A national trade union has slammed Immigration's decision to process the job-search visa applications that it had accepted in error because hundreds who had arrived under the scheme are still without jobs.

The Silver Fern Visa scheme brings young and skilled people to the country and is capped at 300 annually, but a computer fault at the agency allowed 306 more people through, including payment, after the quota had been filled last Friday.

Yesterday Immigration backed down from its earlier decision to refund the money of those who had been accepted in error, and said it would accept all applicants.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy said the agency's decision to approve all applications may have been because it could have been subjected to liability issues and legal challenge. He had asked Immigration to explain how the glitch happened and was expecting a report soon.


Under the Silver Fern policy, people aged 20 to 35 are issued a visa to seek skilled employment for nine months. Once employed, they are issued with a visa to stay another two years to apply for permanent residency.

First Union migrant support co-ordinator Dennis Maga said it was irresponsible of the agency to bring in people when there were Kiwis, migrant workers and existing Silver Fern visa holders here still without work. Latest figures on jobs listed on seek.co.nz dipped 4 per cent last month, with only post-quake Canterbury showing job growth.

"We are concerned at the current level of employment, and the fact that the Government is not providing training for locals and those already here to fill in the skills gap," Mr Maga said. "We should not be giving out hundreds of Silver Fern visas to foreigners when there is no counter programme to upskill those in New Zealand."

New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment director Katy Armstrong said it was "unfair" for all applicants to be accepted because of Immigration's mistake.