A Queenstown employer’s one step closer to getting a much-needed chef from overseas he’s been fighting to hire for months.

Mountain Scene reported in September, the employer, whom Scene’s agreed not to name, had his application to hire the international chef through the government’s new accredited employer work visa declined.

While the chef has worked, consistently, in internationally-renowned hotels for the past seven years, after completing three years at culinary school, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) rejected the application because he didn’t meet the requirements in play at the time — a NZ certificate in Level 4 cookery.

Following mounting public pressure, Immigration Minister Michael Wood recently announced that requirement had been dropped, paving the way for the employer to try and get the skilled chef, who’s been a Chef de Partie since 2020, to Queenstown.

He tells Scene they’ve reapplied for the chef to enter NZ, and that was accepted, opening the door for him to now apply for his visa.

‘‘We’re far from being out of the woods … but it’s possible now,’’ the employer says.

It’s now a waiting game — the chef joins about 35 other people the employer’s looking to hire who are still waiting to hear back on their visa applications.

While INZ’s trying to process those in 20 working days, the employer contends it’s ‘‘not holding to those by any stretch of the imagination’’.

‘We’ve done everything we need to do, [employees] have done everything they need to do, now we’re just waiting for [INZ] to wade through whatever they need to do to say, ‘you can come’.’’

Last week, Scene asked Tourism Minister Stuart Nash if he had any concerns about the apparent delays in processing of the accredited employer work visas — specifically, the final step, which is the issuing of the actual visa.

Nash: ‘‘That was an issue early on, Immigration NZ put a whole lot of resource into that, and we’ve approved about 65,000 job applications, i.e, people to go out and get people from overseas, so that bottleneck that did exist was absolutely recognised and now no longer exists.’’

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment border and visa ops boss Nicola Hogg tells Scene INZ’s goal’s to process ‘‘straightforward and complete applications’’ within 20 working days — the average processing time for completed applications is 12 working days.

Some are taking longer due to several factors, including whether the applicant’s submitted all the information required, or if INZ’s waiting on third-party checks, like police checks, or further medical info.

‘‘We are aware there have been difficulties that some applicants have experienced when submitting their medical checks, and encourage applicants to only submit their medical check when prompted by the system.’’

Hogg says they also acknowledge the process is different to what applicants have been used to before, when all that information’s submitted up front, and that’s causing ‘‘some disruption’’.

They’re working to ensure medicals can be completed quickly, if required, and are aware of difficulties applicants have had ‘‘interpreting the status of their application’’, she says.

‘‘On some occasions, the system will show the status of an application as ‘waiting for medical certificate’, even after one has been submitted.

‘‘We apologise for the confusion this status is causing and are working to improve the information we provide customers as their application is progressed.’’

Since July 4, more than 16,500 visa applications have been received — over 7000 have been approved.

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