December 1 was the date that migrants who were eligible for phase 1 of the One-off resident visa had been waiting for since it was announced in September this year.

The application process was to start at 6 am this morning, with everyone wanting to be ahead in the queue and get their application lodged. Immigration New Zealand expected about 15,000 applications in Phase 1.

It may be noted that Phase 1 opened only for those applicants who have already applied for residence under the Skilled Migrant or Residence from Work categories on or before September 29, 2021, or have submitted a Skilled Migrant Category Expression of Interest, and have included their dependent child in the Expression of Interest aged 17 years or older on September 29' 2021. In Phase 2, which opens on March 1, 2022, all other eligible applicants can apply.

However, the website faced technical issues due to the expected surge in traffic and didn’t let the applications go through. This has created a lot of anxiety and stress among those waiting to lodge their applications and the immigration advisors.

Indian Weekender spoke to migrants and immigration experts to know their experience or at least to say ‘worst nightmare’ since this morning.

One of the immigrants, Gaurav, is frustrated that he has not been able to lodge his application even after hours of waiting. "It's absolutely frustrating sitting online since 5:45 AM and refreshing every minute and not even able to get into the system. Maybe Immigration didn't forecast the traffic accurately. I thought the lesson from the Ministry of Health website last week for vaccine pass would have been learned, but nothing. I can't tell you the stress that I am undergoing now. INZ needs to have a better system to handle the volumes."

Sailing in the same boat is another immigrant, Manreet Kaur, who spent hours refreshing the page this morning but in vain. She says: "Like many migrants, I had been waiting for December 1 to get my application lodged. I took the day off to apply, but the system is not working. I’ve tried logging in since 6 AM. I spent the next few hours refreshing the login page to even get into my account with no luck. Imagine there is just 15000 application in this phase, and still, the INZ website can't handle it; now just imagine how phase two is going to go in March when the numbers are far higher!”

Since morning, even immigration experts have been feeling the brunt of the crash as they have been under pressure to get their clients’ applications through as soon as possible. Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont of McClymont & Associates says, “It's a good example of how the trust in INZ has been eroded to zero. SMC applicants who applied two years ago were told processing times would be seven months. Two years later, they were still waiting, and the Minister of Immigration lied to the NZ public repeatedly by blaming delays on Covid.

 

“So, knowing that trust levels were at zero, it was self-evident that at 6 AM, there would be a mad rush to apply. How did INZ seek to mitigate this? Managers told advisors and lawyers, ‘please don't all apply at once.’ This shows the total disconnect between INZ/Minister and the migrant community. A refusal to accept responsibility for their own failures.”

Himang Bhardwaj from Counsel One Immigration Services NZ and former warranted Immigration Officer and People Leader at MBIE maintains that he wasn’t surprised by the technical glitch and somehow expected it to happen. He says, “The system issues with the INZ website do not surprise me at all. There is only so much traffic and user logins the system can handle at any given point in time. Immigration New Zealand is using the Immigration Global Management System (IGMS) platform for these applications.

“Since its introduction in 2015, the system has never been used and/or tested to deal with thousands of applicants applying for a particular visa at the same time. We expect these issues to continue, and I expect we will face even more issues in March next year given that more than 80% of the applications under the new resident visa category will be lodged in March (Phase 2).”

He further advises that applicants should focus on providing the appropriate information on the forms rather than rushing through the application. “It is better for you to lodge your application a little late rather than provide incorrect answers on your application form to avoid further delays in the processing of the application. The benefits of lodging the application before others are likely going to be limited and does not guarantee a quicker outcome and, in my opinion, is not worth the stress.”

Sarfraz Shaikh of Immigration Advice NZ also predicted the INZ system crashing and made most of his clients aware of this possibility. “Most of my team members were ready and set to go at 5:55 AM today morning to submit applications for the 2021 Resident Visa category.  At 6:01 AM, one staff member could get into the system and fill out the first two pages of the 2021 Resident Visa application, and when clicking "Next" there was an error on INZ's website. Since then, most of us have tried multiple times to log in to INZ’s online portal and realise the INZ system has crashed. Based on our experience, we had predicted the INZ system crashing, and most of our clients had been made aware of this possibility,” Shaikh said.

He believes that it would have been better if INZ had invited applicants in batches between December 1 and March 1 rather than opening the system out to thousands of applicants on the same day and at the same time. “It was a well-known fact when Silver Fern visas or working holidays visas opened which had merely 200-300 applicants trying to submit applications simultaneously, INZ’s systems had crashed. I dread to think what will happen when the Phase 2 applications open on March 1, 2022.”

When Indian Weekender contacted Immigration New Zealand, they gave a standard reply of telling the applicants to “be patient.” Confirming the technical glitch Geoff Scott, General Manager, Immigration New Zealand, said, "Immigration New Zealand can confirm there have been some issues with our website overloading this morning due to high demand with people applying for the new 2021 Resident Visa. This has resulted in the system operating slower than usual; however, the application form is still working, and people are still able to submit applications.

“We ask that people be patient while we are experiencing this high demand. Applicants have plenty of time to apply for their 2021 Resident Visa, with applications open until July 31, 2022. We encourage people to submit their applications and make sure they have all the required documents and evidence to submit their applications. This will reduce the time it takes to process their application, as we will not need to request further information from them during the assessment process.”

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SOME TIPS TO GET YOU GOING

Some lucky ones like Jignesh Patel, who managed to lodge his application online with his partner, shared some tips to get lucky on the Migrants NZ group on Facebook.

1. Please be patient

2. Do not panic if your page says wait for the form to process

3. Wait for additional tabs to be open after clicking the Bullets; otherwise, you need to repeat the section.

4. This is still a question where it asks for confirmation that you have been living with your partner for more than 12 months

5. Please submit the evidence for living to gather for more than a year, even if it's not required, like timeline and lease agreements. There is no harm in doing it.

6. Fill out INZ1242 before or while making an application. Just signature required of you and your partner if applying by yourself in Section A

7. Pages will take time to load; please wait for the whole page to be visible, and the buffer goes away.

8. Do not refresh.