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NZ to take student visa processing online

New Zealand is to take all student visa applications online from late 2013 in a bid to speed up processing and improve customer service. It will be the first service to be delivered through the country’s Immigration Global Management System (IGMS) – a new “fit for purpose” IT system aimed at modernising the immigration system by 2015.

Students will be the first to benefit from the IMGS which promises users a “transformed experience”

In a statement this week chief executive of Education New Zealand, Grant McPherson, and deputy Chief Executive of Immigration New Zealand, Steve Stuart, said: “Online lodgement will transform the service that Immigration New Zealand can offer students, providers and agents around the world – and will serve to enable New Zealand to match or better the online visa offering from New Zealand’s major competitors for international students.”

“Online lodgement will transform the service that Immigration New Zealand can offer students”

The NZ$75million IMGS promises customers a “transformed experience” when completed: users will have secure online immigration accounts, be able to track the progress of application, and have simple tasks automated. The system will also have biometric capability.

However, some have expressed concern over measures to be put in place during the transition to the system. New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) will hand over its responsibilities regional visa services to Immigration New Zealand, meaning that until online processing is available, Visa Apllication Centres (VACs) will act as centralised receiving offices for student applications.

Students will have to pay to use VACs, as well as covering additional costs for applications to be couriered to centres. VACs are already in operation across Asia and Russia, but new centres will open in Washington DC (handling Brazilian and Argentinian applications) and London, serving a variety of European countries.

Education New Zealand stressed the measures were necessary and would improve not disrupt service (although it suggested processing times at the new VACs would be “the same, if not faster”).

“There will be no change to the forms, accompanying materials needed or the decision making process.”

“INZ is committed to improving the customer experience and applicants can expect an improved processing time, despite the need to mail/courier documents to the appropriate VAC,” it said in a statement.

“There will be no change to the forms, accompanying materials needed or the decision making process.”

New Zealand is working to double its education exports by 2025. Recent immigration reforms include streamlining visas for those using trusted agents and giving part-time work rights to English students in Christchurch, after last year’s earthquake led to a decline in enrolments.

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