Paul Phiri, a British resident of Malawian descent and his family were expecting to reunite in New Zealand for Christmas from their home in Basingstoke, England. Unfortunately, however, due to the unavailability of visa-free travel for citizens holding passports from Malawi - Mr. Phiri's country of citizenship - processing delays on a visitor’s visa application meant the family almost missed out on celebrating together.
While his wife and children are British passport holders, Mr Phiri is a Malawi citizen. Immigration New Zealand only permits visa-free travel from 60 countries with NZETA, and Malawi is not included. Mr Phiri had to apply for a visitor visa which he submitted on November 3, 2022.
Despite preparing for their family’s imminent journey, Phiri was shocked when the wait time to receive was estimated to be extended to 55 days from what was notified to him upon his application, which was 13 days. The website also informed that they were prioritizing August applications at the time, leaving him with no choice but patience.
Phiri found himself in a difficult situation. He was unable to take advantage of streamlined rules for those with British passports like some members of his family could, all hope seemed lost until Phiri's brother-in-law Rory O'Sullivan stepped up and fought for him by sending a letter advocating on Phiri’s behalf directly to New Zealand Immigration Minister Michael Wood.
Miraculously, his visa was approved about eight hours before they were due to fly.
Immigration New Zealand has been grappling with a surge of visa applications over the past year, leading to processing times being extended. Acting general manager border and visa operations Sarah Clifford reported that since visitor visa applications opened on July 31st 2022, there have been more than 140 thousand applications, where 104,000 have been approved and 28,000 still pending. She added that while Mr Phiri’s request for escalation was declined in December, they still managed to get his visa processed before their flight.
Clifford noted that improvements are being made every day at INZ towards efficient processing times.
Source - https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/immigration/130939060/delays-at-immigration-new-zealand-almost-cost-man-christmas-with-kiwi-family