Coronavirus: 329 Immigration NZ staff to lose jobs, offices around the world to close amid huge drop in visa requests

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is permanently closing four of its offshore offices after COVID-19 border restrictions caused a dramatic drop-off in visa volumes.

Offices in Mumbai, India; Manila, the Philippines; Pretoria, South Africa; and Beijing, China will be permanently shut down this year.

The move, which will see more visa processing brought back to New Zealand, means the 329 international INZ staff in these cities will lose their jobs.

INZ says the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an "unprecedented challenge" over the last year, resulting in visa volumes falling markedly across a number of categories - including visitor and student visas, which are mainly processed overseas.

This drop-off, combined with "new technology capabilities", has prompted INZ to change its structures and make efforts to contribute to New Zealand's economic recovery from coronavirus.

"INZ has made the difficult decision to close our offices in Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria by March 2021 and bring more visa processing onshore," Deputy Head of INZ Catriona Robinson says.

"This is not a decision that we have made lightly. Our staff in these offices have made a significant contribution to INZ and New Zealand.

"However, these offices have been closed since March 2020 and with no certainty about when visa volumes may return to normal, INZ has had to make some tough decisions."

INZ also plans to withdraw visa processing from its office in Beijing, China, though says the timing of this "will depend on a number of factors, including visa volumes and changes to New Zealand's border restrictions".

The agency will monitor this over the next six months.

Robinson says INZ is well-placed to increase onshore processing capacity.

"The rollout of new technology functions aims to improve efficiency and resilience throughout INZ, which will help us to better manage peaks and troughs in visa volumes while giving users of the immigration system a better customer experience."