People are sleeping on the streets in overnight queues to get their health checks done for the one-off residency visa opening for applications next month.
Many clinics that offer the immigration medical assessment are booked out, with one in Auckland CBD turning away a hundred people a day.
Property manager Evan Su had been queuing at Auckland City Doctors on Queen St since half-past midnight. His 6-year-old son Samuel and friend Martina joined him later in the morning.
"This is one of those that does walk-ins, others are all booked till March or April," he said.
Mamta Neupane from Nepal was even earlier, joining the queue at 10.30pm the night before for a friend. There were about 80 people ahead of her then. "It's insane."
Many came prepared with chairs, food and company. A security team was managing the queue stretching along the pavement and around the block on Wednesday afternoon.
Security officer Faaoa Fonohema said the queues have been going on for about four weeks, and the clinic can only do 200 medicals a day.
"We're sending home 100 people a day," he said, moving the queue along as people are called in. "Too many people."
The New Zealand Government announced the one-off 2021 Residency Visa in September last year, a silver lining for the estimated 165,000 migrants in the country, many of whom have had their residency dreams caught up in a Covid-19 backlog and recent immigration policy changes.
The first round of applications opened on December 1 for migrants who had filed for residency earlier. A second round for all other eligible applicants opens on March 1 and closes on July 31.
Immigration New Zealand has said there is plenty of time to apply, and applicants should check if they actually need to provide a medical certificate.
There are 140 medical clinics providing immigration medical exams across the country, 39 of them in the Auckland region, said INZ general manager for Border and Visa Operations Nicola Hogg. Appointments can be made.
"Clinics where appointment times are not given could lead to wait times which we understand can be frustrating. Clinics should advise INZ if they are having capacity issues," she said.
The Herald's calls to several clinics offering the service went unanswered or to voice mail after a long wait, some completely full. Online bookings are available for some but only from March onwards.
Immigration statistics show nearly 7400 people have been granted residency under the fast-track scheme since its launch. More than 30,000 people have applied.
Migrants from India make up the largest group of new residents in the scheme's first month, followed by South Africa, the Philippines, UK, and Sri Lanka, according to RNZ. One in five applications was rejected.
To be eligible, migrants have to be "settled" (in New Zealand for three or more years), "skilled" (earn $27 per hour and above), or do "scarce" work (work in a role on a scarce list).
On Queen St, Su said they wanted to get their medical exams done as soon as possible so they can file for residency once it opens on March 1.
Technical glitches had marred the first round of applications in December, and he wanted to be prepared for any delays.
"The earlier we can get our residency, the earlier we can plan for our future. Be able to travel, go home to China to see the grandparents," he said, nodding at his 6-year-old.