Letters from Southern Man

IMMagine New Zealand Immigration Blog

Posts with tag: policy changes

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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.

Skilled Migrant Point Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh a dollar for every false rumour!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week

Iain MacLeod



Southern Man

Melting Pot

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.

Paul Janssen

The Facebook Trap

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

No Profit Motive, No Competition - Equals Visa Lottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the rule:

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

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

A New Zealand Bachelor degree is Level 7.

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

The officer appeared to be serious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

Better to be thought a fool...

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

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

The world has gotten a lot smaller.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week

Paul Janssen, standing in for the Southern Man.

Spin Doctoring...

Posted by Paul on July 6, 2014, 10:04 a.m. in Immigration

It’s that time of year again when politicians dust off their banners, cajole the media and take to the streets in an effort to secure votes in the upcoming 2014 general election.

One of the topics most widely contested and often used as a ‘political football’ in the run up to the election is immigration. If there is one issue that is normally sure to spur debate and get people moving alliances it’s the flow of people in and out of this country. The two parties particularly strong in this arena are the Labour and New Zealand First camps. Yet whilst the politicians from both of these parties have in recent months been bandying about rumours of cutting numbers, changing policies and ‘reinventing the wheel’ it would seem that the New Zealand public aren’t overly fussed about it.

The Labour party are in desperate need of a campaign rocket and in the past few months have raised the spectre of coming down hard on immigration, cutting overall numbers and imposing potential restrictions on foreigners buying property here. The fingers of New Zealand First have been pointed at migrants for rising house prices, potential increases in inflation and an untenable superannuation scheme, however in most cases these fires have been doused by a relatively cool headed public perception of the overall trends of migration.

Labour has all but back tracked on their promises to cut migrant numbers as recent polls have poured water on what they were hoping would be a raging fire. New Zealand First although still slightly warm on the topic have moved on to other issues with more fervour, leaving the immigration debate on the side-lines.

The New Zealand Herald very recently reported on their own poll which showed only one third of New Zealanders surveyed felt that migration levels were too high, ergo two thirds of people were either relatively comfortable or non-committal with where things were at. In fact the vast majority of people appreciated that migrants were an important part of economic growth, fuelling both productivity and creating further employment opportunities. More surprisingly for the first time in years, there was a much greater public awareness of migration trends, with a large majority of the people being polled, relatively aware of migration patterns over the last few years.

In another similar review on, it appears that both Labour and NZ First, who have always used immigration as one of their key policy platforms, are wasting their time. Only four percent of respondents cited immigration as the big ticket item on the agenda and almost all were more concerned with day to day issues such as healthcare, education and the overall state of the economy. This is despite the last year seeing a rise in temporary migration numbers (owing mostly to the Christchurch rebuild). 

In previous years the public have been swayed by pre-election stories of ‘soaring’ immigration numbers and this so called ‘foreign invasion’ yet this time it appears as though the majority of New Zealanders see other things as being more important. 

It makes sense.

The country is well into recovery mode and continues to hold the title of the ‘rock star economy’. Growth in most sectors continues, whilst unemployment slowly falls. The recruiting firm Hudson recently confirmed that the number of employers seeking to hire within the next quarter had increased 4.5% to a total of 31.8% nationwide. Whilst there is still an air of caution out there, many employers are feeling confident with recent economic conditions and this then leads to a stronger commitment to grow their workforce. All signs point to this continuing.

Christchurch is one of the major contributors to this and they still need skills down there – a lot of them. Further spending has been earmarked for the rebuild and although hiring intentions slowed very slightly in the last quarter that looks likely to swing back to the previous high demand as the rebuild money continues to flow.

So for the potential migrant, concerned about what politicians are saying in the run up to the election, don’t be. Even the political parties normally keen to throw the immigration football are heading for the benches on this one.

It appears that public opinion on this one has already ruled. We understand that migrants are important; more people now understand that and are happy with the current flow of talent into New Zealand. I suspect that you will see discussions on migration lessen as the election draws nearer, with the parties at the bottom of the polls scrambling to find other fuel to throw on the fire.

So if you have hesitated in making the move because of political uncertainty, I wouldn’t be worried. New Zealand isn’t going to close its doors. Instead the signs of economic growth, increasing business confidence and a relatively buoyant economic outlook are all signs that we will continue to welcome those with skills to add to the mix.

To find out more or to explore the possibility of making New Zealand home, why not register for one of our upcoming seminars:



Until next week – Paul Janssen (standing in for the Southern Man).

What does 2014 hold for NZ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man – Letter from New Zealand

T'was the night before Christmas...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me give you a few examples. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A place to call home...

Posted by Paul on Nov. 8, 2013, 4:19 p.m. in Immigration

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.

Until next week - Paul Janssen

Skilled Migrants Needed Now!

Posted by Iain on Nov. 1, 2013, 10:57 a.m. in Immigration

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