Inefficient Immigration System Still Ruining Immigrants’ Lives

The news report about the the Habr family, resident in New Zealand for five years and so messed around by the Immigration Service whilst trying to obtain permanent resident visas that they decided to take their skills to a more appreciative country shows that despite a lot of spin to the contrary the NZ immigration service still seems to be in disarray: Link Stuff. Indeed, little if nothing, seems to have changed since the election.

The immigration service, part of which has been referred to as having a “fiefdom mentality”, has come in for a lot of criticism in recent years for its perceived inefficiency, secrecy, and inconsistencies. Don Brash, ex leader of the National party drew attention to how the lives of some ordinary, hardworking people were being adversely affected. And it’s not just Asian people that get treated abominably, all races seem to get the same degree of indifference and incompetence, even Kiwis in their own country.

These are some quotes Don Brash made a while ago.

Dr Dean Kenny, former All Black.
“He complained that the Immigration Service had initially turned down the application of his Welsh-born wife even though they had been married for nine years and had two daughters, both of whom had New Zealand passports. The Service had asked for photos of him and his wife together, copies of letters, proof of shared income, shared bank accounts and evidence of public or family recognition of the relationship. The Asian spouses of New Zealand citizens encounter the same problem routinely.”

Mrs M Taylor
“Described in a letter she wrote to the Listener. New Zealand-born herself, she decided after 20 years overseas to return to New Zealand. She described gaining residency for her non-New Zealand husband as “an appalling trial, financially and emotionally.

Married for 12 years and now with three children, we sent our wedding certificates, children’s birth certificates and family photographs to immigration, only for them to be returned and we were told that we hadn’t fulfilled the requirements of our application and further proof of the validity of our marriage was required, not less proof that we were sexually exclusive during our marriage….

It’s understandable that there needs to be a rigorous system”, she wrote, “but why are born-and-bred New Zealand passport holders put through this?”

Dutch expert in growing hydroponic tomatoes under glass
“Desperately needed to ensure the commercial viability of an operation employing hundreds of people, but kept waiting for months and months with his Dutch wife and young New Zealand-born children while the Immigration Service pondered whether to grant him permanent residence.”

Last year ‘North & South‘ Magazine run an in-depth story into INZ‘s problems titled:

“Can Immigration NZ Be Fixed?”

Our immigration service is dogged by claims of incompetence and corruption, its last head (Mary Anne Thompson) resigned after allegations of nepotism and faked qualification, and the department is subject of a wide ranging inquiry by the Auditor-General.”

These are just some of the many issues that that Caroline Courtney highlighted in the article:

Staff training
NZ immigration staff spend about 5 days in the classroom undergoing training , compared to British immigration officers taking a 10 weeks course of initial training with six weeks in a lecture room.

No confidence in the Service Head
Earlier in the year the then head of Immigration, Mary Ann Thomspon, was alleged to have doctored her CV, in which she claimed to have a PhD from the London School of Economics. Revelations also emerged that three of her Kiribati relatives were granted residency after the quota for Kiribati relatives had been met.

Excessive Workloads and mistakes
An immigration officer had written anonymously to the Auditor-General blowing the whistle on excessive workloads, bosses obsessed with staff meeting output targets, permits being issued to high risk applicants with fake job offers, insufficient time to properly check relationships and a mindset that referred to applicants as “widgets”

Migrants Messed Around, Humiliation and Stress
Anh Van Do 44, a self employed drain layer who’d been in NZ for 10 years had permanent residency and wanted his wife and 2 year old daughter to come and live with him in New Zealand. For almost three years INZ refused to accept that theirs was a genuine relationship.

INZ turned down his wife’s application for both a work visa and then a visitor’s permit.

Then his wife fell pregnant and when the baby was found to be wasn’t found to be developing normally a medical assessor said the child was likely to present significant costs to the NZ health service.

When the magazine contacted INZ they were told that if Anh’s wife and child wanted to apply to visit they would have to show further evidence of their relationship, and have the child’s health reassessed – despite INZ already having declined the child a medical waiver. Anh, who has found the whole protracted situation incredibly stressful, had visited his family in Vietnam 8 times and spent over $15,000 on phone calls alone. He was adamant that he would be able to provide financial security for his family.

“John” a South African had been in New Zealand with his family for three and a half years years when they were invited to apply for permanent residence but the application was halted when the wrong police records* were assigned to his name.

John had been waiting weeks for a fresh work permit so that he could start a new job with as a tradesman with a local authority, he’d already lost 3 weeks income and risked losing his job offer if the permit didn’t come through soon. Desperation kicked in and after multiple calls to INZ’s call centre he dumped himself in their local office until someone finally saw him and granted him a 3 month limited purposes work visa.

*Back to those police records – when N&S contacted NZIS they found that someone else’s police record had been assigned to his application: namely
1. A South African police docket for a person with a completely different name, and
2. An “arrest warrant” without an official letterhead and with a handwritten abbreviation of his name.

Incredibly, the application for the “warrant” was made after the date the warrant was signed. John said “Immigration’s total incompetence has cost me and my family three and a half years of humiliation and stress”

Later, after N&S had sent the article to press John emailed the magazine to say that MP Gordon Copeland had granted him a “character waiver” and his families residencies have been approved “subject to any further immigration requirements” But he wasn’t holding his breathINZ had then told him to undergo another full medical and that his family needs to apply for new temporary visas while the dept processes their resident application.

Private immigration consultant John Horan gave an account of how NZIS middle managers who “use their positions to manipulate policies and cause untold stress” and said that verification officers “run around like secret police” – eg. tracking down foreign chefs at work to assess their spoken English.

Horan had been battling INZ for 4 years to try to get PR for two South Korean children now aged 16 and 17 who have lived with their adoptive mother mother who was a permanent resident.

INZ refused to recognise the children’s legal adoptions in South Korea. So far Horan had carried out $20,000 worth of pro bono work because the mother couldn’t afford the costs. Twice he’d taken the case to the Residence Review Board who referred it back to INZ for “correct Assessment” but with no luck, despite precedents for granting PR to other children adopted in South Korea as recently as 2007.

Further reading:

News reports about the corruption trial of Tito Phillip Field: Link
“Former Cabinet minister Taito Phillip Field got several Thai nationals to work on his houses for little or no money in exchange for immigration help and then tried to derail investigations into them, a jury has been told.”

see also: Web reports about Helen Clark’s sacking/the resignation of Leanne Dalziel, former immigration minister:

NZ Immigration Minister Quits
“New Zealand Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel has been forced to resign after she was shown to have lied about leaking a document to the media.

Ms Dalziel had denied knowing about the leak, but later admitted she authorised giving the document to the media.

Prime Minister Helen Clark accepted the resignation after Ms Dalziel’s comments were shown to have gone from “being misleading to being untrue”, she said.

The document related to a controversial asylum bid involving a Sri Lankan girl.

The document was from the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, which lawyer Carole Curtis took with her to show her client, a 16-year-old Sri Lankan girl, at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre last June .

The girl claimed that she had been sexually abused in Sri Lanka, and was seeking asylum. To comfort her, Ms Curtis drew a guinea pig on the letter and made some handwritten notes, including “If all fails: Media. “

It was not clear how the letter came into the hands of the immigration ministry, but it has since confirmed it passed it on to a New Zealand TV channel, on Ms Dalziel’s authorisation. “