Visa benefits expected next year
The first fruits of a $75 million overhaul of Immigration's computer systems should be evident next year when overseas students will be able to apply online for visas, the Government says.
Immigration Minister Nathan Guy said that by the time the "state-of-the-art" Immigration Global Management System (IGMS) was completed in 2015, people who applied for visas would have their own personal online immigration account that would let them track the progress of their applications.
Former Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman warned in 2009 that New Zealand risked losing out economically because it was easier for foreign students to obtain visas to study in Australia.
Australia's Immigration and Citizenship Department extended its online service last month when it also began letting people apply online for migrant visas under its skilled migration and "business innovation and investment" visa programme.
However, its system has not been trouble-free. A note on its website said "significant demand" meant the service was experiencing "temporary performance issues" that meant it could be slow for applicants to load pages and submit documents.
The New Zealand government awarded Datacom the contract to build IGMS in January.
The technology overhaul was first proposed by the Labour government in 2007 after a Thai national working for Immigration New Zealand in Bangkok was caught swindling thousands of dollars from Cambodian visa applicants in 2003.
A subsequent auditor-general's report found flaws in the department's ability to prevent and detect identity fraud. In June, it was revealed that 279 fraudulent student visas had been issued by its office in Beijing.
As well as speeding up visa-processing, IGMS will centralise immigration decisions so they are made within New Zealand and will pave the way for the greater use of biometric identity checks.
- © Fairfax NZ News