in which some applicants for the parent and grandparent visa category were "not progressing due to a system issue with medical requests" between August and September last year.

"The system was directing people to apply for a parent and grandparent visa when for most, a general visitor visa would have been more suitable with fewer requirements and a faster decision.

"Only around 70 applications under the parent and grandparent visitor visa category this financial year have been declined because they did not meet the requirements under that category."

Abedi's parents' visas will allow them to enter New Zealand multiple times, staying up to six months each time, until February 2024.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs