Mexican Ambassador 'quite irritated', restaurant owner offended by Immigration NZ's 'almost racist' reason for locking Mexican chef out of NZ

Amid a massive chef shortage, Immigration New Zealand is locking skilled chefs out because they don't have a very specific qualification.

The Prime Minister has confirmed to Newshub the Government's working on a fix to the immigration anomaly and is promising faster visas for visitors to fill our bars and restaurants.

Luis Cabrera makes a mean margarita - he's so good he's cooked for former US President Barack Obama. But his Viaduct restaurant had its final fiesta on Saturday as he just can't get staff.

"I've been working myself for three months with just two dishwashers, basically," he said. 

Cabrera has spent six months searching, spending thousands on advertising.

He did have a chef from Mexico lined up, but the application was declined, telling him to hire a Kiwi.

"I would like to say to [Immigration New Zealand]: be quick, wake up, this is urgent."

The visa requirements for chefs - in general - are cooked, said immigration advisor Katy Armstong.

"You could have 20 years in kitchens, 10 years in kitchens, top kitchens and that counts for nothing," she said. 

Chefs are the only profession where experience isn't factored into work visas. They only care about a very specific cookery NZQA level 4 qualification - or the equivalent of that.

"We have identified it's an issue that needs to be resolved," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"There is a simple fix to get more chefs in the country and [Immigration Minister] Michael Wood has known about this since August 5 and he's done absolutely nothing," said National's immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford.

Immigration NZ told Cabrera that he couldn’t bring in a Mexican chef because they assumed he wouldn’t be the one designing the menu.

After an official looked up the restaurant online, they saw Cabrera's restaurant had burritos, tortillas and nachos on their menu and the official said they were concerned these "do not require technical or specialist expertise". 

Cabrera says he found this extremely offensive, telling Newshub it was a "very ignorant and almost racist assumption". We're told even the Mexican Ambassador is "quite irritated".

It's far from just chefs stuck out.

Newshub revealed last night that while 300,000 tourists have been granted entry, tens of thousands of visitors from countries needing visas are stuck waiting.

"So those who are coming in and applying for visas are coming from specific countries and those specific countries make up about 12 percent of our tourists," said Ardern.

The median time it's taking to process a visitor visa is 14 working days - three weeks - and 95 percent are processed in 35 working days - seven weeks.

The Immigration Minister's excuse is an initial surge in visitor applications, three times higher than expected.

Ardern said it's speeding up. 

But now when visitors do arrive, there's one less place to get a mean margarita.