A few businesses in the region have recently experienced compliance visits from Immigration New Zealand (INZ). These form a part of INZ's crackdown on potential migrant exploitation, employer compliance under the Accredited Employer work visa scheme and general deportation activity.
While most of these visits have been conducted within business hours, some may have been done out of hours leaving staff and business owners stressed and worried. Out of hours compliance activity occurs between 6pm and 8am the following day.
A review into INZ's policies and processes for out of hours compliance visits was conducted earlier this year by Mike Heron KC, a leading King’s Counsel in commercial and regulatory litigation and arbitrations, who made the following recommendations:
- a proposal for the Government to amend the Immigration Act 2009 to specify the criteria for out of hours compliance visits and whether those involving residential addresses be stopped entirely, or be limited to specific situations;
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and guidelines for compliance officers be updated to reinforce that out of hours compliance visits are a matter of last resort and reasonable alternatives should be considered beforehand;
- any assessment of out of hours visits should consider the impact on anyone else who may be present, in particular children, but also elderly or other vulnerable individuals, as well as New Zealand citizens or residents;
- the way in which any operation is carried out should take into account relevant cultural factors;
- any decision to undertake an out of hours compliance visit should also include an assessment of reasonableness, proportionality and public interest; and
- any out of hours compliance activity should be authorised by the relevant compliance manager and national manager before it can occur.
In response to these recommendations, INZ advised today (25 September 2023) that the Government has agreed to amend the Immigration Act to require a judicial warrant for out of hours compliance activity. This will ensure that compliance powers under the Act are not used disproportionately and there are legal, third party checks on these visits.
INZ have also confirmed that they have accepted Mr Heron's recommendations and are already working on updating their SOPs and guidelines for their compliance team.
While it is expected that SOPs and guidelines will be strictly adhered to once finalised, affected persons can have some comfort in the knowledge that there are legal avenues available to object to non-compliant out of hours compliance visits, including complaint processes available to them.
Feel free to contact Hetish Lochan, our Immigration Specialist, if you are affected by this situation or simply wish to discuss any aspect. Hetish is available on firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 441 2743.