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Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will close offices in Pretoria, Manila and Mumbai in March. INZ said in a statement with border restrictions remaining in place for almost a year, incoming visa volumes have decreased significantly across several visa categories, including visitor and student visa applications. INZ emphasized the reduction in visa volumes, combined with new technology capabilities, has provided an opportunity to alter the way it operated.

Deputy head of INZ, Catriona Robinson, said it had to adapt to the changing environment and ensure it contributed to New Zealand’s Covid-19 economic recovery.

“INZ has made the difficult decision to close our offices in Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria by March 2021 and bring more visa processing onshore. 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,” Roinson said.

She said INZ planned to withdraw visa processing from its Beijing office while ‘strengthening our risk and verification presence’. Robinson said the Beijing office reopened in September 2020 and was currently processing visa applications for individuals already in New Zealand.

“The timing of the withdrawal of visa processing from Beijing will depend on a number of factors, including visa volumes and changes to New Zealand’s border restrictions. INZ will continue to monitor this over the next six months.”

The office closures will affect 329 staff. Robinson said INZ was well placed to increase its onshore processing capacity. She said the rollout of new technology functions aimed to improve efficiency and resilience throughout INZ. “This will help us to better manage peaks and troughs in visa volumes while giving users of the immigration system a better customer experience.”