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Posted by Iain on April 20, 2018, 4:19 p.m. in Immigration
Sources have confirmed that Cabinet recently signed off on changes to the Accredited Employer/Work to Residence Policy. Details are yet to be made public but will follow soon enough.
Accreditation has historically been given to employers who are able to demonstrate - amongst other things - that they are worthy of this trusted status with the Immigration Department. Trusted to do the right thing by New Zealand and New Zealanders, which includes recruiting locally where possible, training and upskilling, offering opportunities to those already working at the companies, having solid Human Resource processes and practices, being financially stable and have had no issues in terms of employment disputes, problems with unions, workers’ rights and so on.
This policy was created a few years’ ago to provide a Work to Residence pathway for people with jobs that in recent times paid a minimum of $55,000.00 per annum. The idea behind it being that there are those who come to New Zealand and find work who make a very valuable economic contribution to that company and the country but who may never get enough ‘points’ to qualify for Residence under the Skilled Migrant Category or whose jobs are not defined as “skilled” under the points system. It was meant to compliment the Skilled Migrant Category objectives and appears to my mind to have worked well.
Accreditation has been a great tool for companies that have ongoing recruitment needs that cannot be satisfied locally. There is no labour market test attached to the resulting talent Visa applications which means employers haven’t needed to keep proving they cannot find staff in NZ but made a genuine effort to do so. In an extremely tight labour market where thousands more jobs are being created each month than there are people to fill them, offering this work to residence pathway is one way to help a company retain staff.
From the migrants perspective this Talent visa - which is a 30 month work visa - allows them to apply for a resident visa after 24 months. Partners and children are also granted temporary work and student visas and so receive access to the same care I receive and their school age children are treated as domestic students in terms of cost of education (paid for out of their taxes for the most part).
It is potentially a really good option for a lot of companies in a country where we simply don’t have enough people to fill the jobs being created while at the same time offering a more certain pathway to residence for those willing to commit and prove their value over that two years.
Around a year ago, I had an interesting conversation with the then Manager of the Business Migration Branch, the unit of Immigration that assess Employer Accreditation applications. I was asked if I’d seen any increased interest or activity in the market in respect of employers wanting to know about accreditation. I confirmed that I had not but it seemed fairly obvious to me, given the pass mark for Skilled Migrants had recently increased so dramatically, that employers in an increasingly candidate-short local labour market would turn to other avenues to secure the services of non-Resident staff in order for their businesses to keep expanding and growing. So I was expecting to see an increase. I added that we were encouraging more and more companies to consider accreditation, especially to find a solution for those clients already on the ground in New Zealand on Essential Skills Work Visas, who were perhaps 10–20 points short of the new pass mark of 160. A few took us up on the suggested advice, most rolled over and went back to sleep.
The Branch Manager expressed some concern that perhaps his unit would be overwhelmed with applications from employers to get this special status and suggested it was already starting to happen. I asked what the problem with that would be given this pathway was created as an alternative to the Skilled Migrant Category. It has its place in the market and does potentially provide New Zealand employers with a solution to a local labour market where we are increasingly finding companies advertising for roles and literally getting no local applicants whatsoever.
In typical Immigration New Zealand fashion, however, it was viewed a little differently it seems. The Manager suggested it could be abused. ‘Abuse’ in this context meaning too many employers, shut out of the skilled migrant pace through the massive increase in pass marks in late 2016, might look to it as a way to help secure the long term services of very good and capable migrants because it offered a pathway to residence for their employee and they were all but guaranteed to have the services of someone for around 30 months. Earth to INZ - not everyone is out to rort the system!
Furthermore, it does appear to me that when INZ policy people decide (or are ordered) to change one part of the visa machine, they often don’t appreciate, or to be fair because they don’t work out here in the ‘real’ world, appreciate the degree to which the market will react to that and try and find a solution elsewhere if a problem, such as where labour and skills shortages are very real and worsening, exists.
We had already seen some changes last year to the evidence employers had to present to secure accreditation status from what had historically been required. This change required employers to demonstrate that they had advertised the roles they were looking to fill later as accredited employers, including the salary that they were willing to pay for that role. Ordinarily employers in NZ don’t advertise salaries. I’ve never understood why.
Our information is that the minimum salary threshold to get a Talent Visa is about to be increased significantly and while we do not know yet to what level, it is reasonable to assume it will be less than $76,000.00 because as soon as someone is offered $76,000.00, the Skilled Migrant pathway and points system opens up to them (because if you are earning that much in NZ your job is automatically deemed to be skilled). We are picking somewhere between $65,000.00 and $70,000.00.
No doubt there will be one or two surprises in whatever Cabinet has signed off and when I consider that so much of policy seems to be set based on the misguided belief that people are out to rort the system, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some additional criteria perhaps such as adding a requirement around the number of employees a company must have in order to become an eligible accredited employer. That is pure speculation on my part I should add.
With all Immigration policy changes, there are unintended consequences. With employers now having to advertise the salary in their job adverts before they can apply for accreditation, it is reasonable to conclude that the impact of those changes last year might simply be to push up local wages and create a musical chairs situation where local employees in that occupation will go and apply for jobs with a company down the road, having seen the ad online, and apply for it because of a higher salary. That doesn’t increase the number of people in the labour market. I’m not suggesting that was the motivation for that change but those of us who live in a world where market forces are real, that would be an obvious outcome. If the new minimum salary became, say $70,000 then you imagine how that will go down in a company when the migrant worker is now earning say, $70,000.00 in the same role as a New Zealander who might only be earning $58,000.00. You’d not be surprised if all the staff doing that same job alsodemanded the higher salary - I certainly would. Will that financial reality put a break on companies expanding and growing? Will companies simply decide not look offshore to fill the roles given the minimum salary might be higher than the market would usually pay in NZ? If so who does that help?
I also understand that people who are currently in New Zealand on Talent Visas should not expect the higher salary threshold to apply to them, whatever it might be. The new rule will not be retrospective. If, however, they change from one accredited employer to another before they file their resident visa, they will have to meet the new minimum salary threshold with the new employer.
When we know more, we will let you know.
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod, Southern Man
Posted by Iain on April 13, 2018, 6:27 p.m. in Immigration
Those of you who have attended one of my talks know about my four golden rules of surviving immigration bureaucracy without losing your marbles:
There could be a fifth:
And this is the subject of today's blog.
INZ always deny it, but when certain cases are historically assessed in one fashion and then - without any change in rules - outcomes start to change, it simply has to be a case of golden rule #3 above, or it could mean that someone, somewhere (could be a politician, could be a senior INZ Manager) has decided that the same rule can be interpreted in a different way to deal with a ‘problem’ and so deliver outcomes that serve a purpose other than the expressed aim and intent of the policy under which the migrant has applied.
We have just been through the excruciating process of dealing with INZ over an Indian national who came to NZ as a student. At the end of her course, she found ‘relevant’ employment which, in time, led to a promotion to Store Manager and which then evolved into a multi-store Management role. This role is largely autonomous and the owners of the business these days have little to do with the operation of it – they have found a highly skilled and highly competent Manager who runs these stores better and more profitably than they ever could.
The Skilled Migrant category is meant to be ‘occupation blind’ – by that I mean no consideration is to be given to whether we ‘need’ more Managers or Electricians or Teachers or Software Developers. If a job is skilled, it should get the points.
What is a ‘skilled’ job if you are a Manager? Simple really – it is one which requires ‘managerial expertise’. That’s it.
The case referred to here was declined on the basis that INZ tried to convince themselves that the applicant is not a Manager. They didn’t tell the applicant what they thought she was, only that she was not a Manager. They agreed that she was 80% a Manager and 20% something else. What that something else was nobody knows.
The argument that was presented to INZ was watertight – the tasks of this individual were at least an 80% match to the tasks that a Manager might carry out using INZ’s own reference materials, and in fact - it was argued - was closer to 100%.
The case was declined on the basis that of the 8 tasks they might choose to compare her role to what they believe Managers do, there were two that she didn’t do enough of.
INZ argued that those two remaining tasks were in fact key to being a Retail Manager and although the applicant was involved in these tasks, she wasn’t doing so to a high enough level. As a consequence, the applicant failed the ‘substantial match’ test which says that the applicant’s daily tasks must be ‘substantially consistent’ with an occupation in the Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations, or ANZSCO.
In this case, even doing 80% (6 out of the 8 listed) was not considered a ‘substantial match’.
The Collins Dictionary defines substantial as ‘large in amount or degree’. They offer this example:
The party has just lost office and with it a substantial number of seats.
To INZ, this must surely mean that the political party lost all of its seats. I think those of us who understand the word ‘substantial’ might suggest that the Party still has some seats in the Parliament.
ANZSCO is a reference tool created by the Statistics Departments of Australia and New Zealand which lists (as far as they can tell) all the occupations known to mankind and the usual tasks associated with each. It is, according to the immigration rules, to be the primary source of information used in the ‘substantial match’ test.
Naturally, many similar jobs have some overlapping tasks. This means immigration officers have to apply their minds in an objective way and assess the case on its merits.
This is when the opportunity presents itself to apply the shadowy golden rule #5. Officers apply the hidden agenda by arguing (usually with a straight face) that, in spite of the overwhelming evidence, a person is more something else than what they or their employer says they are. In effect, INZ predetermines what outcome they want. I have read enough to believe that their political or managerial masters don’t want as many Retail Managers in NZ despite it being skilled, so they find ways to decline them.
Not to get too technical on you but in terms of process (not followed, in this case) an officer must first determine ‘whether the work experience is in employment that is substantially consistent with the ANZSCO Occupation (6-digit) level description for the skilled employment occupation’.
In the case of a Manager, that 6 digit lead definition requires INZ to answer the question: does this person who claims to be a Manager of two stores ‘organise and control the operations of a retail trading establishment’?
The evidence in this case was an overwhelming ‘yes’. The owners said she did. The evidence said she did. However, the officer skipped over that first step (you have to wonder why?) and went straight to the second step which says that if INZ is ‘…unable to determine a substantial match to the ANZSCO occupation, (they) may also assess whether the previous employment displays the characteristics of that occupation in terms of the relevant ANZSCO ‘Unit Group’ (4-digit) level description of tasks for that role.’
The ‘Unit Group’ is where the task list comes into the picture - the list of usual tasks that occupation might involve. In the case of a Retail Manager there are 8 usual tasks and in this case, the officer agreed that the applicant does 6 but the last two not enough or at a high enough level. So in this case, even though INZ agreed that there was at least an 80% task match, this was not good enough and the case was declined.
‘…displays the characteristics of that occupation’ is a long way from an exact match and a reasonable person would likely conclude that if your tasks are at least an 80% match you are certainly ‘displaying the characteristics’ of it.
It is insightful that in independent appeals on decisions like this the Immigration and Protection Tribunal (IPT) has consistently ruled that INZ does not get to decide how important each of those tasks is relative to one another but simply whether the applicant does them. INZ agreed this applicant does 6 of the 8 and is involved in the last two.
So, how you might ask, could the case be declined?
There’s only two explanations - the officer and his superior who signed off on the decision should be considering career changes to something less intellectually challenging, or there is indeed an agenda at play. I have written about it before and INZ can deny it all they like, but you don’t have to look very far to see the evidence of it.
Two years ago, the then Government started making noises about the ‘dumbing down’ of the skilled migrant category where the average salaries of skilled migrants was heading down (sharply) and Retail Manager and Chef, being the two most common occupations of skilled migrants, were largely the reason.
Who were these applicants? Indians, by and large – tens of thousands of them who had often done relatively low level academic courses in NZ and who were securing relatively low paying but still skilled jobs as Retail Managers and Chefs. Instead of being transparent and honest with the market (and all those tens of thousands of mainly Indian students lured to NZ by a Government wanting to grow its export education market, unscrupulous education agents and NZ education institutions looking for quick money) and dropping these occupations from the list of what is skilled, a way had to be found to deal with the problem.
How have they done it?
Exactly what this applicant experienced – find a reason, however illogical, to decline. Argue that an applicant is ‘more something else’ than what they claim to be. If you are an applicant dealing with the system on your own how can you fight that? INZ simply washes their hands at that stage and says ‘if you don’t believe us, go and appeal it’. The fact that costs thousands more dollars than most young former international students have and takes around a year, undermining current employment because the employer starts to think the migrant might not now be around long term, means most applicants give up at that point and leave the country.
The system is intellectually, and to a large degree, morally bankrupt and while I know anyone in INZ reading this will tell themselves this is not the way they operate I believe they are delusional and/or in denial – having worked at this coal face for nigh on 30 years I know exactly how they work and what makes them tick.
Someone, be it senior INZ Managers or their political masters, don’t want to approve Retail Managers, particularly those in Franchise operations and they will ignore the overwhelming evidence to deliver the outcomes they have been told or decided (unofficially of course and you’ll find no record directing anyone) to deliver.
The misery that causes is repugnant to me when all people are doing is following INZ’s rulebook – unfortunately migrants don’t appreciate that no one ever really holds INZ accountable and this case is a prime example where INZ feels they can quite readily ignore their own rules, processes and some very clear directives of the independent Immigration and Protection Tribunal.
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod, Southern Man
Posted by Iain on March 8, 2018, 8:35 p.m. in Immigration
I’m often asked to write pieces on Immigration Policy by my marketing team because they are more widely read than my musings on the life and times of New Zealand. I confess some reluctance to do it because the fundamental reality of Immigration Policy decision-making can’t usually be broken down into bite-size chunks. It is often the case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts on the one hand and different Immigration Officers interpreting the same rules in different ways on the other.
Today I want to attempt to explain how the Immigration Department decides whether the job offer that you have in New Zealand is ‘skilled' or not.
The first thing they have to do is to decide whether the job that you have in New Zealand falls into a Skill Level 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 category. The lower the number the more highly skilled the occupation is, on the face of it. Occupations that fall into Skill Levels 1, 2 and 3 are assessed one way and those which fall into Skill Levels 4 and 5 another.
Dealing with the lower skill level first; if your occupation is Skill Level 4 or 5, the first consideration is what it will pay and the effective hourly rate earned. You must also hold a relevant, recognised qualification comparable to the learning outcomes of a Level 4 New Zealand qualification or higher, a qualification at Level 3 on a New Zealand Qualifications Framework which is exempt from assessment by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) or you must have three years of “relevant” work experience as a substitute for one of the two qualification options.
In terms of remuneration, the effective hourly rate before tax in terms of guaranteed income is NZ$36.44 per hour or higher excluding bonuses, commissions and the value of perks such as motor vehicles, cell phones and so on.
For the Skill Level 1, 2 or 3 occupations (which I should add covers most of our clients), the effective hourly rate must be at least NZ$24.29 per hour. These applicants must also have ‘relevant’ qualifications that are recognised for points and they must have a qualification at the level or above as dictated for their occupation in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) or a certain number of years of work experience in that occupation that might substitute (usually five, but never less than three).
In this regard, New Zealand has adopted an assessment process on jobs which increasingly looks like the Australian General Skilled Migration process and that is to say that you are expected to effectively ‘nominate’ an occupation that you believe fits with your job description. You need to be extremely careful what occupation you choose.
Irrespective of which occupational title you do choose, the Immigration Officer assessing your application is still meant to treat each case on its merit and assess your primary tasks in your role with the task lists for that occupation contained in the ANZSCO or another, more suitable. It can help you influence the outcome if you can work out the right one — which I should add is often almost impossible because in the real world most job descriptions overlap with that of other related occupations.
And that’s when the trouble really begins because the rule book says that an applicant must complete “most” of the tasks listed for that occupation in ANZSCO. The problem with that is the task list provided in the ANZSCO for your job is often, at least in part, shared with other similar occupations which may or may not be ‘skilled’.
Take for example; Retail Manager. ANZSCO has a number of occupations which fall under the general title of Retail Manager and these include: Antique Dealer, Post Officer Manager, Travel Agency Manager, Hair Salon Manager, Betting Agency Manager and General Retail Manager. They are all different but will have some tasks in common. The rule book lists up to eight primary tasks that these occupations might do. The Immigration Officer must therefore decide which of the 8 tasks apply to your particular ‘retail management’ job. On that, in my experience, they do not excel; not made any easier for them that applicants increasingly design their job descriptions and employment contracts around these ANZSCO tasks, for which I cannot blame them. INZ often these days starts with the assumption the role has been embellished or designed to fit the ANZSCO task list and sets out to satisfy themselves the applicant and employer have embellished the role. Sometines they are right but in our experience with our clients, they are always wrong as we make sure this never happens - if the role isn't skilled, our clients are told to go find one that is.
I’m sure I have lost you already and this is why I don’t like writing blogs about it because it’s really hard to explain but in a nutshell, what you need to do is:
As an important aside, how does the Immigration Department calculate what your effective hourly rate is?
The answer is that they look at the hours that you “may” work and that is full of fish hooks. Most Employment Agreements in New Zealand will confirm that the normal weekly hours are 40 but other such hours as may be required from time to time are expected to be worked without additional remuneration. Sometimes, the Employment Agreement might say employees are expected to work “up to 45 hours a week”. If you might work 45 hours per week then Immigration will look at your gross salary, divide that by 52 and divide that by 45 and that will usually push down the effective hourly rate. That is, even if you only work 45 hours once a year...
This is causing major problems, especially for Human Resources Departments, as we are now constantly asking that Employment Agreements be written in such a way that it takes into account the hours the employer expect the applicant will work; not what they may be asked to work from time to time. Crazy system for establishing skill and as always when these rules are changed in the minds of the policy people to solve one problem (in this case, making it easier in theory to work out what is skilled and what is not), they end up opening a whole new can of worms.
But that is what they have to do and I hope that is of some use to you.
Please do not post questions below on this - if you have a question, we offer a fantastic discrete question answering service which you can access by clicking here (note we charge AUD$15 per question).
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod, Southern Man
Posted by Iain on Oct. 13, 2017, 7:42 p.m. in Immigration
What are the primary differences between skilled migration to Australia and New Zealand?
I spend my day explaining to those that aren’t certain which country they wish to move to that one is not ‘easier’ than the other, and that they both have their own complexities and vulnerabilities to applicants.
Australia by and large operates a skilled migrant selection process that is based on approving applicants that are ‘job ready’. That is achieved by assessing, for the most part, their age, their qualifications, their ‘relevant’ work experience and their English language ability. Some require the support via ‘sponsorship’ of an Australian State or Territory that operate their own, fluid, ‘occupations in demand’ lists. No points are gained for having a skilled job in Australia.
New Zealand on the other hand looks for people with similar skills profiles but is not so much interested in those that might be ‘job ready’, but those that have gone a step further and secured skilled jobs. NZ wants those with a demonstrated ability to break into the labour market.
In the New Zealand context, most points are awarded for age, qualifications, skilled work experience and having that offer of or current skilled employment. Jobs outside of Auckland attract more points and with the pass mark currently at historical highs, more and more migrants are being forced to try and secure work outside of New Zealand’s biggest city. Which is easier said than done given Auckland is the engine room of the economy.
Both countries offer minor ‘bonus points’ for other factors but they seldom make or break the deal.
If that makes Australia sound ‘easier’ I’d suggest that is to not understand it. Sure, there is no pressure to find work to kick start the process, but ensuring the right English test score is achieved, that the right occupation is nominated, predicting what States might be sponsoring an occupation months after the process begins when clients need it, is all very challenging indeed. We describe it as ‘precision brain surgery’.
I describe the Australian skills pathway as being less risky but it is far from risk free. While applicants get to negotiate the process from the comfort of their own home, consider the numbers that rely on ‘State Sponsorship’ for their final visa approval that cannot be applied for, generally, for around six months after English exams are sat and what are known as ‘skills assessments’ are carried out. With State occupation quotas often filling up in the first weeks of the immigration year, Australia has a seasonality to it that New Zealand does not have. With skills shortage lists also being updated every 6 months in Australia there are enormous risks and the process is one that requires focus, dedication and as speed as humanly possible.
As Advisers, we have to work through, day by day how many places remain available in each State for sponsorship and it is hard and precise keeping up with all 400 odd!
On the other hand, New Zealand’s policy of requiring the majority of skilled migrants to find work creates its own challenges. Experience (and INZ’s own statistics) show that to get employment applicants almost always need to be prepared to:
1. Resign their job and go to NZ for long enough to find work (usually 4-12 weeks); and
2. Speak fluent English
3. Be a good cultural fit (usually with the dominant culture)
4. Have enough funds to survive for many weeks, if not months, while they look for work
To make it even more complex, most employers and recruiters demand work or resident visas before applicants can apply for the role. Only trouble with that a work visa cannot be issued without a job offer. ‘Chickens and eggs’ abound. Approached with guidance and expertise (counselling and support along practical job hunting tips) around 95% of our clients secure skilled employment each and every year. Most sweat a lot to get the jobs but get them they do.
Being in NZ to prove an applicant is serious is critical to sending the right signals to employers. Even then rejection is the order of the day so job after job after job needs to be applied for. It’s a big call to make to resign a job and travel with no absolute guarantee of work.
So for those who might think getting into NZ is ‘easier’ than getting into Australia, should try doing it. It takes a degree of planning and a strategy that has a lot more downside than for those deciding to go to Australia. New Zealand effectively demands far more commitment of applicants than Australia.
I often describe the New Zealand process as ‘Darwinian’ and the survival of the fittest and most employable. Every year thousands fail in their efforts, yet our clients that don’t make it can be counted on one hand.
What makes our service offering in many ways unique is exploiting - quite legally - the fact that those with a permanent resident visa of Australia are entitled under New Zealand law, to a NZ resident Visa on arrival in New Zealand. That allows us to deliver the outcomes of residence of NZ without many clients (not all) needing a job and without leaving home, thanks to Australia.
I am increasingly pushing people to secure Australian resident visas even if they want to come and live in New Zealand simply to reduce the risk and stress of everything.
The understanding we have of both countries skilled migrant programmes allows us to weave strategies that deliver residence to more than 98% of those that decide to retain us, all the while minimising the risks of failure and the costs of securing the visas.
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on Oct. 6, 2017, 6 p.m. in Immigration
No matter which resident visa category you apply under – Parent, Skilled, Investor or Partnership, if you have a partner/spouse you need to demonstrate that you are currently (and have been) living together for a minimum of 12 months in a ‘genuine and stable relationship akin to a marriage which is likely to endure’.
There is no requirement that you be married – in fact this makes no difference to the assessment carried out by immigration officers. Living together means simply that – in an exclusive relationship – gay or straight, married or not, young or old - and under the same roof (and presumably in the same bed).
Breaking down the criteria all applicants need to demonstrate that:
So how do you prove with pieces of paper that you share a common address, a bed, that there is love and that you don’t throw pots and pans at one another every night after work?
The truth is, it is extremely difficult. I don’t know how wedding photos and bank statements prove anything at all.
We base our advice to clients on how a Judge in a family court might assess whether a couple are indeed, for the purposes of divvying up assets in the event of a relationship split, a ‘couple’.
The immigration rule book does not specify what evidence to present, only that whatever is presented must ‘satisfy an immigration officer’. The risk is no two officers will necessarily look at the same evidence and conclude the evidence of the relationship demonstrates it is genuine, stable and so on.
We tend to present two types of evidence – what I call ‘circumstantial’ (but which to me carries the most weight). This might include letters from friends and family, colleagues and associates who are part of your circle of family, friends and social network. Photos of the two of you together through time. Facebook screenshots. Skype logs.
The other is what I call ‘technical’ – evidence of joint ownership of or sharing property (rental agreements for example), insurance policies where your partner (and children) might be beneficiaries of a medical aid programme, invoices, utility bills, tax returns – essentially anything that shows a common address.
No two cases are ever going to be exactly the same and therefore the evidence is always subjective.
The biggest mistake we find, even with our own clients who get highly detailed and personalised instructions on what we want from them based on their personal circumstances, is they provide us their marriage certificate and their childrens' birth certificates. And that’s it.
What they fail to appreciate is that having a marriage certificate does not make a relationship genuine. Anecdotally there’s lots of activity around Auckland right now where former international students, having seen their pathway to residence being blocked by the Government are marrying locals, right, left and centre.
A marriage certificate doesn’t demonstrate ‘stability’ of the relationship either. This is why officers want to see credible evidence going back over at least 12 months of cohabitation – it isn’t watertight evidence but it is indicative.
A rental agreement or title deed to a property doesn’t prove you love each other and share a bed either. Nor I would suggest do joint (or multiple, single name) bank statements. Nor does showing birth certificates of children.
However, this ‘technical’ evidence is what INZ wants to see.
They can insist on interviews between couples or make ‘site visits’ (a euphemism for knocking on your front door without warning to see what the living arrangements are).
I do wish they would make greater use of the interview options because many couples, in very long relationships, organise their affairs separately. It does not diminish their love nor commitment to one another or in any way disprove their claim to a genuine and stable relationship. Too often immigration officers ask for ‘joint’ bank statements – easy to set up but what exactly does it prove?
It is not always easy for immigration officers but it has to be said they very often do not make it easy for themselves. As I was discussing with two senior INZ Managers only yesterday there remains a culture of paranoia and distrust inside INZ and many officers have a hard time appreciating that 90% of applicants are quite genuine and make no attempt to defraud the visa system. These are two managers I have the utmost respect for but even they, if you raise the ‘culture of paranoia and distrust’ observation with them, will immediately trot out an extreme example to demonstrate their distrust is justified. They all tend to focus on the 10% than accept the 90% that are genuine. In the end the risk is all applicants are tarred with the same brush.
It’s a cultural ‘disease’ so common to all Immigration Departments everywhere – it isn’t limited to New Zealand.
The result unfortunately is that applicants are generally treated as guilty and need to prove they are innocent.
This is why we provide our clients with a page of examples of the sort of evidence we need to ‘prove’ they live together once we understand their relationship. We even warn clients that for almost everyone we look after applying for a resident visa under any category, we will present as much evidence that they ‘live together’ as all the other evidence put together!
And I tend to remind people of my golden rules including most importantly ‘assume nothing and suspend logic’.
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Myer on Aug. 3, 2017, 4:29 p.m. in Immigration
There seems to be a five-year cycle for governments to implement and then change immigration policy.
Given the fact that it had been 5 years since the general skilled migration visa policy had been implemented in Australia [with the split long-term and short-term skills shortages list] and the advent of Brexit and Trump, the time was probably ripe for wholesale change.
And change there was – on 17 April, the Australian Government implemented widescale reform to its immigration policy with further clarifications on 1 July. As a result, there’s been much confusion and speculation amongst the public [and also within our industry as well it has to be said] about the changes whether they be good, bad or simply ugly.
The primary changes that affect most of our clients situated overseas were:
Yes, it might surprise some of you that some good did come of these changes. State Governments seem to have realised that they are not going to be able to access certain skills on a permanent basis through employer-sponsored schemes and they’ve had to embrace sponsoring a more diverse range of occupations.
Already we have seen longer state sponsorship lists notably in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania sponsoring more occupations and also a more diverse range of occupations. In fact there have been some occupations that I don’t recall ever seeing on state sponsorship lists that have appeared. This is definitely good news for those of you who often felt that your occupations had been overlooked by State Governments.
There has also been greater recognition of the role of families being able to offer support and acting as an incentive to remain in a state with Tasmania joining ACT and South Australia in sponsoring more “offlist” occupations. These are occupations that did not appear on the main state sponsorship lists but are accessible if one has a close family member living in one of these states.
The big losers amongst all of these changes are those aged 45 and above in general skilled migration visas and employer sponsored visas.
When I started processing Australian visas in 2008 the age limit was in fact 45 but was increased to 50 approximately 2012. The reduction of age limit from 50 to 45 come to some surprise as we are living in an environment of people “ageing better” and we are being encouraged to work until 70 and not retire at 65.
No doubt this change will make it harder to acquire international talent and skills by Australian companies. It could also raise the cost to acquire the skills in Australia. No reason has been provided for the increase in age limit but clearly the government is concerned about the cost of healthcare provided to migrants and 45 probably equates to the cutoff age when the social welfare costs that government will spend on a migrant outweigh their expected productivity.
Interestingly the age limits for the business skills, investors and family stream remain unaffected, so if you are above 45, you still may be able to qualify for another visa stream.
The main motivation for these changes was political gain. Nothing was broken in terms of immigration policy and the pretext of protecting jobs for Australians is a flimsy one. In fact as Australia's unemployment rate has tumbled to 5.5 per cent as another 42,200 jobs were created in May it prompts us to ask the question where are the jobless Australians who are in need of protection?
An unemployment rate of 5.5% is almost taken to represent full employment in Australia.
It is the eighth consecutive month full time employment has risen, with 124,000 full time jobs created since September 2016.
The Turnbull government jumped on the Trump/Brexit bandwagon, usurped the position of the political right and seized the opportunity to increase its popularity on the back of right-wing populism that seems to have taken hold in western countries.
Like most changes that occurred to immigration policy it’s not all good bad or ugly, and there are bound to be some winners and losers whenever immigration policy changes.
We are however entering a period of increased change to immigration policy [the short term skills shortages list is going to be changed twice a year with occupations added and removed]. If one adds the annual changes in occupational ceilings or quotas for occupations on the long term list and changing state sponsorship lists as occupational quotas are added and removed we are entering a paradigm of much more change much more often and it has never been more important to be able to objectively assess your chances of securing a visa whether it be employer-sponsored or general skilled.
It’s going to be important to realise that whilst there are immigration opportunities they might not be your first choice and you may have to compromise on type of visa and destination in Australia. There is a time to raise and a time to fold but equally one has to be prepared to accept what’s on offer.
And if all options for Australia are no longer available, you can also consider the possibility of migrating to New Zealand; the age limit is higher and the occupation list broader.
- Myer Lipschitz, Director, IMMagine Melbourne Office
Posted by Iain on July 28, 2017, 5:05 p.m. in Immigration
Earlier this week the media in New Zealand were abuzz with speculation that perhaps the Government was going to “back down” on their proposed changes to Skilled Migrant & Work Visa policies. As usual the twittersphere, Facebook, online migrant chat groups and forums went into frenzied overdrive and messages of hope to family and friends were sent around the world that it looked like the changes wouldn’t happen.
Upon closer examination, however, it was clear what was being reported in the Press was a confused interpretation of what the Government had proposed and what is about to be rolled out on 28 August. Just for a change...
As I am part of a very small group that has been working with immigration officials on writing the final version of these rules, the Media speculation came as something of a surprise - their subsequent confusion didn’t. I had received only a few hours earlier the latest draft of the Skilled Migrant rules for my comment and input. There was no evidence there that the Government was backing down on anything.
The Skilled Migrant rules will be put in place in four weeks’ time and everything the Government signalled seven months ago will be happening.
As has been publicly reported this will see minimum salary bands attached to Skilled Migrant Category offers of employment to secure points (note – not Work Visas) of slightly under $49,000.00 for anyone seeking a resident visa.
As I have written about before, the winners here will tend to be those who have been in one career all their life e.g. Technicians, Trades people, Teachers, Nurses and so on and/or those with higher level qualifications such as Trade Certificates, Degrees and so on. There will certainly be some losers but the bar is not being raised as much as the Government wants everyone to think.
With regard to Work Visas, salary bands have been introduced, but this was also very well signalled many months ago. Those in the lowest skilled groups will still be able to come to New Zealand and will still be able to get Work Visas for no more than one year which upon application and, subject to meeting certain criteria (none of them new), can be issued for a further twelve months and even a further twelve months after that. Thereafter, the applicant must leave the country for around 12 months before being able to re-apply. This is not news. This is not a change. The lower skilled workers have never been able to get work visas for more than 12 months at a time and each time they try to ‘renew’ it is meant to get progressively more difficult under the rules as employers are expected to try and find or train New Zealanders (which they could do if the government got tougher on welfare entitlements for the young). So in effect, there is no change here.
The only change in regard to these low skilled workers is that they will not be able to bring their partners and children with them as they can today, but those partners and children will still be able to apply for Visitor Visas, one presumes for short term (conjugal?) Visits. The Government is clearly signalling to workers who are filling low skilled jobs that they will not have a long term future in New Zealand. But they never did...
Despite the protest from certain industry sectors, in that regard nothing actually changes! The Government has done a poor job of communicating it and employers don’t seem to understand that, while they can get Work Visas for people to come in and pick their fruit, or milk their cows or get the linen changed in Queenstown hotels, they have never been able to stay long term and they have never been offered a pathway to residency.
Government did signal today that there will be further reviews once the policy beds in - this is ‘political-speak’ for ‘we are about to unleash chaos and we know we will need to have to tidy it up but we need to get these changes in place before the election so we can look tough on what we know is for some an important issue in determining how they vote’.
I can see for example some regional salary band being introduced for those seeking points for skilled jobs. To have a one size fits all minimum salary of around $49,000 doesn’t take any account that the same job may pay more in Auckland than in Christchurch given the relative differences in cost of living. I would think such a tweak would be a very good idea. I’d put money on it happening over time.
I also remain convinced, understanding how these new rules will impact, that pass marks for skilled migrant residence will almost certainly fall. I do not believe that will happen before the Election in September and it is reasonable to assume the Government will let the dust settle on these new Skilled Migrant residency rules before allowing pass marks to move. I actually believe the Government when they say they are committed to filling 27,000 skilled migrant places, simply because the economy is adding tens of thousands of new skilled jobs a year and New Zealand simply cannot fill them from within the existing labour force. The Government, however, is not so brave to let pass marks fall before an election where immigration levels is an issue.
Of course falling pass marks will bring back in to play the pathway to people for Residence of New Zealand who do not have job offers, a pathway effectively closed over recent months. Another change that has been signalled is that those people will no longer be able to secure resident visas and their only option will be to be granted Work Visas so that they can find work, if they reach the pass mark without having a job offer. This is going to, once again, open up a pathway for many people who are highly qualified and valued, but who don’t have jobs when they file their residency papers.
Overall, the changes that are being made are creating some incredibly complicated rules, particularly in relation to how work experience points are going to be able to be claimed toward residence. Being part of the process in trying to assist the authors of these rules to come up with something coherent and easily implemented by Immigration Officers has been something to behold. The industry “experts” that have been pulled in to assist have done their utmost to help come up with something cohesive, but Lord help us when Immigration Officers get hold of these new rules. I predict chaos.
Things are going to become so complicated that those trying this on their own are asking for trouble and I think never before has an expert professional adviser been as required as it is going to be in the months and years to come.
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on June 12, 2017, 12:53 a.m. in Immigration
"Labour attempts to pick low hanging immigration fruit...that's already been eaten" - Iain MacLeod, Managing Director, IMMagine Australia & New Zealand Immigration Specialists
The Labour Party’s announcement today that they will make moderate cuts to immigration numbers will make no significant difference to the numbers of permanent migrants coming to New Zealand.
Putting the brakes on the numbers of students transitioning to work and potentially resident visas is a move that will, later this year, have enormous potential impact on thousands of international students that were studying with a clear intention to use the pathway to residence created by the Government. Clearly, an informed Labour Party is aware that the National Party had already played this card. Having promised cuts in the ‘tens of thousands’, I guess they had to come up with something, somehow.
Just as the Government hasn’t actually cut a single visa from its residence programme, it appears neither has Labour in its announcement today.
It’s all smoke and mirrors designed to take the wind of our of NZ First’s sails.
No one suggests that many of the jobs currently being filled by temporary work or student visa holders shouldn’t be filled by locals, they should – but most employers will tell you those young Kiwis are not around to fill these roles or don’t want the work.
Denying many employers casual migrant labour might make a headline and take a few votes off Winston Peters but it’ll be interesting to see what ideas the Labour Party comes up with to reform our welfare entitlements to ensure there are young New Zealanders being ‘encouraged’ to fill these roles. Let’s hope so because there are going to be lots of vacancies. (Labour provided the example of a paediatric oncologist as benefitting from "their" changes – truth be told, anyone with these skills and qualifications would always have qualified for residence: would under National’s upcoming changes and will under Labour’s proposed rules.)
On the plus side, there is no doubt the changes announced by the National Party earlier this year and the announcements by the Opposition today will increase labour market shortages particularly in hospitality and tourism, creating plenty of opportunities for young New Zealanders to find employment in these sectors and in other casual work.
The export education industry will take another hit with these changes. The Government’s (quietly dropped) goal of it becoming a $5 billion a year industry just took another politically inspired hit.
Iain MacLeod, Managing Director, IMMagine Australia & New Zealand Immigration Specialists
Posted by Iain on May 5, 2017, 7:23 p.m. in Immigration
Information received under the Official Information Act proves (if any proof was needed) that the Skilled Migrant Category changes Government is implementing on 14 August are largely directed at stemming the flow of international students through to residence and will not radically reduce the chances of those over the age of 30 that would likely qualify today.
INZ officials are quoted in advice to Cabinet:
The remuneration threshold is likely to have a bigger impact on former international students than people entering through other SMC pathways. International students will typically have less experience and therefore earn less than migrants with more work experience. Around 50-60 per cent of the international tertiary graduates who were employed in New Zealand in 20135 (sic) earned below the proposed threshold.
Told you so...
The Government’s promise to international students to provide a residence pathway has, effectively, been broken. Under these new rules the minimum salary threshold of $48,800 will see significant numbers of graduates from our local institutions no longer qualifying.
That must hurt the $3 billion export education industry far more than they care to admit right now.
While I feel for them, New Zealand offers limited numbers of places to skilled migrants each year and demand far exceeds supply. We have an obligation to get the most for our visa ‘buck’ so while for me it is a shame these students have been let down badly and the Government hasn’t ‘fessed’ up to really stuffing things up in that quarter, something had to give and it was the 'lower value' migrants that are missing out.
It is worth repeating there is no cut to the annual target of 27,000 resident visas under this category.
So, what are the new points?
Those aged 39 and under will score 30 points for age. This represents status quo for those under 30 years of age but 5 more points for those aged 30-39.
We can also reveal that high paying jobs with remuneration (note, not necessarily salary it seems) of $97,713.00 will attract 20 new points.
Masters and Ph.D. holders will see their points for these qualifications increase to 70 points from the current 60. Goodness knows why......
In possibly the biggest change, those claiming points for work experience will only be able to claim points for that experience that is skilled (and in the jargon, Skill Levels 1,2 and 3 in ANZSCO). Right now, all work that is ‘relevant’ to a recognised qualification or a NZ skilled job offer gets points up to a maximum of 30.
However, the points that can be claimed from August 14 increases to a maximum of 50 points for ten years of skilled work experience. That's 20 more points available to those with ten years of skilled work experience than exits today.
A case of taking with one hand and giving with the other, reasonably in my view and recognising that those with greater levels of skilled work experience are better for the NZ economy.
New Zealand based work experience points increases from 5 to 10 once 12 months of skilled work has been notched up.
Gone, as reported in another blog post, are:
So, if you are aged over 29, have University, Technical Institute or Trade level qualifications these changes will be more or less neutral as I have written about before. Those that qualify today are almost certain to qualify after 14 August because they were not the targets of this fine tuning of the skilled migrant category.
The high salary/remuneration bonus points will assist some who don’t have qualifications to qualify but it is possible some will miss out.
What the Government might need to do (and may in fact be considering) is a return to multiple pass marks so that, for example, someone earning over $98,000 might have a lower pass mark than someone earning under that. The system is designed with and historically always has had multiple pass marks.
My analysis of these changes suggests government will still struggle to fill the annual 27,000 skilled migrant target it has had in place for over ten years with this new points spread.
That analysis demands a drop in the pass mark but given that is a political decision I suspect what happens from here is the Government will be pleasantly surprised the media completely swallowed the announced changes as a ‘tightening’ and ‘cuts’ (both of which have not happened) and leave the pass mark at 160 till after the election in September. They’ll be hoping they’ve painted a (false) picture of ‘toughening up’, New Zealanders ‘first’ and all that ‘anti’ talk in order to neutralise the opposition parties calling for reductions in migrants.
Then, once they have been re-elected (possibly in coalition with a small anti-immigration party), they’ll let the pass mark fall, confident neither will look like they haven’t ‘tightened up’ and have delivered on a promise to force a ‘cut’ to immigration without having done anything of the sort.
Wonderful use of smoke and mirrors that represent a few tweaks and a bit of fine tuning that in reality only impacts on those would be skilled migrants under the age of 30. Most of whom are international graduate students.
And we might see a few restaurants close around town because of the new minimum salary threshold of $48,800 unless we are all willing to pay more for our Phad Thai and pay migrant Chefs more.
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on April 28, 2017, 3 p.m. in Immigration
It took about a week after the Government announced its changes to Skilled Migrant policy and announced a review of temporary work visa policy for the message to finally get through to the mainstream media that things might not be quite as they at first appeared.
Why the Government did what it did and who it was really targeting was, in my view, actually quite different to the press statements.
I get an ironic chuckle the way a 24 hour, first-to-report-the-story news cycle meant that the way the Government ‘sold’ these changes was swallowed hook, line and sinker by the media and of course in this online and connected world of ours, on social media platforms around the world. Chat groups and forums are still full of jibber jabber about doors closing, migrants being unwelcome and more.
‘New Zealanders First’ was a tidy headline and in keeping with recent developments in the USA (Trump, walls, immigration), Brexit (‘too many bloody foreigners and Britain isn’t British any more’), Marine Le Pen’s right wing rise in France (‘immigrants won’t become French and they want to make us become Muslims!'), Australia’s ‘Australians First’ announcements last week set a nice scene.
We are in an election year and the two smaller but main opposition parties are calling for cuts to migration levels. One always did and is rewarded every four years with 8-10% of the popular vote. The other, always strongly supported by migrants, should simply be ashamed of itself. They are polling in the low 20% and are of course a desperate five months out to lift their support (but anyone who is ‘anti’ immigration will likely vote for the other ‘anti’ immigration party).
Naturally, neither are being specific about which categories of immigration they’d cut or in what numbers.
There is no doubt there is real pressure being brought to bear on the Government to ‘do something’ about infrastructure pressure in Auckland; clogged freeways and rampant house price inflation caused by the fact that...it’s a great place to live!
The economy is performing strongly, job growth is strong for the skilled, fewer Kiwis are packing their bags for overseas, more Kiwis are coming home and more Australians are joining them (there is a downside to every boom I guess!), pleasant climate, great public education and healthcare; the list goes on. Every year tens of thousands of wannabe kiwis want to join us.
How true is it that the changes announced last week represent some seismic shift and tightening...or indeed, any tightening at all?
The answer is pretty clear – the Government never announced any cuts to skilled migrant numbers.
Late last year the Government announced a modest, margin of error ‘cut’ to our overall residence programme which covers all migrants coming to NZ under all categories; not just the skilled. The two year residence programme was cut from 90,000 plus or minus 10%, to 80,000 - 85,000 plus or minus 10%. Do the math. The number of visas issued over the period may well be exactly the same.
The number of places available for skilled migrants has within that remained exactly the same – 27,000 plus or minus 10%. As it has for the best part of a decade. That did not change last week. An important fact that seems to have been missed by pretty much everyone in the media.
So if the numbers of skilled, investor and family migrants is going to be pretty much the same next year as it is this year then what is actually going on?
Again, I’d suggest it’s pretty simple. There are more people chasing those 27,000 skilled migrant places than ever before. Demand exceeds supply and that requires fine tuning from time to time to control the inflow.
Over the past two years the numbers of international students treading the promised pathway to residence has been climbing. These youngsters were increasingly jostling with older and more experienced skilled migrants.
We simply don’t have room for them all (apparently).
I explain the Government’s dilemma like this.
If there was only one resident visa left of that annual 27,000 to give away and there were two applicants on 160 points, which one is better for NZ if one was a 23 year old international student, recently graduated from Auckland University, no work experience but managed somehow to secure a job offer in Christchurch as a Retail Manager paying $38,000 a year? Or is it the 35 year old Software Developer with a degree in IT, ten years’ experience and a job paying $120,000?
The answer is pretty obvious. The Software Developer. Trouble is the Government promised and marketed a study to work to residence pathway to international students. Creating in the process a $3 billion dollar a year industry employing 35,000 New Zealanders. As of last year something like 127,000 were in the country. Half leave at the end of their study. The other half want to stay. There are only 27,000 places for all skilled migrants available. Again, do the math...
So, what did the Government do last week?
They announced that those under the age of 30 will get fewer points for their age, all their work experience will need to be skilled to attract points and unless the job offer in NZ pays $48,800, the job would not be deemed skilled and there is no pathway to residence.
Who does that impact? The older software developer looking to come here or the young international graduate entering the labour market?
The country will still get 27,000 skilled migrants but there will be a slight shift that favours those over the age of 30.
No cut to numbers though. Just a change in the ‘mix’.
Pretty obvious really and if you were a political spin doctor you’d be sitting back this week adding another wee drop of whisky to your glass and admiring your handy work.
You’d be thinking – it’s election year and immigration is a hot topic globally. Brexit started something; Government is getting it in the neck over not investing enough in infrastructure; Aucklanders are getting grumpy over their traffic woes; sky high house prices are an issue...
One piece missing – immigration. Migrants drive cars. Migrants stay in houses. Migrants are different to us.
So – announce a tightening to migration and let it be (mis)interpreted as a cut to get one headline out in front of the people – ‘New Zealanders First’!
I have to say I actually admire their gall.
Having created the problem of encouraging all those students to come here, they have been quietly pushing the knife into them for the past six months which, for the most part, the students never even felt (pass mark raised to 160 in October to ‘flush’ the pool of these youngsters). Most of these students think the cuts are to other immigrants and not the stinging in their own back.
What we saw last week was part two of what, to me, is a very obvious and well-crafted plan to extricate the Government from the indefensible position over international students and the promises they made them with as little fallout as possible.
We do have population pressures and particularly in Auckland but what great problems to have? We are a ‘victim’ of a strong economy for which the government deserves some credit; interest in settling here has gone through the roof, Kiwis don’t feel like leaving, more are coming home and we only have room for so many new migrants and the government is right to be choosy.
Trouble for me is no NZ Government ever seems to have any sort of end plan when it comes to immigration; we have no population policy (and immigration is a poor substitute), we have all these students coming seeking residence, we have around 70,000 young Holiday Working Visa holders having a great time - many of whom are seeking residence and we only have 27,000 skilled resident visas to give away.
What I cannot for the life of me work out is why the Government has not put the lid on these tens of thousands of young Holiday Work Visa holders.
At least the international students are spending big money to be here, are part of multi-billion dollar export industry and many are studying courses we cannot fill with our own young people.
At the same time the export education industry is going to be under severe threat if they don’t switch their focus to more ‘high value’ areas like Engineering, ICT, Medicine, Health and Architecture where entry level salaries will be above the newly announced minimum of $48,800, because thousands of students will go to other countries if the barriers to long term residence are lower.
In the meantime, if there was going to be anyone ‘cut’ from the pathway to skilled migration the Government should be focussing on putting limits to Holiday Working Visa numbers.
That would be a ‘cut’. But last week was a fine tuning, dealing with the international student ‘problem’ and anything but a cut to skilled migrant numbers.
Until next week...
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