Immigration New Zealand

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Immigration New Zealand or INZ (Māori: Ta Ratonga Manene; previously New Zealand Immigration Service, NZIS) is a service of the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It is responsible for managing the benefits and consequences of immigration to New Zealand.


Visas are issued by INZ staff in offices throughout New Zealand and around the world. Visas are also issued by certain posts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (New Zealand).

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.

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.


Residence class visas

  • Resident visas – holders are entitled to travel to New Zealand and stay indefinitely, but only enter New Zealand in line with their ‘travel conditions’. Resident visas may also be subject to other conditions, such as a requirement to invest a certain amount of money in New Zealand within a certain timeframe (for people approved under the Investor Category).
  • Permanent resident visas – holders are entitled to travel to New Zealand at any time and stay indefinitely without conditions.

Temporary entry class visas

  • Temporary visas – there are a variety of temporary visas, for example, visitor visas, student visas and work visas (similar to the current temporary entry visas).
  • Limited visas – may be granted to people who wish to come to New Zealand for an express purpose (similar to a Limited Purpose visa under the Immigration Act 1987).
  • Interim visas – may be granted for the purpose of maintaining lawful status in New Zealand when an individual has applied for a further temporary visa and his or her application is being considered. Interim visa is normally valid up to 6 months .
  • Transit visas – allows a passenger to remain in transit if he or she is travelling through New Zealand to another destination. There is no change to the requirements for obtaining a transit visa.

Visas are generally issued in one of three forms:

  • A computer printed label or letter issued by an Immigration Officer or Visa Officer working for Immigration New Zealand.
  • A hand written label issued by a Visa Officer working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
  • An electronic record in the computer system of Immigration New Zealand.

Entry permission[edit]

Under the 2009 Act, visa holders instead apply for ‘entry permission’ using the arrival card. Normally, a person holding a visa is granted ‘entry permission’ to allow him or her to enter and stay in New Zealand for the time period allowed by their visa. However, in some cases people may be denied entry permission, for example, if:

  • They are carrying prohibited goods or substances into New Zealand.
  • Adverse information about them has come to light since their visa application was approved.
  • They have obtained their visa by fraudulent means or by making a false declaration.

Visa Free[edit]

Countries with visa-free status

Unless otherwise provided for in legislation, regulations or policy all non-New Zealand citizens are required to hold a visa before boarding a flight to New Zealand. Immigration New Zealand has been using the Advance Passenger Processing (APP) system, which is cornerstone of the various border screening initiatives to risk-manage passengers. It is an electronic system connected to virtually all airlines worldwide. Passengers on arrival must apply for and be granted a permit to be in New Zealand. Certain classes of person are exempt from the requirement to hold a visa or a permit in certain circumstances.

Diplomats accredited to New Zealand are exempt from the requirement to hold a permit to be in New Zealand, as are military forces in New Zealand with the agreement of the New Zealand government.

Australian citizens are generally exempt from having to obtain a residence class visa to enter and remain in NZ. Holders of a current Australian Permanent Residence Visa (which includes a Resident Return Visa) are generally exempt from having to obtain a residence visa and will generally be granted a resident visa upon arrival in New Zealand.

British citizens and other British passport holders who produce evidence of the right to reside permanently in the UK can visit for up to six months without a visa.

Citizens of the following countries are exempt from holding a visa to travel to New Zealand for visits of up to 90 days:

Andorra Argentina Austria Bahrain Belgium Brazil
Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Canada Chile Cyprus Czech Republic
Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece1
Hong Kong2 Hungary Iceland Ireland Israel Italy
Japan South Korea Kuwait Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania
Luxembourg Malaysia Malta Mexico Monaco Netherlands
Norway Oman Poland Portugal Romania Qatar
San Marino Saudi Arabia Singapore Slovak Republic Slovenia South Africa
Spain Sweden Switzerland Taiwan3 United Arab Emirates United Kingdom
United States of America4 Uruguay Vatican City

1 Greek passport holders whose passports were issued on and after 1 January 2006 (Greek passports issued before 1 January 2006 are not acceptable for travel after 1 January 2007.)

2 Residents of Hong Kong travelling on Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or British National (Overseas) passports

3 Permanent residents of Taiwan travelling on Republic of China passports

4 Including nationals of the USA

Organisational Structure[edit]

INZ is divided into several groups, including:

Service Delivery[edit]

Responsible for most onshore and offshore visa and permit branches

Auckland/Waikato Region[edit]

Southern New Zealand/Australia Region[edit]

Asia Region[edit]

Europe/Americas Region[edit]

Service Design[edit]

responsible for policy and systems development

  • Business Information Branch (Wellington)

Service International[edit]

  • e-Branch (Auckland)

Processes applications lodged through Online Services. This includes student applications from approved education providers and Working Holiday Visas for many countries.

The first point of contact for phone/email enquiries from clients in New Zealand and Australia.

Decides applications for refugee status made by persons within New Zealand.

  • Refugee Quota Branch (Auckland)

Processes and provides treatment for refugees upon arrival.

Selects offshore refugees in order to meet the government’s humanitarian obligations.

Border Security[edit]

  • Compliance Operations (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch)

The main responsibility of Compliance Operations is locating and removing persons who are unlawfully in New Zealand. Compliance Operations is also responsible for managing the detention of persons who are refused entry at New Zealand airports, including asylum seekers.

  • Onshore Border Operations (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch)

This branch is responsible for any immigration issues arising at New Zealand’s physical border (air and sea). At present all staff are located at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports.

  • Offshore Border Operations (Auckland)

This branch operates the Advance Passenger Screening Support Office in Auckland and organises the Airline Liaison Officer programme at selected offshore airports.

  • Fraud Investigations (Auckland)

Fraud Investigations is tasked with investigating and prosecuting migration related offences under the Immigration Act 1987 and the Crimes Act 1961.

  • Central Verification Unit (Auckland)

Responsible for verification of all aspects of residence applications under the Skilled Migrant Category.

  • Immigration Profiling Group (Wellington)

Processes applications which are deemed to be “high risk”. This branch was established in 2005 after a number of persons associated with the regime of Saddam Hussein were found to have been issued New Zealand visas.

  • Immigration Intelligence Unit (Wellington)

Receives and analyses intelligence which is relevant to the immigration field. Supported by intelligence analysts in Compliance Operations, Border Operations, Refugee Status Branch and the Immigration Profiling Group.


  • In 2004 Immigration Officer Manjit Singh was charged for theft for pocketing the proceeds of disposing of the assets of nationals deported from New Zealand
  • 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.
  • In 2008, the General Manager Mary-Anne Thompson was forced to resign after not one scandal, but two. The first scandal was where she was exposed as not only getting a relative from Kiribati to NZ without a visa in full violation of immigration rules, but later obtain him Permanent Residency under an annual quota, despite the fact that he was not even randomly selected out of the lottery like every one else, was processed despite it being applied after the closing date, and was granted residence even though the annual quota had been filled. Despite these repeated and blatant breaches of policy, the initial internal investigation merely recommended "counseling". 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.
  • 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.
  • The Pacific branch performed so poorly, that it was later shut down by the department.
  • The Christchurch branch in 2009 was revealed to have an unsanctioned "initiative" called "Project Crusade" in granting visa's to applicants who had not submitted either medicals or police clearance certificates.
  • In the year 2012, 7 out of 10 complaints about improper access to department files, were upheld by the department.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]