Prospective citizens have to deal with highly variable waiting times for processing

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Fadi Hamdan, with his twin sons, awaiting citizenship.
Photo: Delivered

Thousands of New Zealanders wait up to 18 months to get citizenship, while others take a quarter of that time.

Fadi Hamdan, his wife and five-year-old twin daughters will become citizens in a ceremony next month after a year of waiting.

The Auckland IT engineer, who hails from Jordan, said it was appalling to see other people go through the same citizenship process in four months through an award process – and some even faster.

“There are people who get their citizenship in 10 days, exactly 10 days. It’s not just a small number of people, there are 600 people. So there’s special treatment going on, nobody knows about it.”

He was disappointed with the time it took and the lack of information when he asked for updates and asked why his application had failed automatic checks.

While there weren’t many practical differences between permanent residency and citizenship, a New Zealand passport could make travel easier for people from countries that usually required a visa.

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It became critical for Hamdan when his mother became ill.

“I’m worried to see my dying mother. She has had three strokes. I lost my father in October 2020 during Covid, because of Covid, and I don’t want to lose my mother.

“We are not asking for an exception, all we are asking is that we are treated fairly and kindly. It will mean a lot, to be honest. It is the last milestone we have been looking for since we were in the country arrived.”

On August 18, there were 29,200 applications pending an outcome. Of those, 9161 were from last year.

A random snapshot showed that on August 17 of this year, 179 applications were approved as of 2021 and 238 as of 2022.

National Party spokesman Todd Muller said the backlog was similar to last year when guarantees were given to reduce waiting times.

People would approach their MPs who were concerned about why their applications had failed.

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“It just gives them a huge amount of anxiety because they’ve understood that they can now go from residency to citizenship, they’re told they’ve got everything in order and then it’s just thrown into a big black hole and they don’t hear anything. “

Internal Affairs appeared to be processing recent applications first, causing those already in line to wait longer, he said.

Internal Affairs said it analyzed and categorized those who failed automated checks to speed up the process.

Sixteen staff members had been transferred to meet the wave of passport applications and were due to return.

“The pipe coming into the organization is greater than the number of people we have doing this work, especially when you consider that these are the same people who are also looking at the massive increase in demand for passports that we’ve had,” he said. Deputy Head of Internal Affairs Maria Robertson.

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By not requiring migrants from English-speaking countries to prove that their language skills had accelerated their applications, she added.

Internal Affairs said some applications would take longer if the applicant had changed his name, spent significant time outside New Zealand since being granted a residence permit or committed criminal offences.

Others can be forwarded in urgent situations.

“Some applicants may not have been required to understand English to obtain a residency permit – citizenship law requires most applicants to have adequate knowledge of the English language, so sometimes additional checks may be required.

“It is not always good to say why an application does not pass an initial automated check. This may have to do with data from INZ or another government agency, or an answer in an application.

“Frontline staff answering questions from applicants who have not yet been assigned an investigating officer will not have access to all of the relevant information contained in a request.”