Letters from Southern Man

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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.

The Truth, The Whole Truth & Nothing But The Truth

Posted by Iain on Aug. 8, 2015, 8:22 a.m. in Visitor Visa

I am sure that you were always told by your parents to tell the truth. As the old line goes, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear by being honest and truthful. Right?

What happens however when one rule contradicts a second that you must comply with later in order to win the game – and you have to comply with both to get what you need?

Should you lie to achieve the aim of the second if the first stops you achieving the outcome the second rule requires?

What am I talking about?

Most skilled migrants need jobs to achieve the stated aims of the Government residence programme. To get jobs, employers demand that a candidate be in New Zealand. That means getting permission to enter New Zealand either before you travel or at the border.

Only trouble with that is Visitor Visa rules are not compatible with Residence Visa rules.

Many people are being stopped at the airport on arrival and if they say they are on holiday but also intend looking for work (because they are interested in the skilled migrant residence programme and with the job have enough points, they now risk being turned around, given a visa that does not allow them to change their status or they get a normal visa.

My team and I have been wrestling for some weeks now over what to advise those clients who need job offers to secure their skilled migrant visa points who can travel to New Zealand without a visa, but to enter the country must get a visa at the border. Although this is not exclusively a South African issue we are in particular concerned about South Africans...

This condundrum has arisen because about 10% of our South African clients are now being stopped at Auckland airport on arrival and questioned on the purpose of their visit.

If they tell the truth – that they are in the country both on holiday and to check the place out as a possible settlement destination (all of our clients - if they can secure skilled employment - meet the points threshold for a resident visa) then recent history tells us telling the truth can get some into trouble.

It all depends which officer stops them and questions them at the airport - not the rule, but how the rule is applied and by whom.

Most are given ‘normal’ visas which allow them to change their status to a work visa once the job is secured. Others are given limited visas which allow them entry but if they get the job they then have to leave the country and return home to apply for their work visa offshore. I am even hearing of people (not our clients; thank goodness) being turned around at the airport and denied entry.

The only thing they all have in common are their South African passports. Thereafter, it is random – no pattern to who is stopped, who gets a normal visa and who gets the limited visa. The outcomes are consistently inconsistent. The outcome is determined by an immigration officer and how they feel.

Therein lies the dilemma.

If 90% of South Africans entering New Zealand are granted ‘normal’ visas that allow a change of status, why are we seriously considering advising all to apply for Visitor Visas before they travel? If 90% don’t have a problem and 10% do, isn’t this creating an additional cost and bureaucratic burden for all when only 10% have a problem?

I guess it depends on whether you turn out to be one of the 10%.

For the record it is perfectly legal to enter New Zealand as a ‘tourist’ and if you decide you wish to stay longer or even permanently or had even entered wanting to stay subject to finding a skilled job and you find a skilled employment, you are allowed to change your status. Given the significant majority of work visas are issued within New Zealand this clearly happens a lot.

I have met with everyone from Immigration New Zealand’s head of global border security in recent weeks to try and come to some agreement on resolving this issue and eliminate the risk for those 10% highly skilled ‘wannabe’ migrants who are hassled at the airport or to get some agreement that all of our clients coming over will be granted ‘normal’ visitor visas subject to demonstrating that they are not a risk to the country.

You might think that is easy when you can demonstrate that the number of our South African clients who have overstayed their visas is as far as we know – zero.

So if our clients tell the truth at the border about their intentions, some officials at the airport hold it against them. Some don’t. These officials are the same ones employed by the Government that is encouraging skilled migration and demanding that the majority secure work.

In trying to meet the Governments permanent residence rules, the client can be damned if they tell the truth and damned if they don’t at the border.

After three weeks of discussions the outcome I always expected happened a few days ago.

The Government suggested all of our clients should apply for these Visitor Visas offshore before they travel BUT they would not guarantee the client that on arrival at the border in New Zealand they would be granted a visa that would allow them to apply for a work visa onshore. That of course completely defeats the purpose of applying for the visitor visa offshore in the first place because once such applicants find jobs (and in the case of our clients about 98% do) they have to leave the country, apply for a work visa and return a few weeks later.

In the end this refusal to come up with a solution that is geared toward my low risk clients and to manage them as a subset of some greater perceived risk is incredibly disappointing but hardly surprising. If there is one thing Immigration New Zealand is not very good at it is holding the system to account and demanding consistency of outcomes whereby similar applicants with very similar circumstances be treated the same and should be able to reasonably expect the same outcome.

It leaves me concluding that it is not always smart to tell the whole truth. Applying for visas before a South African travels isn’t going to solve any problems. 

Forcing visa applicants to be less than completely truthful in order to give the Government what they want in terms of the Residence Programme is a nonsensical and stupid way of dealing with risk.

However for the time being it seems to be just what Immigration New Zealand is demanding.

The discussions continue.

Until next week.

P.S. There's still time to enter our competition which runs until the 23rd of August - submit your photo and you could win $1500 in cash and 2 luxury nights for two at the Azur Lodge in Queenstown. To enter, click here:

Skilled Migrant Point Changes

Posted by Iain on July 31, 2015, 5:58 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

The New Zealand Government announced a few days ago that it was increasing the bonus points that can be claimed for a skilled and relevant job offer outside of Auckland from 10 to 30 points. The internet is abuzz!

Not sure why. I suggest everyone stay calm. Much ado about very little.

Government announced they were doing it in order to encourage more migrants to settle outside of Auckland. This was clearly a response to the overheated Auckland property market and rising disaffection by Aucklanders that migrants are contributing to an overheated property market.

As usual when the press get hold of a very modest tweak in an existing policy they get confused on the consequence, don’t seem to bother asking an expert and the misinformation spreads like wildfire.

My inbox is full of enquiries from people asking me if they ‘must’ now get a job outside of Auckland and if this means it is easier to get into the country? One even telling me he read that if you have a job ‘offer’ outside of Auckland you don’t even have to live there but it is now easier to get in if you say you are ‘planning’ on settling outside of Auckland but you don’t actually have to live there.

Oh a dollar for every false rumour!

Sorry folks but this change is modest and if you get a job outside of Auckland you must take it up.

In fact not only must you take up the job you must work outside of Auckland for 12 months. Those with jobs in Auckland ‘only’ have to stay employed for three months for their resident visa to become unconditional.

So how effective will it be? Does it really change anything?

No is the short answer. This is a case of politics trying to trump labour market reality.

The pass mark for those with a job is 100 and so far I am not seeing anything that suggests that pass mark will increase. This policy will only make any significant difference if it does.

This is because a 30, 37, 41, 45 and 54 year old (and everyone in between) will still qualify for residence with a skilled job in Auckland if they have between 8 and 10 years of relevant and related work experience (all other things being equal). Even a 54 year old will still be able to get a job in Auckland, work for a while and accrue the points necessary to get to 100 point passmark.

The only people we have identified that will benefit from this policy would be a 55 year old with no qualifications and at least ten years of work experience related to the job offer he or she gets outside of Auckland. When you hit 56 you cannot apply no matter how many points you might claim or where your job is.

So the winners here? Unqualified 55 year olds. Absolutely neutral for everyone else.

I am in South Africa and have over the past week consulted with 44 families who are looking to gain entry under the skilled migrant category. Only one would benefit from this policy change. One. That individual will now qualify with a job outside of Auckland because he is 55.

More than that it is all very well rewarding people to head out to the regions to spread the skilled migrant love and their skills sets but the reason about 70% of migrants already get jobs in Auckland is largely because that’s where the jobs are. Not all of course and we have clients spread all around New Zealand but around 70% in Auckland.

So might the Government increase the pass mark for those with jobs to 100 or even 120?

They could and that would force greater numbers to look outside of Auckland. Is this on the table? Not as far as I am aware.

I would hope that behind closed doors Government will have been warned against it.

Given Auckland is the engine room of the economy and has the critical economic and cultural mass for many migrant communities (which feeds through into good settlement outcomes) a higher pass mark would prevent many otherwise excellent skilled migrants from coming. 

So the Government has found a nice way of appearing to be doing something without in reality doing anything at all. They did get the headlines they needed however...

Good politics is all folks. So stay calm. You won’t be moving to the sticks – unless you want to.

Our photo competition is going along great guns and we are getting some fantastic photos coming in. I would like to see a whole lot more from those who live in New Zealand and illustrating what it is about every day life in New Zealand that they love.

I am thinking about photos of your house and street (no burglar bars or security walls you South Africans), your children climbing a tree (you Singaporeans), morning coffee at a sidewalk café (you French), walking along the street with your baby in a stroller without a protector, children riding their bikes, your office colleagues, and so on.

I am loving what we are getting but let’s see some of the real life stuff that you love about this wonderful country of ours. If you have missed the competition we are giving away a weekend in Queenstown at the five star Azur Hotel plus $1500 spending money. For further details if you have missed it click here to submit your photo entry - you can enter as many times as you like for more chances to win.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod



Southern Man

South Africa's Slow Train Crash

Posted by Iain on June 19, 2015, 9:10 p.m. in Immigration

With my latest tour to South Africa nearing an end I wonder if this country is ready to implode.

Just when it seems the Government cannot make themselves look any worse, they load that shotgun and aim it at whichever part of their foot they didn’t blow off last week.  I cannot help wondering if there isn’t now a creeping arrogance given they have no effective opposition and their hold on power absolute. 

Before anyone jumps down my throat let me say that there is still much about South Africa I admire and by and large it is still a country that is well worth a visit.

If you step back and try and view it objectively here are some ‘highlights’ of the past three weeks.

Before discussing these however may I offer some context that in the past three weeks where I come from I suspect nothing has happened that would make page 17 of the national papers in South Africa (unless it involved rugby perhaps). On the political front in NZ the biggest news is a Government Minister has offered to resign because his brother has been charged with sexual assault. His brother!…..I agree that might be over kill but a few politicians around this country might take a leaf out of that book.

In my first week the President of this country dripped sarcasm in Parliament 24 hours before he knew his Minister of Police, having conducted an ‘investigation’, was to announce that he did not have to pay back any of the NZ$22 million the taxpayer paid to upgrade his ‘house’ because among other things the swimming pool was in fact a ‘fire pool’ to be used to store water in in case of a fire. I cannot recall how he justified the chicken coop or cattle kraal as aids to boost the security of the property but it will have been in there somewhere. 

Robochickens perhaps? 

Oh and then there was the small matter of the multi million rand security fence with gaping holes  that the cattle from the kraal probably use to enter and leave the high security facility. Gaping holes and not the best security one might conclude but no one cared about until it was shown on national TV.

In week two the country gets dragged into the FIFA scandal and the Government denies that they paid any ‘bribe’ to anyone to secure the hosting rights to the 2010 World Cup. They paid US$10m allegedly to help fund the ‘African Diaspora’ in the Caribbean. All parties have said that with a straight face. So far scant evidence of these exiled Africans enjoying much football development. While it seems pretty clear that if anyone anywhere wants to host a World Cup, Governments offer all sorts of incentives and inducements so it escapes me why the South African Government doesn’t just shut up……..somehow these guys just keep on digging.

Last but by no means least the Government snubs its nose as its own Constitution when it fails to arrest the President of Sudan earlier this week who was in town to attend the African Union Summit. That really was a  ‘wow’ moment for me. This guy is wanted for among other things genocide. Papers are filed in Court and lawyers reminding the Government they have no choice other than to arrest him but instead the Government offers a full police escort as this suspected criminal scuttles for his private plane at the airport and flees the country.  All in the name of African brotherhood and solidarity they say. Oh really? This guy is accused of mass murder of some of those same African brothers! The Government says that they might pull out of the Rome agreement that they signed up to as there is a bias in the ICCs charges (as in they only seem to file charges against leaders who insight or induce mass murder and like it or not there is a whole lot of them in Africa). And yes the US and Israel have not signed up because there are a couple in their past or present  leadership that might end up on ICC charges as well. But South Africa signed up. They wanted in. Till they needed out.

The scariest thing is they were willing to ignore their own laws to do it and that is a frightening insight into how they view the law, the Courts and their obligations not only to the world but their own people.

This country is slowly but surely sliding into one party (benign?) dictatorship where the Government genuinely seems to believe they are above the law.

The currency has continued to fall through the floor. Our potential clients are increasingly currency prisoners with emigration a pipe dream given the costs. The nation has an official unemployment rate of 25%.

South Africa has many problems it did not create, like a porous border through which several hundred thousand people have entered illegally in recent years (over 100,000 refugees pouring into Cape Town every year), a culture of non-payment for services left over from the fight against the apartheid regime, a resultant crumbling in infrastructure, constant power cuts that are increasingly driving businesses to the wall and a birth rate that  like in many third world countries sees the per capita tax take not keeping up with expanding demand. 

Is it just me or does this all read a bit like the recent history of Zimbabwe?

It doesn’t help confidence when the majority continue to vote in politicians from Municipality up who are often incompetent, cannot do their jobs and seem to think that positions of power are an open invitation to plunder the public coffers. They ruin it for the hard working and honest politicians of which I am sure, or at least am desperate to believe, there are many.

It is all so sad to watch as I have been for 25 years of regular visits. It is a slow train crash that has been unfolding for years.

Luckily and if there is any hope left for this place, the one credible opposition party has recently elected a charismatic, articulate and highly intelligent young black man to lead them. It is possibly the only way the black majority might turn their backs on the ANC and stop the rot because most it seems will not vote for someone of non-African ethnicity. Most seem wedded to the ANC because they lead them to freedom but what sort of freedom do most have with ‘leadership’ like this?

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

Cricket, Power Cuts and Root Canals

Posted by Iain on Feb. 14, 2015, 10:47 a.m. in Living

It’s been a big week and my apologies for the later edition of the Southern Man. 

It’s that time of year when the Accountant wants to see me, the Dentist decided on a bit of root canal, I had a mediation over a leaky house issue before it gets to the Courts and somewhere in among all that did a week’s worth of work. Collapsed on the couch last night and dozed instead of sending this out.

Hey, I am only human and Southern Man’s letter from new Zealand just had to wait.

A bit of a hotch potch this week of thoughts and events.

Paul is off to South Africa on Monday for two weeks of Seminars in Johannesburg (now looking to be virtually fully booked), Durban and Cape Town. Suggested he pack a good torch and some extra batteries. How far has this once proud nation fallen that there is now four hours a day of power blackouts (something the South African spin doctors call ‘load shedding’). Call it what you like if but you can’t boil the water it’s a power blackout……. My partner Myer has been there the past two weeks talking to packed houses about moving to Australia. He wryly observed - they seem to have got used to 20,000 murders a year, a rape every three minutes, rampant Government corruption, public service inefficiency but cut off their power for four hours a day and they all start running for the door. It’s curious what we get used to.

I’d suggest the last one out should turn off the lights, but the lights it seems are likely already off.

Locally, we have electricity in abundance but as happens in most years we now have drought conditions declared on the east coast of the South Island (cricket fans might not believe that as this morning’s first game of the Cricket World Cup in usually very dry Christchurch is threatened by rain  interruptions). Up here in Auckland (nearly 1000 km away from Christchurch) there has been no substantial rain for over 6 weeks - the back garden needs regular watering to keep it alive. 

Temperatures have been a very pleasant 25 - 28 degrees Celsius now for six weeks and we are told to expect this through to April. Wonderful, unless you need to grow things for a living.


The World Cup of cricket kicks off n about an hour and it is filling all local cricket fans with an excitement not really experienced before. For the first time in a very long time, if indeed ever to be brutally honest, New Zealand can consider itself among the favourites. Those of us who enjoy this sport have been in that ‘I can’t wait’ mode for at least the past week. My apologies to those who think thesis like watching paint dry but can 1 billion Indians all be wrong? I don’t think so…….

Wonderful to see Christchurch playing host to the (rather low key but a hell of a lot better than what Australia put on as co-host!) opening ceremony. This was a chance for New Zealand’s second city to show the world it is back. out of adversity comes some wonderful opportunities including the new ‘village green’ type of cricket field at the Hagley Oval. Compare that venue set in a huge park with grassy areas and ‘low rise’ seating stands to the concrete jungle that is the MCG, where England take on the typically cocky Australians later today. The MCG is magnificent but in typical low key New Zealand style Hagley Park oval somehow seems more intimate.

In a final thought before i grab another coffee and settle into the couch for the Black Caps versus Sri Lanka I get the feeling that momentum is building for the addition of a compulsory IT qualification for all school leavers. Shockingly for a country that exports over $7 billion in ICT products and services every year only 6% of school leavers have a recognised IT qualification. The fact that there are in Auckland alone today over 1500 unfilled high skilled IT roles reflects the fact that our universities and technical institutes only produce 50% of the graduates this booming industry needs to satisfy it’s demand. 

Around 20% of all my clients work in IT and they are the one group of clients that can generally expect to find work in a few short weeks of landing with a high degree of certainty. This industry is also showing the most rapid increase in salaries with graduates starting around $60,000 and with 5 years experience most are on $85,000 plus. Thereafter the sky really is the limit. There has been a sea change here in this industry and New Zealand, if it can find the workers required, will see ICT exports become one of our top three or four exports within the next few years. it is already in the top ten.

For any of you (or any of your family and friends) might be thinking of joining us we are still trying to help a local IT recruiter fill some 200 IT roles and while we don’t hold ourselves out to be recruiters, we may be able to help some wannabe Kiwi IT specialists into roles locally if they retain us to handle the entire visa and settlement process.

Our New Zealand bound clients will shortly (if they haven’t already) receive an invitation to start using our sexy new in house developed client management system called HuM (as in ‘Helping U Manage’). In development for the past 18 months HuM was designed to help us better manage our clients visa applications in an electronic environment given from later this year more visas will be filed with the Department electronically and we wanted to be ready.

It has also given us the opportunity to provide our clients a one stop shop on our server to upload documents we need to see and to manage the logistics of their move - a place to create folders specific to the move such as ‘Bringing the Dog’,  ‘Shipping my personal effects’, ‘Finding accommodation’ and ‘Finding jobs’. Rather than have folders for this stuff all over your desktop you can save it all in your secure personal file on their own protected cline file on our server. Noting earth shattering but we hope a tidy solution designed not just for migrant but any small(ish) business with multiple clients that need to be managed in an increasingly electronic and cloud based world.

We will roll this out to our clients using our Melbourne office a little later.

Last but by no means least in about a month’s time you are going to notice a change to the IMMagine branding - principally to shades of blue. This change is the final step in the re-brand of IMMage new Zealand and IMMagine Australia to better reflect the ‘one company, two country solution’ we offer to those seeking a better life.

We will be rolling out a new website which we believe better reflects who we are and what we do across these two countries.

Okay, the umpires are making their way out on to the field shortly so I need to get to the couch before my son ‘shotguns’ it.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

No Profit Motive, No Competition - Equals Visa Lottery

Posted by Iain on Dec. 5, 2014, 4:53 p.m. in Immigration

What happens when an organisation has no competition, no profit motive and it is the only supplier of a service with a captive audience?

You call yourself a Government Department and you get the following true but barely imaginable story.

I won’t name the Branch of Immigration New Zealand as I hope to sort this problem out and I know the readership of the Southern Man even extends to some inside INZ. As a preamble it is worthy of note that a few years ago the Immigration Department showed some rare insight and rather wisely rebranded themselves from the ‘New Zealand Immigration Service’, to Immigration New Zealand. I guess when you wouldn’t know a service if you tripped over it, it seems a little silly to include it in your name. So they quietly dropped the ‘s’ word and now offer little pretence of service.

Even by INZ standards this story is a jaw dropper for its stupidity, cruelty and petty mindedness.

How people like this particular officer, who is famous in our circles for this attitude continues to be employed is an indictment on this department  that charges hundreds and often thousands of dollars to process visas.

I met a woman this week who wishes to join her husband in New Zealand for a few months and to try and find work with a long term plan, under the well promoted NZ government Residence programme, TO settle permanently. Her background is impeccable and both are highly employable and would settle very well, contributing skills that NZ is, according the Immigration Department, in desperate need of owing to local skill shortages (on that score INZ is actually right). Her husband is an international student studying a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology (note the name) in Auckland.

In 2013 this client applied for an open work visa to join her husband for a few months. This was, correctly, granted to her and she went and they enjoyed a few months together. In time she had to return to her home country and continue working. He has continued to study.

This year she thought she’d apply again. Nothing had changed – same husband, studying the same course in the same University, her situation had not changed (beyond being a year older) so she was naturally confident she be issued the same visa. 

What she hadn’t bargained on was a different officer.

This officer declined her visa application because her husband’s degree was not an exact match to a prescribed list of NZ ICT degrees that INZ works off.

The closest match to his Bachelor of Information and Communications Technology in New Zealand was a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technologies (you may need to read that again in order to spot the difference).

Here is the rule:

‘….partners of people granted student visas to study for a level 7 or higher qualifications in an area of absolute skill shortage as specified in the Long Term Skill Shortage List’…… 

….qualify for an open work visa (all other things being equal as indeed they were in this case).

A New Zealand Bachelor degree is Level 7.

When the client suggested that what her husband was studying was in name and substance virtually identical the officer told her to go and get a report from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (at a cost of NZ$746) which confirmed they were essentially the same thing.

The officer appeared to be serious.

INZ then applied their quality assurance processes (such as they are) and declined the application when the client, terribly confused and upset, challenged the processing officer on what the difference was between last years’ work visa application (approved) and this years (declined)? 

Everything was identical. How could one visa be approved but the following year it is declined?

The 2014 officer said ’Well, the 2013 officer must have got it wrong’.

The sad truth is as I always say at all my presentations and consultations - who you get processing your visa can be the sole determining factor on outcome. 

It is at times as if there is no rule book.

The truth is that it is in fact the 2013 officer got it 100% right – it was the 2014 officer who has got it badly wrong, shown limited intelligence and an obstructive, petty and pedantic attitude.

Quite clearly the aim and intent of the policy is to encourage international students to come, spend vast quantities of money (in this case NZ$20,000 each year for three years) and as part of the incentive to add to the export education coffers, to allow partners to join then and work.

It goes further – the stated aim of this policy is to enable those that are studying ICT (an area New Zealand only produces 50% of the graduates industry and business require) to stay on once their study is complete if they have found employment and become part of the Government’s Residence Programme.

A sensible economic strategy until you give it to a bureaucrat who pays their mortgage by turning up to work each day, who is never held accountable and gets paid irrespective of how bad they are at their job.

Confucius, had he known rampant bureaucracy and monopolistic Government practices may indeed have uttered something like, ‘one rule book and two bureaucrats assessing identical factors make for opposing outcomes…’

It is scandalous that this particular officer, who has a reputation for making these sorts of decisions is allowed to remain in a front line visa decision making role. Worse still applicants pay hard earned money and are forced to have her process their visas - no competition means this applicant cannot go down the road and get some real, consistent and sensible service.

In the private sector where competition and profit motive makes us all accountable this officer’s employment would have been terminated many poor decisions ago.

I am hopeful I can help INZ see the light over this stunning display of arrogance and stupidity and get this poor woman the visa she not only deserves but is entitled to.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

Chicken & Egg

Posted by Iain on Nov. 7, 2014, 3:25 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

I have written many times about the “chicken and egg” situation that exists for migrants trying to enter the labour market before they have a Resident Visa. That is that the employers generally demand Work Visas before they will offer jobs but the Immigration Department cannot (on the whole) give a Work Visa without that job.

It is the reason why many migrants fail in their quest to get New Zealand Residence (I hasten to add not our clients as we seem to do a pretty good job at identifying those who have all the appropriate attributes to secure employment).

I had an interesting experience this week which is worth sharing and might help employers who are willing to engage in the immigration process but who don’t want floods of applications from people not in New Zealand.

A client had applied for a job whilst in New Zealand through

He received a computer generated rejection on the basis that he did not have a Work Visa (it was one of the questions asked).

He then followed up with a phone call to the company and asked if they would be interested in talking to him or reviewing his CV. They suggested they would and he seemed like a very interesting and qualified candidate.

He then rang me to see if I could call the employer and explain how the immigration process worked given they were somewhat reluctant, he felt, to engage with the visa process.

I called the employer and quickly learned that contrary to the perception they might not be willing to engage the immigration process (a perception they created by their online advertising), they already employed ten migrants on various forms of temporary Work Visas.

I then called the client back, who has now had a conversation with the employer to be, which I hope leads not only to an interview, but a job offer and I will secure him the Work Visa within two or three weeks.

What would have been a more sensible approach from the company when advertising online, was to have three questions that they ask and which may trigger an automated response. These would be:

  • Are you a New Zealand Resident Visa holder or citizen of New Zealand or Australia? Yes/No
  • Do you hold a Work Visa that allows you to take up this job? Yes/No
  • Are you in New Zealand but do not have a Work Visa? Yes/No

In this instance, had the employer done that they would have avoided getting thousands of applications from applicants who are not in New Zealand, not available for quick and easy interview and who might not be seriously committed to the process of migration, but they would have identified my client who is here, serious and available.

It continues to amaze me in this connected world how employers and recruiters still only deal in their minds with two types of potential “foreign” candidates – those who have Permanent Residency and those that do not.

There is clearly a simple way for them to further refine their criteria which both protects them from a deluge of overseas applicants but which provides them with access to potential employees who can get Work Visas who are in New Zealand.

Food for thought for all you employers out there facing increasing skills shortages.

Until next week

IMMagine New Zealand - Southern Man

Growing old gracefully...

Posted by Paul on Oct. 24, 2014, 4:01 p.m. in Retirement

We all grow old. It is an inevitable consequence of living. Can't escape it, can't change it. You may, if you happen to be incredibly wealthy and with no medical aversion to plastic, be able to postpone it, but no matter what tactics you employ to stave off father time, we all get there in the end. 

For some (including myself), the thought of the 'twilight years' brings with it visions of plush leather recliners, comfy slippers and hot cups of tea in the newly built conservatory attached to a free-hold home in the suburbs. This would all be nicely topped off with being able to throw off the shackles of employment (or self-employment) and live a life of freedom away from the daily grind.

For others, the thought of growing old brings a sense of dread. Where will the money come from, will there be support, will I have house, where will I live and of course the overwhelming sense that this burden will have to be carried by the children.

In many countries, caring for the eldery is both culturally and economically the responsibility of the children, which translates, interestingly enough, in to differences in attitudes between how New Zealanders see their responsibility towards parents as compared to people form South Africa, or many parts of Asia.

I'll give you an example of how this works. I regularly catch a ferry home in the evenings and amongst my fellow travellers are Kiwis, Brits and South Africans. There was a group of us yesterday who got on to the topic of migration (it follows me around) and that then led to whether or not each person in the group had considered bringing their parents to New Zealand. The two Brits, who were both ten years plus in New Zealand, were quite adamant:"We love having them here for holidays but anything longer than a few thanks" (said in the nicest possible way).

Myself, I wasn't really able to comment as my mother lives in New Zealand (where else would she be?!).

The South African however, who had only been a Resident for a few years was quizzing me right away on the Parent Category, because they had already made up their minds that mum and dad were NZ bound. Given the prospects for the elderly in South Africa, that is a pretty common and understandeable reaction.

I suspect that most New Zealanders have quite a different outlook on caring for their parents than people in a great many countries around the world do; mainly because we have far less to worry about. New Zealand as a country has always had a tradition of looking after its older generation, administered at the State level. Whether that is economically sensible with an ageing population has yet to be fully seen, but for now it works. 

But how does it actually work?

Well we start off with all the usual benefits that are afforded to Residents and Citizens, including first class healthcare, which, lets face it when you are heading into senior years is probably one of the most important 'perks' you will have. You will inevitably need it more and so knowing you don't have to pay for any of it (ever) is quite a nice bonus.

Then on top of this, the state gives everyone over 65 that meets the criteria (see below), a liveable income in the form of superannuation; this is paid even if you continue to work past 65. Granted it is not going to send you on luxury cruises every month but it will keep you supported for the essentials. It was always intended to 'top up' the elderly who by that stage, one would hope, have accumulated their own assets, paid off a mortgage and have some savings.

There are varying rates of assistance, dependent on your circumstances but in basic terms if you are married or in a defacto relationship and you both qualify under the critieria listed below, then each person would receive a fortnightly, after tax amount of $564.52, which over a year would be equal to a combined income of NZD$29,355.04. That would get you to a few bowls matches.

If you are single, then you receive slightly more, taking you to a yearly after tax income of NZD$19,080.88.

Of course there are some rules to qualify for this, which include the following:

  • You must be 65 years of age or over to apply
  • You must be a New Zealand Citizen or Resident
  • You must normally live in New Zealand
  • You must have lived in New Zealand for at least ten years since you turned 20 with at least five of those years being after your 50th birthday.

You can get more information on all of the above, by clicking here>>

Of course there are also other minor perks such as concessions on local transport and cheap entry to Museums, galleries and certain tourist attractions, but the key staples, such as healthcare and an income are given to you by the Government. Add this to a country with one of the lowest crime rates on earth (and falling), then it is easy to see why New Zealand is an attractive destination for not only the younger generation of migrants but their elders as well.

There are of course immigration categories that cater for this, which although were changed a couple of years back in an attempt to reduce parent numbers have actually made it slightly quicker for those parents who come from English speaking backgrounds. This is particularly useful for South Africans, where parents are the next item on the 'to do' list once the kids have migrated.

From my own perspective, I have a mother approaching 80 years of age (in fact 80 next week), she lives in her own home in Hamilton, she receives her superannuation and fortunately for her, she also receives a pension from Holland (having not lived their for over 55 years - another country that looks after its elderly). She travels every two years, does plenty of shopping for her 11 grandchildren and lives an independent, worry free life. I should probably visit her more than I do, but I have no fears that she doesnt have all she needs to live out her twilight years, with comfy slippers, leather recliner and sunny conservatory. Thanks NZ, I appreciate the help.

If you are thinking about making the move or have made it already but want to know what might be available for your parents, by way of a safe and secure retirement, then perhaps you should get in touch. Speaking of which I will be in South Africa, in mid November for two weeks (the last trip of the year, before we all take a break) and the Southern Man will be in Hong Kong and Singapore later in November for our last SE Asia tour.

If you want to attend, drop by the website and register - comfy slippers optional.

Until next week (after the long weekend here)

Paul Janssen, standing in for the Southern Man.

Better to be thought a fool...

Posted by Paul on Oct. 10, 2014, 8:42 p.m. in Immigration

There is no doubt that the internet has changed our lives – forever. Our ability to access information at the click of the button and our ability to connect and share that information with people anywhere in the world is truly awe inspiring. It has given people in the most remote and isolated places the ability to talk to those in the most densely populated parts of the planet.

The world has gotten a lot smaller.

However just as the internet has increased our access to knowledge it has also created plenty of problems, with quite a few of them falling upon the unsuspecting migrant.

I have, over the last few months, become the member of a number of migrant social networks, the kind of websites that offer their users a place to learn more about New Zealand, its people and lifestyle and read others experiences, navigating through the migration process. I have no doubt that the administrators of most of these sites establish them with best of intentions; and in many cases there is some useful information about life in New Zealand and the collective migrant experience to be gathered, however when it comes to the immigration part, what results is far from useful. In fact in most cases these sections of most forum sites end up being quite simply, dangerous.

To anyone I consult with who mentions the comments and threads they have read on these sites, I give one warning ‘tread carefully’ and this is usually followed by words such as ‘avoid like the plague’ (or similar). Fortunately most migrants manage to filter through the rubbish, but a fair few get caught out.

Having trawled through a few of these sites, the first thing I have noticed (and it is common) is the need for those who have gone through this process to become ‘overnight immigration advisers’.  Now without offending anyone, the fact that you may have gone through this process yourself does not, on its own, make you qualified to tell anyone else how to do it, in fact the law says you can't. Whilst most of these people do so in an attempt to be helpful and with altruistic aims, the reality is that they often unintentionally cause more harm than good.

Migrating is a uniquely individual experience and what one person or family will go through will differ to another. I say this to all the people who I consult with or who attend my seminar, because it is true. Every applicant brings a ‘certain something’ to the equation, which inevitably means that their application will go through a different process to others. So what works for some may be result in disaster for another.

Many of the people who offer advice on these forums often don’t understand that migration is not about round pegs in round holes. A few weeks ago, I read a forum thread where one member, who had successfully settled themselves in New Zealand ten years ago, was offering advice to another, who was on their way. The would be migrant had secured a job offer and had asked the question “Should I apply for a Work Visa before I come to New Zealand or do it when I get there?”. The response from the ‘seasoned expert’ was to book the next flight, head on over and if stopped at the airport just tell them there is a job offer on the table …”no worries”.

There are so many things wrong with this advice, it’s hard to know where to begin. Most importantly however, if this person had jumped on that plane and had been asked at the airport what their intentions were, then the answer “I have a job offer!”, most likely offered up with a big smile on their face, could have potentially been met with “Do not pass go, do not collect $200.00 and we have you booked on the next flight back…”. The end result would be a wasted trip, refused entry and a whole lot of time and money down the drain.

Immigration rules change, and what might have been acceptable ten years ago (although this still wouldn’t have been acceptable then), won’t fly now. That is the risk that you run by following the unqualified advice of people, who have ‘been there, bought the t-shirt’.

Another common theme is for people to search through forums and ask the same questions until the find the answer they are looking for. It’s comforting knowing that someone out there agrees with you and offers you a solution that makes it all sound easy. Problem is it is most likely wrong. Good advice may not be the advice you want to hear, it may not be the 'easy fix' but it will be right.

Top all of this off with the fact that providing immigration advice without being licensed (no matter where you are in the world) is a criminal offence and it makes less and less sense to put any faith in these amateur experts.

Forum sites aren’t entirely bad and I would be doing them a disservice by suggesting that there is nothing useful to gain from them; however be selective.  In the same way that you wouldn’t rely on triple heart bypass surgery instructions from an online forum for recovering heart surgery patients, you shouldn’t try and find a road map to the immigration process in the same way. They can be good places to find out people’s experiences about the move, what they found challenging, what they found positive but when it comes to anything technical leave that to the experts. We understand that the process is unique for everyone and so we provide unique advice.

On that front, we have the Southern Man, presenting seminars in Singapore (tomorrow) and Malaysia next weekend, with more seminars later in the year (what is left of it before Christmas is upon us).

If you want to know how the process really works, from people that really know, then why not put the laptop down, turn the internet off and find out what you need to know from a real life person…

Until next week

Paul Janssen, standing in for the Southern Man.

Unemployment Falling Fast

Posted by Iain on Aug. 8, 2014, 8:16 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

Reflecting an economy in expansion mode latest unemployment statistics must make very pleasant reading for a Government one month out from national elections.

The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in 5 years and at 5.6% New Zealand now has the 9th lowest unemployment rate in the developed world. By comparison our Australian neighbours were surprised this week by a jump in their unemployment rate to 6.4%.

When unemployment hits 5% in New Zealand skills shortages generally become acute and extend beyond the highly skilled to the semi and unskilled.

Over 85,000 new fulltime jobs have been created across all sectors of the economy over the past year.

Hiring intentions continue to run at historically high levels. Skilled vacancies are 17% higher than a year ago and employers continue to report difficulties in filling those vacancies.

With net migration running at close to 40,000 people over the past year many of these vacancies are being filled by highly skilled and fluent English speaking migrants. Including you might be surprised to learn the 25,000 Australian citizens who migrate to New Zealand every year under our open border policy for citizens of one another’s countries. 

As a consequence of this flow of Australians joining us, New Zealanders returning home from a contracting labour market in Australia and few New Zealanders heading across the Tasman, many migrants from other countries may continue to struggle to find the skilled jobs they need to secure their residence.

When asked how they intend to meet the growing skills shortages employers indicated:

  • 39% increased salaries to attract local applicants
  • 35% trained less qualified candidates
  • 26% brought in contractors; and
  • 23% recruited overseas

It is insightful how few consider migrants as part of the solution but explains why low unemployment does not always lead to securing employment more quickly.

In  greatest demand were tradespeople, forestry, manufacturing, construction, IT and Telecommunications.

What always interests me is how few employers seek to recruit migrants as part of their mix but chase an every decreasing pool of local applicants.

I appreciate that employers prefer migrants to be in New Zealand, preferably with work visas (which you cannot get without the job), fluency in English, culturally compatible, a personality they identify with and obviously some demand for their skills set.

Only 51% of employers survey4ed believed that the staff they have possess all of the skills they need to adequately carry out their jobs.

Looking on the bright side, although the bias toward local applicants continues we are heartened by the number of employers and recruiters (even!!) who are now more willing than they have been in recent years to entertain migrant applicants.

One might imagine that the Government might begin to increase the numbers of migrants they let in without job offers but it is my view that they will not. Recent experience suggests that as the Government has demanded more skilled migrants find jobs first, they have. This will reinforce the governments view that with a tightening local labour market migrants should (in theory) be able to secure jobs more easily. And the politicians can defend their jobs first for New Zealanders mantra (as they should).

Our message remains one of caution optimism for our clients urging you to carefully research the frequency of jobs that you might be able to fill, accept that you’ll need to be in New Zealand for 2-4 months to secure employment, to persevere, remain positive and accept that you need to apply for many jobs to secure a small number of interviews, an even smaller number of short lists but ultimately it is very rare for our clients not to secure the employment they require to secure their residence visas.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

Time For A Population Policy?

Posted by Iain on Aug. 1, 2014, 8:28 a.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle

It is high time New Zealand had a population policy.

As touched on last week immigration policy seems to reflect political cycles – short term thinking and no long term plan. Say what you like about China and Singapore but at least they have long term plans even if you don’t agree with them. They do have population policies and yes Singapore’s is daft given the size of the place but all credit to them for trying to address low population growth and a rapidly ageing population.

In New Zealand our thinking on population is limited to immigration policy and filling immediate skills gaps in the labour market which is a partial solution but the bigger story is surely what sort of future do we want? What sort of country do we want to live in? How many people do we want to share this beautiful land with?

Why do we not have a population policy?

Let’s not kid ourselves – even in tolerant, welcoming New Zealand there still lies in many hearts a fear of being ‘overun’ by this bunch or that if we increase migration levels. 

The stark reality is New Zealanders are getting older and relatively quickly. Like all developed (and many developing) nations our low birth rate has created this rapidly ageing population. The overall population is growing through migration and natural increase. Net migration this year is running at a ten year high yet still only represents an overall gain of 0.7% of the population. Around 38,000 more people have moved here in the past 12 months than left. An important sidebar is this has NOT been caused by more foreigners being allowed in through the permanent residence programme but through fewer New Zealanders leaving, more New Zealanders returning from Australia and elsewhere and more Australians (they can just walk in….) moving to New Zealand.  This can just as easily turn into a net migration loss as this number is dictated not by population policy but by the fickle winds of local, Australian (common labour market border) and global economic conditions.

One thing is certain - New Zealand will look quite different in 50 years than it does today. What we have is no national plan to control how.

It is quite incredible to me that we have no population policy in New Zealand. We seem to have a policy on everything else.

After my recent trip to France and Spain and my regular trips to South East Asia I realise that one thing we have no shortage of in New Zealand is space.  And no shortage of highly skilled, financially secure and motivated migrants who would like to share it with us.

I suggest a New Zealand where we double the population to perhaps 10 million people over a twenty year period. 

Imagine the challenge. Imagine the planning – infrastructure, schools, hospitals, houses, public transport, roads and so on. Imagine the immigration policy we would have to have – the skills mix would be radically different to what we have now and would change over time. Imagine the communities and economic opportunities we would create for locals and new arrivals.

Where would the people come from? I fear this would spark the biggest debate.

I touched on the rapidly changing face of Auckland last week and there is little doubt that Auckland leads on social and racial tolerance and integration of migrants. Not that the other major cities are too far behind but they have some way to go to become as international, outward looking and welcoming as my home town if my clients are to be believed. In two generations Auckland has gone from being mono-cultural with few migrants to a city where today over 600,000 of our 1.5 million were not born in New Zealand and we are far culturally and economically richer for it in my view.

Locals are not being displaced from jobs despite what some might try and argue. I am not eating dog with chopsticks. I am not learning to speak Russian. I do however work in a city where when I step outside my office I hear a multitude of languages around me and can eat at different restaurant every night serving food from virtually every corner of the planet. My children have grown up with a circle of friends whose parents come from many different countries but who all think Richie McCaw is a living God, there is no sport but rugby, cricket is king in summer, who speak English like they do and who are connected to the world through social media.

New Zealand is many things but one thing it is not is crowded.  We have a country that is the size of Great Britain (which has 63 million people), Italy (60 million) and Japan (128 million – gulp…) yet we have only 4.5 million people.

That surely has its advantages that I would be the first to want to protect. 

Our air is clear, the streets are clean, our beaches, once out of the city, tend to be lonely private places where you and the family have plenty of room to spread out and kick a football, where the fish are plentiful, the sea free of rubbish and pollution and within our cities we have, and could retain or even grow, plenty of open spaces - city parks, playgrounds for our children, skate parks and the like. Within thirty minutes drive of most cities we are blessed with islands, regional and national parks with pristine beaches, mountain ranges, rivers, forests and virtual deserts and of course farmlands. In the middle of Paris I saw few children outside playing and those I did I wondered how often their feet ever actually touched grass. It is the same in places like Singapore, Jakarta, London and Hong Kong and mega city after mega city. I pity them. 

We could so easily fit in, if we thought it through, another 500,000 people a year for twenty years if we planned for it and built the infrastructure.

Our cities need not grow out and take up valuable farmland.

I loved Paris for its seven stories policy on so much of their central city buildings. How inspired of the town planners of three centuries ago to lay out a city where no building could be higher than seven stories and contain a mix of residential and commercial activities (pity they couldn’t inculcate a feeling of responsibility to clean up after one’s dog has poohed on the footpath). It means communities support local business and local businesses serve these residential communities. One feels part of a community, not trapped or isolated in dark urban canyons as in so many large cities. It is embracing and welcoming.

Likewise Barcelona (what a city) with its five stories building policy, its wide boulevards, tree lined streets, mad but cheap taxis and excellent public transport. And their population is virtually the same as Auckland’s – which sprawls endlessly and is generally poorly served by public transport (lack of population density to make it worthwhile). Spain might be broke but you cannot knock the vision of their town planners of two hundred years ago. If I could offer the Spaniards a wee bit of advice - get up a bit earlier and work a bit harder (the Spanish seem to have an even more laid back attitude to life than New Zealanders…) in order to keep paying for it all.

In Auckland we are still bickering about whether to keep our (already huge in area) city growing out or up.

I go home more convinced than ever that medium density along the height lines of Paris and Barcelona are the perfect urban design. Not too tall but tall enough to increase density without really compromising communities. Auckland’s plan to grow these medium density apartment blocks along main transport routes is a no brainer. It will enhance the city, not detract from it. It is interesting this is the approach being taken by those rebuilding downtown Christchurch.

All we need now is more people.

Ten thousand a week is a big number but if you could encourage these to be spread across Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin you’d be talking about, in rough terms 2000 people a week in each city and that suggests, if we selected migrants as we do now who tend to only have 2 children, about 500 families a week into each of these cities (and that is assuming they’d all want to live in one of those cities which many of course wouldn’t). I am not quite sure how you’d be able to force people to settle in particular cities – housing and tax incentives to businesses and home owners to settle outside of Auckland?

Break down the numbers and suddenly it is far easier to imagine doing.

I’d suggest that we decide how many people we want and work back from there. It would be the greatest undertaking in the history of New Zealand. It would be a chance to create within our major cities what the great European cities created two hundred years ago. A country that would eliminate once and for all the tyranny of being so far away from so many major export markets. A bigger and stronger domestic market would be created in a generation. Think of the opportunities without needing to compromise the lifestyle.

I don’t believe we would need significantly more land to be taken up to do it – the cities just need to be built a bit higher. Not high rise. Not ghettos in the sky. Modern. Mixed use.  Medium density.

Already my suburban Mount Eden Street is being flagged for this sort of building density in the Unitary Plan. What I understand but disappoints me is how so many in the neighbourhood are against it. It will destroy the social fabric they cry (even though they probably don’t know more than two of their neighbours). You can’t tear down those beautiful old Victorian villas (they don’t seem to mind cross leasing their back yards and plonking some architecturally bereft modern three bedroom house on the back lawn – so much for quarter acre paradise and preserving a way of life…).  I cannot wait. I’ll be the first to want to develop our property into a four storied apartment complex.

I confess it has taken me many years to reach this conclusion about what sort of New Zealand I want and strangely it is not because of the day job. For those who think you cannot have medium density housing but feel like you are still part of a community go and visit Barcelona. Cafes, bars, dry cleaning businesses, florists, schools and kindergartens all sit comfortably alongside one another. If anything it creates community.

We can preserve our parks and playgrounds – these can all be planned for. In fact we can learn from the mistakes of the European cities I have seen and expand on our open, public spaces. 

We are not short of land. We are perhaps short on energy, enthusiasm, vision and political will. We are short of a population plan. Nothing can happen in a vacuum and we need politicians who recognise the importance of a long term plan in a country where the population is greying but we have so much to offer so many and the chance to build a truly international and integrated society.

Until next week 

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man