Almost 2000 people looking to gain residency in New Zealand have paid close to $1 million in fees despite Immigration NZ warning them not to apply.

In late 2016, the then-National Government temporarily closed the parent visa category, which enabled parents to join their adult children in New Zealand if they were a resident or citizen, to clear a backlog of applicants.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) had been clear it would not assess new expressions of interest (EOI) in the visa category; a large orange banner on its website says: "No expressions of interest will be selected from the pool until further notice".

Despite this, INZ manager Michael Carley told the Herald there had been 1730 EOI applications since the visa category was closed down.

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An EOI costs $490 so those applicants have collectively paid $830,000 to INZ.

"While the parent category is closed to new applications, INZ is legally obligated to still receive EOIs from individuals," Carley said.

"Those who have chosen to do so are aware that INZ cannot select any expressions of interest and invite people to apply for residence until the Government has made a decision on the parent category."

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government would make a decision on reopening the parent visa category in the first half of this year.

He would not comment on the issue before it had come before Cabinet.

An INZ spokeswoman said: "Immigration NZ would not speculate on the reasons why individuals are choosing to still submit an EOI".

Carley said the ability for applicants with current expressions of interests to choose to withdraw and request a refund was "currently under consideration by the Government".

He said people may request a refund in writing and this can be granted in "cases where it is considered to be appropriate".

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A petition, urging the Government to lift the moratorium on applications for Parent Category immigration visas, surpassed 8000 signatures – it closes tomorrow.