2021 Resident Visa Category – Are you ready? And what you need to know.

OPINION: Zamelia McGarrigle, General Manager & Licensed Immigration Adviser, QDI Group

Email: zamelia@qdigroup.co.nz, Phone: 09-3907957

It may appear as if Christmas has come early for some this year, but how true is that first impression? Most of you reading this could well qualify for the ‘one-off’ Resident Visa and if so this could be the best Christmas present one could get.

After so many twists and turns, perhaps finally now you can see some light at the end of the tunnel and a new secure life in New Zealand is within your reach, free from immigration worries. The first wave of applicants can apply from 1 December 2021 and the second from 1 March 2022. The cut-off date to apply is 31 July 2022. Fantastic!

It makes sense to get all the paperwork ready now to get in early when the application process opens, especially if any documents need to be secured from overseas.

What could possibly go wrong with this residency application which could prevent you from reaching your ultimate goal – to be a New Zealand resident? It’s better to check and find out early in the process before you lodge your application.

When the applications open on 1 December 2021, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) estimates that around 15,000 applicants who are eligible under group 1 will lodge their applications on that day or soon after. The second group will wait and lodge their applications on 1 March 2022. This group is estimated to number around 95,000.

INZ repeatedly remind us and our clients to not rush to lodge applications on the first day. This could crash the INZ online application system, similar to what we have recently seen with the MY COVID VACCINE website. Problems arose when the public rushed to download their covid certificates and as a result the website crashed as early as 8 am.

Of course, no need to rush. We can afford to wait and spend time getting our preparation and paperwork correct and after all, the last submission is on 31 July next year. So, what is the rush for? I am reasonably confident that INZ have all the processes, procedures and systems in place to deal with more than 100,000 applications, or do they?

So, my advice is to mitigate your risk by preparing your application meticulously. This is the only chance that you have and it is worth investing in a good Licensed Immigration Adviser to help prepare a comprehensive submission for you and your family. I often tell my clients that you can always find money, but time, once you lose it, you can’t get back. This is not the time to gamble on your future. Be aware of the points below if you decide to prepare your own application.

Stay Calm – No need to panic, no need to rush to fill in your application form. Read it carefully and ensure that you understand each of the questions, especially when it comes to health, character or family members. You may think that it is not that important, just a quick tick here and there and done. But for INZ whatever you disclose there could count against you if it is incorrect and appears wrong, vague or evasive. Worse still, INZ may take your answer as “false and misleading information” and subsequently decline your application.

Your visa status – You can only apply for this new residence visa if you hold an eligible visa. But how about if your visa expires at any time between now and when you lodge your application. If you have not managed to get a new replacement visa under the eligible category, then you are no longer qualified to apply for your residency visa. That could be a disaster, so don’t make this mistake.

Your job – Great! Your job is on the INZ ‘scarcity’’ list. But hang on, INZ will go one step further to assess whether or not your job description/tasks match the ones on their list. Apart from that, INZ will also cross check on your previous records/applications and all need to be consistent. If you declare a different position from earlier documents and there appear to be anomalies – eg a job that is not on the ‘scarcity’ lists – then you won’t qualify.

Hourly rate – You may have been working in a full-time position with a $27/hour wage on 20 September 2021. That figure has to be clearly reflected in your employment contract and consistent with your payslip data. If not, then your application most likely won’t meet INZ’s ‘Skilled’ Criteria.

Lost your job? – If you have lost your job that previously matched one on either the ‘skilled’ or ‘scarce’ occupation list, then unfortunately your journey ends there. You are not meeting the requirements and cannot apply under this category.

Your employer – You must make sure that your employer complies with all Department of Labour legislations, IRD obligations and is classed as a genuine employer. INZ can decline your application if they think that your employer is not genuine.

Your partner – In this application you can include your partner and children, even if they are currently overseas. You have to provide evidence of living together in a genuine and stable relationship for at least one year. INZ will look at any evidence you provided previously and the reasons for your current separation and may decide to exclude your partner from your Resident Visa application.

Time in New Zealand – As far as you can remember you have been in New Zealand for ages and surely meet the requirement of 821 days or more. But, check again and make sure you have spent 821 days or more in NZ between 29 September 2018 and 29 September 2021 – If you haven’t, or you didn’t arrive in the country for the first time on or before September 29, 2018, then you won’t meet INZ’s ‘settled’ criteria.

Leave New Zealand – If you must leave New Zealand before you lodge your visa application for whatever reason and then you can’t get back to New Zealand by 31 July 2022, you may risk losing the chance to apply for this visa.

Being in New Zealand – A step developing from the above point. You already lodged your application and need to leave New Zealand because of a family emergency, for example. INZ won’t be able to decide your application until you return back to New Zealand. With the current situation, there is little or no certainty. Therefore, think carefully about everything and whether you want to risk probably the best chance that you may have to gain residency. Consider all factors and assess the risk versus reward, including potentially waiting a long time coupled with much hard work over the years.

I wish you all the best and remember, this could be the best or only chance you will be offered, so take the time and get your submission right.