The top 10 risks to your 2021 Resident Visa application

Incorrect answers on a visa application form is seen as 'false and misleading' information by INZ, says Ankur Sabharwal, owner of immigration advisory Visa Matters.
Incorrect answers on a visa application form is seen as 'false and misleading' information by INZ, says Ankur Sabharwal, owner of immigration advisory Visa Matters.

OPINION: So you qualify for the ‘one-off’ Resident Visa. Great. You’ve been in New Zealand for the past three years, you meet the criteria. What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s start with the day online applications open.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) estimates that 15,000 applications could be lodged on or soon after 1 December 2021 (phase one), and another 95,000 between 1 March and 31 July 2022 (phase two).

Naturally, INZ doesn’t want them all lodged on the first day, or they could crash its online application system. In a recent briefing to immigration advisers, INZ stressed again and again that it doesn’t want everyone applying at once.

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But there’s no need to rush, right? Surely INZ won’t process 110,000 applications on a first-come, first-served basis, will it?

Actually, nobody knows – not even INZ.

The order of processing is currently under review, but INZ hasn’t decided which applications it will process first. First-come, first-served could still happen.

What’s more, processing them all is likely to take a year or more. Still INZ says – no need to rush.

Then there’s the online application form itself. It’s still under testing. The first time anyone sees it will be on 1 December, when hundreds or thousands of people will start to fill it out, possibly hoping to be first in, first served.

The top 10 risks

So here, then, are what I see as the top 10 risks that could derail your eligibility for a 2021 Resident Visa:

Risk No. 1: Being in such a rush to fill in the application form that you provide incorrect answers, for instance to questions about health, character or family members.

To INZ, an incorrect answer equals ‘false and misleading information’, which is a reason to decline your application.

Keeping the form hidden behind ‘IT testing’ until 1 December only increases the chance of this kind of mistake. Come on, INZ, you know the questions now and should share them. That way, your clients are more likely to give the correct answers when the form goes live in two weeks.

Risk No. 2: You need to hold an ‘eligible visa’ when you lodge your residence application. Sounds simple? Not really. If your visa expires at any time between now and when you can lodge your application, and you haven’t had a new eligible visa approved, you no longer qualify for a 2021 Resident Visa.

Risk No. 3: You think you have spent long enough in New Zealand to qualify. But if you haven’t spent 821 days or more between September 29, 2018, and September 29, 2021 – or you didn’t arrive in the country for the first time on or before September 29, 2018 – you won’t meet INZ’s ‘settled’ criteria.

You could still meet INZ’s ‘scarce’ or ‘skilled’ criteria, right? See Risk Nos 4 and 5.

Risk No. 4: You may think you meet INZ’s ‘scarce’ criteria because your job title is similar to one on its ‘scarce lists’. INZ looks at whether your job matches the one on its list.

INZ also looks at what you declared on your last employer-supported work visa application. If you declared a different occupation – one that isn’t on one of its ‘scarce lists’ – then you won’t qualify.

Risk No. 5: You may have been working full-time for $27/hour on 29 September 2021, but if your employment agreement doesn’t reflect that you were working, on average, 30 hours per week over an agreed paid period, then your application won’t meet INZ’s ‘skilled’ criteria.

Risk No. 6: If you lose your job paying $27/hour or above, or you are no longer working in a ‘scarce’ occupation, you won’t meet INZ’s criteria for ‘skilled’ or ‘scarce’ in order to lodge your application.

Risk No. 7: INZ can decide that your job is not genuine because it believes your employer is dodgy.

Risk No. 8: You can include your partner in your application even if you are in New Zealand and they are currently overseas. INZ will look at the evidence you provide of previously living in a relationship and the ‘genuine and compelling’ reasons for your current separation and may decide to exclude your partner from your Resident Visa application.

Risk No. 9: You may have to leave New Zealand before lodging your 2021 Resident Visa application. If there is a family emergency in your home country and you leave New Zealand and can’t get back by July 31 next year, you’ll have lost your chance to qualify for residence.

Risk No. 10: If you lodged your application before July 31, 2022, but have to go back to your home country after that, INZ won’t decide your application until you return to New Zealand, whenever that might be.

If you’re applying under the 2021 Resident Visa category, I hope that none of these things happen to you.

But with those estimated 110,000 online visa applications, you can expect crashing websites, application delays, and possible complications.

‘Do it once, do it right’ is the lesson here.

Ankur Sabharwal is the owner of immigration advisory Visa Matters. He is a licensed immigration adviser who specialises in complex immigration matters. His previous article asked, Is the new 2021 Resident Visa category open to misuse?

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute immigration advice. Individuals need to seek personal advice from a licensed immigration adviser or lawyer to assess their unique situation.