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An update on the state of the skilled paper residence queue:

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

Those of you who follow me will know that I have held a keen interest in the state of the skilled paper residence queue. Why? Because it's important to our Clients. What's important to our clients is important to us.

When INZ launched the One-Off 2021 Residence Visa we were repeatedly told it would be much quicker and therefore better to apply for the RV21 as the paper queue wasn't going anywhere fast. I was never 100% convinced for all cases.

We were told the paper team was going to be reduced from 70+ to 10 which has come to pass. However, simple maths told us that not all RV21s could be decided more quickly than paper applications. What are the maths?

Well - currently the paper priority queue is about 850 strong. It does change daily as more people (including us) continue to lodge priority applications. Let's just suppose it grows to 1000 by 1 March. On 1 March there are potentially 90,000 or more RV21 applicants supposedly eligible to apply. That represents 90 times as many applications as are in that priority queue. All things being equal, let's just say an RV1 takes half the amount of time a Residence From Work application would take (as to which see below, as I do not believe there's a huge difference between the work involved between them, but just being uber-generous to INZ....): you'd theoretically need a team 45 times bigger to process all the RV21s as the paper priorities in the same amount of time. Which isn't going to happen.

At a Select Committee meeting held this week, the head of INZ (Alison McDonald) confirmed that currently there are currently 105 officers working on the RV21 visas. The plan is to double that number and training is apparently already underway. When asked when those officers will be up and running the answer was "within the next couple of months". That takes us to mid to late April. Some of those officers are also very new and there's no doubt, some of these RV21s are going to have issues - it's not all plain sailing:

  • pay rates that have suddenly gone up on 29 September

  • scarce roles to be assessed

  • casual employment contracts

  • reductions in hours or pay due to Covid

  • other eligibility criteria

  • partnership elements

  • child dependency

  • child custody

  • character issues

To mention but the top issues we are seeing coming through.

Meanwhile, 145 priority cases have just been allocated to the team of 10. If allocated, it means they should be worked on. By my own maths, 14.5 cases per cases officer ought to be easily possible to assess in just 1-2 weeks! These are established case officers, with some level of experience.

What's the assessment work needed for Residence From Work versus an RV21? Well, interestingly to my mind, not much! A Residence From Work was always a substantially less complex application than a Skilled Migrant application. No points, no assessment of "skilled employment". The only real difference between an RV21 and an RFW is the having to assess English language requirements of secondary applicants where applicable. Hardly onerous when most either have English test results that can simply be ticked off or alternative certificates on the INZ list.

Another interesting statement from Alison was that "as Phase 1 of the RV1 ends, case officers will be moved to Phase 1.5 and to the Priority paper queue". This means we can seemingly expect more officers than 10 to be working on things.

The only thing that got a little bit vaguer was when asked about Omicron planning. Again, in previous blogs, I have raised the question as to what will be the effect of home isolation on these paper versus online teams. We know full well that last August when we went into lockdown, all paper processing ceased. Online continued, although at a slower pace.

At this same meeting, Alison (now head of INZ for just over 7 months) reassured INZ now has a fabulous business continuity plan having learned so much from previous lockdowns. I'd love to see that plan - no amount of searching has dug it up. Anyways, 99% of case officers apparently now have laptops and extra accoutrement such as mice, chairs, 2nd screens - to make working from home better. What we weren't told is what will happen this time to paper applications as we know papers can't be taken home and the stance before was that nothing could be scanned for security reasons (bizarre given so many documents are emailed back and forth). So that remains a residual concern and I've raised it through the appropriate channels.

In all, however, it is becoming quite interesting. I do believe my theory that there would be a "tipping point" whereby some priority paper applicants get their residence before RV21 applicants could now be within sights earlier than I'd dare think.

I will, as always, be following this with a keen interest and will let you know how this all develops. I have a question in already (as yet, unanswered) as to the date of the oldest priority application not yet allocated as the answer will be key to you knowing roughly where you stand. We will be asking this question weekly until the priority queue is cleared. It is not a statistic that generally gets published.

For those non-priority applicants in the queue, it remains to be seen how many will be left who are not eligible for the RV21. Currently, we're told the General Queue is 8,664 strong but with each passing day that must reduce as people get their RV21s.

For more information on the numbers see this link:

Katy on behalf the team at Into NZ.

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