13 December 2021
45 Pipitea Street, Wel ington 6011
Phone +64 4 495 7200
Tēnā koe Ghai
Official Information Act 1982 request 2021-0412 – Citizenship processing timeframes
Thank you for your Official Information Act (Act) request received by the Department of Internal
Affairs (Department) on 15 November 2021.
You requested –
1. Which month/year citizenship applications are currently getting processed? In which
month/year was that application made? Please provide information on both paper and
2. Please provide with the information - Which is the oldest month/year, from which a
citizenship application is still awaiting a case officer assignment? Please provide
information on both paper and online applications.
3. In which month/year was the decision made to do the transition from paper to online
system? Was it known at that time that the transition is going to be done on an
iteratively released application? With every iteration, how many hours or days of training
was planned for the staff pre-pandemic? I understand that pandemic may have affected
the training schedules for the staff.
4. I am assuming by reading your responses on other requests, that by Law/legislation, your
staff can not access private information of applicants while working from home. Does
that mean during pandemic your staff was not allowed to access work computers from
home using VPN or other technologies?
5. Am I correct in assuming that your staff was only able to do a little work from home or in
some cases no work at all while being on work from home arrangement because of the
legislation? I understand that pandemic was an unforeseen event and work from home
may not have ever got considered by Department of Internal Affairs before this.
6. What measure have been taken since pandemic to consider effective work from home for
7. Has any consideration been given into modifying the legislation to incorporate situations
like pandemic and thus providing access to your staff to access work computers and thus
work like they are in office with same efficiency and throughput?
8. Please state any other considerations that Department of Internal Affairs has worked on
since pandemic or planning to work to incorporate better work from home arrangements
to achieve pre-pandemic like throughputs/delivery from staff?
9. Is it now possible for your staff to access the information on an application from their
homes while working from home?
10. Is it possible for Department of Internal Affairs to publish every month the information
that from which month/year oldest applications are currently under processing and have
been assigned a case officer to? Both paper and online applications.
In response to your request I can provide you with the fol owing information, please note that I
have numbered your questions for ease of response.
Questions one, two and ten
I can advise that timeframes for processing citizenship by grant applications are regularly
updated at Application timeframes | New Zealand Government (www.govt.nz). The Department
also intends to publish further statistics regarding citizenship processing timeframes in the near
future. Therefore, I must refuse these parts of your request under section 18(e) of the Act; that
the information requested is or will soon be publicly available.
As you are already aware, the Department is currently in the process of transitioning citizenship
processing from a paper-based application system supported by aging technology, to a modern
customer-centred case management system supporting a fully online application process.
The decision to transition to the new platform was made in December 2016 as a part of a wider
programme to transform the way the Department does its work. The citizenship by grant service
is the first service to be built on the new platform.
The new system is being designed iteratively, with new features and functionality being
developed progressively. This was intentional, and it was expected that staff would be
constantly upskil ing and training in the new system, with no fixed period of training time, to
ensure they are using it as efficiently as possible.
It may also be helpful for me to explain that with the introduction of this new system, there has
been a reduction of output in the period of the new system being introduced and the old one
phased out. Productivity has been further impacted by the training requirements of staff on the
new system, staff becoming proficient in the new system and the need for staff to work across
both systems (online and offline).
Questions four, five, six, seven and nine
It is important to explain that the Department fol owed Ministry of Health COVID-19 guidelines
including physical distancing in the office, which limited the number of staff who could
physical y be present in our workplace. Citizenship processing continued to occur during
lockdown, but unlike birth or death registration it was not deemed an essential service, and it
was not possible for full productivity to be maintained.
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This is because some key systems are not able to be accessed offsite due to privacy and security
reasons. Our citizenship system, which holds highly secure and privacy protected data about
individuals and their families, is only accessed from our security-control ed offices.
This is a measure that is not legislated but has been taken by the Department to ensure the
safety of our staff, and the information they work with.
It is also important to explain that al staff who process citizenship applications had devices
which enable them to do some work remotely (subject to the internet availability in their home)
and they continued working through lockdown to the extent that they were able.
While I must reiterate that citizenship applications are not able to be processed in a working
from home environment, I can advise that the Department has initiatives underway to reduce
the citizenship application backlog, speed up processing, and improve general customer
In the immediate term this includes the hiring additional temporary staff who wil focus on
reducing the backlog of paper applications, freeing up most existing staff to work exclusively on
We expect that the time taken for staff to process in the online system should reduce as they
become more familiar with our new system. We are also continuing to develop this new system
and train more existing staff to process citizenship applications. Together, this range of
initiatives should see a significant decrease in the backlog in coming months.
As this information may be of interest to other members of the public, the Department has
decided to proactively release a copy of this response on the DIA website. Al requestor data
including your name and contact details, will be removed prior to release. The released
response will be made available here: https://www.dia.govt.nz/Official-Information-Act-
You have the right to seek an investigation and review by the Ombudsman of this decision.
Information about how to make a complaint is available at www.ombudsman.parliament.nz or
freephone 0800 802 602.
Manager Operational Policy and Official Correspondence
Service Delivery and Operations
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