More and more Indians on visitor visa are being turned back from New Zealand or denied boarding at transit ports on way to Aotearoa, new data has revealed. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has reported a nearly 20-fold increase in such denials in 2023 year on year, with an uptick ever since nearly 140 migrants were found caught up in a visa fraud about three months back.

The table below shows India Visitor Visa holders who were denied boarding on arrival between 7 November 2021 and 6 November 2023 broken down by month:

Since February this year, more Indian visitor visa holders have been denied onward journey to New Zealand every month than in the whole of last year. In August alone, 154 of them were barred from boarding a flight, the most denials in a single month this year, INZ data shows.


The table below shows  India Visitor Visa holders who were refused entry on arrival between 7 November 2021 and 6 November 2023 broken down by month:

Former immigration minister Tuariki Delamere says such a spike in denials points to a “complete and massive lack of competence by immigration officers”. “If the applications had been processed competently in the first place, then these people would never have been issued a visitor visa in the first place if the concerns of immigration offices at our border were valid. But, were they valid?”

Delamere, who now works as an immigration adviser, says his experience with clients suggests not all denials might be justified.

“In the cases of three persons…who INZ refused to allow to come to New Zealand… refused to allow to come to New Zealand…INZ apologised and allowed them to come to New Zealand because I was able to demonstrate that the officers in these cases were grossly incompetent, and wrong.”

But Pawandeep Singh of Kiwiana Immigration and Education is cutting INZ some slack. The licensed immigration adviser who manages a team of consultants says they have noticed certain applicants have furnished incorrect, and even forged documents, in their visa applications.

“[This was done] to demonstrate their strong ties to their home country. The majority of these cases involved young individuals who were going to New Zealand with the intention of settling down in the future.”

Singh says when borders reopened in 2022, INZ began issuing visas “without carefully reviewing each application” in an effort to boost tourism.

“However, certain trends were seen in the processing of applications, the rejection of visas, and the denial of admission…

“In order to carry out the risk assessment,they began interviewing the applicants at the port of entry…and in some cases, when disparities were discovered, some applicants had their entry into New Zealand entirely refused.”

Singh says immigration officials have done a commendable job of assessing risk at the port of entry. “But I think they should make a more thorough examination before making a decision [in the first place].”

As per visa terms, INZ officials reserve discretionary rights to refuse entry to valid visa holders on reasonable suspicion.

But Tuariki Delamere is questioning the prudence of refusing boarding at overseas ports just on the basis of a telephone interview with an immigration officer back in New Zealand in English.

“[Interview] usually without interpreters, to people who speak very little or no English? What is this information border officers have suddenly discovered at the very last minute? My recent experience is that they have no evidence.”

Immigration officials are in the middle of an expanding inquiry into abuse of Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) scheme, as a result of which several migrants have been exploited.