Immigration New Zealand

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Immigration New Zealand
Ta Ratonga Manene
Agency overview
Formed 1912[1]
Ministers responsible
Parent department Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Immigration New Zealand (Māori: Ta Ratonga Manene; INZ), formerly the New Zealand Immigration Service, is the agency within the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) that is responsible for border control, issuing travel visas and managing immigration to New Zealand.[3]


Immigration New Zealand's origins can be traced back to an informal "Immigration Department" that was established within the Lands and Survey Department in 1909. The Immigration Department was tasked with finding employment for new immigrants. In response to demand for more workers in the manufacturing sector, Prime Minister William Massey announced the formation of an official Immigration Department in 1912. This Immigration Department initially had six staff and was headed by J.E. Smith. This Department assumed the immigration functions of the Public Works and Lands and Survey Departments. However, the First World War prevented a large-scale assisted programme to New Zealand. In 1931, the Immigration Department and the Department of Labour were merged into a combined "Department of Labour and Immigration."[4]

By 1946, the Department of Labour's immigration function had been transferred to a newly-created "Immigration Division" headed by Jack Brennan. This Immigration Division was tasked with administering New Zealand's post-war assisted immigration scheme and came under the oversight of a newly-created Immigration ministerial portfolio.[5] Following the Second World War, the Secretary of Labour Herbert Leslie Bockett expanded the Immigration Division by establishing sections in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin district offices. A Migration Office was also opened in London opposite the New Zealand High Commission in London. The Department of Labour used advertisement and booklets to encourage European immigration to New Zealand during the post-World War II boom.[6]

In 1971, the Immigration Division cooperated with the-then Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expand immigration to Asians with professional and technical qualifications, English language skills, and specific jobs. By 1975, rising unemployment led the New Zealand government to end its assisted migration scheme for migrants. Under the leadership of Assistant Secretary J.L Fouhy, the Immigration Division was tasked with enforcing the Immigration Act 1964. During the 1970s and early 1980s, the Immigration Division and Department of Labour was tasked with managing various issues including Pacific Islander overstayers and refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia. In response, the Department of Labour established a work permit scheme for Tongan, Fijian and Samoan migrants in 1975. The Immigration Division also established a resettlement unit to manage the resettlement of Indochinese refugees in New Zealand. By 1985, more than 6,000 Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees had settled in New Zealand.[7]

By 1984, the Department of Labour's Immigration Division had 157 staff.[8] Following a review of the Department of Labour in 1988, the Immigration Division was revamped as the "Immigration Service." The Immigration Service established three regional and four branch offices. Staff numbers rose from 139 to 324 by 1992. By the early 1990s, Asia and the Pacific Islands had replaced the United Kingdom and Europe as the main source of New Zealand's immigration. In 1993, the Immigration Service was reorganized to accommodate the increased number of tourists and to shift much of the immigrant processing to staff overseas. In response to the increasing strain placed by immigration on New Zealand's social infrastructure particularly housing and education, the Department of Labour tightened English language and capital requirements.[9]

In 2004, Immigration New Zealand was designated as the government agency in charge of migration settlement.[10] In 2005, the Fifth Labour Government established the Pacific Division to improve visa and immigration services in the Pacific Islands and for Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand. In 2009, a report by the Controller and Auditor-General identified a range of problems including poor leadership, mismanagement, lack of accountability and transparency, poor services, and a "fiefdom" mentality.[11] In response to the report, the Fifth National Government dissolved the Pacific Division and re-integrated into INZ.[12][13]

After the Department of Labour was merged into the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in July 2012, Immigration New Zealand was incorporated into the new ministry.[14][15]

Functions and structure[edit]

Immigration New Zealand is an agency within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that is responsible for facilitating and regulating immigration, tourism, foreign students and workers, and foreign investment in New Zealand. Immigration NZ's other responsibilities include migrant attraction, visa facilitation, border protection and refugee resettlement. As of 2017, the division has five branches:

  • Compliance, Risk and Intelligence
  • Visa Services, which provides immigration advice, services, and visa application processing.[16]
  • Service Design and Performance
  • Settlement, Protection and Attraction
  • Vision 2015, an initiative implemented in 2012 to upgrade INZ's information and communications technology.[17][3]


Administratively, Immigration NZ is headed by Deputy Chief Executive Greg Patchell.[3] Politically, the agency comes under the portfolio of the Minister of Immigration, which was created in 1946.[18] Immigration NZ provides the Minister of Immigration with operational support while MBIE's Immigration Policy Team advises the Minister on policy matters.[19] Immigration NZ and the Minister of Immigration are also regulated by the Immigration Act 2009.[20] As of 2017, the current Minister is Iain Lees-Galloway.[2]

Offices and facilities[edit]

Immigration New Zealand maintains eight offices in New Zealand. INZ maintains offices in Auckland Central, Henderson, Manukau, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington's Te Aro suburb, Porirua and Christchurch. In November 2017, the agency's general manager Steve Stuart announced that it would consider shutting down its Auckland Central and Henderson offices due to increased public usage of its websites and online visa application platforms.[21][22]

Immigration New Zealand's Visa Services group also operated seventeen Visa Application Centres in Suva, Nuku'alofa, Apia, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, New Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai, Pretoria, London, Moscow, and Washington, DC.[16][23] In late 2017, it was announced that Immigration New Zealand would close down 12 of its existing 17 overseas offices as part of a policy to shift visa processing back to New Zealand. Affected offices included those in Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bangkok, Moscow, New Delhi, Pretoria and Shanghai. While the offices in Manila, Washington, DC, London and Dubai would cease processing visas, it was decided that they would remain open in order to gather market intelligence, carry out verification activities and maintain relationships with key partner countries.[22]

Refugee resettlement[edit]

In addition, Immigration New Zealand also manages the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, which provides English language orientation classes, health screening, and mental health support for refugees who enter New Zealand under the Refugee Quota Programme. In 2016, the Centre was reopened after undergoing extensive renovation.[24]

In 1987, the New Zealand Government established a formal annual quota for refugees. Under the Refugee Quota Programme, New Zealand takes in 750 refugees annually. Immigration NZ's Refugee Quota Branch (RQB) is charged with running the Refugee Quota Programme. In response to the Syrian Civil War, the New Zealand Government announced in September 2015 that the country would be taking in 600 Syrian refugees under an emergency quota as well as 150 within the normal quota.[25]


Visas are issued by INZ staff in offices throughout New Zealand and around the world. Visa Services is the group within Immigration New Zealand responsible for providing immigration advice, services, and visa application services. Until June 2012, visas were issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's embassy and high commission network. After June 2012, third-part providers (visa application centres) received and lodged visa applications submitted outside New Zealand. These visa application centers allowed Immigration New Zealand to share resources with its Five Country Conference partners: Australia, Canada, the United States, and United Kingdom.[16]

Under the Immigration Act 2009, a visa is an authority for an individual to travel to, or stay in New Zealand (under the Immigration Act 1987 a visa only allowed you to travel to New Zealand and a permit allowed you to stay). A visa has conditions that indicate what the holder of the visa may do.[26][27]

Immigration New Zealand issues four main types of visas:

  • Visitor Visas, which allow a person to stay in New Zealand for a period of time to visit or for short-term study.
  • Student Visas, which allow a person to study full-time in New Zealand.
  • Work Visas, which allow a person to work part-time or full-time in New Zealand
  • Residence visas, which allow a person to study, work, and live permanently in New Zealand.[28]

Because of understaffing turnaround times to process visa application have steadily increased over the years. Currently INZ expects to process visa applications within 60 working days after an application is lodged. According to INZ, processing a residence application usually takes 6 to 9 months, while endorsing a passport with Residence Permits and Returning Resident's Visa after 'approval in principle' has been granted takes up to 30 working days.

Controversies and scandals[edit]

  • In February 2004, Immigration Officer Manjit Singh was charged for theft for pocketing the proceeds of disposing of the assets of nationals deported from New Zealand.[29]
  • Lianne Dalziel, resigned as Minister for Immigration on 20 February 2004 for leaking and later lying about leaking it to the Media a copy of a legally privileged letter from a Sri Lankan asylum seeker, a scandal that was later referred to as Bunnygate.[30]
  • In 2008, Mary-Anne Thompson, the General Manager of the Pacific Division, was forced to resign after not one scandal, but two. The first scandal was where she was exposed as not only getting several relatives from Kiribati to NZ without a visa in full violation of immigration rules, but later obtaining them Permanent Residency under an annual quota. Despite the fact that they had not been even randomly selected out of the lottery like every one else, their residency applications were processed. Despite these repeated and blatant breaches of policy, the initial internal investigation merely recommended "counseling".[31] [32] Her second scandal was where she was subsequently exposed at lying about her qualifications, namely her claim to have a doctorate from the London School of Economics, a claim later exposed to be untrue. She subsequently pleaded guilty to criminal charges laid regarding this claim.[33] [34]
  • At the same time of that scandal hit the headlines, it was also revealed that Mary Anne Thompson had awarded a $500,000 untendered contract to set up the Pacific Branch to Pacific Edge International Limited, despite it being owned directed by senior Immigration Manager Kerupi Tavita, which when challenged the involvement of Tavita, simply bypassed this by resigning his directorship, and got his wife to substitute for him. Later, the other director, Mai Malaulau, was controversially appointed the head of the Pacific Branch.[35][36]
  • In March 2009, Immigration NZ's Pacific Division was dissolved by the Fifth National Government following a damning report which identified a range of problems including poor leadership, mismanagement, lack of accountability and transparency, poor services, and a "fiefdom" mentality.[12][13]
  • In 2009, The Christchurch and Sydney branches were revealed to have operated an unsanctioned "initiative" called "Project Crusade" between April and July 2008 in granting visas to applicants who had not submitted either medicals or police clearance certificates. It was halted following a review by the Department of Labour in 2009.[33]
  • In 2012, it was reported that 50 Immigration NZ staff had improperly accessed client information since the agency started its internal investigation process in 2004.[37]
  • In November 2017, Immigration New Zealand's efforts to close down several domestic branch offices in favour of shifting services online drew criticism from representatives of the Pacific communities in New Zealand including Member of Parliament William Sio. Key complaints were that many Tongan and Pacific New Zealanders lacked access to computer and that delays in renewing immigration applications had caused some people to be classified as overstayers. Peter Elms, the Immigration NZ's director of operations for visa services, defended the Department's decision to shift services online and contended that clients could still contact INZ officials via phone.[38][39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Martin 1996, p. 408 n.201.
  2. ^ a b c "Ministerial List". DPMC. 26 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Immigration New Zealand". Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  4. ^ Martin 1996, p. 109-110, 408 n.201, 170.
  5. ^ Martin 1996, p. 237, 365.
  6. ^ Martin 1996, p. 268-269.
  7. ^ Martin 1996, p. 321-24.
  8. ^ Martin 1996, p. 341.
  9. ^ Martin 1996, p. 358-359.
  10. ^ Provost & November 2013, p. 28.
  11. ^ Brady & 27 May 2009, p. 75-98.
  12. ^ a b Espiner, Colin (12 March 2009). "Govt to axe troubled Immigration division". Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Pacific Division to be re-integrated into NZ immigration department". New Zealand Visa Bureau. 6 March 2009. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  14. ^ Joyce, Steven; Coleman, Jonathan (24 April 2012). "MBIE to proceed from 1 July" (Press release).
  15. ^ Provost & November 2013, p. 3-5.
  16. ^ a b c Matthews & April 2017, p. 9.
  17. ^ Matthews & April 2017, p. 3-4.
  18. ^ Martin 1996, p. 365.
  19. ^ "Ministerial Portfolio: Immigration". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  20. ^ "Immigration Act 2009". New Zealand Legislation. Parliamentary Counsel Office. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  21. ^ "Find your nearest office in New Zealand". Immigration New Zealand. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  22. ^ a b Cann, Ged (1 November 2017). "Immigration NZ likely to close 12 of 17 overseas offices, and two in Auckland". Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  23. ^ "Find your nearest Visa Application Centre or office outside New Zealand". Immigration New Zealand. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  24. ^ "Rebuilding the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre". Immigration New Zealand. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  25. ^ "New Zealand Refugee Quota Programme". Immigration New Zealand. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  26. ^ Part 3 Visas, Immigration Act 2009 New Zealand.
  27. ^ Section 14A, "Meaning and effect of Visa", Immigration Act 1987 New Zealand
  28. ^ Matthews & April 2017, p. 10.
  29. ^ Carter, Bridget (4 February 2004). "Immigration officer on theft counts". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  30. ^ MacLeod, Scott (20 February 2004). "Dalziel forced to quit". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  31. ^ Brady & 27 May 2009, p. 99-113.
  32. ^ "Immigration Service boss quits after visa scandal". New Zealand Press Association. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  33. ^ a b Brady & 27 May 2009, p. 49.
  34. ^ Kitchin, Robert (3 February 2010). "Former Immigration boss pleads guilty". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  35. ^ "More revelations in Thompson case". Fair Go, TVNZ. 17 May 2008. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  36. ^ "Immigration managed approved selt and staff payouts". National Business Review. 5 August 2008. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  37. ^ Tan, Lincoln (17 July 2012). "Over 50 Immigration staff caught abusing client files". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  38. ^ Hutton, Catherine (7 November 2017). "Immigration public counter closures sparks warning". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  39. ^ "Immigration counter closure warning". 7 November 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]