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More visas go online as migration continues near record high

Posted on June 17, 2015
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Foreigners can now apply online for work and tourist visas.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the Immigration Online computer system, previously known as the Immigration Global Management System (IGMS), made “the whole visa process easier and faster”.

Sixty per cent of all visa applications could be made online and that would rise to 80 per cent as a result of an additional $28.4m allocated in the Budget which would extend the capability to family groups and tour groups, he said.

Immigration’s technology overhaul was first proposed in 2007 after an Auditor-General’s inquiry found flaws in the department’s ability to prevent and detect identity fraud.

That inquiry was initiated after a Thai national working for the agency in Bangkok was caught swindling thousands of dollars from Cambodian visa applicants in 2003.

ASB Bank senior economist Chris Tennent-Brown said it was hard to say if the advance would make a discernable difference to net migration which is already running at near a record high.

The ability to file and track visa applications online is one spin-off of a $105 million investment in a new Immigration New Zealand computer system, Immigration Online.

Net migration had “stabilized” with about 9500 migrants settling in the country and only about 5000 New Zealanders leaving the country permanently each month, Tennent-Brown said.

“We are going to top out somewhere close to 60,000 this year and it will stay up at those levels until departures start picking up or arrivals slow down.”

There was no sign of that happening yet, he said.

“I would think the paperwork is a tiny piece of the overall picture, but saying that I have heard people joke that trans-Tasman migration changes when airline tickets go on special.”

Publicity surrounding Auckland housing shortages didn’t appear to have noticeably dampened the migration boom to date, Tennent-Brown said.

“If you were hearing horror stories about needing to be jammed packed into an apartment, or worse still getting no housing, because there was no housing, I guess that would become negative.

“There are some corrective mechanisms, but it is not impacting the monthly numbers if last month is anything to go by.”

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