Migrants and their professional advisers were left wondering if they were being scammed after receiving emails from Immigration NZ (INZ) on Thursday.

Numerous reports began appearing on social media querying the messages headed “NZ Ready access change – don’t lose your data”.

NZ Ready is an official government website that provides advice on how to make a visa application.

The messages said the website is about to be updated and asked for permission to migrate users’ data.

The recipients were invited to click on a link that would take them to a form they need to fill out.

BusinessDesk spoke to several immigration advisers who said they were assuming the messages were a scam because they hadn’t received any heads up from INZ about the change.

Two advisers told BusinessDesk they were particularly worried because the emails came from a government email account that hadn’t been used for several years, and one said their contact at INZ also hadn’t heard about the website update.

Notice of explanation

Since BusinessDesk contacted INZ on Thursday, a message has appeared on the website saying “NZ Ready is changing, you’ll receive an email asking you to update your access to the site” and BusinessDesk understands that the industry will receive a notice of explanation by early next week.

June Ranson, who chairs the NZ Association for Migration and Investment told BusinessDesk INZ fails to appreciate the confusion they are causing migrants and the industry.

She said an INZ executive responsible for IT systems attended a meeting with an industry reference group on Thursday morning and should have taken that opportunity to inform them of the change.

“They're trying to build relationships, but they're not being transparent when they go sailing off and doing things like this.

“I've spoken to one of my colleagues to find out if they had any insight into this and their comment was they just couldn't believe it.”

24 hours after being contacted by BusinessDesk, INZ provided a statement from spokesperson Steve McGill, confirming the validity of the emails and apologising for the confusion.

He said existing users of the NZ Ready website are being asked to move their current settings (to avoid progress being lost) to an upgraded version of the website which will go live from May onwards.  

Because the website currently holds their personal data, INZ is required to inform them of any changes to the use of that data.

“We understand some individuals have found this email confusing and this has caused them to question the validity of the email.

“We apologise for that confusion and can confirm that the email is genuine.”