It's just a thought...
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Posted by Iain on Dec. 17, 2021, 11:48 a.m. in New Zealand Politics
This is my last post (can you hear the lone bugler?) and while I was going to finish on an esoteric note there’s been a few indications these past two weeks of where the visa process might be heading in New Zealand, at least in the short term, that will make for interesting reading.
You may recall Government announced that there are three stages to the plan to re-open the international border in 2022:
1. From January 17 those of us stuck in Australia can return home and isolate for seven days at home. This includes ‘other eligible travellers’ living in Australia (Australian citizens, Australian PR holders) and any NZ Critical Purpose Visitor Visa holders living in Australia. Non NZ citizens must be full vaccinated.
2. From mid February New Zealanders from everywhere else (as in, not Australia) can head home. The Government (only under pressure through a question being put to the Minister in Parliament last week) also confirmed that anyone holding a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa (meaning in part those with jobs in NZ to take up) can also travel if fully vaccinated.
3. From April 22 it seemed initially that everyone else would be able to travel under the ‘other eligible travellers’ group but the government has (still) not advised who those people are. Could it be general tourists or people coming to find work? That was the impression given but why Government hasn’t offered any public definition of exactly who is covered from that date escapes me - unless of course they made the announcement first and are working through the details second - something they have become very good at doing in recent times. We have a Minister of Tourism advising we won’t be having general tourism till 2023 but where it might leave international students, people coming to find jobs etc, we do not yet know.
At last it seems the fog may be lifting on the border but it would be really helpful if the Government actually provided definitions and criteria when it released policy so we know what criteria will apply to whom.
It is however still good news. For those of you that are working on moving to New Zealand during 2022 and need job offers to make it happen it looks like you will be good to go by mid year. Covid variants and Government not getting cold feet willing of course…
On that last point the New Zealand Government continues to send mixed messages that is confusing the heck out of people and making the lives of those of us who need to get to New Zealand more complicated. Although last week the Minister for Covid Response confirmed there’d be no ‘walking back’ of these dates last week, earlier this week the Prime Minister, once again, came out and contradicted him. She said, as she tends to do, that while she is hoping the government can stick to these dates, she adds the qualifier it’s subject to ‘Omicron’ and any other good reason not to. Not helpful when the government is following a suppression policy and has dumped ‘elimination’.
She blindsided Air New Zealand with this comment - as far as management of the national airline were aware it’s full steam ahead on re-opening rom 17 January. Imagine trying to run an airline with messaging like this.
And sowing any doubt leaves people like me, still sitting in Queensland (very happily) who are booked to fly home on 18 January (with a house to pack up and vacate in Auckland by 27 January) suddenly feeling awfully nervous again that she will back flip.
I am confident however the political pressure on her was, and remains, so great to get on with re-opening and truly living with this virus now that over 90% of those aged over 12 have chosen to be vaccinated, that she wouldn’t dare not. Famous last words? I hope not.
It also appears that the Government intends to very tightly control the flow of in demand skills and labour into New Zealand at least over the short term. Hardly a day goes by when there isn’t another story about this occupation or that occupation being given a certain number of visas available to those that want to hire offshore.
The latest is Auditors (180 work visas available). Earlier this week it was IT professionals with 600 places. It looks like the Seafood Industry is about to get its own annual quota. We had visas announced for 300 Teachers announced earlier in the year. We have Heavy Equipment (farm) operators with a quota. Once again Halal slaughtermen are going to be allowed in but that is a really good example of how seemingly random this all is becoming - the industry wanted 45. The Government gave them 15. Even 45 in the scheme of things for an industry that employs thousands but which requires these skills to get meat into some critical export markets worth hundreds of millions of dollars seems if not petty, then ludicrous. In response the Meat Industry Association head called the Government out for being ‘tone deaf’ (and I couldn’t agree more).
I confess to some real concerns over this micro management and an introduction of what appears to be occupational quotas. That they seem to always be significantly lower than what industry says it needs to keep functioning is troubling. How this might feed into residence policy is anyone’s guess bearing in mind Government has said they intend resuming invitation to apply for residence in July 2022.
It strikes me as odd that Government decided for example to let in 600 IT workers when vacancies in the sector is currently running at 6000. Or 300 Teachers when we know we are 1000 short for 2022.
What is to be gained I know not. Except control. Tight control.
I appreciate in the migrant ‘space’ (as they like to call it) the government does not want to return to the numbers that we had previously on temporary work visas when over 5% of the workforce were on temporary visas meaning over 250,000 people in the country on work visas with many many chasing 25,000 residence places a year.
Equally IT exports are booming and expanding yet the government is denying it the capacity to maximise the opportunity.
And try explaining to 700 sets of parents that by only allowing in 300 teachers in the next short while their children will not have a Teacher standing up in front of them in six weeks time.
Madness on a grand scale.
I am hoping that what we are seeing is simply a response to limited places in the government Managed Isolation and Quarantine system - even though it is several thousand rooms each week - and not a move to start micro managing how many programmers or teachers or engineers are allowed to cross the border.
It seems ironic that just as the Australian Government is looking at dumping these occupational quotas (because they are artificial and dumb) and potentially moving toward a more NZ style of letting the labour market decide what skills are needed through forcing skilled migrants to secure skilled jobs, New Zealand is looking like adopting the Australian occupational quota model.
We are to some extent once again left wondering what the future really holds.
And speaking of summer holidays, IMMagine will be closed from mid day on 23 December and will fully re-open on 17 January. A skeleton staff will be back on deck on 10 January however.
We have all survived what is likely to be the craziest year in our lifetimes. The IMMagine team has done an amazing job looking after incredibly stressed clients during another years of upheaval and uncertainty and I want to publicly acknowledge their efforts. They are a great group of people. They now deserve a good break to refresh and recharge for the challenges of 2022, whatever they might be.
I remain quietly confident that 2022 will be better for anyone planning on migrating to NZ or Australia and you will be able to start planning with far greater certainty of timelines, even if the Prime Minister continues to send mixed messages.
Until next year
Posted by Myer on July 20, 2018, 8:16 p.m. in Australia
And the place where you belong, contrary to what the song would indicate, is not West Virginia, but Geelong, Adelaide, Hobart or any other part of Australia that is “regional”.
Recent changes to Australia’s skilled migration program is going to have the effect of placing more of you on country roads than ever before.
Figures just released evidence that Australia accepted approximately 162,000 permanent migrants in 2017/18, down from about 183,000 the year before, and well below the 190,000-a-year quota. Net migration was 240,000 but this includes those who are not only arriving as permanent residents but those on visas allowing a stay of 12 months or more, which is a fair number of people to accommodate in terms of accommodation, transportation, healthcare facilities and education facilities.
We also learned this week that Australia’s population is set to reach 25 million in August 2018 some 24 years earlier than predicted in 2002.
Australia’s larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from congestion, infrastructure that cannot support a growing population, rising property prices (although having said that, at time of writing property prices in Melbourne and Sydney are forecast to decrease by 1 – 2%) and in the context of these issues migration to the larger cities is said to be adding to the burden.
Yet on the other hand, Australia has a shortage of skilled people in regional areas. Regional areas would constitute some of the smaller cities in Australia such as Adelaide and Hobart as well as anywhere outside of the metropolitan areas of Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Perth to name a few.
Since late 2016, job vacancy growth in regional areas has outstripped vacancy growth in our largest cities. According to the latest Internet Vacancy Index released by the Australian Government, vacancies in regions have grown by 20 per cent since February 2016 compared to only a 10 per cent increase in our largest cities.
These growing vacancies are occurring across a range of job opportunities.
This is the context in which some of Australia’s recent policy changes have taken place aimed at reducing the number of migrants destined for Australia’s major cities and encouraging migration to smaller cities and towns. These changes include:
As most of these changes have occurred in the months April– July 2018 they are to soon to have caused the reduction in permanent migrants in 2017/18, from 183,000 to 162,000 and their effects both in terms of the annual quota of permanent migrants as well as the effects on diverging migrant flows from metropolitan to regional areas is yet to be felt.
In fact it may take some time before the true effects of these changes are felt because of transitional provisions available to those on work visas in Australia at the time these changes came into effect. Those on temporary 457 visas still have a greater number of occupations to transition to permanent residence and it could be as much as 4 years before the full effect of the changes take place.
It’s therefore ironic that we are having a debate about migration numbers in the context of some of the harshest changes to immigration policy that I have seen in the last nine years.
It is, however, overdue that we should have an informed debate about population size and whether the vision for Australia is a “big” Australia, or “sustainable” one as some of the terms that politicians have been bandying about and to then design in immigration policy designed to meet that target. Instead of what we have been doing the past is to come up with an arbitrary annual quota because in the absence of a formal population policy, Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy.
For the foreseeable future I expect that there will be more Van der Merwes, Singhs and Lees found enjoying the country lifestyle of Australia.
- Myer Lipschitz, Managing Partner (Melbourne Office)
Posted by Iain on April 20, 2018, 4:19 p.m. in Immigration
Sources have confirmed that Cabinet recently signed off on changes to the Accredited Employer/Work to Residence Policy. Details are yet to be made public but will follow soon enough.
Accreditation has historically been given to employers who are able to demonstrate - amongst other things - that they are worthy of this trusted status with the Immigration Department. Trusted to do the right thing by New Zealand and New Zealanders, which includes recruiting locally where possible, training and upskilling, offering opportunities to those already working at the companies, having solid Human Resource processes and practices, being financially stable and have had no issues in terms of employment disputes, problems with unions, workers’ rights and so on.
This policy was created a few years’ ago to provide a Work to Residence pathway for people with jobs that in recent times paid a minimum of $55,000.00 per annum. The idea behind it being that there are those who come to New Zealand and find work who make a very valuable economic contribution to that company and the country but who may never get enough ‘points’ to qualify for Residence under the Skilled Migrant Category or whose jobs are not defined as “skilled” under the points system. It was meant to compliment the Skilled Migrant Category objectives and appears to my mind to have worked well.
Accreditation has been a great tool for companies that have ongoing recruitment needs that cannot be satisfied locally. There is no labour market test attached to the resulting talent Visa applications which means employers haven’t needed to keep proving they cannot find staff in NZ but made a genuine effort to do so. In an extremely tight labour market where thousands more jobs are being created each month than there are people to fill them, offering this work to residence pathway is one way to help a company retain staff.
From the migrants perspective this Talent visa - which is a 30 month work visa - allows them to apply for a resident visa after 24 months. Partners and children are also granted temporary work and student visas and so receive access to the same care I receive and their school age children are treated as domestic students in terms of cost of education (paid for out of their taxes for the most part).
It is potentially a really good option for a lot of companies in a country where we simply don’t have enough people to fill the jobs being created while at the same time offering a more certain pathway to residence for those willing to commit and prove their value over that two years.
Around a year ago, I had an interesting conversation with the then Manager of the Business Migration Branch, the unit of Immigration that assess Employer Accreditation applications. I was asked if I’d seen any increased interest or activity in the market in respect of employers wanting to know about accreditation. I confirmed that I had not but it seemed fairly obvious to me, given the pass mark for Skilled Migrants had recently increased so dramatically, that employers in an increasingly candidate-short local labour market would turn to other avenues to secure the services of non-Resident staff in order for their businesses to keep expanding and growing. So I was expecting to see an increase. I added that we were encouraging more and more companies to consider accreditation, especially to find a solution for those clients already on the ground in New Zealand on Essential Skills Work Visas, who were perhaps 10–20 points short of the new pass mark of 160. A few took us up on the suggested advice, most rolled over and went back to sleep.
The Branch Manager expressed some concern that perhaps his unit would be overwhelmed with applications from employers to get this special status and suggested it was already starting to happen. I asked what the problem with that would be given this pathway was created as an alternative to the Skilled Migrant Category. It has its place in the market and does potentially provide New Zealand employers with a solution to a local labour market where we are increasingly finding companies advertising for roles and literally getting no local applicants whatsoever.
In typical Immigration New Zealand fashion, however, it was viewed a little differently it seems. The Manager suggested it could be abused. ‘Abuse’ in this context meaning too many employers, shut out of the skilled migrant pace through the massive increase in pass marks in late 2016, might look to it as a way to help secure the long term services of very good and capable migrants because it offered a pathway to residence for their employee and they were all but guaranteed to have the services of someone for around 30 months. Earth to INZ - not everyone is out to rort the system!
Furthermore, it does appear to me that when INZ policy people decide (or are ordered) to change one part of the visa machine, they often don’t appreciate, or to be fair because they don’t work out here in the ‘real’ world, appreciate the degree to which the market will react to that and try and find a solution elsewhere if a problem, such as where labour and skills shortages are very real and worsening, exists.
We had already seen some changes last year to the evidence employers had to present to secure accreditation status from what had historically been required. This change required employers to demonstrate that they had advertised the roles they were looking to fill later as accredited employers, including the salary that they were willing to pay for that role. Ordinarily employers in NZ don’t advertise salaries. I’ve never understood why.
Our information is that the minimum salary threshold to get a Talent Visa is about to be increased significantly and while we do not know yet to what level, it is reasonable to assume it will be less than $76,000.00 because as soon as someone is offered $76,000.00, the Skilled Migrant pathway and points system opens up to them (because if you are earning that much in NZ your job is automatically deemed to be skilled). We are picking somewhere between $65,000.00 and $70,000.00.
No doubt there will be one or two surprises in whatever Cabinet has signed off and when I consider that so much of policy seems to be set based on the misguided belief that people are out to rort the system, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some additional criteria perhaps such as adding a requirement around the number of employees a company must have in order to become an eligible accredited employer. That is pure speculation on my part I should add.
With all Immigration policy changes, there are unintended consequences. With employers now having to advertise the salary in their job adverts before they can apply for accreditation, it is reasonable to conclude that the impact of those changes last year might simply be to push up local wages and create a musical chairs situation where local employees in that occupation will go and apply for jobs with a company down the road, having seen the ad online, and apply for it because of a higher salary. That doesn’t increase the number of people in the labour market. I’m not suggesting that was the motivation for that change but those of us who live in a world where market forces are real, that would be an obvious outcome. If the new minimum salary became, say $70,000 then you imagine how that will go down in a company when the migrant worker is now earning say, $70,000.00 in the same role as a New Zealander who might only be earning $58,000.00. You’d not be surprised if all the staff doing that same job alsodemanded the higher salary - I certainly would. Will that financial reality put a break on companies expanding and growing? Will companies simply decide not look offshore to fill the roles given the minimum salary might be higher than the market would usually pay in NZ? If so who does that help?
I also understand that people who are currently in New Zealand on Talent Visas should not expect the higher salary threshold to apply to them, whatever it might be. The new rule will not be retrospective. If, however, they change from one accredited employer to another before they file their resident visa, they will have to meet the new minimum salary threshold with the new employer.
When we know more, we will let you know.
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod, Southern Man
Posted by Kane on March 19, 2018, 8:38 p.m. in Australia
Some major changes that were announced last year have come into effect as of the 18 March. These changes relate to the temporary and permanent employer sponsored visas and the General Skilled Migration (GSM) programme.
Under the GSM programme, there is a shiny new list called the Regional Occupations List (ROL). This is relevant to the state/territory sponsored Subclass 489 visa.
The ROL consists of occupations only available for GSM for regional areas. Some are newly added and some have been moved to the ROL from Medium to Long Term Skills Shortage List (MTSSL) or Short Term Skills Occupation List (STSOL).
The state sponsorship lists have not yet been updated to reflect any changes to occupations they will sponsor for the skilled visa.
In GSM the three lists will apply as follows:
Subclass 189- MLTSSL
Subclass 190- MLTSSL and STSOL
Subclass 489- MLTSSL and STSOL and ROL
As a consequence of the changes, the MLTSSL has lost 4 occupations and the STSOL has lost 10 occupations. All of these have been moved to the ROL. These include:
Real Estate Representative
Sports Centre Manager
Fitness Centre Manager
Amusement Centre Manager
Post Office Manager
New additions include occupations such as:
Caravan Park and Camping Ground Manager
Cinema or Theatre Manager
Market Research Analyst
They have also added back some occupations that were removed in April 2017 or July 2017, such as:
Vocational Education Teacher
Human Resource Adviser
Temporary Skills Shortage Visa Subclass 482
The Prime Minister in April last year announced that the work visa 457 will be abolished. This has effectively just been rebadged as the subclass 482 visa.
The basis of the programme is effectively the same; i.e. businesses who cannot find talent from the local labour market can sponsor talent from overseas to fill skills shortages. However there are now a number of amendments designed to encourage employers to hire from the local labour market and make it harder to sponsor overseas workers, and to ensure that the positions that are required to be filled are in fact highly skilled.
While the ability for most medium to large businesses to sponsor an overseas employee will remain unaffected, the incentive for many workers to transition to residence after a period of time has been removed. Only those who appear on the employer sponsorship Medium to Long Term Skills Shortage List will be able to transition to residence under this programme.
Others will need to find another way to stay, such as family or GSM pathways, or be resigned to the fact that they will be in Australia for the short term.
These changes will greatly affect the number of temporary workers in Australia, however there are a number of alternatives that can now be explored, including state sponsored nomination under the GSM programme.
If you wish to know more about the changes or have a discrete 'closed' questions please don't post it below in the comments section. Here is the link to our Ask Us A Question service.
Posted by Iain on Nov. 24, 2017, 4:27 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category
Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the water after the Skilled Migrant changes earlier this year in both New Zealand and Australia, it seems that you might need to think again.
Both countries allow applicants to file Expressions of Interest and enter their skilled migrant pools – in Australia you need a minimum of 60 points and in New Zealand, 160, (we give more points to qualifications and work experience but the type of person with those scores will be very similar). In both countries the immigration year begins on 1 July.
New Zealand targets 27,000 skilled migrants per year with a variance of 10%. Between the start of the immigration year and 3 November, New Zealand approved and issued around 4,100 resident visas. If you annualise that you’ll see that it will barely reach 50% of the stated target. That is not to tell the whole story however. We had clearly signalled that there would be no pool ‘draws’ for six weeks through to late August as the new system was reset. This saw three draws skipped.
It may be that numbers recover in the months to come but given the difficulties I have written about so often about the disconnect between the visa process and the labour market (employers want work visas but Government won’t give work visas without jobs for the most part), the jury is out on whether New Zealand will reach its self-declared quotas this year.
I see no prospect of pass mark increases.
The question is whether we will see it fall. If so when the politicians will let it as unemployment continues to fall rapidly in NZ. It is now down to 4.6% which effectively means if you want to work there is a job with your name on it.
We are continuing to find that in the significant majority of cases our English speaking and experienced clients are finding jobs in 8-10 weeks. If all migrants are doing the same then I think that there is a chance the pass marks may not need to fall and the next few months will confirm that.
Over in Australia things have taken a bizarre turn in recent times.
The Aussies, never ones for originality, took the NZ skilled migrant system – Expressions of Interest (EOI), a pool, selection and invitation, modified it and I believe are seeing the first signs of it falling apart.
Historically to meet their own skilled migrant quotas (which are not national quotas like NZ where you compete against everyone chasing one of those 27,000 places, but occupation quotas – you compete against those in the same ‘nominated occupation’ as you).
Historically, the Australians needed to select 2000 EOIs each selection period. They have cut that in half since July 1. Inexplicably or with an arrogance that one might suggest is misplaced, they feel no obligation it seems to ever explain what they are doing, nor why. The implications of cuts to the numbers being selected means more people are fighting for fewer places and that pushes up pass marks.
One might speculate they might be doing this to push applicants toward state sponsorship. It would be nice to know.
In Australia, each State or territory has its own ‘in demand’ occupation lists so there is the possibility the Federal Government is in effect abandoning their own national occupation targets and devolving the decision on which skilled migrants get into Australia to the various States. If they are it makes some sense. I’ve never understood how some bureaucrat in Canberra can possibly know how many Primary School Teachers, Electrical Engineers or Software Developers the economy needs over the next year.
State sponsorship has the advantage of creating greater certainty for our clients as the pass mark for those with state sponsorship is fixed at 60.
Further, the Australian Government recently decided, again without explanation, not to do a pool draw. This has huge implications on many levels. We have at least one client in the pool (after racing the clock to get him to that point following a Herculean effort by our team in Melbourne) who turns 40 any day now. At that point, while he will still secure a Permanent Resident Visa, it won’t be the ‘live wherever you wish’ visa, but a State Sponsorship visa which requires him to have an ‘intention’ to settle, or at least spend two years in that state. He doesn’t have to live there, the law on that is clear, but he is expected to ‘give it a go’ (whatever that means).
If the Australian Government does not offer greater certainty to applicants they’ll lose people they say they need as more and more choose countries where a plan offers greater certainty.
We also suspect that Australia is suffering a flood of fraudulent or at least mischievous EOIs. Whereas in NZ you pay to file an EOI, in Australia you don’t. I have always thought this invited frivolous applications. When there is no skin in the game there is nothing stopping people filling as many EOIs as they like.
If they claim the pass mark they must be selected. Equally stupidly, unlike NZ, being selected from the pool leads to an automatic and guaranteed Invitation to Apply for residence. We believe that this is the reason that the pass mark for Accountants for example shot up to 85 points despite the annual quota of places being doubled this immigration year. The pass mark at the end of the previous immigration year was 70-75. When you double the supply of places unless there is an unprecedented increase in demand (which there has not been) the pass mark should have fallen, not gone up. That strongly suggests people are filing frivolous applications. And why not? It’s free!
I hope the Aussies learn from NZ some of the lessons of running a pool system. Charge to get into it. Don’t automatically invite everyone that you select. Carry out credibility assessments. Invite them when things look credible. They’d cut down on the fraudulent and plain stupid applications if people had to pay the $500 odd that you pay to file an EOI in NZ and while credibility checks in NZ still result in large numbers of applicants being declined, our system isn’t broken.
Australia’s is. While they don’t tend to take advice off Kiwis they might want to do so on this occasion.
If they don’t, skilled migrants will continue to look elsewhere when Australia’s slowly falling unemployment rates and an improving job market for skills suggests they need these skills sets.
But hey, they’re Aussies, and since when have you been able to tell an Aussie they might not be doing something right?
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on Oct. 19, 2017, 10:40 p.m. in Politics
A few minutes ago the Leader of the NZ First political party - which gained a little over 7% of the popular vote in elections two week ago - announced it is forming a coalition with the Labour Party and the coalition will be supported outside of cabinet by the Green Party.
Already my inbox is filling up with ‘What does it mean for my chances of moving to NZ?’ emails.
Without wishing to sound like the aforementioned political leader, if you read my blogs you’ll know that my view has been (and nothing has changed with this announcement today):
Today the Leader of NZ First all but confirmed my suspicions as he ‘anointed’ the Labour Party and their Green Party sidekicks. Don't be too concerned if you are highly skilled but be very worried if you are in NZ studying or planning on doing so.
Those applying to study in New Zealand are defined as ‘migrants’ and all the hot air coming from New Zealand First in recent years that we are being overrun by foreigners was clearly bogus and played on a wide mis-understanding as to how ‘migrants’ are defined. NZ has become a very popular place to study but it is quite true that at least half those coming to study were using it as a spring board to try and get residence. Some got it, most did not.
People were confused that students and many work visa holders were considered as ‘migrants’. I think most of us think of migrants as people moving permanently to a country - not those coming to study for 2-3 years or have working holidays for a year or two.
That is the reason we have had ‘record’ numbers of migrants - tens of thousands of international students. Not permanent residents.
That ignorance has been exploited election after election by NZ First.
What the public has never been told by this politician is that the numbers of resident visas being granted every year has not changed. Not this year, not last year, not five years go. In fact, skilled migrant resident visas have also fallen as the Government pushed up ‘pass marks’ for skilled migrants in order to deal to the problems it created by promising international students a pathway to residence.
The Labour Party which forms the biggest bloc in the new parliament has always been pro-immigration.
It is insightful that the Leader of NZ First at his Press Conference confirmed that New Zealand continues to need and welcome skilled migrants, does not want low skilled ones and that international students should be coming to study. Which is precisely what the outgoing Government recognised — just too late electorally which was a bad miscalculation on their part. They have paid the price for seeming to have no solutions to population driven house value increases and infrastructure pressures - particularly in Auckland.
So watch for announcements in the next few weeks taking aim squarely at reducing pathways to residence for international students in order to take the heat off skilled migrants. That is a good thing as it should then allow pass marks to fall and those that can contribute most to the country will continue to be welcomed.
My pick is the new Government will leave the pass mark at its current historical high for a few months to carry on the (bogus) message of ’toughening and tightening up’ message. Then it may well fall back to levels where the current target of 27,000 skilled migrants and their families might be met. In the meantime it’ll be spun as ‘quality over quantity’.
Foreign buyers will be limited from purchasing of existing residential property but that is common in many countries. My pick is we will follow Australia's pathway of allowing foreign buyers to buy sections and build. Maybe.
Potential skilled migrants in my view should sleep well tonight.
Posted by Iain on Oct. 14, 2016, 9:57 a.m. in Immigration
After the upheaval of this week with the changes to the skilled migrant landscape and a few days to take it all in and digest the changes, you might be interested in my thoughts on it.
The changes appear to have been made in a big hurry. I have written several blogs in recent months and have been telling any potential client that might listen that I believed that change was going to be forced upon the Government in the skilled migrant ‘space’.
In two words – international students.
Tens of thousands have flocked to New Zealand in recent years to study, I suspect, only because the Government offered them an open work visa when they finished their course and through that, a pathway to residence under the skilled migrant category once they had secured a skilled job offer.
I have spoken of the ‘tsunami’ of Expressions of Interest that would start to wash upon the skilled migrant shores expected in late 2016 and through 2017 at every seminar I have delivered in recent times. Given there is a fixed number of skilled migrant visas available each year this massive increase in demand represented a clear threat to the entire skilled migrant programme. It was in danger of collapsing under the weight of applications.
When you operate a fixed pass mark of 100 points for those with skilled job offers and you have a finite number of resident visas to dish out, what do you do when the numbers being selected every two weeks from the pool who have claimed 100 points goes through the roof?
How does the system respond when, if they were all to be granted a resident visa, your annual target of 27,000 migrants would be filled within, say, six months? Would INZ just close the pool to further selection for another six months?
That is exactly what the Government was facing, yet until relatively recently I am reliably informed they did not accept.
The evidence was right in front of their faces.
In the past three pool draws alone the ‘normal’ 700 EOIs selected each fortnight for those claiming 140 points or 100 or more including a skilled job offer jumped from 700 to almost 1000. A 50% increase.
We know that close to 40% of all skilled migrant approvals of late have come from former international students who studied in New Zealand and decided to stay. That percentage has been growing steadily in recent years.
I’d wager a close examination of those selected of late would reveal a significant percentage would be single young males, predominantly from India, with little to no work experience but an NZ qualification claiming points for job offers as Chefs or Retail Managers.
So the question confronting the Government (and the question some of us have been asking of them for a long time now) was – which skill sets does New Zealand need more of? The 24 year old international student who has studied in NZ but has little work experience and a job offer as a ‘Retail Manager’ or the 35 year old Software Developer with 15 years of work experience whose skills are desperately needed?
They can say whatever they like in terms of why they made the changes they just did but that was the dilemma facing the Government.
Put the pass mark up to 160 points. Who does that knock out?
Young inexperienced applicants with qualifications but with little to no work experience. Who dominates that demographic? International students, predominantly from India. To be clear this is not an anti-Indian move it is jut they are the ones disproportionally impacted by the change as they make up the bulk of international students.
If I were a young international student who came to study in New Zealand having been, at worst, encouraged through the marketing carrot of the work visa and the residence, I might be more than a little miffed right about now. Their residence dreams will pretty much be in tatters.
Having worked through the options available to our many clients we are currently supporting with their applications, the fallout has by and large been minimal. At worst some are going to have to secure jobs outside of Auckland and some might have to delay filing their applications for a year or so while they accumulate additional points through New Zealand work experience. We have managed to give almost all of them a revised strategy to get them through this minefield.
The Government’s changes have however created another very real problem yet to be addressed.
There are tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs being created each year in Auckland. The mismatch between local skill sets among the unemployed and those jobs means these employers are not going to be able to fill many roles with migrants because those migrants now know they won’t have enough points if they accept the jobs.
Auckland is the nation’s jobs machine and many of the new jobs being created are in IT and trades related roles yet many of these applicants do not have qualifications that are now critical to securing the 160 points.
These people have to look at going south or not coming at all (or appreciate their stay will be short term and on a work visa which most won’t tolerate; they simply won’t come).
So having dealt with the issue of the ‘tsunami’ the Government now has to come up with a solution that keeps intact Auckland as a migrant destination for the highly skilled without bursting the dam that is holding back the international students.
The simple solution would be a minimum salary threshold for jobs in Auckland that attracts additional bonus points. It would be an elegant solution (so long as you are not an international student) because it would reward the more experienced and the more highly paid; both of which tend to indicate a higher value skill set and greater value to the country.
My feeling is more changes will be announced soon because they need to be.
You cannot have a skilled migrant policy that now starves thousands of Auckland employers of desperately needed skills. The Government is smart enough to know it. They will come up with a solution packaged as ‘we only want highly skilled and high value migrants’.
This is simply code for ‘We blew it offering all those international students a pathway to residence but hey, we never promised them a resident visa...’
It isn’t pretty and there’ll be several thousand international students about to feel horribly let down.
It could have been avoided if the Government hadn’t been blind to the real reason the bulk of the students were coming to New Zealand – the study was just a part of their plan to secure residence.
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on July 31, 2015, 5:58 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand
The New Zealand Government announced a few days ago that it was increasing the bonus points that can be claimed for a skilled and relevant job offer outside of Auckland from 10 to 30 points. The internet is abuzz!
Not sure why. I suggest everyone stay calm. Much ado about very little.
Government announced they were doing it in order to encourage more migrants to settle outside of Auckland. This was clearly a response to the overheated Auckland property market and rising disaffection by Aucklanders that migrants are contributing to an overheated property market.
As usual when the press get hold of a very modest tweak in an existing policy they get confused on the consequence, don’t seem to bother asking an expert and the misinformation spreads like wildfire.
My inbox is full of enquiries from people asking me if they ‘must’ now get a job outside of Auckland and if this means it is easier to get into the country? One even telling me he read that if you have a job ‘offer’ outside of Auckland you don’t even have to live there but it is now easier to get in if you say you are ‘planning’ on settling outside of Auckland but you don’t actually have to live there.
Oh a dollar for every false rumour!
Sorry folks but this change is modest and if you get a job outside of Auckland you must take it up.
In fact not only must you take up the job you must work outside of Auckland for 12 months. Those with jobs in Auckland ‘only’ have to stay employed for three months for their resident visa to become unconditional.
So how effective will it be? Does it really change anything?
No is the short answer. This is a case of politics trying to trump labour market reality.
The pass mark for those with a job is 100 and so far I am not seeing anything that suggests that pass mark will increase. This policy will only make any significant difference if it does.
This is because a 30, 37, 41, 45 and 54 year old (and everyone in between) will still qualify for residence with a skilled job in Auckland if they have between 8 and 10 years of relevant and related work experience (all other things being equal). Even a 54 year old will still be able to get a job in Auckland, work for a while and accrue the points necessary to get to 100 point passmark.
The only people we have identified that will benefit from this policy would be a 55 year old with no qualifications and at least ten years of work experience related to the job offer he or she gets outside of Auckland. When you hit 56 you cannot apply no matter how many points you might claim or where your job is.
So the winners here? Unqualified 55 year olds. Absolutely neutral for everyone else.
I am in South Africa and have over the past week consulted with 44 families who are looking to gain entry under the skilled migrant category. Only one would benefit from this policy change. One. That individual will now qualify with a job outside of Auckland because he is 55.
More than that it is all very well rewarding people to head out to the regions to spread the skilled migrant love and their skills sets but the reason about 70% of migrants already get jobs in Auckland is largely because that’s where the jobs are. Not all of course and we have clients spread all around New Zealand but around 70% in Auckland.
So might the Government increase the pass mark for those with jobs to 100 or even 120?
They could and that would force greater numbers to look outside of Auckland. Is this on the table? Not as far as I am aware.
I would hope that behind closed doors Government will have been warned against it.
Given Auckland is the engine room of the economy and has the critical economic and cultural mass for many migrant communities (which feeds through into good settlement outcomes) a higher pass mark would prevent many otherwise excellent skilled migrants from coming.
So the Government has found a nice way of appearing to be doing something without in reality doing anything at all. They did get the headlines they needed however...
Good politics is all folks. So stay calm. You won’t be moving to the sticks – unless you want to.
Our photo competition is going along great guns and we are getting some fantastic photos coming in. I would like to see a whole lot more from those who live in New Zealand and illustrating what it is about every day life in New Zealand that they love.
I am thinking about photos of your house and street (no burglar bars or security walls you South Africans), your children climbing a tree (you Singaporeans), morning coffee at a sidewalk café (you French), walking along the street with your baby in a stroller without a protector, children riding their bikes, your office colleagues, and so on.
I am loving what we are getting but let’s see some of the real life stuff that you love about this wonderful country of ours. If you have missed the competition we are giving away a weekend in Queenstown at the five star Azur Hotel plus $1500 spending money. For further details if you have missed it click here to submit your photo entry - you can enter as many times as you like for more chances to win.
Until next week
Posted by Paul on June 5, 2015, 5:01 p.m. in New Zealand Employment
The Southern Man is travelling through South Africa at present dealing with the masses looking to make the move to our (currently rather soggy) part of the world. It therefore falls upon me to take his place for this week’s blog post.
A client of mine mentioned something in passing to me today which has prompted this post and a whole lot of thinking about the labour market and working environments in New Zealand from the perspective of a migrant.
After all for the vast majority of ‘new’ New Zealanders, securing a job offer, whether before or after the Visa process is a pretty important step and whilst getting the job is one challenge, adapting to a different working environment with all its various idiosyncrasies is another.
This client had heard on the migrant grapevine that there was an element of workplace “bullying” that went on here in regards to how migrants are treated by their “New Zealand” colleagues. That made me think, not only about whether the statement was possibly true but, if it was true, how could it be when the bulk of New Zealand work places are similar to a miniature United Nations Forum.
Whilst we here tend to focus quite heavily on how our clients can secure jobs and the various tools they need to employ to break in to the labour market, the ‘what happens after they get a job’ part of the equation is something I must admit, I haven’t thought of in great detail.
So think of it, I shall.
A good place to start would be this very business, which is what I would call typical of the small to medium sized enterprise operating in New Zealand; which incidentally forms the bulk of our economy – small to medium sized business.
Surrounding me are three South Africans (all of which have moved to New Zealand at varying times in recent history), a gentleman from the Philippines who was up until two years ago residing in Singapore. We have me, although born in New Zealand of Dutch descent and then the remainder hailing from New Zealand (although ultimately their lineage would stretch back to other countries).
In previous companies that I have worked for there have been British, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Argentinian and a whole host of other nationalities lumped in together, stirred around and coexisting in a cultural melting pot quite happily.
All of these different cultures, backgrounds and value add to a mix that, I believe, makes New Zealand a more productive place to work and for the new entrant (read migrant) potentially far more welcoming than other countries. This is reinforced by New Zealand’s strong migrant history, having imported large sections of our workforce over time to support a) a growing economy and b) a slowing birth rate.
I don’t dismiss the fact that there could be people out there that see migrants as a threat, principally because of the values they bring to the work place and the different levels of work ethic that they carry with them. Migrants on the whole have either suffered more to get here and thus value the opportunities they secure or simply want to contribute to this place that they now call home.
Historical statistics reinforce that (yes we have and do track these things). In a long running study conducted over several years, 93% of migrants indicated they were quite happy with their decision to migrate here (we can’t please everyone I guess) with 60% of people confirming that the friendly and open nature of the people here contributed to that satisfaction. Other leading factors included being able to achieve their desired lifestyle and the fact we are so clean and green.
These statistics although slightly dated now (from 2010) come from a long running migrant survey conducted by Immigration New Zealand and Statistics New Zealand to monitor the outcomes of both the migration programme and the benefits that those migrants bring.
Whilst there may be isolated incidents of work place bullying, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest this is an “us” versus “them” thing and I would prefer to see it as a case of one or maybe two bad apples that should be squashed and turned into juice.
You would be hard pressed in a country like this to find a work place made up of just one nationality; it’s just not possible. We import a large portion of our skills and logically that creates both a diverse and rich labour market but also a much more tolerant working environment. The same applies to schools, hospitals, the Public Service and so on and so forth. We are just one big melting pot of cultures for the most part getting along quite nicely.
There are differences in the way working environments operate here, for example, the emphasis is on productivity but not the “whoever stays the longest is the most productive” type, but more the “how can we do more in less time” type. There is a focus on work-life balance. We are a more modest bunch, meaning the grizzly bear tactics that you might have to employ in other countries to get things done, don’t always work here. These adjustments, however, have less to do with whether or not you are going to singled out as a migrant by others but more to do with how we are as a people.
So to those of you heading this way to find work, I wouldn’t put much stock in comments relating to work place bullying, in fact I would encourage you to think in the opposite direction. You will have to adjust to various ways of doing things, and the peculiarities we have here in NZ, the pace may be a little slower, you may have to get used to different cultural attitudes (or the variety of them) but you can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be the only new kid (migrant) on the block either.
As for the writer, I enjoy the variety different cultures bring and it reminds me daily that the world is getting smaller and smaller. I don’t have to travel far to understand the different cultures sitting right next to me.
Enjoy the weekend, it is almost upon us (for some a little further away) and until next week, when the Southern Man returns.
Posted by Iain on April 10, 2015, 8:14 p.m. in Border Patrol
For some time New Zealanders have been debating Government surveillance, both of locals and our Pacific neighbours.
Our Government constantly reassures us with that old line that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. And it’s okay because everyone is spying on everyone else.
I am all for national security and co-operation among countries if it leads to a safer world but what happens when you realise that the Immigration Department is also now trawling through your personal postings on Facebook and chat groups?
And what if you have done nothing wrong and they are still spying on you?
I recently wrote a blog about a young South African client who, following our advice, itself based on Immigration New Zealand advice (obtained through publicly available memos), was detained at Auckland airport on arrival last November. He was ‘interviewed’ about the purpose of his visit. He told the truth - he was here for two purposes - vacation and to see New Zealand because he was interested in the possibility of a move here. That included testing his skills against the local labour market - he never hid this fact. He was allowed entry but was given a type of visa that did not allow him to change his status if he decided to stay and found employment and so, having secured a job within 5 weeks and deciding to stay, he had to return to South Africa for us to obtain a work visa for him. It was stressful, added additional expense and in the ultimate irony was a few weeks ago granted a resident visa based on that job (that he could never have got if he was not in the country).
During his interview he was surprised to learn that the officer questioning him quoted comments he had made on Facebook, chat groups and forums and that he had sold one of his cars in South Africa (a sure sign you plan on emigrating it seems!).
While I had no reason to disbelieve the client I found it hard to believe that Immigration Officers were now trawling through online forums, chat groups and Facebook to check on what comments had apparently been made by people at our borders in the recent past.
Until it happened again a couple of weeks ago. The same thing. This time the officer was at Christchurch Airport and he too quoted Facebook comments posted by our client.
This raises some deeply troubling questions.
Should anyone remotely considering a move to New Zealand now fear posting anything on Facebook, migrant forums and chat groups given it can clearly be used against them when these paranoid border guards decide to question them on arrival?
Are decisions on whether to let people into the country being based on historical public comments made about possible future intentions? Intentions can change. As by law they are able to.
It is 100% lawful for a visit to be made to New Zealand for the purposes of ‘Look, See and Decide’ and is enshrined in not just one internal memo (the first being issued by Immigration New Zealand in 2011) but two more - the most recent in June 2014.
These memos make clear that if the traveller tells the truth about their intentions, their ‘primary’ purpose is vacation and the ‘secondary’ purpose something else (including testing themselves against the labour market) and there is no reason to believe they will breach the conditions of a Visitor Visa (tourist) they should be granted entry on a visa that allows them the option of changing their status later.
Despite our clients often arriving carrying a letter we provided (and showing it to these officers) confirming they are our client, the truthful purpose of the visit and their intention to explore their employability (and in the most recent case even carrying a copy of the June 2014 memo which was shown to the officer) they are being granted these limited purpose visas.
Even more troubling is in the most recent case we obtained a copy of the airport interview transcript.
We asked the client if it reflected accurately the conversation. He said it did not in many respects.
This is a client who had been to New Zealand on several occasions, had never overstayed his visa and had never breached the conditions of any of them. No mention is made in the official record of the client showing the officer his own internal department memo, despite the client being adamant he showed it to him.
Basically someone is lying and we see no reason to believe that is the client.
We have now escalated the matter to the head of the Immigration Department to try and get this client’s status changed to a ‘normal’ visitor visa.
We have also considered a formal complaint against this officer who appears to have selectively recorded and edited the client’s statements and completely ignored the memo shown to him explaining why the client should have been granted a normal visitor visa - he had not told any lies and the officer had no reasonable grounds to conclude that he would likely breach the conditions of the visa.
I suspect this is another case of an immigration officer on a power trip at 1am in the morning. it must have felt really nice separating a husband and wife, grilling them in separate rooms when they had been in the air and likely largely sleepless for 24 hours.
This is not the New Zealand the Immigration Department markets to potential skilled migrants around the world and I want to believe these are the exception and not the rule. I can say they are — most clients never have this issue but the ones that are singled out seem to really get the ‘Border Security’ TV show treatment.
No potential skilled migrant should be treated like this and we have once again warned the head of the department that this sort of action, suspicion and paranoia will undermine the same department’s mandate for filling 27,000 skilled migrant places each year.
New Zealand employers are the ones demanding migrants be here for interviews and to prove they are committed and serious.
Immigration New Zealand has issued not one but three memos to these state functionaries on how to treat such applicants at the border and they continue to disregard or misinterpret the simple instruction.That old culture of paranoia and suspicion trumps common sense and decency.
To now find out that INZ seems to be regularly trawling public postings on Facebook, chat groups and forums and even (apparently) are able to access information about migrants selling cars before they leave home starts to all seem more and more sinister.
So be aware those of you looking to come to New Zealand - spilling your guts on Facebook and posting any sort of comment which might suggest your primary purpose in coming here is to settle permanently might now be read by these officious bureaucrats who could choose to use it against you.
As Government gathers more and more ‘big data’ despite you having nothing to hide with these public postings, you do all now have something to fear.
I’d be really interested to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience, especially having Facebook comments being raised during airport interrogations, er, interviews…
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
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