Nearly 3100 expressions of interest have so far been submitted for the Parent Visa Category, with the first selection round due to be carried out next month.
However with just 500 visas being granted each year - with roughly two people per application - it equates to about 250 expressions of interest being selected each year.
An immigration lawyer is asking applicants not to get their hopes up, as the selection rounds take place quarterly meaning there will be just about 63 that will be selected this year.
In an Official Information Act request, INZ revealed that as of June 29, 2023, there were 3081 Parent Category expressions of interest received in the ballot submitted since 12 October last year
Wilma Montgomery, 50, has been waiting about seven years to bring her parents here. The last time her parents came was when they were granted a limited purpose visa to come when one of Montgomery’s sons died in 2018. Montgomery, who is from the Philippines, has four other adult children aged between 22 and 32. She and her pediatrician husband also own a medical centre and also own several investment properties. Montgomery’s father is 80 this year and her mother is 75, and she is hoping this would be the year they could get their visa.
“Especially after Covid, it made us realise how important family is and I really want my parents here to be close to us,” she said.
“We are in a good financial situation and will be happy to give any assurance that we will support every aspect of my parents being here.”
Montgomery submitted an updated EOI on February 14 this year, but there has been no progress until now.
“The chance of parents getting selected by ballot from the EOI pool comes down to roughly 2 per cent and given more EOIs will enter the pool than those will be selected from the pool, this number is dropping as we speak,” said Harris Gu, an immigration lawyer with Queen City Law.
Following the Herald’s query, Immigration New Zealand’s Chief Operating Officer Stephen Vaughan said there will be a change to the selection process for the August draw.
“The Parent Category enables New Zealand residents and citizens to sponsor their parents for residence in New Zealand, to support skilled migration,” Vaughn said.
“INZ has to select and then process EOIs once they have been submitted. Once assessed, if they meet the requirements, applicants and their sponsors will be invited to apply (ITA) for their Parent Resident Visa.”
Vaughn said applicants had four months to then complete and submit their residence application.
“This means that a number of months can elapse between EOIs being submitted, and residence applications submitted,” he said.
“Residence applications usually take longer to process as there is more information to be assessed, as we may require more information from applicants and third party checks are required.”
Vaughn said the agency was committed to processing them as quickly as possible and has streamlined procedures to speed up the process.
“There will be a change to the way we select EOIs in the August draw, and more information will be made available soon,” he said.
INZ announced in October last year that the Parent Residence Category, which was closed in October 2016, will be restarted.
The then Minister of Immigration Michael Wood said at the time the move was to ensure “skilled migrants can resettle in New Zealand with their families”.
“The chance of being selected is about 2 per cent. What a joke!” said Harris Gu, an immigration lawyer with Queen City Law.
“Given more EOIs will enter the pool, this percentage is dropping as we speak.”
Maricel Weischede, who is Montgomery’s immigration lawyer, said the suspension of the parent category since 2016 had caused a significant void in family reunification.
“This stands in contrast to New Zealand’s portrayal of a robust immigration system and deep respect for family values,” she said.
“They initially set the income threshold too high, making it unattainable for average earners to sponsor their parents. Again, a contradiction, as those wanting to be reunited with their parents, needed support for their own families.
“Then, came the introduction of the quota system along with delays and inefficiencies in the process.”
Weischede said it was frustrating and that the system has to change.
“A two per cent success predictor is unacceptable and inefficient,” she said.
For the past seven years, the only pathway for parents of migrants to secure residency was through the Parent Retirement Visa.
To qualify, the parent applicant must invest at least $1 million into an “acceptable” New Zealand investment for four years and have access to an additional $500,000 of settlement funds and receive an annual income of at least $60,000.
Gu said the eligibility criteria of this visa pathway created a barrier for many.
“But even those who had enough capital to apply under this category, it takes up to two years for the application to be allocated to a case officer for substantive assessment due to the limited resources at INZ,” Gu said.
He said New Zealand should instead just have a long-term visitor visa, without stay restrictions for parents, just like Australia.