Fear of uncertainty and despair looms large on around 60,000 Indian temporary migrant workers currently in the country as the govt continues to throttle the pathway to residency.

The Indian Weekender’s enquiry to Immigration New Zealand revealed that currently, more than 53,000 Indian nationals were on different types of temporary visas (work & student), and an additional 9045 people were languishing in residency visa processing queues.

A response from Immigration New Zealand to the Indian Weekender’s query on the actual number of Indian temporary migrant workers in the country revealed that currently, there were 46,335 work visa holders and 7,380 student visa holders onshore.

The majority of them are reluctant to submit an expression of interest (EOI) under the Skilled Migrant Category (for residency) despite a keen desire to do so and having the required points to get their EOIs selected from the pool for further assessment.

This is because the government has suspended selections from the pool since March 2020 due to the impacts of Covid-19.

In addition to this, there is another cohort of 9045 Indian temporary migrant workers onshore who have filed an application for residency (under SMC category) and are in the visa processing queue, with the majority of them not having been allotted a case officer.

This makes the number of Indian temporary migrants onshore without any certainty of their immigration future to more than 60,000.

The government’s recent decision to lapse 50,000 temporary visa applications filed offshore after August 6, 2020, and announcing to return their fees has further instilled fear of uncertainty among those temporary migrants onshore who qualify for submitting an EOI.

28-year-old Surabhi Parashar (name changed on request), - a marketing communication professional who has been in the country along with her husband for more than five years questions frustratingly, “Why should we risk our tens of thousands of dollars with immigration lawyers for an application which does not have a basic guarantee of being seen by a case officer.”

“I came to this country in 2016 after getting married to my husband who has studied and trained to work as a chef after arriving first on a student visa a year before, and the only progress we have made in life is changing our visa status,” Surabhi says frustratingly.

The couple is currently on three-year essential skills work visa, which expires in November 2023 after having been on a two-year post-study work visa and one-year job search visa previously.

“This is when we hear so many stories of staff-shortage in the hospitality industry in this country.”

“My husband has chosen to come to study in this country and train as a chef, following the dreams that were sold by Education New Zealand in different marketing events back in our home country.”

“Now after paying international student fees, paying taxes, working as a skilled chef, in an industry that is crying labour shortage and having lived in the country for five years, if we do not have a certainty of life in New Zealand, then when will we have,” Surabhi asked.

“We are anxiously waiting for the government to open the selection from the pool before we risk additional money for visa processing,” Surabhi said.

“Our lives are currently on hold with us to take an important basic decision of when to start a family as we do not want to bring a child to the world of uncertainty,” Surabhi concluded.

Abhijeet Malik (39) was well settled in Qatar with a young family working in the hospitality industry when he decided to make a move to New Zealand in 2016 and pursue a dream of working as a Chef – a decision that now he regrets.

After initial studies, he managed to get a job as a chef in the Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata and was on the verge of submitting EOI for under Skilled migrant category when the Covid pandemic hit, and his position was made redundant.

Since then, he has managed to find another job as a Sous Chef in a famous hotel in Napier and was able to submit an EOI with the support of a new employer in mid-2020. 

However, he remains clueless if INZ would be processing his application and give him a fair chance to reunite with his wife and kids, who remain separated because of currently closed borders.

Despite being in the processing queue, he remains highly anxious with the growing rumours that the government might decide to lapse and refund unprocessed applications under the guise of “immigration reset.”

More than 9000 Indians in residency visa processing queue

Meanwhile, the INZ has confirmed to the Indian Weekender that currently, there were 8217 Indian passport holders who have filed for residency under the SMC category, another 789 under the family category who are waiting in the queue.

Notably, there are 30,000 people in the queue for residence visas and another 20,000 waiting for their expressions of interest for residence to be looked at.