Immigration online – from weeks to hours

The New Zealand Government's growth agenda places a strong emphasis on immigration, and the visa process and systems are key in enabling the country’s economic growth. Immigration New Zealand is a part of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Datacom’s wide relationship with the Ministry spans IT support, data centres, Government cloud and considerable application development activity including the modernisation of New Zealand’s immigration system.

The Challenge

Applying for a visa to enter New Zealand used to be a time-consuming and paper-based experience. Requests for additional information to support a visa application might require even further paperwork, often taking months to package, ship (to visa processing centres) and action.

Immigration New Zealand wanted to change all this by providing an easy-to-consume paperless online experience. They wanted to remove dependency on the global Immigration office network, accelerate approval timeframes, keep pace with legislative change and reduce the cost of global visa processing.

The Datacom Difference

As part of the MBIE Vision 2015 programme which has redesigned the Immigration business process, Datacom gathered together a set of best-of-breed products and capabilities to produce an overall technology solution for MBIE – the new Immigration Global Management System, IGMS. These include workflow, rules, collaboration, and document management technologies, integrated with Datacom’s own products for forms (Sphere) and payment (Payment Gateway) to build the IGMS platforms.

We put our project staff onsite with MBIE project team members to ensure we could innovate and collaborate in an agile way. At its peak the IGMS project had more than 250 staff working across large office areas in the Wellington CBD. That size of team and level of engagement allowed the teams to make tremendous progress and overcome design and implementation challenges quickly and efficiently.

In late 2013 the first IGMS product, the online eligibility calculator, was delivered. In 2014 the main Immigration Online (IO) platform was deployed with Student Visa capability. During 2015, additional visa types and upgrades to the system have been made, including Work Visa, Visitor Visa, online payments, Chinese language, advanced document handling and many more. In late 2015 the last IO product groups will begin to be rolled out, which will take 90% of visa processing online, approaching one million applications annually in 2015.

MBIE Benefit

The MBIE business case for IGMS required ongoing savings of $22.5 million per annum to be achieved by July 2015. This goal has been surpassed. The new technology system has allowed MBIE to redesign its global office network, move application workflow to a small group of specialist centres, achieve immediate online granting of applicant visas, and improve quality and consistency of its visa handling services worldwide.

The first IO Student Visa application was received 33 hours after launching and was approved in three hours – which previously would have taken four weeks. Uptake of the new online channel has continued to grow and improve the visa application process for people wanting to enter New Zealand. All immigration officers required to process online visa applications can access supporting documentation in a digital form, significantly reducing the time needed to provide approval.

“For New Zealand to be an attractive destination, we have to ensure our immigration process and particularly our services are very customer focused. We chose Datacom for IGMS because they are sustainable with a strong record of delivering big projects well. We’ve now built a close, constructive and professional partnership with Datacom and, based on the new technology they’ve built and delivered, successfully implemented a whole new way of working for Immigration New Zealand.”

Nigel Bickle, Chief Executive, Immigration New Zealand, MBIE