Posts with tag: government
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Letters from the Southern Man
Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork, its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people.
Understanding New Zealand is paramount to your immigration survival and to give you a realistic view of the country, its people and how we see the world, read our weekly Southern Man blogs. Often humorous, sometimes challenging, but always food for thought.
If there was a way for the officials that run the immigration system in this country to ‘walk a mile in my shoes’, I would gladly hand over my size 11’s.
In this business we have learned that you can never underestimate what it means for someone to pack their lives into a box, burn bridges in their homeland and head for New Zealand in the hope that they will be able to establish a new life here. For some it’s a choice but for many it’s the only option.
And for all their talk about ‘customers not numbers’, ‘positive settlement outcomes’ and ‘trusted partnerships’ I doubt that there are many people within the immigration machine that truly understand (as we do) what it means to migrate. There are some officers out there who do get it and these are the ones we try to work most closely with, but unfortunately for the majority, it’s a system of numbers and forms, KPI’s and targets with little in between.
I recently came to the end of what was one of the most complex cases I have ever handled, the kind of stuff that gives a Licensed Adviser insomnia and cold sweats. The kind of case that also makes you realise just how much is involved in a person’s decision to migrate.
This particular client had, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, ended up being deported from Australia back to a country he had fled over a decade earlier. He had for a large part of his life been living under the immigration radar without a Visa and without being able to truly settle anywhere. In the midst of all of this he had met a girl and that girl, although she happened to live in Australia (where they met), was New Zealand born. So not only was this particular client abruptly removed from a life that he had built over many years to one that was completely foreign; but he was also torn away from the love of his life.
They had been through the immigration process in two countries and failed. Their attempts to tell their story were never really heard and they felt like their options had been exhausted. I recall the first conversation I had with the New Zealand partner and it sounded like the wind had been knocked clean out of her. Put simply they were just another number in a statistic on someone’s spread sheet.
As an Adviser taking on a case like this you need all the facts. We need to know pretty much everything there is to know about the history and anything less just won’t cut it. I listened to this couple and the story they told made sense. In this particular case, as it is with anyone that has been anywhere unlawfully for that long and then deported, it was always going to be 50/50 and I had no reservations in telling them that we were in for a lengthy battle. My role in all of this was to simultaneously minimize the risk of failure whilst maximising the chances of success. There was a lot at stake here and this was a couple that were prepared to go to hell and back to make it work.
After 20 months, 520 emails and numerous lengthy discussions with Senior Immigration Officers that, to their credit, also listened; the outcome was successful. What this means for this couple is best left to the partner to say. Here is what she emailed me when she was given the good news:
“…he hasn't felt like he has belonged anywhere ever, he has never felt comfortable to call a place home and actually make solid decisions about how he wants to spend his future - he can now do that...”
Are we proud of this? Yes. Did we pull off a miracle? Well not quite. In reality we simply knew how to navigate this process, who in the system to talk to and how to talk to them. We listened to the client, understood the situation and then set about minimising failure and maximising success.
As Advisers we constantly advocate that the machine should deliver consistent and fair outcomes. Sometimes, as was the case in the scenario above, we have to fight a little harder to secure those outcomes particularly when you have a round peg and a square hole. However, there are occasions when even though the system shouldn’t be a lottery, it can feel like you are rolling dice.
Take last week for example. INZ decided it would be a good idea to change the security settings on their online Expression of Interest (EOI) login system. As a result the system didn’t work for a few days and for anyone using Google Chrome there was not much hope of filing an EOI (there is probably a good blog in that). A week later INZ conducts their regularly scheduled EOI selection process and for the first time in seven months, the pass mark fell (ever so slightly).
It wouldnt be silly to conclude that the drop in the pass mark was because fewer people were able to file EOI’s, meaning INZ had less 'customers' to choose from and therefore to get their regular number of plus/minus 600, they needed to select those with a slightly lower score. Or it could be just the computer system making up numbers because demand was lower. Either way the thinking isn't necessarily being done by a person.
For the number crunchers and budget balancers within INZ this would simply have been an ‘anomaly’, possibly a ‘glitch’ or perhaps just 'statistics'. For a few would-be migrants out there who have filed EOI’s in the hope that somewhere, somehow they might get selected, this would have been the very first step in that new life.
No matter how hard you try to understand this process it can sometimes (thankfully rarely) come down to whether the guy manning the IT desk, put a semi-colon in the right place or which way the number crunchers lean.
I know that Iain (the actual Southern Man) has four golden rules when it comes to this process and one of them rings true here – “Just when you think you have the system figured out, they change it”. We know this and it’s probably why we have the success rates we do. Prepare for all situations and never underestimate the system’s ability to get it wrong.
Above all, however, a good Adviser will go further than forms, paperwork and process to understand what’s involved with your situation, to navigate you through the system successfully and remove as much of the randomness and inconsistency as is possible. You should never just be a number.
For my client and his partner, I wish them all the very best. Having not only listened to their story but also being a part of it, I am privileged (and somewhat humbled) to know that New Zealand now feels like home for him, in the truest sense of the word.
For everyone else reading this blog who has thought about making the move but would like someone to walk the journey with them, drop us a line, or if you are in South Africa, Singapore or Malaysia (click on the links to register) we have our last seminars for 2013 in November and December coming up, so why not come and listen to what we have to say and perhaps share your story with us.
I don’t pretend to understand what goes through New Zealand politicians’ heads but “How do I get re-elected next time round” is probably right up there.
Only that thought can explain to me why we are not seeing Government increasing now, with a degree of urgency for next year and beyond, the numbers of well targeted skilled migrants allowed into New Zealand without job offers.
In the past three weeks media headlines have screamed:
- Business Confidence remains at 5 year high (31 October)
- Building consents at record levels (31 October)
- Booming NZ game industry facing skills shortage (30 October)
- Skills Shortage hamper rebuild (26 October)
- Are you ready for the economic boom? (21 October)
- Skills crisis needs fixing (8 October)
Recent statistics suggest that around 90% of all skilled migrants still require skilled employment before they can get enough ‘points’ to qualify for residence. Understandably, given the potentially real or perceived risks associated with getting those jobs, many choose not to join us in New Zealand for fear they will not be successful in their hunt (or as per last week’s Southern Man Letter from New Zealand they will be denied visas to come and look for work or be stopped at the border).
For every ten families we consult with that would have an excellent chance of both securing employment and gaining enough points for residence, probably two actually go through with it.
New Zealand and in particular Immigration New Zealand doesn't make it easy, so understandably many potential migrants don’t take up the challenge. Of course for those that secure the right advice and guidance, the process is overwhelmingly successful.
On the one hand with local unemployment sitting stubbornly around the 6.5% mark it must be tempting for Government not to be seen increasing the numbers of skilled migrants allowed in without needing jobs. As recently as two years ago they did when around 50% of skilled migrants gained Resident Visas that way.
On the other hand there are very real, concerning and increasing levels of skills shortages across many sectors. Not a day goes by when the headlines don’t scream we are short of architects, quantity surveyors, CAD experts, construction related trades workers, IT professionals and many many more. The Government risks losing the support of some of its traditional business power base at next year’s election if companies feel constrained by a lack of available labour to fill roles vital to their businesses.
Of course politicians the world over know that standing on a platform of increasing immigration wins no one any votes anywhere. This, despite the reality that skilled migrants do not compete with the locally unemployed in this country and skilled locals will always be ahead of migrants in the job queue. So the skills difference between these two sets of people mean their paths will seldom, if ever, cross and politically our Government should be confident enough to call it how it is.
Oh that they were so brave.
In the past two years the Government has issued 18,000 fewer skilled migrant visas than their own programme demands. So far they don’t seem bothered about it but when the good people of Christchurch continue to step over the rubble of their humbled city in a few years or Aucklanders face building costs going through the roof because of a lack of skilled workers it might have some political fallout.
If skills shortages start filtering through into wage/price inflation and all home owners watch their mortgage interest rates increase it won’t do anything for the Government’s popularity.
As the construction boom has moved to Auckland this powerful bloc of voters could easily be turned off the Government if they see their ability to maximise their commercial opportunities impeded by lack of skilled workers or it feeding through into cost of living increases that have largely been absent these past few years with inflation well under control and under 1%.
The New Zealand economy is on a roll – growth is forecast at between 3 and 4% over the next year. Every sector of the economy is expanding. Thousands of jobs are being created and hiring intentions are high and climbing. The country’s terms of trade are the strongest in years.
In recent months net migration has turned positive but not thanks to new residents being granted visas – instead largely by New Zealanders returning home from Australia as their economy cools following the end of the mining boom. This is adding several thousand skilled and semi-skilled workers to the local pool which is a good thing but Government cannot target the specific skills sets we require – we might just be getting back many low to semi skilled workers chucked out of manual work in and around the mines. Again the skills mix might not be what the businesses of New Zealand need.
So there needs to be a sensible balance struck. Right now the Government is on auto pilot when it comes to migration and it would be nice, if only once, a New Zealand Government was proactive and ahead of the game rather than reactive and two years behind.
A skilled migrant who has the points to qualify for residence without needing a job is at least 12 months away and probably closer to two years away from being able to deliver these skills to the labour market of New Zealand.
A sensible approach would be to slowly ramp up the numbers of migrants approved who don’t have jobs but who have excellent English (given linguistic compatibility more than anything drives employment outcomes) and who have the skills sorely needed in New Zealand – Engineering, construction and IT being at the forefront.
A real problem for the skills strapped employers of New Zealand in 2014 is an election year and I cannot see the Government changing its current insistence on the majority of migrants burning bridges at home, travelling to New Zealand, running the airport gauntlet, trying to find work and taking the risk they will be successful.
Perhaps it is time for the politicians to look beyond next year’s election and get bold about migration.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
We have just ended the second year of the Government's three year residence Programme.
They are woefully short of their targeted Visa issuance at the 2/3rd stage of 54,000 skilled migrants and this has serious implications on the labour market, available skills and honesty about its intentions.
According to its own public statements the Government plans (and planned) on issuing 85,000 Skilled migrant Resident Visas by the end of June 2014.
That's 27,000 plus or minus 10% every 12 months.
They issued 18,000 in the first year.
Here we are shortly after the end of year two. How many Resident Visas have been granted this year?
So whereas the Government stated it wanted to issue 54,000 Resident Visas (plus or minus 10%) they have granted just over 36,000.
Now you might think 'who cares?'
Well I do. All those thousands of people every year who file Expressions of Interest with a view to obtaining residence because they have 100 points or more are never told that the Government has absolutely no intention of selecting them, inviting them to apply for residence or granting them residence.
Each Expression of Interest costs NZ$510 (that's about US$460) and there is no warning by INZ that to be selected applicants really need to meet one of the following points profiles
- 100 points or more including an offer of skilled employment
- 140 points (which usually includes an offer of employment but doesn't always)
- 135 points with at least 15 bonus points for six years or more of work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage.
All those people with 100 points or more who do not meet one of the profiles above are, without doubt, wasting their money - the Government of New Zealand has no intention whatsoever of selecting them from the Pool.
I have no doubt that they will stick to the same level of approval in this the third year of the Residence programme. That will, by June next year, mean New Zealand has missed out on around 25,000 people the Government has included in its target.
A great many of those 25,000 did try, they did file Expressions of Interest - the Government simply never told them that in doing so, they were wasting their money.
Is that fraudulent? Taking money off someone who has no chance of getting what they are told they are paying for?
If it isn't fraud it is certainly less than honest.
I am convinced the Government moved from a 12 month target of skilled migrant visas they wished to issue to a thirty six month one in order to deflect accusations that they were cutting the numbers. There is no other explanation for it.
They can publicly deny cutting but when you have lost (at the end of three years) 25,000 people those are serious numbers indeed.
There is no doubt that as a Licensed Adviser if we take money off a client who has no chance of getting what they think they are paying for we can lose our licences. As we should.
So how does the Government get away with it?
Because they are the Government I guess. This makes our input so much more valuable as we are able to guide those who have enough points to file Expressions of interest but who will never be successful, not to bother or to find an alternative strategy.
I am about to board a plane to Malaysia to give a seminar tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur and then in Singapore next weekend.
One of my key messages will be to ensure that there is a strategy in place that should work to gain the Resident Visa clients seek with a high degree of probability.
Our philosophy has always been that morally we owe this to our potential clients given the enormous emotional, logistical and financial investment that is migration, and to ensure that people are not wasting their time, energy and investment.
Pity the New Zealand Government isn't as honest.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
One of the most confusing pieces of Immigration Policy is the difference between ‘Residence’ and ‘Permanent Residence’. We spend countless hours explaining this to clients simply because INZ have made it rather difficult to understand. So in this week’s blog we are going to explain it to you, unravel the mystery, tear down the myths and hopefully simplify what can be a pretty mind boggling set of rules.
Unlike many countries around the world, when you secure Residence of New Zealand it is exactly that – permanent. It doesn’t expire in five years, two years or two weeks and it doesn’t need to be renewed periodically. It also grants the holder essentially the same rights and privileges as a New Zealand citizen without having a passport of course. There are a few exceptions such as a 12 month stand down period before you can vote (after 12 months you can vote for whoever you want), a two year stand down on Student Loans and Social Welfare benefits and some restrictions on being able to represent New Zealand internationally for various sporting codes, however, these restrictions are few and far between.
Residents pay the same taxes, can buy the same houses and take advantage of the healthcare and education systems in the same way a citizen can. We are a pretty generous lot.
However, New Zealand does want you to commit in some way before they will make all of these things available to you permanently and this is where the difference between ‘Resident’ and ‘Permanent Resident’ Visas comes in.
So how does it all work?
The following rules apply to most application types however, there are some slight differences for Investor or Parent Category applicants. These come with some additional conditions which your adviser should explain to you.
When your application for Residence is approved the first thing you will be issued with is a Resident Visa. If this is granted offshore, all family members included in the original application must enter New Zealand within 12 months from the date that the visa is issued. This is called the ‘First Entry Before’ date and will be listed on the top right hand side of the Visa label. It is important to remember that all family members who were included in the original application must enter NZ at least once before this date or their Visa will lapse which means they will lose their Resident Visa entitlement. Having said that the family does not need to enter on the same date within that 12 months and can travel separately.
If your Resident Visa is issued when you are onshore then your Visa won’t have a ‘First Entry Before Date’ as you are already here.
The second condition contained within your Resident Visa (which is usually the one that confuses most people) is the “Expiry Date Travel”. This is usually valid for two years from the date of your first arrival. So when you and all of your family members included in the application make your first entry you will all be given further ‘Travel Conditions' (the ability to enter and exit NZ as a Resident) for two years from that date. As this date is not written down anywhere it’s important that you make a note of this somewhere.
If your Residence was approved whilst you were in New Zealand the two years starts on the day that your Resident Visa was issued as you have already ‘entered’ New Zealand.
The initial Resident Visa you have allows you to live and work in New Zealand indefinitely, so if you never left you could legally stay even if your two years’ worth of travel conditions came and went. However if you were to leave New Zealand after those two years and return your Residence would be deemed to have lapsed.
This is where the Permanent Resident Visa comes into it.
A Permanent Resident Visa has the same rights and privileges as your Resident Visa however, the travel conditions (your ability to exit and re-enter NZ as a Resident) never expire. This is the ‘permanent’ part of the Visa. You can only apply for this at the end of the two years of your initial Resident Visa however, once you have it then you are essentially free to come and go and spend as much or as little time in New Zealand without jeopardising your ‘permanent residence’.
To qualify for a Permanent Resident Visa the principal applicant in the original application must satisfy one of five criteria. Generally it is only the principal applicant that must satisfy the criteria, however in some cases the other family members will need to have spent time in New Zealand.
The five criteria are as follows:
- Significant period of time spent in New Zealand
- Tax Resident status in New Zealand
- Investment in New Zealand
- Establishing a business in New Zealand
- Establishing a ‘base’ in New Zealand
Explaining all five criteria would take a separate blog (for each) however the easiest one to meet and the one I will explain here is the first – significant period of time spent in New Zealand. In this case the principal applicant only must spend a period of 184 days in each of the two years from the date they first entered NZ. For example, if the whole family entered NZ on their initial Resident Visas (or were already here) on 01/01/14 then the principal applicant must spend:
- 184 days in NZ between 01/01/14 and 31/12/14 and
- Another 184 days between 01/01/15 and 31/12/15.
The 184 days does not need to be consecutive and can be broken up however, it must be 184 days in each year, e.g. you cannot combine the two 184 day periods into one year.
If you believe you may not qualify under this rule and would like to explore one of the other options you definitely need to speak to us. The other options can be complicated (not impossible) however we need to assess each situation carefully.
It is vital that you take steps to qualify for a Permanent Resident Visa within the original two year travel conditions; this will make your transition to Permanent Residence much smoother and less complicated.
Remember that a Resident Visa allows you the same access to education and health services as an NZ citizen and once you have spent 12 months in New Zealand you can vote in local and National Elections.
You can only apply for Citizenship once you have resided in New Zealand for 5 years, can demonstrate you have settled and integrated, speak fluent English and this country is your home. Citizenship is decided on an individual basis – so it is not like a residence application which is a family affair in which if one qualifies all qualify.
But that is a story for another day. We can assist you with your citizenship when the time comes but remind us in four and half year’s time.
Until next week – Paul Janssen (standing in for the Southern Man)
A couple of weeks ago we wrote two interesting pieces on INZ’s proposed attempts to drag their IT systems into the 21st century, namely their website and online visa processing systems.
INZ have for several months now been touting a rather substantial investment in their IT infrastructure as potentially revolutionising the way that people integrate with the Immigration Department; making for faster decisions through largely automated processes.
Computers deciding the fate of would be migrants.
Naturally we were sceptical and although we support the use of modern technology to make things easier for people (we invest a lot in to that around here) there are simply some things that computers can’t do or at least can’t do very well.
A number of weeks ago INZ released their ‘Live Eligibility Calculator’, an online system designed to tell you whether or not you qualify to migrate and if so which visa options might be suitable in your situation. A powerful tool indeed!
That is if it worked.
To give INZ’s ‘whizz bang’ calculator a good test run my colleagues and I engineered an ideal scenario for the system to see how well it could determine the visa options available and with any luck point me in the direction of the visa type I should apply for. Sort of like a Jeremy Clarkson road test for a migrant.
The scenario we concocted was the following:
• A 34 year old South African client living in South Africa
• Married with two young children
• Qualified with a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology
• Ten years of work experience as an IT Systems Administrator
• Wife holds a Bachelor Degree in Commerce
• A close family member (brother) in New Zealand
• All family members healthy and no criminal convictions
This would represent a very good candidate for a Skilled Migrant Category Visa and one that by all accounts would be able to secure Residence in New Zealand whilst sitting in South Africa. This scenario, we thought, wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for INZ’s system to handle.
So off we went, like the Stig from Top Gear (although without the race helmet) on this internet ‘road test’ and our first step was to select one of four options that most closely matched our scenario. We selected the ‘Live in New Zealand Permanently’ option from the main menu and then started answering questions.
Our first step was to tell the system our age, nationality, location and intention to work in New Zealand. Pretty standard stuff. So far so good.
We were then asked if we were bringing our spouse or dependent children to which we responded in the affirmative. Twenty percent of the way through by my calculations and heading in the right direction.
The next questions required us to confirm if we had a job offer in New Zealand which we didn’t (at least not yet anyway). We selected ‘No’ from the options.
Now this is where it all became very disappointing.
Expecting to be quizzed on qualifications, work experience and so on, we waited for the little spinning circle to load the next page, imagining someone hauling out and dusting off the CV and Certificates if they were a real life punter. What popped up in the next 10 seconds wasn’t at all what we were looking for.
Based on the seven questions we were asked by the system we were given the following response:
“Unfortunately, based on the information you have entered, no results have been returned. However you may be eligible for one of the following”
The system then went on to give me Skilled Migrant, Visitor Visa and Student Visas as three ‘possible’ options. I didn’t need a computer to tell me that, I could have just read a brochure.
Now for us sitting here in the office, having worked with the immigration rule book for so long we can tell you that this ‘assessment’ is about as far off the mark as Jeremy Clarkson calling a Toyota Prius a sports car. The scenario we had devised should have had the system probing into our education and work experience and leading us to a pretty solid conclusion.
What was of even deeper concern is that the average potential migrant has no idea of the rules and requirements that get them to the point of being eligible and thus someone in the scenario we came up with who, by rights should be skipping their way down the immigration aisle, has just been told that there are no results that match their details..?
To give the system the benefit of the doubt we tried varying the scenario and in almost all cases the advice we were given was wrong or simply not there. Ironic when you consider that as licensed advisers who routinely give out advice on people’s potential options to migrate we would be hauled over the coals for presenting information like this.
The point of the eligibility calculator was, as INZ described it, a means to encourage and attract good potential candidates to apply and give them direction as to how to go about it. On that point (and all other points) it has failed at the first hurdle.
Surely some more user testing would have been a good idea, or perhaps INZ has employed the same project management team as the Ministry of Education when they implemented Novopay.
This isn’t, however, surprising and for those of you who read our previous posts on the topic you will know why.
Determining whether someone qualifies for residence requires skill in fact some would say it’s an art form; one learned through years of experience and some good old fashioned intuition. There are numerous variables that need to be considered and assessed and not all of these can be done through a website, no matter how sophisticated (or in this case simple) it might be.
It remains to be seen whether these bugs will be fixed or whether the next stages of INZ’s online system will fare any better, however, what we would say to all potential migrants keen on pursuing a new life in New Zealand, don’t put too much stock (if any) in so called online assessments. If you are serious about this and want to make sure that your situation has been fully accounted for and all the right questions asked, then contact us.
We might do it the old fashioned way, but it’s a way that works.
Until next week
Paul Janssen – standing in for Iain MacLeod
I was reflecting on my colleague Paul’s recent blog on the proposed computerisation of decision making at the Immigration Department and it sent a chill down my spine.
In 1985 I watched an excellent film called Brazil. Set in the future, bureaucracy was rampant, all powerful and unaccountable. Poorly maintained machines were the order of the day. Looking for a terrorist named ‘Tuttle’ the state incarcerated and killed under interrogation a man named ‘Buttle’ thanks to a fly landing on a typing key and getting squashed against the paper order to arrest. Once the squashed fly is flicked away the ‘T’ in Tuttle looked like ‘B’ and thus poor Buttle ended his days the victim of mistaken identity. The State, however, did not wish to own up to its mistake and the film centres on the farcical actions of the bureaucrats unwilling to admit this rather unfortunate error and determined to make the crime fit the error.
I have always known that public servants on the whole make poor decision makers and lousy business people. Love capitalism or hate it there is truth in the observation that the profit motive and competition spurs on service delivery and innovation. Monopolies do not. And the Immigration Department is a monopoly that has strayed far beyond what it was set up to do – process visas.
Over the years I have observed most of the good people leave the Immigration Department and to be fair a few good ones remain. They usually end up in management positions. Those that remain below them at the counter level who make life changing decisions on migrants’ futures are often people you wouldn’t employ in your own business.
Departmental management know that they have a lot of deadwood below them with whom they have to work and who have to make decisions.
It must be tempting then for those in positions of management to try and produce ‘better outcomes’ by removing the inconsistency of these humans and hand the decision making to a computer.
As bad as many officers are in understanding and implementing their own rules handing this over to a computer is just plain frightening.
I was thinking that we spend at least an hour working through a family’s eligibility when we meet them for the first time. If we are considering using our sister office in Melbourne to get them Australian Visas (the backdoor process to New Zealand) we usually need about two hours of detailed assessment, evaluation, explanation and discussion.
Then there is the follow up questions over the ensuing weeks as clients get their heads around the time frames, the costs, the strategy, the logistical, emotional and financial implications of the process along with the potential risks and the rewards. We help them arrive at a balanced decision by using the human brain which is possibly the most sophisticated piece of computing ‘hardware’ in the Universe. A big call I know, but I strongly suspect it to be true.
I calculate each client gets about 3 hours of advice before they make a decision and we accept them as a client.
How can a computer manage this as thoroughly, empathetically and technically given the nuances that exist in every family’s situation? After 24 years in the game I can with hand on heart tell anyone that cares to listen that no two cases are ever the same.
There is so much that is subtle in policy and we must be very precise in interpreting and translating that in to an application to study here, work, visit or get permanent residence. It is hard and it is complicated. If it wasn't market forces would see me working as a bricklayer or author and not as an Immigration Adviser.
I could give you pages of examples but here are a few recent ‘real life ones’.
Client A has a 4 year old who doesn’t speak yet. He is in NZ and within the next few months will start public (tax payer funded) school. We were told he has ‘mild developmental issues’. Immigration policy can direct such an applicant to be denied a visa if that child is likely to be a cost on NZ’s education services. How would you design a question in an online ‘self-assessment tool’ to identify whether this child will be approved or declined when ‘mild is fine’, ‘medium might not be’ and ‘serious’ is a real issue? Through asking many questions and requesting significant additional information from the client we established that he will not require state intervention or serious teacher aid assistance (despite I should add INZ’s own Doctor advising us he would and therefore should be declined…). He has just had his residence approved along with is family.
Client B is from the Philippines. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from a University recognised for points under Skilled Migrant Policy. However, he needs the bonus points for work and qualifications provided by having a qualification ‘comparable to a Bachelor of Engineering’. How do you design a failsafe question to determine who gets the bonus points when INZ itself has just told us this week for Engineers it is ‘each case on its merits’?
Client C is from Iran. Iranian males (and many other nationalities that are supposedly a closely guarded state secret) require additional forms to be completed as INZ needs to assess risk profiles in particular in respect of potential terrorism / military service / war crimes, etc. How, when the public is not allowed to know who requires these additional checks, is the computer going to ‘know’ what to tell these people in terms of their eligibility?
Client D tells us (or the computer) he works as an Electronic Engineer and ‘claims’ this in the online eligibility assessment. However INZ may, in fact, define that period of work as an Engineering Technician irrespective of what the title is (titles mean little in the immigration world, it is job description which counts) and that changes everything in terms of residence eligibility. How does the computer tease out of the applicant exactly what they do all day, analyse it and pigeon hole that person as a Technician or an Engineer?
Anyone who thinks a computer can make a better decision than a well-trained and intelligent human is either deluded or an Immigration Department IT Manager. Or possibly both.
As good as we are thanks to the vagaries of the process we cannot always predict with great certainty how things will unfold even after we have made the call on eligibility. To think for a millisecond that a computer can even badly assess a person’s eligibility for a visa and to then approve or decline based on boxes ticked starts filling me with a certain dread, especially for those vulnerable migrants who might be silly enough to believe a computer can do it.
That fear is not that we as Advisers will become obsolete. Far from it - in that regard I agree with Paul - we will become more valuable and more vital to a successful application and only a fool would think otherwise. I do fear that we are living in an age where rather than find solutions for people by people we have a public service, hitherto unable to even advise us on simple interpretations of their own rules, about to hand it all over to a computer!
These people expect us to seriously believe that it is smart and rational to replace face to face discussions with potential clients with a questionnaire and an algorithm?
I call that the ultimate cop out and admission they simply cannot do the job.
I am certain a computer will not be able to do it any better but will likely do it far worse so a bad situation may be about to become a terrible one.
The future has arrived people and it is a dark one indeed if we are going to let computers do all our thinking for the state functionaries currently paid to do it. While it might be a seductive thought to believe that cables and silicon can replace the human neuron we aren’t at that point just yet.
If I was punting my future on a computer spitting out an answer on my eligibility to settle, work, study or visit this country I would be afraid. Very afraid.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
As the world reflects on a life well lived with the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher I have this week paused to give thought to her legacy. Saviour or demon? Reformer or wrecker? She was undeniably uncompromising and tough. She knew what she wanted. She was confident she was right on what needed to be done. She changed the landscape at home and abroad. Some say she saved the nation and others accuse her of economic sabotage. She set out to transform an inefficient public sector and union dominated economy into something that might ultimately provide a better future for her people. Yes, there were winners and losers but, let’s face it, someone had to do it. I am a bit of fan. Especially when comes to reform of ‘public services’.
We had our own (Sir) Roger Douglas who in the mid 1980s undertook economic reforms here at such a pace it made Margaret Thatcher look a bit like an economic Joseph Stalin. Douglas too was admired and reviled in equal numbers. The reality was New Zealand by 1984 was out of cash and on a one way trip to third world status. He effectively dismantled statutory rights of Unions to represent all workers, he worked on decentralising Government and sold off state run businesses – funny today to think that anyone might agree Governments can or should run telephone companies!
One thing both Thatcher and our own Roger Douglas had in common and upon which experience forces me to agree was that the ‘public service’ is generally inefficient. When a public servant is in a service role but has no financial skin in the game, it is hard to get the best outcomes for the tax paying public.
I am in the camp that says in New Zealand Government still pokes its nose into the affairs of many that it has no business being in.
Nothing illustrates that better than a visa case I am arguing right now.
In brief, the applicant has found a job in New Zealand as a Metal Machinist. He filed his own work visa. The Immigration Department indicated a few days ago they intend declining this work visa because they say the employer hasn’t made a genuine effort to fill the vacancy; there is labour market evidence which suggests that New Zealanders should be available to fill or be trained to fill the position and the salary (at $18 per hour) was too low and does not reflect ‘market rates’.
Earth to the Immigration Department - it is no great secret that local employers prefer to employ locals. Just ask any migrant who has looked for a job here. New Zealanders do not need the protection of the Immigration Department. Employers do not enjoy dealing with faceless state functionaries who have little real world experience in how the labour market functions. What employer in his right mind would play the bureaucratic, illogical and frustrating work visa game if he/she could find qualified, experienced locals who want to work?
No one outside of a mental institution.
In 24 years and thousands of work visa applications later I can with hand on heart say that I have never met one employer who employs non-residents unless they are forced to. Not one.
Migrants will usually confirm that they are always second in the queue.
Recently, one must assume as a way to lower our own unemployment rate, the Ministry of Social Development (who run WINZ – their arm where the unemployed are registered and who are tasked with finding jobs for these people) and the Immigration Department came to an agreement whereby when a work visa application is received this merry bunch of bureaucrats do the following:
1. Immigration Department alerts Ministry of Social Development (MSD) in Wellington of the position and the location of the business offering the job; then
2. WINZ Wellington gets onto the branch of WINZ closest to the employer, sends them a message to the effect of ‘there are some jobs going with employer X – get on the phone – try and help lower our national unemployment rate’; then
3. WINZ Branch ‘Work Broker’ (don’t make me laugh) makes contact with employer and comes over all eager with helpful offers to try and help them fill this vacancy; then
4. Employer usually says ‘Fantastic, I look forward to interviewing solid qualified candidates’; then
5. WINZ sends no one.
6. WINZ however tells the Immigration Department that there should be locals available with the skills or available to be trained; then
7. Immigration Department says to the employer ‘you didn’t try hard enough, WINZ says there are locals available so you cannot have the migrant’;
8. Employer scratches head and starts to weep……
The first five points cover the process. The final three the outcome.
In the past three weeks I have come across three examples of this.
Back to my client – the employer spent a month advertising late last year on Trademe.co.nz which is by far New Zealand’s busiest online job website.
Anyone unemployed or anyone interested in this position would, I assume, do what all my clients, friends and family do – they monitor it. When they are alerted to vacancies that match their skills set and profile they apply.
In this case the employer genuinely found no suitable applicants.
Some time later however having all but given up on filling the role my client was referred to him through word of mouth. The employer interviewed him by telephone. Checked his references. Checked his qualifications. Offered the job thinking that given he had tried locally and just couldn’t find someone the work visa shouldn’t be a big deal.
After my client filed his work visa the employer got a call from his friendly local WINZ Work Broker. That person asked about the position, the pay, the conditions etc and then said that WINZ would check their records and get back to the employer with some candidates. Naturally they haven’t called back nor sent a single person for interview. After almost three weeks.
Not to be overlooked in this bureaucratic morass of stupidity is the fact that the Rotorua Branch of WINZ was already regularly in contact with this employer and had been for about two years to check on vacancies and to see how they might be able to assist. Two years!
However, no one in the Branch when prodded by their Head Office in Wellington appears to have checked whatever records they keep to see if in fact they already had a relationship with this employer as part of their usual processes.
Nice one. Really efficient.
Immigration Officers continue to make life hard for employers based on garbage advice from Ministry of Social Development. WINZ couldn’t fill a vacancy if they fell into it.
Margaret Thatcher had a point and so too did Sir Roger Douglas. Public servants rarely, if ever, are as efficient and productive as their private sector counterparts. While there are undoubtedly some good ones and a minority work hard I just doubt their ability to work smart.
Unfortunately we as taxpayers and in my line of work, migrants and employers struggling to fill increasing skills shortages, pay a heavy price.
R.I.P. Maggie – you changed the world for the better. But the job isn't done here.
Until next week
Those that know me understand my views on the State and how the absence of competition and the disciplines demanded by a profit motive means that try as they might, bureaucrats will never do the job as well as the private sector.
Take last week’s blog on Engineers and our question of trying to get a straight answer out of the Immigration Department on just when an Engineer is an Engineer for the purpose of bonus points. We are still waiting on clarification on just when an Engineering qualification from a recognised university will be deemed ‘comparable’ to a New Zealand one. Clearly individual officers still do not know. We have made our own call (and will provide a money back guarantee it is right) but it makes the process of achieving certainty for our clients more time consuming and expensive – but deliver certainty we must.
The Immigration Department does not appear to feel the same sense of urgency. Heck, it has taken close to 18 months to get where we are on this question…..
Two other examples this past week to demonstrate the point of where the State and its functionaries just plain get in the way.
We are doing what is called an “Approval in Principle” for a local employer who needs to recruit over the next year around 15 Scaffolders. He has tried to find them all over New Zealand for many months, found a couple, but needs many more.
Not the most glamorous or even highly skilled profession but what there is, is a clear, demonstrable shortage of these skills across the country. This has been brought on by the Christchurch demolition and rebuild. Scaffolders are in hot demand for obvious reasons. As we have observed over recent months this is putting strain on such skills sets across the whole country as companies try and cover the Christchurch market and the rest of the country with a static or slowly growing work force given it takes time to train up new and inexperienced staff. Approval in Principle allows us to go to the Immigration Department and argue the case for the employer to recruit candidates from offshore. As soon as a company seeks more than 4 non-residents only the Associate Minister of Immigration can approve the application.
We filed the application for the company about ten days ago. We were fairly quickly contacted by an immigration official asking (demanding actually) far more evidence than the rule book would suggest is necessary. Most we could quickly and easily supply.
What irked however, was that as part of the process (absent in the rule book) was a requirement that the employer agreed to meet with a Regional Manager from Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ). This is the state organ where the unemployed are registered and which is tasked with getting the unemployed into jobs.
We pointed out that as per the evidence presented this company already had many months of working with WINZ to try and find appropriately experienced scaffolders. They had referred none. The company had managed to employ two inexperienced unemployed people given they had the right attitude, aptitude and enthusiasm to learn this work. They are currently being trained to national standards.
What purpose would such a meeting (which could only take place ten days after it was demanded by the Government) serve? Would WINZ be able to pull, rabbit like, from their hat, 15 scaffolders with three years experience immediately when over the past six plus months they could not find one?
Or were the bureaucrats simply playing a game? Best understood by themselves. Responding to some new unpublished rule that WINZ needs to send along someone senior to try and assist the employer? To be seen to be doing something to help get the unemployed off their backsides and into work?
Where was this Manager six months ago?
It is quite obvious to us that local employers always employ locals first. Just ask any migrant who comes here to find work. It does not serve the interests of the employer to recruit offshore – it is expensive, time consuming, uncertain and altogether a real hassle except when they have little other choice.
Why did the immigration officer not accept at face value the evidence provided by this employer?
I am sure we will get the Approval In Principle we seek.
The second example this past week relates to the Immigration Department’s own ‘marketing’ service of migrants to employers as they would like to believe they can assist in filling vacancies. I have a special interest in this given we, too, are trying to achieve something similar – so far without much success. Local employers continue to be reluctant to engage the process – most prefer to rely on the local labour market, then the national labour market, then would be migrants who are in New Zealand looking for work and then panic. By then finding migrants overseas can be too late.
So I asked the Marketing Manager of the Immigration Department to tell me just how many migrants in the past six months had been placed in employment through this service. After waiting two months for an answer I finally got the answer last week – they don’t know.
I asked if they don’t have any way of measuring the results of their not inexpensive online services and programmes. I haven’t received an answer but the answer is clearly no.
So it all begs the question - does the State have any meaningful role of trying to place the unemployed or migrants in jobs? Should the State be pouring financial and personnel resources into processes which they appear to fail spectacularly at?
I say no.
If the unemployed were given say, 12 months of unemployment benefit entitlement for every ten years worked I doubt we would need legions of state functionaries to ‘help’ them get jobs. They would sure as eggs find them or get new skills or possibly even get entrepreneurial.
If the Immigration Department could quantify and demonstrate that they are effectively using taxpayer dollars and filling vacancies for employers then I’d say well done. But they clearly aren’t and the oversight is lacking to force them to focus on processing and deciding on Visa applications.
No one seems to care.
And in these days of every tax dollar spent being scrutinised one wonders how these Government Departments continue to get away with it.
Until next week
What a week.
And stick with me. Yes this week’s Letter from New Zealand is longer than usual but it is a goodie. I think you’ll find it one of the most interesting ever.
I had a brush this past week with state spin doctoring in respect of an article that was being written by the Christchurch Press for which I was being interviewed. It was an interesting lesson in the power of state officials and politicians to talk crap with a straight face. Although not surprised by the verbal gymnastics of the Minister and his Spin Meisters it has been more than a little Orwellian. I do hope the good readers of the Christchurch Press can spot Government spouted B**S when they read it.
The article was premised on my view that the unwillingness of most NZ employers to head offshore to recruit prospective staff but expect them to come to NZ first is going to severely slow down the rebuild of Christchurch. Sectors like construction, trades and engineering are going to see real and crippling skills shortages in the coming years if employers don’t work with people like us who are in constant touch with a database of over 20,000 highly skilled, motivated and fluent English speakers – who on the whole need skilled jobs here to gain Resident Visas.
I mentioned, by way of background to the journalist researching the article, that employers looking offshore are going to be increasingly important because of Government cuts to skilled migrant numbers over the past two years.
I said this with great confidence knowing the statistics and truth were very firmly on my side.
Like a good journo he went to the Department’s own website to check on my claims about cuts and then to get comment from the Ministry’s spin doctor and the (new) Minister himself.
The spin doctor denied my explanation of this incontrovertible truth (I assume without giggling) and the Minister also chimed in with a well-rehearsed line he and his predecessors have been trotting out every time I have raised this issue over the past two years. ‘Not true’ he cried.
‘Funny that’ I told the journalist – I have it in writing from the Head of the Immigration Department.
Even without that it is easy enough to demonstrate.
The Government sets out its three year rolling totals in its Operational Policy Manual and to quote the current Residence Programme in respect of skilled migrants:
‘The allocation of places within the NZRP for the Skilled/Business stream is approximately 80,700 to 89,925 places across the three year period’
The current three year period started on 1 July 2011 and finishes on 30 June 2014.
Business Migrants also form part of that quota, but they can be measured in the hundreds each year so are statistically not significant.
For the sake of simplicity call the ‘average’ target in a year to be 27,000 Resident Visas to be granted (being 1/3 of 81,000). So how many skilled migrant Resident Visas have actually been issued over the first 18 months of the three years?
The answer is around 28,000.
Why so low when the target was 40,500 at this mid point?
Simple. INZ cut the numbers.
How can I be so sure?
The Department’s stats (checked and quoted by the journalist) show that in 2010 INZ was selecting 750 Expressions of Interest (EOI) from the Skilled Migrant Pool each fortnight as they had been for nine years before that in an attempt to hit that midpoint target of around 27,000 skilled migrant Resident Visa approvals a year. Even selecting 750 a fortnight to further process toward residency they seldom, if ever, reached their annual target.
Two years ago they started routinely selecting only 550 EOIs a fortnight.
Last year they selected on average about 580 EOIs a fortnight.
If you needed to select from your ‘Pool’ 750 Expressions of Interest a fortnight to try and get close to reaching your annual quota of 27,000 people but you never actually achieved quota how can you expect to meet your annual quota if you select 1/3 fewer people?
You with me? It isn’t rocket science.
So what did INZ say in response to this glaring if inconvenient truth?
The Minister said ‘There's no directive to cut the numbers of skilled migrants, but we're not going to lower the threshold for applicants just to try and hit or maintain a number.”
Oh really Minister? Who ordered INZ to cut the numbers being selected from the Pool from 750 a fortnight to 550 and then back up slightly to 580?
And what did the INZ spin doctor say to explain this mysterious fall off in skilled migrant numbers (of which there had apprently been no cut)?
The Christchurch Press reported that an Immigration NZ spokeswoman said the number of skilled migrants was not being kept low by design.
''The numbers are influenced by current skill shortages.
''In times of lower unemployment, more offers of employment are made resulting in more approvals under [the skilled migrant process], and vice versa.''
Oh if only it were true.
Demand to be one of the lucky 27,000 a year to get these (supposedly available) Resident Visas is as great as it has ever been. The evidence for this is equally clear – after each Pool draw there are now more EOIs left in the Pool, hoping for subsequent selection, than at any time in the past. This means that as many people want to be selected as historically have, but fewer are being selected leading to greater numbers sitting in the Pool after each Pool draw.
INZ’s mouthpiece claims these are ‘lower quality applicants.’ Well, they were certainly of high enough quality and good enough up until 2011 to be selected and in most cases approved for residence so how come they are now labelled as ‘lower quality’ and shouldn’t be selected?
Anything to do with potential political concern that with unemployment around 7% the Government does not wish for there to be any perception we are letting in migrants when our own unemployment rate is uncomfortably high? Despite of course every study ever carried out on Planet Earth that proves skilled migrants do not compete with, let alone take jobs from, the unemployed?
So I can assure you this fall of over 10,000 migrants year is nothing to do with the local labour market conditions - it is everything to do with fewer being selected from the pool. And that was a conscious decision by the powers that be.
It goes without saying if you continued to select 750 a fortnight these latter day ‘lower quality’ applicants would suddenly become, in the Spinner’s manual, ‘quality skilled migrants who have demonstrated a high potential to settle and contribute to the NZ economy’. That’s how the spin doctors used to publicly justify letting in people who did not have job offers……before the cuts that is.
Put any spin on it you like but a cut is a cut.
Funny how even with the knife in their hands the spin doctors and Minister want to deny they have used it.
I am not sure how dumb these people think we all are.
So all in all an interesting week and a tale which one might be tempted to pass off as simply a case of lies, damned lies and statistics.
Pity then the employers and people of Christchurch who need skills to rebuild their homes, schools, workplaces and city. It’s going to take a whole lot longer than any of them realise, in my humble opinion, to rebuild it all unless and until the Government gets serious about ensuring it delivers to this economy 27,000 highly skilled, English speaking and motivated migrants a year.
That coupled with employers getting off their chuffs and starting to look offshore for skilled employees before they have exhausted their efforts to find those skills locally and starting to panic over not having enough staff.
What would be really smart is a combination of the two – Government lets in more carefully screened migrants with the skills we will need in the years to come by returning to their pre-2011 selection numbers of 750 a fortnight and employers in Christchurch (and the rest of the country) understanding they may well need to look offshore through companies like Immagine and iPlacements – our migrant to business placement service.
Until next week
I wouldn't usually reproduce someone else's blog piece but this week I am going to (and I hope the author doesn't mind). I do so in response to some pretty vicious and defamatory comments posted last week on the Letters from New Zealand blog site. Most posts I took down - anything defamatory will always be removed especially when the person is too cowardly to put their real name and email address to it.
I am however all for adult and respectful discourse so I left most of them up even though they will fail statstical or half intelligent scrutiny. The ones that ran down New Zealand as 'third world', 'a shithole', terrorised by urban gangs, suffering a youth drinking culture (that part at least is true), terrible child abuse statistics, high cost of living, low wages etc I left up. After all I have nothing to fear from such opinions - I am the guy who leads a team of Consultants who stand up at seminars around the world and warn people to be careful in their expectations of this country or any other. To do their homework, establish their employability, visit if they can and make a balanced decision in the full knowledge nowhere is perfect and the migration process comes with no guarantees. I hear myself at every seminar say up front and openly 'I don't live in paradise, I live in New Zealand'.
There will always be contrarian views - some migrants do view New Zealand as heaven and others hell. Most fall somewhere in between.
In the interest then of other perspectives read this from a US based blogger comparing his country with New Zealand and he draws on real, verifiable statistics.
Written by Nonny Mouse from American blog 'Crooks & Liars'.
We Americans like to think, and in fact have been indoctrinated for decades to believe, that we are the greatest country in the world, the best at just about everything. Sadly, that hasn’t been true for quite some time. Words patriots once gave their lives for, like ‘freedom’... and ‘patriots’... have become almost meaningless.
So if you’re curious about who’s taken our crown, you might be surprised. The latest international index of 123 countries released by the Fraser Institute, Canada's leading public policy think-tank, and Germany's Liberales Institut, ranked New Zealand number one for offering the highest level of freedom worldwide, followed by the Netherlands then Hong Kong. Australia, Canada and Ireland tied for fourth spot. The survey measured the degree to which people are free to enjoy classic civil liberties - freedom of speech, religion, individual economic choice, and association and assembly - in each country surveyed, as well as indicators of crime and violence, freedom of movement, legal discrimination against homosexuals, and women's freedoms. Pretty extensive stuff.
The United States tied Denmark for seventh. We didn’t even get bronze.
As for the idea that the United States is the envy of the world when it comes to free markets and business? Wrong again. The U.S. continues to lose ground against other nations in Forbes’ annual look at the Best Countries for Business. The U.S. placed second in 2009, but in 2012 it ranks 12th, trailing fellow G-8 countries Canada (5th), the United Kingdom (10th) and Australia (11th) The world’s biggest economy at $15.1 trillion scores abysmally when it comes to trade freedom and monetary freedom.
So, who did top the list for the Best Countries for Business?
New Zealand. New Zealand can boast a transparent and stable business climate that encourages entrepreneurship. New Zealand is the smallest economy in the top 10 at $162 billion, but it ranks first in personal freedom and investor protection, as well as a lack of red tape and corruption.
Okay, so at least MIT is still the best university in the entire world, we’re still first at something...Well, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, there are two thousand six hundred eighteen accredited four-year colleges and universities in the United States, most of which operate privately or as part of state governments. Only fifty-four of these are in the top 200, very slightly over 2% . So who does top the educational rankings?
That would be New Zealand again, first in the world on the basis of performance in three areas: access to education, quality of education and human capital.
The annual QS World University survey ranks institutions based on scores for academic reputation, employer reputation and how many international students it has, among other things. Up to 20,000 universities from around the world were surveyed to find the top 700 academic institutions from 72 countries, the best universities in the world.
New Zealand has eight universities nationwide, with slightly less than around a half million students. According to the QS World University Rankings, two of New Zealand’s universities – Auckland and Otago – rank in the top 200 of the 700 best universities in the world, and Auckland in the top 100 (83rd and 133rd respectively). That's 25% compared to the United State's 2.06%. All eight universities rank in the top 500, with Auckland University of Technology appearing on the list for the first time this year. That’s a 100% rating.
Even when New Zealand isn’t top of the list, they’re outranking and out-performing the United States on just about any index you want to consider. How about the environment? According to the Yale University and Columbia University 2012 Environmental Performance Index at the World Economic Forum, ranking 132 countries, New Zealand placed 14th in the top 30. The United States trailed at 49th.
We rank top of the list for the most expensive health care system in the world, but dead last overall compared to six other industrialized countries - Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom – when it comes to quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives.
There are a few other things the United States tops the charts at: We’re fifth out of the top 25 countries in the world in terms of crime rate. New Zealand is 24th.
Auckland is ranked the third best city out of the top five for quality of living, after Vienna and Zurich, nothing in the United States making the list at all. Even when it’s just the Americas being ranked for quality of living overall (taking New Zealand out of the equation altogether), the top four cities are all in Canada, with Honolulu coming 28th.
Don’t even get me started on the All Blacks.
One of the smallest countries in the world is kicking our ass when it comes to actually living up to the standards we Americans pretend we still have. Isn’t it about time we stopped kidding ourselves, stopped living on past glories that mostly never were, and started actually trying to be at least as good as one of the smallest nations on earth?
So I am not the only one that thinks New Zealand is doing okay.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man