Resolve the backlog of Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Residence applications.

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We are the migrants who are waiting in the non-priority Skilled Migrant Category / Residence From Work queue. We have met all the requirements and conditions set out at SM2.10, RW2 & RW4 to be able to apply for the Resident category visas and paid a significant amount of money in fees (more than $3,000 in the case of Skilled Migrant Category applications). We have brought our skills and knowledge which New Zealand needed, as per the objectives of the Skilled Migrant & Residence from Work categories, and were invited to apply by Immigration New Zealand for Resident category visas. However, we have been forced to wait many months and even years to hear a decision on our applications. In the early months of 2019, when many of us lodged our applications for Residence, the timeframe for allocation to an Immigration Officer was just 3-4 months. As of 1 July 2020, applications at the front of the non-priority queue, awaiting allocation to an Immigration Officer, were lodged on 17 December 2018, which is now more than 18 months ago. Even before the coronavirus crisis, there was a significant backlog of applications that represents more than 30,000 people and now the processing appears to have stalled completely. These waiting times are having an immense mental and financial toll on the applicants and their families. With a timeframe of more than 18 months and counting for a Residence application to be allocated to an Immigration Officer for assessment, applicants are having to renew temporary entry class visas while their Residence application waits in the queue – often at a cost of more than $1,000 per family, which is additional to the thousands they have already paid in Residence application fees. It is also affecting New Zealand's reputation and credibility on the international stage and has the potential to deter future highly skilled migrants coming here and sharing their knowledge, skills, and expertise that are needed by New Zealand employers.

Thereby we petition the House of Representatives, Immigration New Zealand and other interested parties with the following recommendations:

1) To make the whole process of dealing with backlog transparent and set up a page on Immigration New Zealand website with weekly updates of the numbers of applications from non-priority and priority queues being allocated;
2) To automatically extend temporary visas for one year for those who are waiting in Skilled Migrant Category / Work-from-residence queue until the backlog is cleared and waiting times do not exceed six months;
3) To make an option for those who do not want to wait to withdraw their applications if it has not been assigned to Immigration Officer with a full refund of fees which were paid for the submission of an application;
4) To allocate at least 50% of Immigration Officers to deal with non-priority applications in order to clear the backlog;
5) To give an opportunity to those who were in the queue but lost their jobs to be given the time up to 6 months to find another job which would meet the criteria of residency program without their application being terminated;
6) To make the provisions for skilled migrants who are overseas to be able to enter the country before their temporary visa will expire with the following application of the recommendations number 2, 3 or 5 depending on their circumstances;
7) To start an investigation and provide clear answers as to why this backlog has appeared and if any of the actions were intentional, as well as setting out details of a strategy to clear the backlog going forward.