One of the simplest and best additions to the immigration system came in section 80 of the new Immigration Act 2009, which sets up the system of Interim Visas.  I described this in my paper to the Law Society last year.

The way it works is that if you are in NZ and apply to renew your visa before your last one runs out, you should normally get another visa to cover your stay here while you are waiting for a decision.

This makes a lot of sense because it reduces the danger of being an overstayer while Immigration is processing your application – which can often take at least 3 months in the case of a Work or Student Visas.  The Minister proudly announced the new system when it came in on 7 February as being especially beneficial to students.  As an example, a student applying to extend a Student Visas to go to a particular college gets an “open” Student Visa while they are waiting, so that their study isn’t interrupted.  This is especially relevant after the Minister’s embarrassment earlier last year about the shocking delays in student processing at Palmerston North.

However, what was not made so clear to everyone at first is that the Interim Visa that you get may not match what you are applying for.  Someone on a Visitor’s Visa who has a good job offer and applies for a Work Visa will only get a Visitor’s Interim Visa until the main application is completed.  They cannot start working in the meantime and could lose the position because the employer may not want to wait 3 or more months for them to be allowed to work.  Or if someone wants to switch jobs in the same industry, again they revert to a Visitor’s Visa instead of being able to continue working.

This sort of situation undermines the object of matching people up with the right jobs and helping the economy.  It is the kind of thinking that runs through New Zealand bureaucracy.  It is holding us back when we most need to act boldly to shake the recession off.