Posts with tag: migrants
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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.
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.
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 demand greater 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.
This does make me and a great many other New Zealanders feel somewhat inadequate that we come from a country that is, 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 a 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 say we have little to fear but much to gain. Aucklanders, if not all 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 their 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 either.
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
Southern Man- Letter from New Zealand
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.
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
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.
- 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).
- 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.
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...
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.
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.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
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.
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
Southern Man – Letter from New Zealand
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
If there was a way for the officials that run the immigration system in this country to ‘walk a mile in my shoes’, I would gladly hand over my size 11’s.
In this business we have learned that you can never underestimate what it means for someone to pack their lives into a box, burn bridges in their homeland and head for New Zealand in the hope that they will be able to establish a new life here. For some it’s a choice but for many it’s the only option.
And for all their talk about ‘customers not numbers’, ‘positive settlement outcomes’ and ‘trusted partnerships’ I doubt that there are many people within the immigration machine that truly understand (as we do) what it means to migrate. There are some officers out there who do get it and these are the ones we try to work most closely with, but unfortunately for the majority, it’s a system of numbers and forms, KPI’s and targets with little in between.
I recently came to the end of what was one of the most complex cases I have ever handled, the kind of stuff that gives a Licensed Adviser insomnia and cold sweats. The kind of case that also makes you realise just how much is involved in a person’s decision to migrate.
This particular client had, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, ended up being deported from Australia back to a country he had fled over a decade earlier. He had for a large part of his life been living under the immigration radar without a Visa and without being able to truly settle anywhere. In the midst of all of this he had met a girl and that girl, although she happened to live in Australia (where they met), was New Zealand born. So not only was this particular client abruptly removed from a life that he had built over many years to one that was completely foreign; but he was also torn away from the love of his life.
They had been through the immigration process in two countries and failed. Their attempts to tell their story were never really heard and they felt like their options had been exhausted. I recall the first conversation I had with the New Zealand partner and it sounded like the wind had been knocked clean out of her. Put simply they were just another number in a statistic on someone’s spread sheet.
As an Adviser taking on a case like this you need all the facts. We need to know pretty much everything there is to know about the history and anything less just won’t cut it. I listened to this couple and the story they told made sense. In this particular case, as it is with anyone that has been anywhere unlawfully for that long and then deported, it was always going to be 50/50 and I had no reservations in telling them that we were in for a lengthy battle. My role in all of this was to simultaneously minimize the risk of failure whilst maximising the chances of success. There was a lot at stake here and this was a couple that were prepared to go to hell and back to make it work.
After 20 months, 520 emails and numerous lengthy discussions with Senior Immigration Officers that, to their credit, also listened; the outcome was successful. What this means for this couple is best left to the partner to say. Here is what she emailed me when she was given the good news:
“…he hasn't felt like he has belonged anywhere ever, he has never felt comfortable to call a place home and actually make solid decisions about how he wants to spend his future - he can now do that...”
Are we proud of this? Yes. Did we pull off a miracle? Well not quite. In reality we simply knew how to navigate this process, who in the system to talk to and how to talk to them. We listened to the client, understood the situation and then set about minimising failure and maximising success.
As Advisers we constantly advocate that the machine should deliver consistent and fair outcomes. Sometimes, as was the case in the scenario above, we have to fight a little harder to secure those outcomes particularly when you have a round peg and a square hole. However, there are occasions when even though the system shouldn’t be a lottery, it can feel like you are rolling dice.
Take last week for example. INZ decided it would be a good idea to change the security settings on their online Expression of Interest (EOI) login system. As a result the system didn’t work for a few days and for anyone using Google Chrome there was not much hope of filing an EOI (there is probably a good blog in that). A week later INZ conducts their regularly scheduled EOI selection process and for the first time in seven months, the pass mark fell (ever so slightly).
It wouldnt be silly to conclude that the drop in the pass mark was because fewer people were able to file EOI’s, meaning INZ had less 'customers' to choose from and therefore to get their regular number of plus/minus 600, they needed to select those with a slightly lower score. Or it could be just the computer system making up numbers because demand was lower. Either way the thinking isn't necessarily being done by a person.
For the number crunchers and budget balancers within INZ this would simply have been an ‘anomaly’, possibly a ‘glitch’ or perhaps just 'statistics'. For a few would-be migrants out there who have filed EOI’s in the hope that somewhere, somehow they might get selected, this would have been the very first step in that new life.
No matter how hard you try to understand this process it can sometimes (thankfully rarely) come down to whether the guy manning the IT desk, put a semi-colon in the right place or which way the number crunchers lean.
I know that Iain (the actual Southern Man) has four golden rules when it comes to this process and one of them rings true here – “Just when you think you have the system figured out, they change it”. We know this and it’s probably why we have the success rates we do. Prepare for all situations and never underestimate the system’s ability to get it wrong.
Above all, however, a good Adviser will go further than forms, paperwork and process to understand what’s involved with your situation, to navigate you through the system successfully and remove as much of the randomness and inconsistency as is possible. You should never just be a number.
For my client and his partner, I wish them all the very best. Having not only listened to their story but also being a part of it, I am privileged (and somewhat humbled) to know that New Zealand now feels like home for him, in the truest sense of the word.
For everyone else reading this blog who has thought about making the move but would like someone to walk the journey with them, drop us a line, or if you are in South Africa, Singapore or Malaysia (click on the links to register) we have our last seminars for 2013 in November and December coming up, so why not come and listen to what we have to say and perhaps share your story with us.
I don’t pretend to understand what goes through New Zealand politicians’ heads but “How do I get re-elected next time round” is probably right up there.
Only that thought can explain to me why we are not seeing Government increasing now, with a degree of urgency for next year and beyond, the numbers of well targeted skilled migrants allowed into New Zealand without job offers.
In the past three weeks media headlines have screamed:
- Business Confidence remains at 5 year high (31 October)
- Building consents at record levels (31 October)
- Booming NZ game industry facing skills shortage (30 October)
- Skills Shortage hamper rebuild (26 October)
- Are you ready for the economic boom? (21 October)
- Skills crisis needs fixing (8 October)
Recent statistics suggest that around 90% of all skilled migrants still require skilled employment before they can get enough ‘points’ to qualify for residence. Understandably, given the potentially real or perceived risks associated with getting those jobs, many choose not to join us in New Zealand for fear they will not be successful in their hunt (or as per last week’s Southern Man Letter from New Zealand they will be denied visas to come and look for work or be stopped at the border).
For every ten families we consult with that would have an excellent chance of both securing employment and gaining enough points for residence, probably two actually go through with it.
New Zealand and in particular Immigration New Zealand doesn't make it easy, so understandably many potential migrants don’t take up the challenge. Of course for those that secure the right advice and guidance, the process is overwhelmingly successful.
On the one hand with local unemployment sitting stubbornly around the 6.5% mark it must be tempting for Government not to be seen increasing the numbers of skilled migrants allowed in without needing jobs. As recently as two years ago they did when around 50% of skilled migrants gained Resident Visas that way.
On the other hand there are very real, concerning and increasing levels of skills shortages across many sectors. Not a day goes by when the headlines don’t scream we are short of architects, quantity surveyors, CAD experts, construction related trades workers, IT professionals and many many more. The Government risks losing the support of some of its traditional business power base at next year’s election if companies feel constrained by a lack of available labour to fill roles vital to their businesses.
Of course politicians the world over know that standing on a platform of increasing immigration wins no one any votes anywhere. This, despite the reality that skilled migrants do not compete with the locally unemployed in this country and skilled locals will always be ahead of migrants in the job queue. So the skills difference between these two sets of people mean their paths will seldom, if ever, cross and politically our Government should be confident enough to call it how it is.
Oh that they were so brave.
In the past two years the Government has issued 18,000 fewer skilled migrant visas than their own programme demands. So far they don’t seem bothered about it but when the good people of Christchurch continue to step over the rubble of their humbled city in a few years or Aucklanders face building costs going through the roof because of a lack of skilled workers it might have some political fallout.
If skills shortages start filtering through into wage/price inflation and all home owners watch their mortgage interest rates increase it won’t do anything for the Government’s popularity.
As the construction boom has moved to Auckland this powerful bloc of voters could easily be turned off the Government if they see their ability to maximise their commercial opportunities impeded by lack of skilled workers or it feeding through into cost of living increases that have largely been absent these past few years with inflation well under control and under 1%.
The New Zealand economy is on a roll – growth is forecast at between 3 and 4% over the next year. Every sector of the economy is expanding. Thousands of jobs are being created and hiring intentions are high and climbing. The country’s terms of trade are the strongest in years.
In recent months net migration has turned positive but not thanks to new residents being granted visas – instead largely by New Zealanders returning home from Australia as their economy cools following the end of the mining boom. This is adding several thousand skilled and semi-skilled workers to the local pool which is a good thing but Government cannot target the specific skills sets we require – we might just be getting back many low to semi skilled workers chucked out of manual work in and around the mines. Again the skills mix might not be what the businesses of New Zealand need.
So there needs to be a sensible balance struck. Right now the Government is on auto pilot when it comes to migration and it would be nice, if only once, a New Zealand Government was proactive and ahead of the game rather than reactive and two years behind.
A skilled migrant who has the points to qualify for residence without needing a job is at least 12 months away and probably closer to two years away from being able to deliver these skills to the labour market of New Zealand.
A sensible approach would be to slowly ramp up the numbers of migrants approved who don’t have jobs but who have excellent English (given linguistic compatibility more than anything drives employment outcomes) and who have the skills sorely needed in New Zealand – Engineering, construction and IT being at the forefront.
A real problem for the skills strapped employers of New Zealand in 2014 is an election year and I cannot see the Government changing its current insistence on the majority of migrants burning bridges at home, travelling to New Zealand, running the airport gauntlet, trying to find work and taking the risk they will be successful.
Perhaps it is time for the politicians to look beyond next year’s election and get bold about migration.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man