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.
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
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.
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 www.stuff.co.nz, 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).
Happy New Year to all our regular Southern Man Letters from New Zealand readers.
The team is back in the office, tanned and relaxed (that lasted about two days!) and looking forward to an extra busy year. For us it is going to be a year of firsts – we are now dipping our toes in the Hong Kong and Indonesian markets. Across the Tasman Sea our Australian colleagues are heading to Botswana, Greece and Turkey to test the migrant waters there.
And what of New Zealand in 2014? How are the tea leaves looking?
If you can believe the various surveyors and economic forecasters we are in for a very good year and several beyond this. A few key points in recently released surveys show:
- Business confidence is at a 20 year high
- All sectors of the economy are growing – manufacturing, agriculture, services and tourism are all showing strong growth
- All regions of New Zealand are in positive growth and confidence territory (spreading out from Auckland and Christchurch which dominated 2013)
- ‘Own business’ confidence is running at multi year highs and this suggests GDP growth of at least 3.5% this year
- Retail sales through Christmas were up 7% on the year before and have continued through the early part of January
- Skills shortages are starting to bite (told you!!!!) - especially in the construction and IT sectors – everyone from Architects, Civil Engineers, Quantity Surveyors and Planners through to related trades workers. In ICT some are now calling the shortages ‘dire’ which might be a slight exaggeration but these shortages are going to be biting across most sectors within the next six months in my view .
- Unemployment which currently stands at 6.2% is predicted to fall to 5.5% by years end and 4.5% by the end of 2015. It is worth noting that once unemployment gets down to 5% in New Zealand you’ll not be able to find a Secretary to do your word processing……or find someone to make you a cup of coffee. It is also worth reminding readers that skilled migrants seldom compete with the unemployed 6.2% - they tend to be un-skilled or semi-skilled.
- Inflation is expected to remain subdued overall at around 1% but dog with rabies crazy in housing. There continues to be a chronic shortage of new housing supply meaning house values are expected to continue their seemingly relentless increase by around 10% this year (higher in Auckland and Christchurch). This is feeding through into higher rental prices also.
- Interest rates are predicted to increase by 25 base points each quarter for the next 5 quarters (starting March). The word is the economy is robust enough with exports booming even with a high exchange rate to offset any inflationary build up. I’d be expecting floating mortgage rates to be around 6.5% - 7% by years end.
Short of any major external shocks things are looking overwhelmingly positive. No one is talking about an overheating economy or boom times but there is a real and broad based momentum that has been building across all sectors and all regions.
This, I suspect, will embolden the New Zealand Government to continue with high skilled migrant pass marks and forcing a majority (note, not all….) of would be migrants to come and find jobs in order to have certainty of residency approval.
Those employers unwilling to recruit form the ranks of those offshore or who refuse to travel overseas to interview and recruit are within the next few months going to be staring into a very shallow pool of local talent. This will have an upward movement on incomes (we are already seeing it in construction and IT in particular).
While no one who reads this who thinks they may make a move this year should take getting work for granted, there is no doubt that 2014 for the vast majority of you will be a year of greater employment opportunities. Through 2013 we saw average times for most clients to find jobs here get down to a few weeks rather than a few months as it was through 2011-2012. If you are fluent in English, skilled, do your research on demand in the labour market for your skills set and are willing to get on a plane and get here, chances are you’ll find work within 4-6 weeks.
As we reported in December the Government has closed the Long Term Business Visa or self-employed pathway to residence while they think about a new ‘improved’ visa class for Entrepreneurs which they hope to launch in April. We have been offered an outline of the new criteria which we have agreed will remain confidential but what we can say without breaking those confidences is that the new criteria is less a pathway for the self-employed to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency to a move to focus on greater job creation and export related businesses as priority for approval. For the first time the amount of funds invested comes with a minimum and the more invested the higher the chances of success. In essence what we will gain is effectively a new sub-class of Investor – lower investment thresholds than those who apply to many looking to secure residence under the Investor Categories but a much higher threshold than historically in place for the self-employed. As always there will be winners and there will be losers.
Skilled Migrant Category also underwent its standard three year review during 2013 and I expect we may see changes this year. My own view is the changes will be minor (why change a formula that appears to be working?). My only two suggestions to Government were that we should be more prescriptive in regard to English language as the Australians are (better your English the higher your points) and I would also be re-instating points for those with capital they can transfer to New Zealand. Although it is proven that those with more money find it easier to settle I cannot see the Government taking me up on this suggestion; they might on the English language however. We shall see.
My colleague Paul will also be in South Africa in early February kicking for our first round of seminars there.
It is going to be a big, exciting and nerve wracking year for some of you as you pack up and join us here in New Zealand. For some 2013 was the moving year and 2014 will become the year of return to some sort of normality. For others 2014 will be the year of the ‘big decision’ to migrate or not. Wherever you are on that spectrum the Immagine team and I wish you every happiness and success for the year.
Until next week
Southern Man – Letter from New Zealand
When all through the house, not a creature was stirring..., except for a Government policy maker who decided that changing the rules at the end of the year would make a lovely Christmas present.
Late last week the Minister of Immigration released a statement relating to proposed changes to the Long Term Business Visa (LTBV) Category. Whilst the announcement didn’t reveal specifics over what the new policy would look like, it made a few references to the ideas being batted around inside the immigration halls of power.
Originally established as a pathway to residency for those who wished to come to New Zealand and become financially self sustaining, applicants were required to have a well researched business plan that met a fairly clear benefit test to the country. In hindsight that benefit test was set too low in the eyes of the Departmental officials who implement the policy.
When it was released it was a case of ‘anything goes’ and applications from Bed and Breakfasts to one man band lawn-mowing franchises were being approved in a matter of weeks. Then with a change in leadership came a change in interpretation (although the policy didn’t) and applications were declined en masse. This Category has always been subject to the ever changing mood of INZ, although none of those changes was ever set down in the rules. It was a case of getting to understand each new Branch Manager’s feelings on the benefit to New Zealand before advising your client on whether to proceed or not.
This has led to a policy that is both poorly understood by applicants and immigration officers alike and open to widespread abuse by both applicants and the Department. Often seen as the ‘application of last resort’, INZ struggled with the ebb and flow of applications of questionable benefit to New Zealand, leading to very few residence approvals.
The current (to be no longer as of the end of today) policy sees around 500 applications annually which is quite a few considering the intent of the policy is for people to establish or purchase businesses in New Zealand.
Application volumes have been steadily increasing over the last three immigration years (2010 to 2013), although approval rates have been falling from 89% at the beginning of that period down to 71% in the current year to date. There are various reasons INZ attribute to this trend, some of which don’t appear to hold a lot of water, given they created and administer the policy; but the main thrust of the changes relates to what we have always argued is a clear lack of defined aim of the policy.
Let me give you a few examples.
Part of the existing policy requires an applicant to have sufficient funds for maintenance and accommodation – and that’s about as far as the rule book goes in terms of specifying what that figure might be. It doesn’t give a guide as to the amount of money required and so its left up to an immigration officer to decide on what they believe is appropriate. The problem with that is each officer will have a different view on what is ‘sufficient’. Some might drive a BMW and scoff at the idea on living on anything less than $100,000.00 per year (or perhaps $150,000 a year which was a figure quoted to us by INZ recently). Other officers will live with more modest means and believe that a third of that is required.
Then there is the definition of ‘benefit to New Zealand’ which is another criteria that INZ uses to determine if a proposed business is worthy of approval. There is a list of criteria within the rule book; however it was arguably poorly written and therefore open to various interpretations. Also where policy says ‘benefit’ can be satisfied by meeting one of the criteria (such as employing a single New Zealander), INZ recently decided what the policy actually meant was if only one person is being employed they will do a ‘measuring’ exercise to determine whether there is enough weight in the other elements of ‘benefit’ to grant an approval.
That of course is not that the policy suggests at all but this was the Department’s way of dealing to what they considered ‘low quality’ applications – even those that demonstrably met their own single benefit criteria.
So, out with the old and in with the new – but what is ‘the new’?
Before we dive into this, it is important to note that anyone who has a current LTBV in process will be covered by the existing rules and so the proposed changes only impact on those who have yet to lodge a formal application. That does mean ongoing uncertainty as we doubt INZ will be able to resist trying to implement a higher bar test of benefit to LTBV renewals at nine months and the Resident Visa that follows.
In terms of the new policy - put simply INZ is returning to form, trying to cut out as much thinking as they can and putting in place a points system which measures various criteria. The Government has decided to close the current policy down today, release the details of the new policy in February 2014 (date to be determined) and then actually make it effective from March 2014. This then gives INZ and, in particular the Business Migration Branch, a chance to play catch up.
What little we do know is that the policy will utilise a points system to allow applicants to gauge for themselves the likelihood of success and hopefully provide some clarity around the actual criteria.
Points will very likely be allocated based on age, capital investment, level of turnover, business experience, job creation and the level of innovation (not sure how you measure that). There will be a total point’s score of 120 (proposed) and INZ will obviously be balancing age, investment capital and the kind of business to approve the most desirable applications. The focus has very much gone on targeting enterprises that will provide export opportunities and/or technological innovation. Essentially what they don’t want are B&B’s and corner dairies.
There will also be a focus on pushing businesses out to the regions and awarding additional “bonus” points to applicants who propose to establish a business anywhere outside of Auckland. Similar to the Skilled Migrant Category, INZ has always endeavoured to move migrants out of Auckland and in to the smaller parts of the country to stimulate growth.
The Minister sums up his intention of the new policy in the press release as follows:
“The Entrepreneur Work Visa will operate under a new points-based system that will result in higher quality, more productive businesses.
“It will also encourage business-savvy migrants to invest, settle, and create jobs across the country, by offering extra points for expanding or starting businesses outside of the Auckland region.”
But (and there always is a whole lot of these) INZ will also have the discretion to waive certain requirements for funds where the proposed business can ‘excel’ in other areas. So basically you have a set of rules and then another rule which allows an officer to do whatever he/she likes. Let’s hope it isn’t quite as subjective as that.
We support any move to greater transparency that leads to both a higher success rate and a better outcome for New Zealand. Based on the information publicly released so far we question why it has taken INZ so long to work this out and whether or not they have done enough to fix the issues. Time will tell of course.
For anyone who is considering a Long Term Business Visa application stay tuned. We will be sending out the details as we receive them along with our interpretation of what they mean in the real world.
And with that the Southern Man and the IMMagine New Zealand team sign off for another year. It has been an interesting one to say the least as the New Zealand economy continues to outperform its developed country peers and surges into 2014, the Auckland Council debates whether to kick out the current Mayor who has a penchant for extra marital activities and the folks in Christchurch continue to restack the bricks and mortar.
We will be back in January (officially open on the 13th) with a new round of seminars kicking off in the same month – this time featuring for the first time Jakarta followed later by Hong Kong.
To all of our clients and those who have read and enjoyed our blogs in 2013 we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We look forward to working with you again in 2014 and hope you all enjoy the festive season (no matter where in the world you are).
For now we are off to the beach as summer settles into a warm dry pattern.
Adieu, Arrivederci, Totsiens, Salamat Jalan and Hasta La Vista…
Paul Janssen, Iain MacLeod and the Team at IMMagine New Zealand
If there was a way for the officials that run the immigration system in this country to ‘walk a mile in my shoes’, I would gladly hand over my size 11’s.
In this business we have learned that you can never underestimate what it means for someone to pack their lives into a box, burn bridges in their homeland and head for New Zealand in the hope that they will be able to establish a new life here. For some it’s a choice but for many it’s the only option.
And for all their talk about ‘customers not numbers’, ‘positive settlement outcomes’ and ‘trusted partnerships’ I doubt that there are many people within the immigration machine that truly understand (as we do) what it means to migrate. There are some officers out there who do get it and these are the ones we try to work most closely with, but unfortunately for the majority, it’s a system of numbers and forms, KPI’s and targets with little in between.
I recently came to the end of what was one of the most complex cases I have ever handled, the kind of stuff that gives a Licensed Adviser insomnia and cold sweats. The kind of case that also makes you realise just how much is involved in a person’s decision to migrate.
This particular client had, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, ended up being deported from Australia back to a country he had fled over a decade earlier. He had for a large part of his life been living under the immigration radar without a Visa and without being able to truly settle anywhere. In the midst of all of this he had met a girl and that girl, although she happened to live in Australia (where they met), was New Zealand born. So not only was this particular client abruptly removed from a life that he had built over many years to one that was completely foreign; but he was also torn away from the love of his life.
They had been through the immigration process in two countries and failed. Their attempts to tell their story were never really heard and they felt like their options had been exhausted. I recall the first conversation I had with the New Zealand partner and it sounded like the wind had been knocked clean out of her. Put simply they were just another number in a statistic on someone’s spread sheet.
As an Adviser taking on a case like this you need all the facts. We need to know pretty much everything there is to know about the history and anything less just won’t cut it. I listened to this couple and the story they told made sense. In this particular case, as it is with anyone that has been anywhere unlawfully for that long and then deported, it was always going to be 50/50 and I had no reservations in telling them that we were in for a lengthy battle. My role in all of this was to simultaneously minimize the risk of failure whilst maximising the chances of success. There was a lot at stake here and this was a couple that were prepared to go to hell and back to make it work.
After 20 months, 520 emails and numerous lengthy discussions with Senior Immigration Officers that, to their credit, also listened; the outcome was successful. What this means for this couple is best left to the partner to say. Here is what she emailed me when she was given the good news:
“…he hasn't felt like he has belonged anywhere ever, he has never felt comfortable to call a place home and actually make solid decisions about how he wants to spend his future - he can now do that...”
Are we proud of this? Yes. Did we pull off a miracle? Well not quite. In reality we simply knew how to navigate this process, who in the system to talk to and how to talk to them. We listened to the client, understood the situation and then set about minimising failure and maximising success.
As Advisers we constantly advocate that the machine should deliver consistent and fair outcomes. Sometimes, as was the case in the scenario above, we have to fight a little harder to secure those outcomes particularly when you have a round peg and a square hole. However, there are occasions when even though the system shouldn’t be a lottery, it can feel like you are rolling dice.
Take last week for example. INZ decided it would be a good idea to change the security settings on their online Expression of Interest (EOI) login system. As a result the system didn’t work for a few days and for anyone using Google Chrome there was not much hope of filing an EOI (there is probably a good blog in that). A week later INZ conducts their regularly scheduled EOI selection process and for the first time in seven months, the pass mark fell (ever so slightly).
It wouldnt be silly to conclude that the drop in the pass mark was because fewer people were able to file EOI’s, meaning INZ had less 'customers' to choose from and therefore to get their regular number of plus/minus 600, they needed to select those with a slightly lower score. Or it could be just the computer system making up numbers because demand was lower. Either way the thinking isn't necessarily being done by a person.
For the number crunchers and budget balancers within INZ this would simply have been an ‘anomaly’, possibly a ‘glitch’ or perhaps just 'statistics'. For a few would-be migrants out there who have filed EOI’s in the hope that somewhere, somehow they might get selected, this would have been the very first step in that new life.
No matter how hard you try to understand this process it can sometimes (thankfully rarely) come down to whether the guy manning the IT desk, put a semi-colon in the right place or which way the number crunchers lean.
I know that Iain (the actual Southern Man) has four golden rules when it comes to this process and one of them rings true here – “Just when you think you have the system figured out, they change it”. We know this and it’s probably why we have the success rates we do. Prepare for all situations and never underestimate the system’s ability to get it wrong.
Above all, however, a good Adviser will go further than forms, paperwork and process to understand what’s involved with your situation, to navigate you through the system successfully and remove as much of the randomness and inconsistency as is possible. You should never just be a number.
For my client and his partner, I wish them all the very best. Having not only listened to their story but also being a part of it, I am privileged (and somewhat humbled) to know that New Zealand now feels like home for him, in the truest sense of the word.
For everyone else reading this blog who has thought about making the move but would like someone to walk the journey with them, drop us a line, or if you are in South Africa, Singapore or Malaysia (click on the links to register) we have our last seminars for 2013 in November and December coming up, so why not come and listen to what we have to say and perhaps share your story with us.
I don’t pretend to understand what goes through New Zealand politicians’ heads but “How do I get re-elected next time round” is probably right up there.
Only that thought can explain to me why we are not seeing Government increasing now, with a degree of urgency for next year and beyond, the numbers of well targeted skilled migrants allowed into New Zealand without job offers.
In the past three weeks media headlines have screamed:
- Business Confidence remains at 5 year high (31 October)
- Building consents at record levels (31 October)
- Booming NZ game industry facing skills shortage (30 October)
- Skills Shortage hamper rebuild (26 October)
- Are you ready for the economic boom? (21 October)
- Skills crisis needs fixing (8 October)
Recent statistics suggest that around 90% of all skilled migrants still require skilled employment before they can get enough ‘points’ to qualify for residence. Understandably, given the potentially real or perceived risks associated with getting those jobs, many choose not to join us in New Zealand for fear they will not be successful in their hunt (or as per last week’s Southern Man Letter from New Zealand they will be denied visas to come and look for work or be stopped at the border).
For every ten families we consult with that would have an excellent chance of both securing employment and gaining enough points for residence, probably two actually go through with it.
New Zealand and in particular Immigration New Zealand doesn't make it easy, so understandably many potential migrants don’t take up the challenge. Of course for those that secure the right advice and guidance, the process is overwhelmingly successful.
On the one hand with local unemployment sitting stubbornly around the 6.5% mark it must be tempting for Government not to be seen increasing the numbers of skilled migrants allowed in without needing jobs. As recently as two years ago they did when around 50% of skilled migrants gained Resident Visas that way.
On the other hand there are very real, concerning and increasing levels of skills shortages across many sectors. Not a day goes by when the headlines don’t scream we are short of architects, quantity surveyors, CAD experts, construction related trades workers, IT professionals and many many more. The Government risks losing the support of some of its traditional business power base at next year’s election if companies feel constrained by a lack of available labour to fill roles vital to their businesses.
Of course politicians the world over know that standing on a platform of increasing immigration wins no one any votes anywhere. This, despite the reality that skilled migrants do not compete with the locally unemployed in this country and skilled locals will always be ahead of migrants in the job queue. So the skills difference between these two sets of people mean their paths will seldom, if ever, cross and politically our Government should be confident enough to call it how it is.
Oh that they were so brave.
In the past two years the Government has issued 18,000 fewer skilled migrant visas than their own programme demands. So far they don’t seem bothered about it but when the good people of Christchurch continue to step over the rubble of their humbled city in a few years or Aucklanders face building costs going through the roof because of a lack of skilled workers it might have some political fallout.
If skills shortages start filtering through into wage/price inflation and all home owners watch their mortgage interest rates increase it won’t do anything for the Government’s popularity.
As the construction boom has moved to Auckland this powerful bloc of voters could easily be turned off the Government if they see their ability to maximise their commercial opportunities impeded by lack of skilled workers or it feeding through into cost of living increases that have largely been absent these past few years with inflation well under control and under 1%.
The New Zealand economy is on a roll – growth is forecast at between 3 and 4% over the next year. Every sector of the economy is expanding. Thousands of jobs are being created and hiring intentions are high and climbing. The country’s terms of trade are the strongest in years.
In recent months net migration has turned positive but not thanks to new residents being granted visas – instead largely by New Zealanders returning home from Australia as their economy cools following the end of the mining boom. This is adding several thousand skilled and semi-skilled workers to the local pool which is a good thing but Government cannot target the specific skills sets we require – we might just be getting back many low to semi skilled workers chucked out of manual work in and around the mines. Again the skills mix might not be what the businesses of New Zealand need.
So there needs to be a sensible balance struck. Right now the Government is on auto pilot when it comes to migration and it would be nice, if only once, a New Zealand Government was proactive and ahead of the game rather than reactive and two years behind.
A skilled migrant who has the points to qualify for residence without needing a job is at least 12 months away and probably closer to two years away from being able to deliver these skills to the labour market of New Zealand.
A sensible approach would be to slowly ramp up the numbers of migrants approved who don’t have jobs but who have excellent English (given linguistic compatibility more than anything drives employment outcomes) and who have the skills sorely needed in New Zealand – Engineering, construction and IT being at the forefront.
A real problem for the skills strapped employers of New Zealand in 2014 is an election year and I cannot see the Government changing its current insistence on the majority of migrants burning bridges at home, travelling to New Zealand, running the airport gauntlet, trying to find work and taking the risk they will be successful.
Perhaps it is time for the politicians to look beyond next year’s election and get bold about migration.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
We are constantly bombarded with questions from clients who need skilled and relevant job offers to secure their Resident Visas who are entering New Zealand to find employment ’What do we say at the airport, if asked the purpose of our visit?’
Clients are understandably nervous and tell us they have variously been told:
- You cannot look for work on a visitor visa;
- You should not travel with any documents like CVs, qualifications and work references on your person or in your baggage
- You should not bring your notebook computer or tablet with you
- You should not pack a suit (who takes a suit on holiday?); etc
Because you are after all on ‘holiday’ right?
I have been made aware of an internal memo dated April 2011 sent to all Immigration New Zealand Branch Managers (and which most offshore branches and officials at Auckland Airport have either forgotten about or never read) which confirms quite unequivocally that visitors entering New Zealand to ‘holiday’ (as the main purpose of entry) but who are also intending to scope NZ as a place to live which includes job hunting are quite entitled to do so and should be granted entry. Unless of course there is any obvious risk to the integrity of the immigration system such as previous stays beyond their temporary visas and insufficient funds to support themselves being the main two.
In the past year we have had a South African client detained at Auckland Airport for 5 hours. A Diesel Mechanic who was coming here to look for work and was totally upfront and honest about it when questioned. With a job offer he had come to find he would have his points for residence. He never lied about the purpose of his visit. He got his entry visa in the end (and went on to secure the job and he is about to secure his Resident Visa). It should never have happened however.
A Filipino client was granted a Visitor Visa through the NZ High Commission in Singapore before he travelled here with our assistance. When we applied we were totally honest that he was coming to look for skilled employment and he passed the ‘risk assessment test’ and the visa was granted to travel. He was detained for two hours at Auckland Airport. Told he couldn’t look for work. But was in the end granted entry. He now has a job and a work visa.
I recently helped extricate another South African who made it past the airport guards (just, having been detained and questioned), who went on to find employment, filed his own work visa application and was about to be declined on the grounds of ‘poor character’ when he came to me for help. His crime? He told the officers at the airport he was coming to visit family (he was), brought his scuba gear with him as he was on holiday (all true), had no job (he didn’t) but nonetheless INZ sent him a letter following receipt of the work visa accusing him of lying at the border. Why? He produced documents in support of the work visa that pre-dated his entry to NZ – ergo, he must be a liar and therefore was of poor character. I got him his visa but he never should have been challenged the way he was either at the airport or by the work visa processing officer.
So what do you tell the officers at the airport if you are challenged?
The truth. The whole truth and nothing but the truth.
There is no need to panic. There is no need to lie. There is no need not to emphasise an important part of your holiday is to look for work.
And here is what their memo says:
“There is some confusion as to the correct declaration on an arrival card and its consequences when people enter New Zealand for the following reasons:
· When the main purpose of the visit is holiday but they are also considering living and working in NZ in future; or
· For the purpose of a job interview”
Offshore Branches (for people applying for a visa to enter NZ for one of the purposes above to “look, see and decide”) are advised in the memo:
“If an applicant declares on the application form the purpose of their visit is to holiday but also to assess whether they want to live and work in NZ, then these should be considered on a case by case basis (as usual) with particular care to assess the likelihood of obtaining lawful work in NZ and the risk of non-compliance”.
For those arriving at the border (who came of a visitor visa issued by an offshore Branch or who are from a visa free country e.g. South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore) the memo says:
· Passengers must make a full and honest declaration of their intent if questioned
· Meet the minimum finds requirement
· Met the outward ticket back to home country requirement
· Meet the valid(ity) passport requirement.
Border staff will assess:
· The likelihood of them breaching the conditions of their visa
· The likelihood of them overstaying
Interestingly the memo goes on to say:
“If there are concerns about either of these then officers at the border may consider the demand for their skills in NZ and the likelihood of them obtaining work, based on their skills and qualification, to assist in their assessment”.
There is enough in there to still give fairly wide and a concerning degree of subjective discretion to an officer that seeks to be over zealous or just plain nasty. How are immigration officers experts on someone’s employability? How are they experts in the local labour market conditions?
For those coming with a pre-arranged job interview they must select on their arrival card the purpose of their visit as ‘business’ not ‘holiday’.
In regard to those here for a pre-arranged and confirmed interview the memo states:
“Visitor Visa holders who apply for a work visa onshore (in NZ) and have previously declared on the arrival card that the MAIN reason for coming to NZ is for ‘Holiday/Vacation’ should not be sent a Potentially Prejudicial Information letter raising character issues based on providing false and misleading information provided that they were honest about their intentions at the border. The fact that they have obtained a job offer does not necessarily mean that their stated MAIN reason for coming to NZ was falsely declared”.
So my scuba diving friend should never have been questioned by the local INZ branch and accused of being of poor character for having documents that pre-dated his arrival in the country filed with his work visa. As I argued with the officer at the time – you’d penalise a guy who told no lies at the airport and works in an area of absolute skills shortage who was organised based on a whole lot of ‘what ifs’? As in, what if he got here and liked it? What if he changed his mind about staying? What if he decided to stay? What if he found a job offer he liked? What if he decided to apply for residence?
Of course that officer maintained my client was a liar. My view is the officer should be looking for a more rewarding career (but didn’t share that advice).
Ultimately no one is guaranteed a visa at Auckland Airport but if you travel with sufficient money, have a clear idea of how employable you might be (pull out your research), explain the purpose of your visit (holiday being the main purpose but you are also keen on exploring opportunities including employment) you should be given a visa and wished well in your stay. You should not be detained for hours and treated with suspicion.
If you are led off to a side room and treated like a criminal – tell the truth, stick to your story and be honest at every turn. If you are still being hassled for coming here to ‘look, see and decide’ suggest the officer re-read his Departmental memo of April 2011. I suspect the message contained therein might shortly be updated (I understand a bit of a refresher is about to take place with immigration officers locally, overseas and at the airport) and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer – you are doing nothing wrong.
Fly with a copy of this blog if you wish!
Until next week
Southern Man - Iain MacLeod
One of the most confusing pieces of Immigration Policy is the difference between ‘Residence’ and ‘Permanent Residence’. We spend countless hours explaining this to clients simply because INZ have made it rather difficult to understand. So in this week’s blog we are going to explain it to you, unravel the mystery, tear down the myths and hopefully simplify what can be a pretty mind boggling set of rules.
Unlike many countries around the world, when you secure Residence of New Zealand it is exactly that – permanent. It doesn’t expire in five years, two years or two weeks and it doesn’t need to be renewed periodically. It also grants the holder essentially the same rights and privileges as a New Zealand citizen without having a passport of course. There are a few exceptions such as a 12 month stand down period before you can vote (after 12 months you can vote for whoever you want), a two year stand down on Student Loans and Social Welfare benefits and some restrictions on being able to represent New Zealand internationally for various sporting codes, however, these restrictions are few and far between.
Residents pay the same taxes, can buy the same houses and take advantage of the healthcare and education systems in the same way a citizen can. We are a pretty generous lot.
However, New Zealand does want you to commit in some way before they will make all of these things available to you permanently and this is where the difference between ‘Resident’ and ‘Permanent Resident’ Visas comes in.
So how does it all work?
The following rules apply to most application types however, there are some slight differences for Investor or Parent Category applicants. These come with some additional conditions which your adviser should explain to you.
When your application for Residence is approved the first thing you will be issued with is a Resident Visa. If this is granted offshore, all family members included in the original application must enter New Zealand within 12 months from the date that the visa is issued. This is called the ‘First Entry Before’ date and will be listed on the top right hand side of the Visa label. It is important to remember that all family members who were included in the original application must enter NZ at least once before this date or their Visa will lapse which means they will lose their Resident Visa entitlement. Having said that the family does not need to enter on the same date within that 12 months and can travel separately.
If your Resident Visa is issued when you are onshore then your Visa won’t have a ‘First Entry Before Date’ as you are already here.
The second condition contained within your Resident Visa (which is usually the one that confuses most people) is the “Expiry Date Travel”. This is usually valid for two years from the date of your first arrival. So when you and all of your family members included in the application make your first entry you will all be given further ‘Travel Conditions' (the ability to enter and exit NZ as a Resident) for two years from that date. As this date is not written down anywhere it’s important that you make a note of this somewhere.
If your Residence was approved whilst you were in New Zealand the two years starts on the day that your Resident Visa was issued as you have already ‘entered’ New Zealand.
The initial Resident Visa you have allows you to live and work in New Zealand indefinitely, so if you never left you could legally stay even if your two years’ worth of travel conditions came and went. However if you were to leave New Zealand after those two years and return your Residence would be deemed to have lapsed.
This is where the Permanent Resident Visa comes into it.
A Permanent Resident Visa has the same rights and privileges as your Resident Visa however, the travel conditions (your ability to exit and re-enter NZ as a Resident) never expire. This is the ‘permanent’ part of the Visa. You can only apply for this at the end of the two years of your initial Resident Visa however, once you have it then you are essentially free to come and go and spend as much or as little time in New Zealand without jeopardising your ‘permanent residence’.
To qualify for a Permanent Resident Visa the principal applicant in the original application must satisfy one of five criteria. Generally it is only the principal applicant that must satisfy the criteria, however in some cases the other family members will need to have spent time in New Zealand.
The five criteria are as follows:
- Significant period of time spent in New Zealand
- Tax Resident status in New Zealand
- Investment in New Zealand
- Establishing a business in New Zealand
- Establishing a ‘base’ in New Zealand
Explaining all five criteria would take a separate blog (for each) however the easiest one to meet and the one I will explain here is the first – significant period of time spent in New Zealand. In this case the principal applicant only must spend a period of 184 days in each of the two years from the date they first entered NZ. For example, if the whole family entered NZ on their initial Resident Visas (or were already here) on 01/01/14 then the principal applicant must spend:
- 184 days in NZ between 01/01/14 and 31/12/14 and
- Another 184 days between 01/01/15 and 31/12/15.
The 184 days does not need to be consecutive and can be broken up however, it must be 184 days in each year, e.g. you cannot combine the two 184 day periods into one year.
If you believe you may not qualify under this rule and would like to explore one of the other options you definitely need to speak to us. The other options can be complicated (not impossible) however we need to assess each situation carefully.
It is vital that you take steps to qualify for a Permanent Resident Visa within the original two year travel conditions; this will make your transition to Permanent Residence much smoother and less complicated.
Remember that a Resident Visa allows you the same access to education and health services as an NZ citizen and once you have spent 12 months in New Zealand you can vote in local and National Elections.
You can only apply for Citizenship once you have resided in New Zealand for 5 years, can demonstrate you have settled and integrated, speak fluent English and this country is your home. Citizenship is decided on an individual basis – so it is not like a residence application which is a family affair in which if one qualifies all qualify.
But that is a story for another day. We can assist you with your citizenship when the time comes but remind us in four and half year’s time.
Until next week – Paul Janssen (standing in for the Southern Man)
Sometimes we are asked to justify the costs of our services. Which is valid but also signals to us that anyone who asks doesn’t deal with immigration rules or bureaucrats very often . In this business one wrong move with a visa application and your grandchildren won’t be Kiwis and therefore we play for very high stakes. We are the best at what we do. Our record suggests that more than 99% of the time our clients get their visa.
At such times it is good to offer examples of just how complicated, if not insane, immigration policy, processes and criteria can be and why navigating a client through it is a challenge. The complexity is often caused by poorly written policy and added to by the varying interpretations put on it by the Departmental Officials across the various branches we work with.
So if by chance all you think we do is fill out application forms ask yourself this question as we have been grappling with for the past 18 months – when, for immigration bonus work points purposes, is an Engineer an Engineer?
This believe it or not is a question that Immigration Department Officials still cannot answer after about 18 months of wrestling with the question and several attempts at issuing what they call Information Circulars and revised skills shortages definitions which set out to clarify such imponderables. We first raised some questions 18 months ago with INZ over the varying interpretations of this policy by case officers. In January 2012 we were given written clarification and took that to the market. Within months case officers were telling us that we were wrong (despite only basing our advice on written advice from their own National Office). The head of INZ forced the advice we were given to be honoured but more ‘clarifications’ were issued. Officers became more confused. Internal departmental circulars were rescinded. A new Long Term Skills Shortage List has just been published to ‘clarify’ how applicants claiming to be Engineers get bonus points. Unfortunately it still doesn’t answer the fundamental question and it looks like parts of the latest release are back under committee discussion in National Office. After 18 months…..
If you are after bonus points for work experience as an Engineer policy says you must meet one of the following criteria – you must have a qualification (note, not work experience) which is:
1. A Washington Accord accredited Engineering Degree
2. Either a qualification comparable to a:
a. Bachelor of Engineering, or
b. Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours), or Master of Engineering Degree
3. A qualification at Level 7 or higher with a letter from IPENZ certifying that the Degree and any further learning meets the academic requirements for registration as a ‘Chartered Professional Engineer’ in New Zealand
4. NZ registration as a ‘Chartered Professional Engineer’
Forget the last criteria unless you have been working in New Zealand a few years in which case you’d have enough points for residence without needing these precious bonus points in the first place. It’s a criteria that shouldn’t be there as it adds no value.
Only a few countries are signatories to the Washington Accord and even then many Engineers have degrees conferred on them from a University in a signatory country before that country signed up This immediately means they don’t satisfy the criteria.
An Engineer can chance an application to IPENZ to try and meet the third criteria but we know that more than 85% at least initially, are unsuccessful with that process.
So that leaves the third criteria but what does it mean when you must have a qualification ‘comparable to a Bachelor of Engineering’?
You might reasonably argue that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and flies like a duck it is a duck.
You’d be wrong. The Immigration Department will often tell you it is a horse, despite being covered in feathers.
Take for example a client we are representing right now.
He has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Mechanical) from The University of Leeds. He qualified in 1982. A few years after he completed his Degree the University course title was changed to Bachelor of Engineering but the course content was, as far as I know, exactly the same. He was registered with the Engineering Council (UK) and has worked as an Engineer all his life.
So it’s obvious right? He has an Engineering degree, works as an Engineer and was, at least for a time, a registered professional Engineer so he should get the bonus points for working as an Engineer.
Not so fast.
Although the United Kingdom was a founding signatory to the Washington Accord, the Accord was only ratified in 1989. So he fails the Engineer test based on the first criteria. He got his Degree in 1982.
He has no letter from the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) and we have spoken to them about the likelihood they will give him one. There is no guarantee he will get the letter either (although they tell us he might). So option 3 is uncertain.
We know he can’t meet the fourth criteria because he does not yet work in New Zealand so he simply cannot get NZ registration as a ‘Chartered Professional Engineer’.
Which leaves us arguing his qualification is ‘comparable’ to a Bachelor of Engineering.
So it’s obvious right? He must get the points that way. After all the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Immigration Department both automatically recognise his Degree as being comparable at the very least to a New Zealand Bachelor Degree. The question case officers have to grapple with is ‘Yes, but is it an Engineering Degree?’
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines comparable as ‘able to be likened to another; similar’ so it has to be a no brainer, you might be thinking.
I say it again - not so fast.
And you must surely be thinking – but it’s obvious – he has a Degree that is automatically recognised by the Immigration Department as being comparable to a New Zealand Bachelor Degree and his academic record proves he studied engineering, passed in Engineering and has worked as an Engineer (the more of this I type the more insane it seems) so what he has is ‘similar’ to a Bachelor of Engineering offered in New Zealand right?
Well life could never be so simple.
The Immigration Department right now is saying he does not automatically get the bonus points.
After issuing their new criteria a week ago we seem to be back to square one and I imagine more committee meetings will be taking place at National Office of INZ as they now try to explain to case officers how to determine if clients like mine should get the bonus points.
I say he should get them – he walks, quacks and flies like a duck. I am picking then he is a duck.
Of course this would all be made so much simpler if the Department changed that one criteria to read as follows:
“A qualification comparable to a Level 7 Bachelor degree and three years highly relevant work experience in the past five years”.
Then you are going to get Engineers and nothing else. In fact we suggested something similar to this a few months ago but it appears to have been ignored in the review of the review of the review.
With our definition the work experience bonus points test becomes just that, a test of recent Engineering work experience while preserving the requirement for a recognised University Degree.
It all begs the question why something which in fact is pretty simple is made so horrendously confusing and difficult. And takes 18 months to go round in a big wide circle.
Remember among all of this chaos we still have a success rate in excess of 99%. And that is why we charge what we charge.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man