In my Visas for Overstayers blog post in March last year I highlighted the “no reasons, no records” approach by Immigration New Zealand to requests for a visa by people unlawfully in the country.  We’ve just heard that INZ has set up a dedicated team to handle these cases.

A group of experienced visa officers at a couple of branches, and with their own remote Manager, will process the requests.  Some anecdotal feedback from our friends in the industry indicates that they might be getting better outcomes than before.  However, others are not so sure and there is a bit of scepticism out there.

Overall, it could be a good thing.  Experience over the years has shown that Immigration staff who have some years’ background are more flexible and humane in their approach to someone’s situation.  Newbies can be stuck with the rule-book and don’t show much initiative or free-thought.

On the other hand, it could also be a move by INZ to ring-fence this type of “outside the square” application.  It may also lead to an approach of setting up rules about how s 61 requests are to be decided.  If so, that would go against the spirit of such requests which ask INZ to use “absolute discretion”.  An ordinary meaning of that phrase should be that you approach each case fresh, because ever case is different.

Anyone who has overstayed and wants to get back on a visa should think carefully before applying.  Just sending some support letters from a church leader or MP will probably not be enough.  An experienced visa officer might well be willing to help a deserving case, but they still have to justify their decision to their manager.

My own opinion is that the new, dedicated team offers an opportunity for people unlawfully in New Zealand to get themselves back on track.  That opportunity, however, depends on giving them something convincing to think about – and something unique about your situation to grab their attention.