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New Zealand to close files and refund processing fees for visa backlog

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Immigration New Zealand will refund roughly NZ$14 million in visa fees, and officially “lapse” those pending files that have accumulated since processing of offshore applications for temporary visas was suspended in August 2020
  • The country’s borders remain largely closed to international travellers and those restrictions are now expected to stay in place into 2022
  • Applicants, including prospective students, will be encouraged to re-apply when normal border operations and visa services resume

Immigration New Zealand has confirmed that up to 50,000 pending visa applications will be closed, and the associated processing fees and levies refunded, given that the files “cannot be processed due to New Zealand’s current border restrictions.”

The backlog of temporary visa files, which includes applications for student visas, has been in limbo since 10 August 2020. That was the point at which New Zealand suspended offshore visa applications. Under its recently released guidelines, offshore applications for a temporary entry visa made before 10 August 2020 will be automatically closed and refunded. Similarly, any applications received by Immigration New Zealand after 10 August will also be closed and refunded, unless the traveller has an exception from the current border restrictions due to work or family reasons.

“Processing these refunds is a significant administrative exercise and is expected to take months,” said Immigration New Zealand Visa Operations General Manager Nicola Hogg.

Immigration New Zealand says that there are roughly NZ$14 million in fees to be refunded. The agency will follow up with all affected applicants using the contact email address in the original visa applications, and explains:

  • “For applications submitted online, refunds will be paid to the card the original payment was paid from. If the payment was made by a third party on behalf of the applicant, such as a Licensed Immigration Advisor, it is the responsibility of the applicant and their representative to arrange reimbursement of the refund. Immigration New Zealand is not able to mediate between the applicant and their representative.”
  • “For those where payment was made more than 12 months ago, applicants will be contacted to complete a refund form and provide a bank account number for the refund to be processed to.”
  • “For applications submitted through other channels, applicants will be contacted to obtain payment details.”

The immigration agency confirms as well that any future visa applications will not be adversely affected by the closing of the current files. However, adds Ms Hogg, “Refunding these applicants is the fair and pragmatic thing to do, particularly given the uncertainty that remains about when border restrictions may be eased or lifted.”

With limited exceptions, including an estimated 1,250 foreign students that will be allowed to return to New Zealand this year under strict quarantine conditions, the country’s borders remain closed to international travellers. Those border restrictions first went into effect in March 2020. In a May 2021 letter to education sector stakeholders, Education Minister Chris Hipkins indicated that the current closures will extend into 2022.

For additional background, please see:

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