Nimble robot armies hit Immigration New Zealand’s new visa system

Immigration NZ is improving its online visa application system.

Credit: provided

There is a quiet war going on at Immigration NZ (INZ) to manage a deluge of robo visa applications threatening system performance.

Websites charging bots money to secure New Zealand working holiday visa applications are the culprits, while INZ said it was ready to respond.

“Several capped working holiday (WHS) schemes are very popular, with high volumes of applicant traffic over relatively short periods of time – typically, application allocation is completed within two hours,” INZ told the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Manpower this month.

“Additionally, these schemes are targeted by robotic app generator providers that generate a large number of transactions.”

INZ said it has automated security filters in place that block the bulk of robotic transactions, however, the volume of transactions hitting the agency’s website and WHS services could affect performance and remain a challenge.

“All capped plans are closely managed and monitored, with a team ready to respond if anything goes wrong.”

Bots are software designed to repetitively submit multiple applications through the online channel for a fee, to improve an applicant’s chances of success, INZ explained. In addition to threatening system performance, this practice has put genuine applicants at a disadvantage and added heavy traffic to popular visa programs.

“Several initiatives have been undertaken to block bot traffic, improve system performance and upgrade support for active schemes,” INZ said. “These changes have dramatically improved the system’s ability to handle this traffic, but bot vendor tactics are continually changing and INZ is adapting as needed.”

INZ, a division of the Department of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE), said it was ready to support the reopening of borders and was making operational changes to free up processing capacity and improve its system of online immigration.

As reported last year, the $62.4 million build of Immigration Online was being carried out by a Microsoft-led consortium of partners under a project dubbed “Adept” (advanced digital processing and targeting led by ’employer).

DXC, Argonaut, Theta and Datacom all contributed to the overall solution as enhancements to Immigration Online continued to integrate into the organization’s current infrastructure, said MBIE Managing Director Stephen Dunstan. Reseller News.

“The technology used is Microsoft Dynamics (D365) which was selected after a public tender process,” he said. “The system will be cloud-based and will use the Microsoft Azure cloud system.”

Now, paperless visa processing technology is being phased in (video) to facilitate visa applications and improve processing times.

INZ also continued to recruit visa processing staff throughout 2022, including staffing a newly opened visa processing office in Christchurch with an additional capacity of 220 offices.

Lessons learned during the initial deployment of the enhanced e-Immigration system covered several topics related to system construction, planning and delivery, communications, vendor management and learning.

Specific areas that worked well and were recommended for continued use in future projects are:

• Use of cross-functional teams to increase knowledge sharing and productivity.

• Monitoring of activities and tasks using integrated technology and a change plan as well as daily meetings with decision makers before going live to ensure that problems and blockages are quickly resolved.

• Use of the control room to manage problems during deployment and the first days after where all necessary personnel are available to track and correct problems.

• Have a dedicated project communications resource well-connected with the Strategy, Engagement, and Education team to create transparency, collaboration, and time savings.

Recommendations for improvement include:

• Additional integrated development and build/test environments to allow multiple developments to occur simultaneously.

• Have a dedicated business, legal and procurement resource when there are a large number of business aspects involved to reduce the time spent reviewing and finalizing documents.

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