Publication:

The Dominion Post - 2021-11-26

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SIS admits failings in its visa security advice

National News

Wellington reporter

The Security Intelligence Service’s approach to sharing information on visa applications has been found to have several shortcomings. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Brendan Horsley, reviewed the SIS policies and procedures for screening and commenting on certain visa applications for security risk, and for giving its advice to Immigration NZ officials. In his report, published yesterday, Horsley said the SIS was well aware that the security screening system had significant failings. ‘‘The service acknowledged during this review that some of its core policy on visa screening was not being applied in practice,’’ the review said. ‘‘In particular it was not consistently following policy on the level of risk required for comment on visa and other applications. Nor was it necessarily applying the specified procedure for risk assessment.’’ Issues raised in the review included the SIS sometimes judging if someone was of good character when they were supposed to determine only if the person was a security risk. There had also been issues with the SIS not providing updated information to Immigration NZ, if someone’s security threat level changed during the visa process. Advice provided by the SIS to Immigration NZ was also found to be confusing at times. ‘‘It is unsurprising in the circumstances that the ServiceImmigration NZ internal review found Immigration NZ was often unsure what SIS advice meant. ‘‘This arose from uncertainty about how service advice related to immigration legislation but also from uncertainty about the probabilistic language used in SIS advice,’’ the review said. Horsley said the service was working to address those issues. Horsley recommended a standard be put in place for the level of security risk at which the SIS would comment on an immigration application, and to form a methodology for assessing and describing risk levels. ‘‘In one example examined for this review, the service assessed a visa applicant as unlikely to pose a risk to New Zealand’s national security but nonetheless provided information ‘in the event it informs Immigration NZ’s character assessment’,’’ Horsley said in the review. ‘‘Even if this was a valid action (which I question), the relevance to character, on the facts of the particular case, was difficult to see.’’

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