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Posts in category: Borders

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When Opportunity Knocks

Posted by Paul on March 4, 2022, 12:31 p.m. in Borders

The Southern Man takes a break this week as he packs his suitcases (and hopefully some decent duty-free for the office) to return to the shores of NZ where, as of 04 March, MIQ and even self-isolation for returning Kiwis is now thankfully a thing of the past.

It is funny how events unfold and as case numbers of the Omicron variant shoot upwards in New Zealand (knocking on 20,000 as of yesterday) like they have in many other countries, our political ‘leaders’ have all but done a complete turnaround in terms of restrictions, particularly at the border. What once was the team of five million is now, fend for yourselves (in a good way of course). As our Covid Response Minister remarked some months ago…Omicron is going to make some decisions for us and it clearly has been calling the shots as of late.

For the first time in two years, common sense has made a dramatic comeback, a bit like bike shorts from the 80’s, only we hope the common sense is more permanent.

Logic suggests that the more Covid we have circulating in the community, the less any sort of border restrictions make sense and it seems that the Government is realizing that. As restrictions to manage Covid in the community reduce, including self-isolation periods, the natural flow-on effect is to gradually lower the drawbridge to people coming in – particularly when Covid cases coming in to the country are far outweighed by those we already have here.

Our recently announced border reopening plan has since been adjusted to remove the need for self-isolation for those arriving from Australia from 02 March and then for all eligible travelers from anywhere in the world from 04 March. Considering people travelling here are at a greater risk of catching Covid in New Zealand than bringing it with them – logic has prevailed.

And it seems that this common sense and logic may be spreading (perhaps not as fast as Omicron) with signals that other steps in our border plan may be pulled forward under the same broad idea. That could see Visa free travelers being able to enter NZ earlier than predicted or potentially those with Visas who are offshore being able to head back sooner. The tourism sector could do with the boost (not the vaccine kind) and we could also benefit from some of the skills that might return with those who have secured Visas and are ready to come over.

The days of MIQ seem well and truly over, at least for the vaccinated (the unvaccinated will still enjoy a stint in our Government quarantine facilities) and thus we can put an end to the lottery of human misery that system represented.

There is also, in amongst all of this, a very significant opportunity for those who are contemplating the move to New Zealand or who are in the process of making that move. With MIQ all but dead and buried and the Government being pushed to continue to relax border requirements, employers are starting to pop up from behind the Covid curtain to consider recruiting from offshore - to fill those ever-increasing skills gaps.

For a group of people sitting offshore, who are able to secure jobs here there is a very real opportunity to get here and then stay permanently. As to who this might apply to, very broadly it falls in to three categories:

·         Those who can secure employment here within a healthcare role (and the definition is very broad, so not just nurses and doctors).

·         Those who are part of a class exemption, which currently includes Veterinarians, Auditors and Teachers among others.

·        Those who have specialist, technical or unique skills that can earn a particular salary level (which is reducing from $106,080 per annum to $84,240 in a month or so). * (see footnote).

If you are in one of the above camps and secure a job offer whilst offshore and then are able to meet the specific border exemption criteria to qualify for a Critical Purpose Visa to travel here, the 2021 Resident Visa pathway is also potentialy available as a means to keep you here permanently.

That presents a very real opportunity for a number of people to make the move in the first half of this year and have a much simpler, streamlined pathway to Residence than the Skilled Migrant Category might offer. The 2021 Resident Visa category is available to anyone who enters NZ on a Critical Purpose Visa where that Visa was issued for a role that fits within one of the three groups above and who secures a Visa valid for more than six months (up to 12 months).

So in practice, an overseas Teacher who is registered in NZ and secures a job offer here, could secure one of the above Visas valid for twelve months, enter the country and then almost immediately apply for Residence under the 2021 Resident Visa pathway.

For Residence under this category, there is no English test, no age limit and no pass mark to achieve. It seems that the Government realized that those we are bringing in under the temporary Critical Purpose Visa pathway are also the same ones we would like to keep long term.

There are of course a few catches. Not all occupations qualify of course and even within the above example there are some criteria to meet and also caps on the total number that can come through. Also you must arrive in New Zealand before 31 July 2022 and make the application for Residence before that date, which of course means the clock is ticking and with MIQ being ditched and borders slowly prying open, the days of this Critical Purpose option are numbered. Eventually we will return to “business as usual” with offshore Work Visa processing set to resume in July, although if the Government gets their bike shorts on, that may come forward slightly. So it is an opportunity but not one that will last forever.

The last fly in the ointment is having to deal with INZ and them being able to process the application for your Critical Purpose Visa in time. With their resources stretched across the vast sea of onshore 2021 Resident Visa applicants and a management structure that makes quick sand look stable, it won’t be simple – but it is still very much worth pursuing.

Fortune favours the bold, so if you are a Teacher, Veterinarian, Auditor, ICT professional or even if you just have some good skills that might be useable here (and we need a fair few), then this option might just be the best one we have seen in a long time. Of course you would need to move relatively quickly and we need to establish your overall eligibility first but we have plenty of tools for that, having traversed this very complicated Visa process for the last two years.

However even if this move might be at a pace too fast for you, the fact that common sense is descending upon New Zealand like a welcome ray of sunshine, bodes well for anyone who has or is contemplating a move. I have no doubt that the pressure that has been building on this Government to move faster with the borders and reconnect New Zealand to the rest of the world is only gathering more momentum.

With the peak of Omicron set to hit New Zealand in mid-march, hospitalization rates increasing but not at the pace predicted and very few people requiring intensive care, the rationale for a closed or even slightly closed border lessens each day.

This very much feels like New Zealand’s big international “come back” moment (without the bike shorts) and we not only welcome it, but will be on hand to assist all those who would like to take advantage of it. The question for those wanting to make the move, is if opportunity is indeed knocking are you going to answer the door – we certainly hope you do.

* Update - INZ have since confirmed that from 13 March when the salary level for other critical workers is reduced to 1.5 times the median salary ($84,240) - those people will not have a pathway to Residence. However they are still considering whether people who earn twice the median wage under this category will keep that pathway. More details to follow.


Welcome

Posted by Myer on Feb. 11, 2022, 12:57 p.m. in Borders

Welcome, Salut, Ahlaan bik, Huanyíng, Willkommen, Bievenido


Australia says welcome back to you all from 21 February. After a two-year hiatus Australia is opening its borders to all fully vaccinated visa holders including tourists, business travellers, backpackers, students among the already exempt visa skilled and family candidates.


It comes in the wake of declining infection rates, reduction in hospitalisations and an amazing 93.7% of people in Australia aged 16 and over being fully vaccinated. 


The announcement is a case of better late than never and I’m sure that it will be welcome news to the $40 billion student industry and $60 billion tourism industry, or for those people still able to operate businesses in those industries. Many would have closed or transferred their skills to other industries and, notwithstanding the spruiking the government is giving these announcements and how well the economy and healthcare system might have survived the Covid onslaught, I think that there is a certain naïveté on the part of the government in its expectations of visitors and migrants. 


They tend to view it as a tap that you can simply turn on and off at will. 


Whilst our unemployment rate (forecast to dip to 3.75% before the year is out) and an anticipated 4.5% growth rate for the Australian economy for 2022 will no doubt act as encouragement to those thinking of immigrating to Australia we have suffered reputational damage as a result of the prolonged lockdowns of the Australian borders and the Draconian actions of certain state government premiers. It’s naïve on the part of the government to think that tourists and students will flock to travel to Australia again in the pre-pandemic numbers just because the border will open to all fully vaccinated travellers on 21 February.


I listened to Australia’s Minister for trade, tourism and investment, Dan Tehan, interviewed on the news this morning and what he said could be summarised along the lines of why wouldn’t anyone want to visit Australia, with our magnificent tourist attractions, fantastic beaches and scenery and friendly Australians. Whilst that may be true there are 195 countries in the world, many of them could make similar boasts in this regard and most of them would have had an open border policy long before Australia’s announcement. 


I use as an example a client in South Africa, a healthcare professional whose state-sponsored residence visa was submitted in November 2019 and approved in January 2022, some 26 months later. Whilst he joyfully acknowledged receipt of my news advising him of the approval of his visa application, he did so not from South Africa but from the United Kingdom where it took him four months to obtain his residence visa. He lived through the recent riots in South Africa and said that he couldn’t put his family through that again and took advantage of the fast visa processing time that the United Kingdom offered. 


Although he does intend to settle in Australia it’s going to be after meeting employment obligations in the United Kingdom and that’s the point that seems to elude Australian politicians. Quality migrants have choices whether they be students, visitors, backpackers, skilled migrants or business people and we are living in a very competitive global market where there is fierce competition for all of these migrants. 


The two years of national border closure and interstate squabbling has left its mark as far as Australia’s reputation is concerned and whilst I don’t have very much faith in Australia’s politicians both on a Federal and State level, I do have faith in Australia as a country that can provide an unrivalled quality of life for immigrants. Our lifestyle, quality of life, educational system and healthcare system are unparalleled and I am confident that those migrants that may have chosen to leave South Africa and Hong Kong for quick fix solutions, such as migration to the United Kingdom or Canada, will ultimately be swayed by friends and family members to come and visit Australia and will be enticed by the factors mentioned above to consider immigrating to Australia in greater numbers. 


I’ve been in the migration industry for the past 30 years and seen governments of both Australia and New Zealand make decisions that were not migrant friendly but ultimately both countries always regain their popularity as migration destinations because of the factors mentioned above.

Australia is a lucky country, not for the politicians that we have, and sometimes in spite of them, but because of the country and the people that inhabit Australia and opportunities that new migrants are presented with irrespective of your nationality, religion or belief system. 

 

I have experienced all of this first hand and whilst my personal migration might have occurred many years ago, I still have a sense of gratitude at the lifestyle and opportunities that my family and I have in Australia.



When can we re-open the border

Posted by Iain on July 9, 2021, 12:09 p.m. in Borders

While I am sure that you, like me, might be more than a little weary of Covid-19 dominating our lives, the most common question I get these days is when will the New Zealand (or for that matter the Australian) Government fully re-open the border?

Until recently our government(s) was giving little away but the pressure has been ramping up primarily owing to the strong economy, strong jobs growth and increasing skills shortages - there is literally not enough people to fill the positions being created and business is pulling its collective hair out. I’ve been saying for at least the past 12 months three things would have to happen before people would be allowed to travel into the country without being granted border exemptions:

1.       The majority of the local population would need to be vaccinated

2.       The vaccines would need to be ‘safe and efficacious’

3.       Those looking to come into New Zealand would need to be vaccinated. 

In the meantime I speculated in previous blogs that the government would  gradually open up the border by occupation reflecting ongoing labour and or skills shortages. 

With the travel bubble allowing quarantine free travel between New Zealand and Australia around 2000 hotel rooms were freed up in April for use each week by those wanting or needing to come to the country. That has provided our government room some ‘wriggle room’ at the border. Only issue with that is in the case of NZ, all MIQ rooms are currently booked solid till November. 

In New Zealand the vaccination roll out is ramping up. The Prime Minister has said she is confident that all those that want to be vaccinated by the end of the year will be. We now need to get to at least 70% but preferably 80% or even 90% of the population vaccinated for the virus to have trouble spreading. It seems clear that it won’t be going away any time soon and it will be knocking on our border door for many years to come. 

I think we can say with a high degree of confidence that most of the vaccines are safe and efficacious (if to different degrees). Government here has ordered 10 million doses of Pfizer which appears the most efficacious, even against the Delta variant. Although we have others on order this is the preferred option and everything I have read (internationally) points to this being the most effective.

Both New Zealand and Australian Governments were very late to the vaccination party - no doubt influenced in the case of New Zealand by focus groups saying most people would rather the border stayed tightly controlled/closed rather than opening up at all thus exposing us to the health risks of Covid. In the case of Australia because they put their eggs in the Astra-Zeneca basket. This has proven a more contentious choice. Unfortunately they are in a very long queue now for Pfizer and it is unlikely they will get to 70-80% vaccination rate till early to mid 2022.

In addition to the New Zealand PM’s confidence we will be at a very high rate of vaccination by Christmas, in the May budget the government announced its expectation the border should be able to re-open on 1 January 2022.

The question now for me is with some of the world vaccinated and most not getting access to it for years, particularly in Africa, what does a more open border look like?

I imagine that the government will operate some sort of ‘traffic light’ system as we do with our travel bubble with individual states in Australia where the ability to travel without quarantining on arrival depends on whether there are outbreaks (as there has been in New South Wales the past few weeks).

If anyone wishing to come here has been vaccinated and coming from a low risk environment I believe it will mean travel without 14 days in managed isolation as the next step or possibly isolating at home or in MIQ for a shorter time with a pre-departure negative Covid test. That should see NZ opening up to Europe, UK and the US among others although Boris Johnson’s recent (sensible?) statement that Britons need to learn to live with the virus and accept the inevitability of higher death rates has’t gone down well with our PM who has rejected taking a similar approach here. Which is a pity given the over 70% of people who die, apparently die with Covid, not of Covid. In Australia almost all the 900 odd who have died were already older than the average Australian life time. There is little public education (or understanding it seems) that getting fit, eating well and looking after your body could also save millions of lives. In NZ there is so much money being spent on public education on avoiding this virus - yet at the same time we allow KFC and McDonalds to be major sponsors of sport. 

Anyway I digress. Other countries are looking at allowing citizens and residents who have been vaccinated and can prove it to not have to enter isolation or perhaps isolate for a few days at home in conjunction with pre-travel and post arrival (home) testing. 

This is the current Canadian strategy. They are allowing Canadian citizens and residents to be able to enter the country if they are vaccinated without going into isolation. When asked if we will do the same, our Prime Minister said that she is taking a ‘watch and learn’ approach.

In the meantime we are seeing the government start to open up the border. This week they announced that 300 teachers (presumably with jobs to come to) will be allowed to travel here without requiring without any border exemption. Before you ask, if you are a Teacher, that’s all we know. As usual with these announcements we get little to no detail but clearly they are looking to try and fill the hundreds of vacancies expected for the 2022 year. 

I believe that as the pressure mounts on the government by various industry lobby groups they will add more and more occupations through the remainder of this year and early next. This will only be successful of course if employers are willing to offer people jobs when those people are not already in NZ, something the majority are usually uncomfortable doing. I do hope that 18 months of meeting via Zoom and Skype might have shifted that particular dial.

I also imagine that we are a long way off requiring no managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) for many people travelling here - obviously those who have not been vaccinated. I’d like to think the government will start to construct purpose built MIQ facilities given the outbreaks we have had here have ‘leaked’ out of MIQ, primarily because their ventilation systems are not designed to be used for quarantine. So far they seem to be rejecting this based on the advice of the bureaucrats. I know what I’d be telling the bureaucrats as this seems the most prudent way of preventing border leakage of the virus and this most certainly won’t be the last global pandemic.

The obvious next step is those who have had two doses of the better vaccines to be allowed to travel here perhaps with some limited MIQ time if they test negative before they fly.

The problem is if we don’t we are certainly going to be left behind many parts of the world. We cannot remain cut off forever. Nor Australia.

Not that we measure ourselves against Australia (ha ha ha) all the time but we are it seems six months ahead of them in terms of the vaccine roll out so we may see border restrictions end here before there. 

Unlike the Aussies however our government has stopped processing residence and temporary visas for all those not already in New Zealand. The exception is business investors. At least the Australian government continues to allow residence applications to be filed no matter where the applicant is based and is allowing those with permanent residence to enter the country once approved. Those with provisional residence need to be in an occupation on their priority occupations lists and be granted a border exemption. 

We could take a leaf out of that book as we race to roll out the vaccine. 

 

Until next week

Tags: Border

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