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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.

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


The Importance (?) Of English

Posted by Iain on July 24, 2014, 4:39 p.m. in Immigration

I have just spent four weeks in Paris and Barcelona (relax this isn’t a story about what I did on my summer break…) on a working holiday and am constantly surprised not so much what I learn about other people and places on these trips but what I learn about New Zealand and New Zealanders. And how these experiences shape my view of what would make good immigration policy and an even richer country.

Take the importance of English as a current part of our immigration criteria (for everyone except family category applicants and the uber-rich).

For many people from similarly Anglo-Saxon countries, New Zealand has historically been an easy cultural fit in part because of the commonality of English as the dominant language between migrant and New Zealander. There is little doubt in my mind it has been an important settlement tool. And probably will be for a while yet.

While those with English as a second language face a more challenging settlement process, with increasing numbers of ethnic communities reaching a critical mass it is arguably becoming less important. I recognised a long time ago the key to good settlement outcomes was linguistic compatibility and thereafter cultural compatibility. This has served migrants and New Zealand well as a country but I question in future how important it will need to be when the 'linguistic compatilibility' refers to English and the 'cultural compatibility' predominantly 'South Pacific British'.

Right now we rightly demand migrants speak, read, understand and write English to a reasonably high level – the rule book ‘only’ demands conversational or competent despite in my experience ‘native’ employers demanding a greater level of fluency. As more New Zealand employers are not ‘native’ however is it as important when those employers local and overseas customers don’t speak English as their first language?

Immigration policy is almost always a year or two behind the times. There is a disconnect between immigration policy and an evolving labour market, particularly in Auckland. Outside of Auckland it is fair to say that many (would be) migrants will struggle to secure employment at a similar level to that from which they have come given potential local employers will be largely ‘native’ New Zealanders and a high level of English is a must have.

This is why at Immagine we focus on the English speaking markets of the world and irrespective of how many ‘points’ a potential client might have we only agree to represent those that we believe have English good enough to secure them the job and the future they seek in a short(ish) period of time.

Spending two weeks in Paris with only two years of boyhood French to call on was something that filled me with trepidation before I left New Zealand. Luckily I found, in Paris anyway, the outcomes of a European education and business system that produces a significant bi-lingual population who could speak English. This came as great relief – I didn’t want a diet of steak and chips for two weeks.

It does make me and a great many other New Zealanders feel somewhat inadequate that we come from a country that has historically been, by and large, mono-lingual. This constrains us somewhat when we travel and that of course creates disadvantages in not being able to maximise business (not to mention leisure) opportunities that exist to the multi-lingual.

All of that got me thinking that in New Zealand we have no ‘end game’ in mind with our immigration policy. Skilled migration tends to be based on a relatively short time horizon – New Zealanders emigrate (shock horror) and there are skills we do not produce enough of. The simple solution is to encourage migrants to fill those current vacancies. Traditionally those migrants have needed to speak fluent English because historically most employers only spoke English.

But times they are a changing.

In my own suburb of Mount Eden the population over the past 20 years has moved from being largely Pakeha (New Zealander of European descent) and Polynesian to North Asian – mainly Chinese. I have three local supermarkets – one ‘western’ and two ‘eastern’ within a few minutes’ walk of home. I generally shop at one of the Asian ones. Everything is labelled in Chinese so if I don’t know what I am looking for I am in trouble. When I walk in the door I am often the only Pakeha in sight. Few people are speaking English. I don’t speak Chinese. It still works. I get my bok choy and chicken thighs.

What has happened where I live then is a whole lot of people had to prove they spoke English to the level of a competent user to get their Resident Visa but once in, there is now a sufficiently critical mass of Chinese speakers for them to revert to their home language and apparently thrive.

Although it is a controversial thought, perhaps it is time to have different English language levels for different migrant groups or even different cities if they have jobs inside or outside of Auckland. Given in Auckland we now have 20% of our residents born in North Asia and 15% in India, is it appropriate in 2014 we demand such a high level of English for Chinese and Indians if the job they get is say in an exporting or tourism related business? If as skilled migrants they could get a skilled job offer what do we really care if they score English in the IELTS exam of 6.5 or higher?

I can but wonder if we had 20% of our migrants coming from Italy, France or Spain if we would feel differently. Imagine an Italian quarter, a Spanish quarter, a Brazilian or a French quarter in Auckland where many people speak their home language with a smattering of English. I have seen it in New York and it seems to work okay. I doubt anyone would feel threatened.

I say we have little to fear but much to gain.  Aucklanders, (but perhaps not yet the rest of New Zealand),  have shown that in the space of a generation they have accepted becoming one of the most ethically and linguistically diverse societies on Earth where 42% of the residents were not born in New Zealand. When I was a boy in the 1970s there was only about 10% of us not born locally. The sky has not fallen in as that has changed.

The children of these migrants will all be fluent English speakers thanks to our education system and if mum and dad can survive quite adequately speaking little English does it really matter if they were able to secure the ‘skilled’ job the Government demanded of them to gain entry in the first place?

I can but hope their parents demand these children remain fluent in their second, ‘ancestral’ language. And that these first generation Kiwis appreciate the economic and cultural strengths of maintaining the language of their parents and forebears.

I also wish that a second language was compulsory for all New Zealanders.

We have, thanks to our small domestic population always been a nation of exporters. What better tool could we use to secure our own future economic prosperity in a globalised economy than competency, if not fluency, in a second major language – be it Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese or French? Rather than forcing migrants to speak fluent English in future might we be better served economically if they can speak some English but bring with them fluency in other languages?

In some respects the Europeans are increasingly forced through the political and economic integration of Europe to learn at least one other language (usually English). I was amazed, delighted and relieved how many Spanish could speak excellent English and French.  And how many French could speak excellent English and Spanish.

New Zealand is the poorer for our one language focus both in our education system and with our migrants.

I love the fact when I walk out of my office and along the streets of downtown Auckland I can hear 20 -30 languages in the space of 15 minutes. We are richer for it. It makes me feel part of the global family.

I made a recommendation as part of the Skilled Migrant Category review a year or so ago that those with better English be rewarded for it. I stand by that recommendation but I do wonder if it is appropriate to still be doing so in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time as different linguistic (migrant) communities reach a critical mass whereby they are able to secure or create for themselves meaningful economic opportunity once here. If they cannot speak great (or are not willing to learn) English and they do not become dependent on the state what’s our loss? The risk is theirs.

Australia awards points for English on a sliding scale with a minimum threshold – the higher the score the more points awarded. It is the one part of the Australian skilled policy which seems logical to me at this point in time. I was interested to see that it is one of two recommendations made by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a report they issued earlier this week on New Zealand’s immigration policy. They have encouraged this reward for superior English for the same reason.

I am not at all certain any more the future lies with our country’s education remaining mono-lingual and I am increasingly far from convinced that we should expect migrants to speak ‘the Queen’s’ English as well.

For our country to thrive in the 21st century as many people in the population need to be bi-lingual if not multi-lingual as we can create or import. Migrants play a vital role in creating those conditions.  In the meantime that does not eliminate the importance of English for most migrants at least in the short term but we must be smart (or brave) enough to know when it is appropriate to review this position.

I think we are almost at that point.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man- Letter from New Zealand


The Daily Grind ... In Paradise

Posted by Paul on July 18, 2014, 3:36 p.m. in Immigration

For anyone who has ever been to one of the seminars we regularly hold in South Africa or Asia, they will be aware of the fact that we give a very realistic picture of what it’s like to live in New Zealand. We don’t sell the country (it sells itself) and we don’t hand out rose-tinted glasses for the show. In fact, we are pretty well known in the industry for calling a spade a spade and giving hopeful migrants a realistic view of what it’s like to live in New Zealand. 

Our world famous (in South Africa and Asia) seminars, although presented by different consultants, all carry the same message: “New Zealand isn’t paradise, but it’s pretty close”. That statement might get a few laughs but the serious point we want to get across is that New Zealand isn't perfect, it just has a lot less problems than most other countries. If you are migrating here don't expect a completely different life, just expect a better one.

Globalisation and the power of international brand media have removed many of the differences that countries used to have and created ‘comfort zones’ where people can latch on to familiar surroundings. You can now walk down pretty much any street in any city in any country and find familiar brand names, foods and corporate logos.  If you are ever stranded somewhere just look for a Starbucks, there is bound to be one nearby.

New Zealand is no different and for most migrants, there are a number of things that they will find familiar when they move here. We have many of the same international brands, drive on the same side of the road (as most) and speak English. We live in houses and apartments, we go to work and to school and we pay our taxes. 

Yet for all the similarities which may be more overt, there are a lot of subtle differences. Differences that really only become apparent when you are part of it all and differences that often catch people off guard (both good and bad).

I regularly tell my prospective clients, when we are sitting down at the initial face to face meeting, to think about life in New Zealand from the perspective of an average working day. Forget about the 'honeymoon period' which normally happens over the first few weeks/months of your arrival. Think about it in terms of the ‘daily grind’.

Unless you have a plentiful sum of available funds to make everyday a holiday for the vast majority of migrants life in New Zealand, in terms of the day to day routine, is going to be pretty much the same.

You will get up in the morning, shower, get dressed and rush through breakfast. You may also need to prepare the kids for school, pack lunches and shuttle them off on the morning family taxi run. You will likely sit in traffic or if you are more eco-conscious stand in line for a bus, ferry or train. A quick stop at Starbucks or for those who missed breakfast McDonalds, before heading to the office, factory floor, construction site or wherever your work takes you. The working day will pass and you will get back into your car and that traffic or on that particular mode of public transport to head home. There will be the evening chores, catching up on the national news which will most likely consist of the latest sports results and finally some time with the kids. Wind down the day, head to bed; wash, rinse, repeat.

Sound somewhat familiar?

It probably will be, but now let’s dig a little deeper for those subtle differences.

If you lived in South Africa your routine would probably be the same up until the time you left the front door. You would of course need to check the security gates and lock all five locks before setting the security system (custom built by the guys that developed the Star Wars program). You most likely wouldn’t have the option of public transport and traffic would take you twice maybe three times as long because no one else uses public transport either. Of course whilst in your car, your doors and windows would be fully locked and intersections would be your morning round of Russian roulette. 

You would work a full day, realising that you are one of a dwindling number of tax payers, wondering whether this job might be your last. You would head home in that same traffic with the same race through those red lights. You would arrive to do another perimeter check before going inside. Dinner and then time to catch up on the latest news, consisting of which politician has now been found funnelling millions of Rand out of Government coffers or any one of a number of stories of upward trending crime statistics. Time with the family before a last security check and then off to bed with one eye on the alarm monitor and the other on the window locks. 

If you happened to live in Singapore, Malaysia or most other parts of Asia your day would also be fairly similar to a typical day in New Zealand but with some ‘added bonuses’. You would probably leave your 33rd story apartment (because landed property is simply too expensive) quite comfortably without the security checks, but you are likely to be on that train or in the car earlier than most other people on the planet. Your work day would actually take most of the day and you would likely be back in the car or on the train/bus nearer to 9pm. Last one out of the office to make sure no one thinks you are shirking your duties. By the time you get home the kids are either already in bed or returning from their multiple after school activities, more tired than you are. You would head to bed, just in time for the alarm to go off on Saturday morning when, for quite a few of you, work would be the first chore for the weekend.

Okay so I might be exaggerating a little bit (but not much). These are the daily grinds that my clients share with me repeatedly and often cited as some of the most common reasons for people wanting to move.

Often people who attend our seminars or meet with us to discuss the potential eligibility are rightly focussed on what life will be like. Will it be the same, will it be different? How will they adjust and what can they expect. To all of them I give a pretty straight-forward answer: “Life in New Zealand, once you are settled and employed, will be pretty much the same in terms of the things you do, it will just be one heck of a lot easier”.

Life won’t be a luxury resort in a tropical paradise and it certainly won’t be an extended holiday but compared to the daily routines of people in other countries, the pace is slower, things are easier to get done, its safe and you can spend more time focussing on you and your family as opposed to working to live. Sure we New Zealander's have our daily grumbles and issues but they are, for the most part, first world problems. They are things that we can live with quite happily. 

In truth, you will never really understand it until you are here and living your own personal routine, doing your normal daily activities in this country, but the key message that we try to give people at seminars is that life in New Zealand compared to life in most other places is a lot more ‘hassle free’. 

If you are interested in finding out more or you are keen to explore what awaits you in our little slice of the globe then our seminars are a good start. We tell it like it is and you can then make up your own mind if it’s right for you. I would hasten to add that we don’t often see people walk away from a seminar disappointed.

Our own Southern Man will be in Johannesburg next week and then in Cape Town and Durban the weeks following. To register for any one of these seminars, click here.

This will be my last blog for a while as the Southern Man will be returning to the blogosphere once more next week.

Enjoy the weekend (even if you have to work for some it) - Paul Janssen

Tags: skills | quality | migrants | lifestyle

My Kingdom For a Job...

Posted by Paul on June 28, 2014, 12:35 a.m. in New Zealand Employment

This week’s Southern Man comes to you a little late (apologies). The Southern Man himself is in Europe; we had two of the team in Singapore earlier this week and now one in Malaysia (me). All the while the rest of the faithful crew were busily working away in Auckland, fighting the good fight on behalf of our clients. A truly global effort!

This week’s topic is one often visited in our blog and almost always discussed with our clients both at the initial consultation we have with them and then throughout much of the journey. In fact I have just had this conversation over 40 times in the last week, speaking to hopeful migrants in Singapore and I am about to do it 30 or 40 more times in Malaysia.

So a good time to perhaps share it with the rest of you.

Whether you need the job offer to qualify or have enough points to secure Residence without one, at some point, you will become a member of the ‘job search’ club. You will be standing at the bottom of what looks like an insurmountable wall, wondering how on earth to scale it; but scale it you must and scale it, the well prepared will.

Having worked in recruitment for a short stint, I can speak with some authority on the subject and having helped many a migrant to tackle the task there are few tips I can share. These aren’t ‘magic potions’ or ‘simple fixes’, these are strategies, tools and hints that in almost all cases require a considerable amount of effort to implement.

Firstly, forget any idea of this being easy, it isn’t. Yes there are a few lucky souls that manage to secure work relatively quickly and without too much effort, but for the majority it’s a hard slog. It requires patience, persistence and perseverance, the same you might expect to find in a long distance marathon runner. 

The people that succeed understand this. They prepare for the challenge and gear up suitably. Understanding that the road ahead is a difficult one is half the battle won. I have seen many would be migrants arrive with delusions of grandeur, expecting jobs to be raining from the sky – they aren’t. We prepare people for what will be a fairly gruelling task and coping with the mental battle goes a long way to winning the war.

Secondly, you can dismiss any hopes of securing jobs from your home country, unless you are uniquely skilled and qualified and in an occupation in critical demand (don’t be fooled by INZ’s ‘Skills Shortages List’). Almost all clients secure jobs by being in New Zealand. We are possibly a bit unique in that sense. New Zealand employers like to meet people face to face and securing a job offer is as much about your personality profile and attitude as it is your skills. This is why you need to be in New Zealand. It displays a level of commitment and readiness that you simply can’t achieve sitting in your home country.

A lot of New Zealand employers don’t really know what they need until they really need it, or in many cases until it's too late. This is why most of them won’t entertain offshore applications, because they have no idea of when you might be ready to start, and they wanted you yesterday.

Thirdly, use recruiters but don’t rely on them. I know this for a fact. A lot of recruiters overlook good quality migrants, because to them, a migrant is in the too hard basket. They present a delay in achieving their commission and as such get filed under ‘R’ for ‘Recycling’. The good ones, do deal with migrants and see the skills and expertise rather than the quick commission cheque, but they aren't in ready supply. So don’t expect all recruiters to be able to solve your job search woes.

Going directly to employers is the key, alongside direct networking, Linkedin, Facebook and industry events. Get out there and make yourself visible. Talk to people in the business, make phone calls (yes cold calls) and get your details spread far and wide. Don’t just sit in your hotel/motel room, friend’s house or Starbucks on free WiFi sending your CV via online portals. It won’t work. Yes online search engines such as www.seek.co.nz and www.trademe.co.nz are useful and a good way to find jobs and employers but if you are sitting in NZ sending your CV out, you might as well be anywhere else in the world (refer to previous paragraph).

Finally, there are a few rules around ‘selling yourself’ that you need to bear in mind, after all this is essentially the key to it all – marketing yourself effectively to employers.

Some do’s:

  • Keep your CV simple, effective and relevant.
  • Tailor your CV and cover letter to the role you are applying for.
  • Build your LinkedIn profile and use this to network with people in the industry, but don’t ‘over connect’.
  • Research the companies you are applying to, find out who they are, what they do and their core business values and goals (you can usually find this all on their website).
  • Prepare yourself for the call/walk in, show you are serious and have done the research.
  • Be presentable, you can never ‘dress up’ at an interview if you are too casual; but you can dress down if your interviewers aren’t dressed as formally (remove the tie, jacket etc).

Some don’ts:

  • Don’t add a photo to your CV. Even if you fancy yourself as a GQ/Vogue model, leave it out.
  • Don’t overdo the task list in your CV’s. Keep it relatively short and focussed. Add in key achievements to show you not only can do the job but can do it well.
  • Don’t add in qualifications that you haven’t finished. This is a particularly strange trait for many countries. If you didn’t complete a degree, you don’t have a degree.
  • Don’t be over confident. Employers like confidence but not arrogance. Remember to talk about your skills and how you can accomplish the tasks required. You don’t have to talk about whether you met the queen or toured with Led Zeppelin.
  • Don’t put anything on your CV that you can’t explain. Nothing goes against you more than not being able to recall details from your CV accurately and clearly.

There are many other tips and tools that we utilise in the job search process but ultimately it comes down to hard work, patience and knocking on as many doors as you can. We can also guide you to 'career coaches' who are experts in this field and can give you a lot more guidance. For those that approach this process with a strategy in mind and a clear goal, they are overwhelmingly successful.

For anyone out there doing this, good luck and for those of you out there contemplating doing this, hopefully the above gives you a little bit of guidance along the way.

Until next week 

Paul Janssen – standing in for the Southern Man.


Essential Skills Work Visas Explained

Posted by Paul on June 13, 2014, 4:10 p.m. in Immigration

If you asked most people how many different kind of Work Visas there are for New Zealand, I would bet good money that none of them would guess the real number. 

There are in fact more than a dozen different types of Work Visa, some with their own separate variations and all with their own unique set of rules. Despite this the one Work Visa that is probably misinterpreted the most, but ironically the one that is the most common is the “Essential Skills” Visa or “ES” for short (and so I don’t have to keep typing it).

There is a lengthy description of the ES Visa on the Immigration Department website, which effectively boils down to a category of Visa that is designed to assist employers in filling temporary shortages in the labour market by granting Work Visas to those that have the skills that can be proven to be in short supply.

It is not officially a pathway to Residence but for most people who travel here to secure a job with a view to applying as a Skilled Migrant, the ES Visa is the first step in that process. As a Residence case is likely to take between six to nine months to process then getting the ES Visa first, which allows you to take up the offer before the employer loses interest, is the key.

Because it is so commonly used and frankly in the overall scheme of migrating as a Skilled Migrant a particularly important step in the process, I thought it would be useful to clarify a few basic rules for this Visa type and also dispel a few myths.

ES Visas can only be applied for when someone has an offer of full time employment paid by salary or wages (no commission only roles). If the role is fixed term then the Visa will be issued in line with that period. If the role is permanent then the Visa will be issued for between one and five years depending on the level of skill involved in the role. There are also two key components that have to be satisfied when anyone applies for an ES Visa:

  • That they are suitably qualified by training and/or experience to undertake the job on offer
  • That the employer has made a genuine attempt to recruit for the role within the local labour market and has established that a shortage exists for the position

For the first point, this is relatively easy to explain. Every job you can think of is listed in a publication called the Australia/New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations or ANZSCO for short. This gives a list of the duties for each role, a skill level and then the required qualifications or experience that an applicant should have. For example an Accountant should have a Degree, whereas a farm labourer need not have any experience at all. The higher the skill level the higher the qualification or work experience requirement. To file an application for an ES Visa you need to demonstrate that you have the qualifications or experience that ANZSCO prescribes. 

The second point gets slightly more complex, although is probably the most vital part of any ES Visa application. As the Visa is designed to fill temporary gaps in the labour market where employers simply cannot find staff locally to fill that role, it is vital that the employer is able to provide solid evidence to support that. In general this means showing that the role was advertised and that a robust recruitment process was followed to determine that there was no one else available with the required skills and/or experience. And you have to prove it. Simply stating that in a letter won’t fly so the proof needs to match the claim.

Although it might not sound like much, never underestimate INZ’s ability to scrutinise these applications to within an inch of their life. Sometimes the ones that look the easiest can often become the biggest battles.

But it doesn’t stop there.

More often than not the mistakes don’t occur during the initial application but rather once the Visa has been issued. There are conditions attached to the ES Visa which are important for both the migrant and the employer to be aware of and unfortunately are often overlooked.

For the migrant the ES Visa is specific down to the occupation, employer and location that was applied for originally and this is stated on the label. So if you have a job working as a Plumber for ‘ABC Pipes’ (I am guessing there is no such company) based in Gore, you cannot go and work as a Taxidermist for ‘Stuffed Animals Are Us’ in Palmerston North (I also hope this company doesn’t exist) using the same Visa. If your employer or location changes and the role is the same you may need to apply for a Variation of Conditions (depending on the details), however, if your occupation changes then it’s a new Work Visa application entirely.

It’s also slightly more intricate than that. Even if you stay in the same company, in the same department but are promoted to the Manager of Taxidermy, then technically this requires a new Visa and remember the same rules in regards to advertising and the required skills apply. Because this isn’t obvious and certainly not made obvious by INZ, many people end up being promoted and then ending up being in breach of their Visa without knowing it.

The golden rule is that if your situation changes, you need to change your (Visa) situation.

If you want to bring your children with you on Student or Visitor Visas, then you also need to be aware that there is a minimum income threshold for parents on an ES Visa. The current minimum income threshold is NZD$35,294.60 per annum and must be met before any Visas will be issued for the kids (not negotiable). If you want to bring your spouse or partner over on an Open Work Visa then there is no minimum income requirement but your ES Visa must be valid for more than six months.

Whilst most of the ES rules are the responsibility of the applicant, it’s important for employers also to be aware of their obligations. If a staff member does change roles, it’s good practice to check their Visa status to make sure that it allows them to be employed in that position or recommend that they get it varied or file a new application. I often suggest that HR managers or business owners keep a register of who has a Visa and what that Visa allows so that if things change, then the right steps can be taken. This saves a lot of time and hassle later particularly if you have to try and apply for a new Visa for a new position that your employee has already started working in.

Overall the key thing is to remember that with any Visa there are usually conditions or obligations attached, so getting it is half the battle, staying within those conditions is the second half. Like most things immigration related the rules can be far more complicated than they first appear and certainly more complicated than INZ might suggest on their website so if you are on an ES Visa and thinking of changing careers, or pushing for that promotion, spare a few moments to consider what steps you might need to take to sort your Visa as well.

Or why not get in touch with us so we can assess your options and point you down the right track.

Until next week when the Southern Man returns...

Paul Janssen


For the children...

Posted by Paul on May 16, 2014, 3:26 p.m. in Immigration

The answer to the question “why do people migrate?” is nearly as complicated as working out the meaning to life or the location of a certain missing air-plane. The reasoning can include anything from lifestyle, work/life balance and education all the way through to the weather and people keen to live in a place where hobbits are rumoured to roam.

For most migrants however, their reasons for making the move are almost always a by-product of the desire to seek out a better life for their children. Whether its mum and dad wanting better employment prospects for their three teenage children or the newlywed couple without kids doing their ‘future planning’; the overwhelming response to the question that I ask most of the people I meet is, “we are doing it for the children”. To illustrate the point, only 10 or so years ago our average client from South Africa was married, mortgaged and middle class with a couple of teenage children in tow. Now we are seeing a much wider range of younger migrant hopefuls in their mid-twenties, who have yet to experience the joy of parenting but shudder at the thought of raising children in their own country. No matter where our clients come from though, the thread that ties the majority of them together is seeking out something better for the next generation.

And fair enough to, that’s what we parents are engineered to do.

There are very few places on earth where children can enjoy the relative freedoms that Kiwi kids take for granted. Children here can access a world class (and largely free) education system and top notch healthcare facilities also publicly funded. All of this on top of the fact that they can simply enjoy being children without the stress, fear and anxiety that many societies throughout the world impose on their youth from a very early age.

Of course, New Zealand isn’t perfect and our children face many of the normal social pressures and issues that plague most countries. As parents in New Zealand (and I am one) we still have to exercise common sense and parental responsibility (as far as one can with their children) to ensure that our kids grow up to be decent human beings. The comparison, however, is that most of the issues we have to deal with are within our control. As parents we are faced with the daily challenges of stroppy toddlers and stroppy teenagers, too much TV, associating with the wrong crowd and too much time on Facebook; all relatively minor when you consider what parents in other parts of the world have to contend with.

Let me give you a few examples.

I read an article in Singapore last week discussing a survey, where one in three Singaporean children between nine and twelve years of age, considered that their life was not worth living, owing mainly to their fear of academic failure. These children and I stress that at that age they are very much children, are so afraid of not being able to compete within the education system that they question whether their life has that much meaning. Surely that is a problem. There is no doubt that Singapore has created an outstanding academic system and one that is capable of producing any number of Engineers, Doctors, Software Gurus or Investment Bankers, but if a third of your very young academic population is questioning whether they should continue living before they are barely out of diapers, something is essentially going to give way. Unfortunately, this not just an issue in Singapore but for many South East Asian countries were academic competition has become a national past time.

Some might say that New Zealand could do with a sprinkling of this competition and that our system is perhaps a little too ‘bell curve’ oriented, focussing on making sure everyone feels like a winner rather than drawing a line between those who can and those who cannot. There is probably some truth to that, but the overwhelming difference is that children in New Zealand who want to achieve and are supported by their parents in doing so, can. They are also able to do this without feeling the entire weight of society on top of them from the age of six. We also tend to give children a ‘social education’ and not just book smarts. We teach kids how to tackle the world, which in many cases is just as important as giving the academic tools.

As a parent to an almost three year old, I know that whilst the system might have changed, my daughter will have access to a similarly rounded education that I had. Able to pursue whatever academic interests she may eventually have and be well equipped to apply that learning and grapple with life after school; no different to the education I received when I was a youngster.

For other parents, education might be lower on the priority list and the focus may be more heavily on whether their kids make it home at night. Let me first state that parents will always worry what their kids are up to, or what they are doing; there is, however, a big difference between routinely wondering whether your child is out late at a party or hanging with the wrong crowd and worrying whether they have been the victim of a rape, mugging, abduction or shooting. For many of our clients the latter is something that concerns them daily.

Of course you still have to be vigilant in New Zealand to ensure your children are safe, although most of these factors we can influence or at least try to. We don’t have the same concerns of violent crime on every street corner and the fear that their school may be shot to pieces in a shoot-out. The whole realm of worry and concern for parents in New Zealand is several degrees less in this country. Our most recent statistics show that crime has fallen 4% across New Zealand in the year ending December 2013 and 93% of our population feels safer. There aren’t too many places in the world where crime overall is falling and people have greater confidence in the protection that police can provide for themselves and their children. All of this, without the need to carry a gun on their hip.

Beyond the stresses of education and the desire to live in a safe, peaceful country many parents who migrate have, at the top of their list of concerns, the long term future for their children. Questions like “will my child get a job” are far easier to answer here than they are in say South Africa, where the prospect of securing employment is determined by the colour of your skin. In New Zealand children can grow up to pursue whatever careers they wish and are limited only by their own desire to excel and succeed. We have no racial quotas designed to allocate jobs to certain ethnicities and, in fact, we have one of the most equal employment markets in the world. The sky is most certainly the limit for children in New Zealand and we have a system that enshrines this equality in almost every facet of the legal system.

These are but a few of the reasons that New Zealand is a very attractive proposition for migrants looking to secure a better future for their children (or children to come) and the list extends to many other facets of life. Freedom of religion, a fair and tolerant society, minimal to non-existent corruption and a clean, green healthy environment are a few of the other reasons I give my clients whose focus is squarely set on doing this for their children.

Yes, New Zealand has issues when it comes to kids, and I am not pretending that this is the perfect incubator for children, but in reality when you compare it to almost every other country on earth the statistics, no matter how they are framed, all point to this country being right up there.

So for many people considering this move whose focus is on what they can do for their children, New Zealand represents a great start in life. That isn’t to say that New Zealand isn’t a great place for parents as well, but we all know that the sacrifices we make for our children know no bounds and migration is simply another thing many people do to give their kids a better head start.

If you have ever thought about what your child’s life might be like in ten years and then started to sweat nervously or reach for a cup of something stronger than tea, perhaps it might be worth finding out what New Zealand can offer. 

Until next week
Paul Janssen
Tags: sibling | migrants | lifestyle | life

How Licensing Fails Migrants...

Posted by Iain on March 28, 2014, 2:14 p.m. in Government

Did Confucius or some other sage (at Saatchi and Saatchi?) once say that self-flattery is the lowest form of compliment?

I am not sure.

I learned this week just how good the team at Immagine really is when compared to the rest of the immigration advice industry. This week’s blog is not so much about my team as it is the abject failure of the New Zealand Government’s licensing scheme in protecting migrants from shoddy Advisers but it demonstrates I hope just how good we really are at what we do.

I long rallied against regulating this industry but have concluded that sensible regulation that is enforced can be beneficial. I didn’t need a license to build a name and a company off the back of delivering what migrants struggled to achieve without professional advice but I concede now having a license can reinforce that ‘brand’. 

This business has been built on three key principles:

1. Treating clients as we would have them treat us if the roles were reversed

2. Don’t’ make promises you cannot keep

3. Offer value for money

We have now helped by our estimation over 21,000 people negotiate the residence process. Our success rate on visas filed is over 99.8% and possibly higher (but my math isn’t quite that good). Suffice it to say that if we file a Visa for someone there is very little chance it will not be granted.

I always assumed that while we are very good at what we do we were one of many. I learned this week that is not the case and we are among a tiny minority of Advisers with success rates this high.

Globally there are around 600 individually licensed immigration advisers.

I am not about to break confidences or name my source (the source is impeccable) but I have learned that if your immigration advisers/lawyer has been practicing for 5 years there is only 20 (something) on this planet who have better than a 90% visa approval rate.

To say I was shocked at this is an understatement. If among the best two dozen advisers there are any that have decline rates even approaching 10% on visa applications then it has to be concluded that the Government has allowed too many people to obtain licenses too easily and not enough is being done to lift the standard of entry into the industry or ensuring the standards of those with licenses remains high.

As a result of intense industry pressure late last year the Government announced a review of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Authority at which a number of us had levelled serious criticisms about their failure to offer much in the way of protection to so called ‘vulnerable migrants’, in large part because they were dishing out licenses to people simply unqualified and who lacked the experience to be given the responsibility. A few weeks ago the Registrar fell on his sword and resigned. I could be generous and say he will be missed but that would be untrue given migrants are, in my view, still not getting the protection the Authority was legislated to provide.

The Authority’s programme of creating a (pathetic) Immigration Advice Diploma course at the end of which ‘graduates’ are given a full licence to practice was always foolhardy and they were warned of it. Setting loose on the markets people who have no practical experience with the real world of migration laws and processes, migrants and the Immigration Department was a recipe for disaster.

And so it has now proved.

The first mistake of the Authority was having no real understanding of what good, competent and ethical Advisers like us do all day. Their focus was on making us comply with odd business practices rather than the quality of the work we do. It surely was simple enough to monitor approval rates on visa applications which in my view is the measure of the value and competence of an Adviser.

The second was to believe that graduates of their course were somehow entitled to employment and are being given licenses to practice. Who believes that graduates of any course are entitled to anything? Auckland University School of Law doesn’t promise law graduates jobs. No one promised me a job when I left Auckland University.

For some reason the Authority believed they needed to create an industry – when one already had been in existence for a quarter century and generally working well (certainly no worse) than when it was created six years ago.

As a consequence the market has been flooded by about 70 Advisers a year most of whom have no practical or real world experience. People who are sanctioned by the State to wave a license around and offer advice to those thinking of making the biggest decision they will likely ever make in their lives.

We have strongly advocated (and will continue to do so through the formal review of the Authority) that given the serious damage (financial and emotional) of getting eligibility advice wrong no one should be given a full license to practice without either working under the supervision of an fully licensed, experienced, competent and ethical Adviser for 2-3 years (law graduates in New Zealand for example cannot work on their own account for I believe three years after qualifying) or if they wish to be self-employed until they have filed a certain minimum number of visa applications across all categories, whose applications and outcomes have been closely monitored by the Immigration Department and/or the Authority and who cannot demonstrate an approval rate of at least 97% (I’d exclude refugee claims from that given they are a whole different kettle of legal fish).

There is also the issue of beefing up complaints and compliance.

In every market we work in overseas we are constantly meeting migrants who have been ripped off or poorly advised on their options by people with full licenses but who should quite simply not hold them. Particularly in South Africa and Malaysia.

The Authority clearly has real problems trying to enforce NZ law on overseas based Advisers but it is hoped once they get their house in order under new leadership they will focus every more rigorously on cleaning out those with licenses in South Africa, Malaysia, India, Philippines, China and beyond who are giving inaccurate, misleading and often woeful advice to would be New Zealanders whose visa applications are failing to be approved.

While I hesitate to compare helping people relocate and settle with selling milk powder, New Zealand enjoys a reputation globally for openness, transparency and above all quality of product and service. The national Farmer Co-op, Fonterra, got into big trouble last year in its biggest market, China, through a botulism scare in some of its infant formula product. While it turned out to be a false alarm it did serious harm to one of New Zealand’s key industries, cost the country several hundred million dollars in lost income and more than that brought into question New Zealand’s reputation for only dealing in quality and reliable products and services. While the milk powder and infant formula markets have bounced back and continue to lead the economic expansion of the economy it was a good lesson for not settling for less than 100%.

My industry is no different to all those New Zealand exporters competing around the world. As Licensed Advisers we have the power to shape futures positively or negatively. The Immigration Advisers Licensing Authority was set up not just to protect migrants from dodgy or incompetent Advisers but to help protect the reputation of New Zealand as a migrant destination and every Adviser that lets the side down by filing inadequate or incorrect visa applications lets ‘team New Zealand ‘down. 

To learn this week that Immagine New Zealand probably employs 4 of perhaps two dozen people on this planet with a success rate with visa applications higher than 90% was truly a shock to me. 

Our aim is 100% and probably would be if all clients were honest about everything from the get go. I can probably only expect 99.8%. 

It isn’t bad even if it isn’t perfect. And it does put our team in a minority of perhaps 3% of all those with licenses. 

Things have got to change and I intend continuing to be part of the charge.

Off to South Africa Monday for three seminars across the Republic For further details. Click here for details.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man


What does 2014 hold for NZ?

Posted by Iain on Jan. 17, 2014, 11:43 a.m. in New Zealand Economy

Happy New Year to all our regular Southern Man Letters from New Zealand readers.

The team is back in the office, tanned and relaxed (that lasted about two days!) and looking forward to an extra busy year. For us it is going to be a year of firsts – we are now dipping our toes in the Hong Kong and Indonesian markets. Across the Tasman Sea our Australian colleagues are heading to Botswana, Greece and Turkey to test the migrant waters there.

And what of New Zealand in 2014? How are the tea leaves looking?

If you can believe the various surveyors and economic forecasters we are in for a very good year and several beyond this. A few key points in recently released surveys show:

  • Business confidence is at a 20 year high
  • All sectors of the economy are growing – manufacturing, agriculture, services and tourism are all showing strong growth
  • All regions of New Zealand are in positive growth and confidence territory (spreading out from Auckland and Christchurch which dominated 2013)
  • ‘Own business’ confidence is running at multi year highs and this suggests GDP growth of at least 3.5% this year
  • Retail sales through Christmas were up 7% on the year before and have continued through the early part of January
  • Skills shortages are starting to bite (told you!!!!) - especially in the construction and IT sectors – everyone from Architects, Civil Engineers, Quantity Surveyors and Planners through to related trades workers. In ICT some are now calling the shortages ‘dire’ which might be a slight exaggeration but these shortages are going to be biting across most sectors within the next six months in my view .
  • Unemployment which currently stands at 6.2% is predicted to fall to 5.5% by years end and 4.5% by the end of 2015. It is worth noting that once unemployment gets down to 5% in New Zealand you’ll not be able to find a Secretary to do your word processing……or find someone to make you a cup of coffee. It is also worth reminding readers that skilled migrants seldom compete with the unemployed 6.2% - they tend to be un-skilled or semi-skilled.
  • Inflation is expected to remain subdued overall at around 1% but dog with rabies crazy in housing. There continues to be a chronic shortage of new housing supply meaning house values  are expected to continue their seemingly relentless increase by around 10% this year (higher in Auckland and Christchurch). This is feeding through into higher rental prices also.
  • Interest rates are predicted to increase by 25 base points each quarter for the next 5 quarters (starting March). The word is the economy is robust enough with exports booming even with a high exchange rate to offset any inflationary build up. I’d be expecting floating mortgage rates to be around 6.5% - 7% by years end.

Short of any major external shocks things are looking overwhelmingly positive. No one is talking about an overheating economy or boom times but there is a real and broad based momentum that has been building across all sectors and all regions.

This, I suspect, will embolden the New Zealand Government to continue with high skilled migrant pass marks and forcing a majority (note, not all….) of would be migrants to come and find jobs in order to have certainty of residency approval.

Those employers unwilling to recruit form the ranks of those offshore or who refuse to travel overseas to interview and recruit are within the next few months going to be staring into a very shallow pool of local talent. This will have an upward movement on incomes (we are already seeing it in construction and IT in particular).

While no one who reads this who thinks they may make a move this year should take getting work for granted, there is no doubt that 2014 for the vast majority of you will be a year of greater employment opportunities. Through 2013 we saw average times for most clients to find jobs here get down to a few weeks rather than a few months as it was through 2011-2012. If you are fluent in English, skilled, do your research on demand in the labour market for your skills set and are willing to get on a plane and get here, chances are you’ll find work within 4-6 weeks.

As we reported in December the Government has closed the Long Term Business Visa or self-employed pathway to residence while they think about a new ‘improved’ visa class for Entrepreneurs which they hope to launch in April. We have been offered an outline of the new criteria which we have agreed will remain confidential but what we can say without breaking those confidences is that the new criteria is less a pathway for the self-employed to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency to a move to focus on greater job creation and export related businesses as priority for approval. For the first time the amount of funds invested comes with a minimum and the more invested the higher the chances of success. In essence what we will gain is effectively a new sub-class of Investor – lower investment thresholds than those who apply to many looking to secure residence under the Investor Categories but a much higher threshold than historically in place for the self-employed. As always there will be winners and there will be losers.

Skilled Migrant Category also underwent its standard three year review during 2013 and I expect we may see changes this year. My own view is the changes will be minor (why change a formula that appears to be working?). My only two suggestions to Government were that we should be more prescriptive in regard to English language as the Australians are (better your English the higher your points) and I would also be re-instating points for those with capital they can transfer to New Zealand. Although it is proven that those with more money find it easier to settle I cannot see the Government taking me up on this suggestion; they might on the English language however. We shall see.

I head overseas today for the first round of seminars for 2014 and will be in Singapore this weekend, Jakarta next weekend and Kuala Lumpur the following. The seminar in Jakarta is now fully booked.

My colleague Paul will also be in South Africa in early February kicking for our first round of seminars there.

It is going to be a big, exciting and nerve wracking year for some of you as you pack up and join us here in New Zealand. For some 2013 was the moving year and 2014 will become the year of return to some sort of normality. For others 2014 will be the year of the ‘big decision’ to migrate or not. Wherever you are on that spectrum the Immagine team and I wish you every happiness and success for the year.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man – Letter from New Zealand


T'was the night before Christmas...

Posted by Paul on Dec. 20, 2013, 9:38 a.m. in Immigration

When all through the house, not a creature was stirring..., except for a Government policy maker who decided that changing the rules at the end of the year would make a lovely Christmas present.

Late last week the Minister of Immigration released a statement relating to proposed changes to the Long Term Business Visa (LTBV) Category. Whilst the announcement didn’t reveal specifics over what the new policy would look like, it made a few references to the ideas being batted around inside the immigration halls of power.

Originally established as a pathway to residency for those who wished to come to New Zealand and become financially self sustaining, applicants were required to have a well researched business plan that met a fairly clear benefit test to the country. In hindsight that benefit test was set too low in the eyes of the Departmental officials who implement the policy.

When it was released it was a case of ‘anything goes’ and applications from Bed and Breakfasts to one man band lawn-mowing franchises were being approved in a matter of weeks. Then with a change in leadership came a change in interpretation (although the policy didn’t) and applications were declined en masse. This Category has always been subject to the ever changing mood of INZ, although none of those changes was ever set down in the rules. It was a case of getting to understand each new Branch Manager’s feelings on the benefit to New Zealand before advising your client on whether to proceed or not. 

This has led to a policy that is both poorly understood by applicants and immigration officers alike and open to widespread abuse by both applicants and the Department. Often seen as the ‘application of last resort’, INZ struggled with the ebb and flow of applications of questionable benefit to New Zealand, leading to very few residence approvals.

The current (to be no longer as of the end of today) policy sees around 500 applications annually which is quite a few considering the intent of the policy is for people to establish or purchase businesses in New Zealand.

Application volumes have been steadily increasing over the last three immigration years (2010 to 2013), although approval rates have been falling from 89% at the beginning of that period down to 71% in the current year to date. There are various reasons INZ attribute to this trend, some of which don’t appear to hold a lot of water, given they created and administer the policy; but the main thrust of the changes relates to what we have always argued is a clear lack of defined aim of the policy.

Let me give you a few examples. 

Part of the existing policy requires an applicant to have sufficient funds for maintenance and accommodation – and that’s about as far as the rule book goes in terms of specifying what that figure might be. It doesn’t give a guide as to the amount of money required and so its left up to an immigration officer to decide on what they believe is appropriate. The problem with that is each officer will have a different view on what is ‘sufficient’. Some might drive a BMW and scoff at the idea on living on anything less than $100,000.00 per year (or perhaps $150,000 a year which was a figure quoted to us by INZ recently). Other officers will live with more modest means and believe that a third of that is required. 

Then there is the definition of ‘benefit to New Zealand’ which is another criteria that INZ uses to determine if a proposed business is worthy of approval. There is a list of criteria within the rule book; however it was arguably poorly written and therefore open to various interpretations. Also where policy says ‘benefit’ can be satisfied by meeting one of the criteria (such as employing a single New Zealander), INZ recently decided what the policy actually meant was if only one person is being employed they will do a ‘measuring’ exercise to determine whether there is enough weight in the other elements of ‘benefit’ to grant an approval.

That of course is not that the policy suggests at all but this was the Department’s way of dealing to what they considered ‘low quality’ applications – even those that demonstrably met their own single benefit criteria.

So, out with the old and in with the new – but what is ‘the new’?

Before we dive into this, it is important to note that anyone who has a current LTBV in process will be covered by the existing rules and so the proposed changes only impact on those who have yet to lodge a formal application. That does mean ongoing uncertainty as we doubt INZ will be able to resist trying to implement a higher bar test of benefit to LTBV renewals at nine months and the Resident Visa that follows.

In terms of the new policy - put simply INZ is returning to form, trying to cut out as much thinking as they can and putting in place a points system which measures various criteria. The Government has decided to close the current policy down today, release the details of the new policy in February 2014 (date to be determined) and then actually make it effective from March 2014. This then gives INZ and, in particular the Business Migration Branch, a chance to play catch up.

What little we do know is that the policy will utilise a points system to allow applicants to gauge for themselves the likelihood of success and hopefully provide some clarity around the actual criteria. 

Points will very likely be allocated based on age, capital investment, level of turnover, business experience, job creation and the level of innovation (not sure how you measure that). There will be a total point’s score of 120 (proposed) and INZ will obviously be balancing age, investment capital and the kind of business to approve the most desirable applications. The focus has very much gone on targeting enterprises that will provide export opportunities and/or technological innovation. Essentially what they don’t want are B&B’s and corner dairies.

There will also be a focus on pushing businesses out to the regions and awarding additional “bonus” points to applicants who propose to establish a business anywhere outside of Auckland. Similar to the Skilled Migrant Category, INZ has always endeavoured to move migrants out of Auckland and in to the smaller parts of the country to stimulate growth.

The Minister sums up his intention of the new policy in the press release as follows:

“The Entrepreneur Work Visa will operate under a new points-based system that will result in higher quality, more productive businesses.

“It will also encourage business-savvy migrants to invest, settle, and create jobs across the country, by offering extra points for expanding or starting businesses outside of the Auckland region.”

But (and there always is a whole lot of these) INZ will also have the discretion to waive certain requirements for funds where the proposed business can ‘excel’ in other areas. So basically you have a set of rules and then another rule which allows an officer to do whatever he/she likes.  Let’s hope it isn’t quite as subjective as that.

We support any move to greater transparency that leads to both a higher success rate and a better outcome for New Zealand. Based on the information publicly released so far we question why it has taken INZ so long to work this out and whether or not they have done enough to fix the issues. Time will tell of course.

For anyone who is considering a Long Term Business Visa application stay tuned. We will be sending out the details as we receive them along with our interpretation of what they mean in the real world.

And with that the Southern Man and the IMMagine New Zealand team sign off for another year. It has been an interesting one to say the least as the New Zealand economy continues to outperform its developed country peers and surges into 2014, the Auckland Council debates whether to kick out the current Mayor who has a penchant for extra marital activities and the folks in Christchurch continue to restack the bricks and mortar.

We will be back in January (officially open on the 13th) with a new round of seminars kicking off in the same month – this time featuring for the first time Jakarta followed later by Hong Kong.

To all of our clients and those who have read and enjoyed our blogs in 2013 we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We look forward to working with you again in 2014 and hope you all enjoy the festive season (no matter where in the world you are).

For now we are off to the beach as summer settles into a warm dry pattern.

Adieu, Arrivederci, Totsiens, Salamat Jalan and Hasta La Vista…

Paul Janssen, Iain MacLeod and the Team at IMMagine New Zealand