There are many ways to slip up in the Skilled Migrant application process for NZ Residence.  Your whole application can be declined solely because you did not declare some minor crime – no matter how small.

A recent enquiry which I received highlighted the dangers.  The person concerned had been pulled up a few years ago for a minor traffic offence.  He went to Court and paid a small fine, and that was that.  Well, not quite.

As highlighted on our Skilled Migrant website page, the first stage of the Skilled Migrant process is an online Expression of Interest (EOI).  One question on the EOI is whether you have been charged with or convicted of an offence.  Our friend didn’t think it was a “crime” or an “offence” because, even though he went to Court, he only received a fine and he paid.  Therefore he.did not mention this incident on the EOI.

This was not picked up until Immigration did a standard NZ Police Check.  He tried to explain why he hadn’t declared it, but his luck was bad and the visa officer didn’t accept what he said.  His application was declined for the single reason that he had given wrong information on the EOI.  Even worse, he had no right of appeal to the Immigration & Protection Tribunal.  This is because the IPT is not allowed to consider Residence Appeals where the reason for the decline was that “false or misleading information” had been provided on the EOI.

As if that was not bad enough, he did not even have the chance to apply for what is called a Character Waiver.  This is a process where people who have got some black mark against their name, either with Immigration or the Police, can put a case forward that their application should still be approved.  This might be because they had a lot to offer New Zealand; they have strong family ties here; or simply that the offence in question was really trivial.  Now, in my opinion, our unlucky friend could have succeeded on a Character Waiver in the position he found himself.  However, Immigration is not allowed to offer the Character Waiver process if false or misleading information was provided at the EOI stage.

The only option left to him was to send in a completely new EOI and go through the whole process again.  This time, however, he hopefully won’t miss out the answers to any questions . . .

The moral of this story is that, most of the time, you have more to lose by keeping information back than by admitting it and dealing with it.  Immigration’s rules on this are pretty unforgiving.  Unfortunately quite a lot of people do try to hide things from them, and as a result their policy forces people to pay a high price for this.  The problem is just as bad if someone uses a representative (such as an immigration adviser or lawyer) to work for them, who perhaps forgets to ask the right questions to complete an application.  The policy makes the applicant liable, even if they used an agent.  In a way this can be an even more difficult situation, because you may not know everything that the agent has written or sent in about you.

If you want to get someone to act for you in a visa matter, make sure that they are professional and know what they are doing.  If you come to suspect that they are not competent, then you are free to contact Immigration and ask to deal with them directly.  Or you can hire someone else who does know what they are doing.