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The Tortoise versus the Cheetah: the ongoing race of SMC/RFW versus RV21

Updated: Feb 5, 2022


I have written on this topic before (Dec 14th) and put forward my hypothesis that paper (priority) applications at least could still have some chance of coming to thefore before an RV21 - I call it the tipping point theory. Read my article about that here: https://www.intonz.co.nz/post/what-about-the-paper-residence-queue. Which application will win out in the end?


My theory has become all the more interesting since our industry body (the NZAMI) put out this information just yesterday, 28 January. It has some surprises in that it suggests there will be further allocation of priority applications quite soon. Have a read and fill your boots, as they say. I've inserted my own thoughts in orange for you...

  • SMC/RFW (the residual queue) has 10 IOs working on these and with 538 applications (in the priority queue) at hand as of this week



(now this is interesting as the figure showing online currently is higher than this but I had



been internally guesstimating that the figure would be dropping as more and more get approved under RV21 and then withdrawn)

estimated time to complete the allocation of all priority apps will be mid-march 2022 at this stage. (@2 apps per IO per day). Note that the more applicants that switch to RV21 the faster this will be completed. So here's the gold - they are actually saying they are going to allocate out these paper applications by mid March!




Last priority allocation was done in Sept - 27 Sept 2021 (when Auckland moved out of L4 lockdown) and allocations will resume from 1 Feb 2022 onwards.

  • As of 17 Aug 2021 (start of lockdown) approximately 1500 apps were allocated with case officers. This is what the team of 10 have been working through as of this week there are 60 left.

  • Info on priority allocation within RV21 not available yet.

  • Within Manukau Office there are 60 IOs working on phase 1 apps and 40 more will be added for phase 2. So almost all resources towards RV21. Across the network for Phase 1, there are 60 from Manukau, 15 from Hamilton and 30 from Christchurch, this makes a total of 105 IOs.

  • Further info from INZ on RV21 Phase 2 coming out next week. This means we could well be seeing some interesting criteria around how they stagger processing for this 2nd cohort - it may well not become a first in first served and that would take the pressure off everyone wanting to lodge at the same time. We have already been talking to many explaining that being in first does not necessarily mean being decided first - we have already experienced this in the first cohort and there are many factors in play as to that. For example, the whole issue of police or national security checks. But also things like dependent children aged 21+; custody issues for children under 16; criminal convictions etc. In cohort 2 we expect to see more cases coming into some policy nuances where there may well be argu


ment as to the interpretation of instructions. This is because we have been assessing so many cases and now have a very good idea of where the problem areas lie. There are quite a few we know will need to be argued out. Things like:

  • pay rates suddenly increasing as at 29 September

  • job titles and job descriptions not matching

  • people thinking having a critical purpose visa includes those who were ordinarily living in NZ when in the fine print it does not

  • people who were between jobs as at 29.9.21 on post study visas

  • people who simply miss a particular criteria by a wisp and want to apply in any event to open appeal rights

  • INZ have resourced RV21 this way to manage the volumes, but it’s also because every decision that is made reduces the overall wait time, as people switch from SMC/RFW to RV21. Given the success to date with RV21, they strongly encourage all those that are eligible to apply via this stream for a quick and streamline outcome.

  • Final resourcing plan for RV21 phase 2 has not been signed off yet and will be shared with us in due course.

So back to the old chestnut: is it worth having the "two trolleys" approach I have always espoused. To my mind (and it is just my opinion - feel free to disagree) - I absolutely think so in many cases. Having a priority Residence From Work application in before you apply for RV21 means you don't have to pay up-front to put in a 2nd application. You can then have two trolleys and play the queues. Whichever comes up first, INZ senior Management has said to me in writing the following:




"If by some miracle, in the not too distant future we were able to allocate a SMC/RFW file, and the client had a RV21 file that hadn’t yet been allocated, we’d ask them which one they want us to process. If a SMC/RFW client is next up to be allocated, and they don’t have a RV21 file lodged, then we’d begin to process the SMC/RFW file accordingly.

You might be ‘next in line’ in the priority queue, but if you’ve not been allocated by March 1st, then as I’ve suggested before, lodge the RV21 as earlier as you can."


When I look at these staffing numbers it also confirms to me once again that you are possibly at some point better off if # 100 in a paper queue with 10 officers than # 25,000 in a queue that has 200 case officers (and 200 would mean an almost doubling of what they currently have for RV21 - where are these extra officers going to come from with such a skills shortage?).


As against this, is that if we have an Omicron outbreak, paper applications are more at risk perhaps than online as from past experience, when case officers go home, paper processing just seizes whereas online continues.


Overall, I stand by my two trolleys approach which I have been very willing to abandon but so far the information only keeps reinforcing that it's the right way to go until otherwise informed


. You have nothing to lose apart from a bit of extra time and effort by putting in two applications versus one. If you are non-priority paper, however, it does become a lot less compelling as your paper case could take many a moon to come to fruition.


It is, as ever, our philosophy that if any Client of ours is unable to articulate why we are adopting a particular approach to their case, then we have failed in our duty to properly explain and obtain their lawful and informed instructions. We have already discussed on a one-on-one basis, the two trolleys approach with all who are eligible for more than one residence type. However, you are welcome to talk to us again if having any doubts or confusion about the right way to go.


I will be writing up separately the latest on border entry rights for first-time residents and also your partners and dependent children which may also influence the strategy.


Ka kite,


Katy Armstrong

LIA 200800243





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