As legal professionals, we often hear during our meetings with potential clients comments such as “Why do I need to pay you this much to file an application?, or “Why should I use a lawyer/adviser to assist me with the application process?, “How is it different if I file this myself?” and so on. These are all legitimate questions. Hence, we need to be able to justify the fees and explain to our clients the benefits of using a professional immigration lawyer/adviser to assist them with the application process.

You do not need a lawyer or an adviser to file an application with Immigration New Zealand (“INZ”). However, there are certainly benefits of getting professional help to manage the visa application with INZ. We specialise in immigration law, and together we bring over 40 years of experience to the table. This means that we have a lot of exposure to many aspects of the law and have come across many scenarios that can help you understand the law and address any potential issues that may arise.

Our job is not simply filing an application with INZ. We interpret and apply the Immigration Act 2009 and the immigration instructions (Policy). We write proper legal submissions to represent the best case on your behalf to INZ. We manage the whole application process with INZ. Our job is to ensure that you meet the criteria of the application itself; identifying the possible risks that may arise with the application, we collect and provide the correct documents. Many applications may seem simple via INZ’s website, but it does not consider other documents that may assist in getting your application approved, or the meaning of key words used in the Act or in policy. Let us look at some examples of why getting professional help is sometimes necessary.

A Visitor Visa application

INZ’s website provides the following requirements to file a Visitor Visa application.

  • You must provide proof of your identity
  • You must be of good health
  • You must be of good character
  • You must genuinely intend to meet the conditions of your visa.
  • Bring Family
  • Funds or sponsorship
  • Health Care
  • Onward travel

A person can click on the above requirements on INZ’s website to see what evidence they can provide to support the application. However, the information on the website is vague. It does not list what you can provide to support your case and circumstances. For instance, it states that you must provide supporting documents that:

Show you meet all the criteria for the visa you are applying for, and support your reasons for spending time in New Zealand.”

However, it does not say what type of supporting documents you can submit to support your visa application.

INZ also provides on its website that when assessing information about your personal circumstances, INZ looks at things like:

any family ties you may have in your home country or in New Zealand, any personal, financial, work or other commitments you may have in your home country or New Zealand, any circumstances that mean you may not want to return to your home country.”

Again, many applicants may think that providing a statement or a document that they have family or work commitments back in their home country will be sufficient for INZ to approve their application. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The most common reasons INZ declines visitor visa applications are:

– that the applicant does not meet the “bona fide” requirements, or

– INZ is not satisfied that the applicant has genuine intentions to visit in New Zealand, or

– there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the applicant will return to their home country at the end of their visit.

There is no specific list on INZ’s website to say what documents you can use to support your genuine reasons for visiting New Zealand. Here is why using immigration experts can be useful. We usually go beyond INZ’s standard requirements and provide more documents to cover all aspects of your personal circumstances. For example – family ties, we may ask you to provide evidence of their status in their home country, employment, etc. For evidence of work and financial commitments – we may go beyond submitting one bank statement which shows sufficient funds. We often ask for evidence of property, assets, previous travel history etc. We also request specific documents relevant to your circumstances which we know from experience will get you across the line.

As experienced lawyers, we know what INZ expect from visitor visa applicants based on their nationality. For some countries, we may need to provide additional documents to satisfy INZ that they are bona fide applicants. After gathering all the required documentation, including the additional documents from specific nationalities, we provide a detailed legal submission to back this up. Our submissions are not simply a cover page that states what type of application we are filing. We provide detailed arguments about how you will meet the requirements under the relevant immigration instructions, and references to the documents provided to meet each requirement under the visitor visa category.

Therefore, hiring an immigration expert will ensure you submit a complete application with all the required supporting documents. If you do not get it right from the start, in that case, you will risk your application getting declined. There is no right of appeal or reconsideration for temporary visa applicants who are applying from offshore. We should also point out that avoiding mistakes in an application is important, as sometimes it can become difficult to remedy the errors made in a previous application.

Previous immigration history

If you have had previous visa applications declined or character/health issues, in that case, using an immigration lawyer will be beneficial. As mentioned above, it can be difficult to fix a mistake made in a previous application. However, we can still manage applications for applicants who have had past immigration issues with INZ. Our deep knowledge of the law and familiarity with complex cases can benefit you in addressing those concerns with INZ.

For example, I have discussed how we can win a no-win situation by thinking outside the box in an earlier blog. We encountered a case where an applicant has a history of breaching the conditions of previous visas. We chose not to play INZ’s game and set out our reasoning to respond to INZ’s concerns.

Another example is applicants who have character issues that need to be addressed. INZ will simply write to the applicant setting out the character concerns and why the applicant will not meet the character requirements for residence or temporary entry visa. INZ will invite the applicant to provide comments and submissions to support a character waiver request. Many will be struck with a character waiver request, and what is required? INZ’s letters would usually provide the following when requesting comments from the applicant for a residence character waiver:

  • the seriousness of the offence (generally indicated by the term of imprisonment or size of the fine);
  • whether there is more than one offence;
  • the significance of the false, misleading or forged information provided, or information withheld, and whether the applicant is able to supply a reasonable and credible explanation or other evidence indicating that in supplying or withholding such information they did not intend to deceive INZ;
  • how long ago the relevant event occurred;
  • whether the applicant has any immediate family lawfully and permanently in New Zealand;
  • whether the applicant has some strong emotional or physical tie to New Zealand;
  • whether the applicant’s potential contribution to New Zealand will be significant.

Once again, the list above does not specify what type of documents you can provide to support the character waiver request, and how these justify the grant of a waiver. We will guide you with what documents you can collect based on your circumstances. We then provide detailed legal submissions arguing the above points to support why you should be granted a character waiver.

INZ can get it wrong

INZ is not always right. We have recently encountered a case where INZ issued a letter raising character concerns that our client will not meet the character requirements for the grant of residence. INZ invited the client to provide comments in support of a character waiver. We identified two issues with INZ’s letter:

  1. INZ applied the wrong character instructions. If they had been correct, it would require INZ to decline the application as our client will not be eligible for a character waiver in the first place. So INZ’s request to inviting the client to provide comments for a character waiver was completely wrong.
  2. Upon conducting some legal research, it appeared that the character instructions INZ relied on were incorrect and did not apply to our client. Therefore, INZ has made an incorrect assessment of the facts of the application.

While you have no obligation to use an immigration lawyer, hiring one can save you a lot of headaches and money. Lodging a complete application that meets the requirements will reduce your chances of getting the application declined. If the application you filed with INZ is declined, you will end up using an immigration lawyer to assist you with filing another application, or a reconsideration if you are in NZ. You will be paying more money to INZ (i.e. government application fees), and the lawyer may charge more if issues were raised from the previous visa decline that needs to be addressed. In the case of residence, you will instead need professional assistance to file an appeal with the Immigration & Protection Tribunal. See our vlog to find out what is involved.

Remember immigration lawyers will operate in your best interest, so feel free to contact us if you need us handle your immigration case.