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Posted by Myer on Nov. 12, 2021, 10:04 a.m. in Australia economy
Our Prime Minister plans to open the Australian border to foreign skilled workers before year end but whether that in itself is sufficient to satisfy the growing skill shortages in Australia remains to be seen.
The economy is expected by the Reserve Bank of Australia to bounce back strongly expecting 5.5% growth next year. Unemployment rate is presently at 4.6% and increased demand for skills in Australia has put pressure on wage inflation and this coupled with rapid increases in house prices have led to inflationary concerns with many of the banks starting to increase rates for fixed term mortgages.
The skills shortage has been exacerbated by the fact that we haven’t had skilled migration for the past 18 months and scores of foreign workers left Australia at the onset of Covid and border restrictions. To compound the skills shortage many young professional Australians are relishing the opportunity of being able to work overseas on working holiday visas and it’s going to lead to a mass exodus of skills in Australia over the next few months.
There were nearly 600,000 fewer temporary visa holders in Australia in December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, as migrants returned home following the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the international borders - many of whom were international students, some on temporary work visas and working holiday visa holders. Australia not only lost these people but the skills they were contributing to the Australian economy.
There are so many articles in publications such as the Australian Financial Review dealing with skill shortages that I’m confident the government is aware of the shortages and have given consideration as to how to facilitate importation of skills to redress these shortages. There are lots of encouraging words from the Treasurer and Prime Minister (including importantly in my opinion using the words ‘welcoming’ skilled migrants and international students back… welcoming I think is a strong signal about perceived value by the host Australia).
Unfortunately none of the detail relating to their planning has been released but perhaps they can be forgiven, the Prime Minister has had a lot on his plate of late with a spat with the French over a cancelled submarine deal and trying to develop a carbon r reduction program that would appease its coalition partner and seem to be tackling climate change.
The only recent immigration announcement made of late was the fact that Hong Kong passport holders and BNO passport holders would be given pathways to obtaining permanent residence if they work in metropolitan Australia for four years or regional Australia for three years. Australia is essentially just making good on a promise made last year to provide pathways for Hong Kong citizens to progress to permanent residence. Initially they were eligible for five year student or work visas and the recent legislation made in October 2021 provides them with the pathway to permanent residence.
Whilst they (and their skills) are going to be a welcome addition to Australia, we very much doubt whether that in itself will make a significant difference to skill shortages. Many of them will be young students with limited work experience seeking to study in Australia, then graduate to working visas before working in Australia and ultimately acquiring permanent residence.
I also doubt that the thousands of general skilled migration visa applications that have been lodged with the Department but not yet processed would satisfy the growing skill shortage but it would be a useful start. The government has been loath to process these applications over the past 18 months because of border restrictions (they didn’t want to put further pressure on the limited quarantine facilities available in Australia for new arrivals) but it would be a good starting point.
There also hasn’t been any announcement made in regard to those who have been patiently waiting overseas on provisional visas that have already been granted but who were unable to enter Australia because of border restrictions. Only certain people such as Australian citizens, spouses of Australian citizens and permanent residents were allowed to enter Australia because of border restrictions, as well as those 44 occupations that comprise the priority skilled occupations list.
Provisional visa holders need to satisfy certain conditions to progress to permanent residence such as living and working in regional Australia for a certain time during the validity of their visas. I’m sure that many would feel much more comfortable about making plans to migrate to Australia if a decision had been made to extend the validity of those visas.
State governments might also want to start producing lists of occupations that they intend to sponsor for overseas workers. At present there is only one state sponsoring overseas applicant’s namely South Australia.
If the other states are to follow South Australia’s lead we are going to see a change in the type of applicant sponsored with greater emphasis upon years of work experience in the nominated occupation and better English-language scores.
While the incentive to provide favourable sponsorship opportunities to international students is a great prop to the Australian tertiary education system, often graduates will not have the skills or experience to satisfy the needs of Australian employers. For this reason we suspect states will be eager to attract more overseas talent to help fill their critical skills needs.
There are so many occupations required in Australia it would provide a misleading impression to focus on just one occupation, but the occupation of accountant is interesting. For years we had been told that Australia was overrun by accountants. Many of these accountants were in fact young students who came to study in Australia and traditionally the occupation was given a relatively easy passage to progress from temporary visas to permanent resident visas.
Fast forward 18 months and we are told that there is a dire shortage of accountants in Australia with many seeking to leave Australia because of higher salaries overseas, facilitated by the Australian working holiday schemes that allow young Australians to live and work abroad.
An announcement on the part of the government as to how it plans on welcoming back skilled migrants and foreign students would be timely as it would allay the fears of a growing number of employers in Australia that they will have access to the overseas skills necessary to operate and grow.
Posted by Myer on May 28, 2021, 10:38 a.m. in State Sponsorship
We’re talking occupations for Australia, not the movie. The question we constantly get from people we consult with is “what are good occupations to immigrate to Australia?”. By that they usually mean ‘what occupations does the Australian government want for the purpose of securing residence?’
A ‘good occupation’ is critical to your chances of success under a number of different residence scenarios. Why? Because Australia has a plethora of occupational lists of which one or more may apply to you and which will directly impact your ability to either secure state sponsorship (for most people that is now critical if the end game is residence) or to create a pathway to residence through working for an ‘eligible’ employer.
Because most of IMMagine’s clients leave home with provisional or permanent residence and they do not require jobs to secure their residence visa, we will focus on general skilled (‘points’) migration visas.
To be clear, if we describe your occupation as good, bad or ugly it has no bearing on the ease with which you could secure employment in Australia. Occupation lists are something of an artificial construct which may or may not reflect demand for those skills in the labour market.
Our focus today (and when we consult) is on those occupations that have a history of appearing on state sponsorship lists in the recent past. As Advisers we spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror – if a state has a history of sponsoring an occupation in the past year or two, this can be a strong indication they will continue to do so in the immediate future. Readers should bear in mind that at present very few states are sponsoring applicants based overseas (although in the past two weeks we have had two clients sponsored by a state government which is surprising as they are not living in Australia – we took that as a welcome signal that things are starting to ‘thaw’). We expect that a return to ‘normal’ will intensify over the next few months given the fact that the government recently announced that Australia’s borders will open to skilled migrants next year and Australia is experiencing worsening skills shortages.
One should also bear in mind that we can never know with 100% certainty which occupations will appear on state sponsorship lists in future because these details are never released in advance of the new ‘immigration year’ which begins on 1 July. We have had unexpected surprises, both positive and negative in the past. However, there are some occupations that always seem to appear on state sponsorship lists. We a few years ago we had a consultation with an Industrial Designer. We could not recall that occupation ever appearing on any state sponsorship occupation list but to his credit this client went ahead and obtained a skills assessment and lo and behold his occupation appeared on a state sponsorship list, and we’re happy to say he now calls Australia home.
As Randy Jackson of American Idol fame used to say: “you’ve gotta be in it to win it”. By that we mean you can’t wait until such time as your occupation appears on a state sponsorship list to make the decision or you’ve probably left it too late. That’s because each state sponsors a limited number of any particular occupation in any immigration year – they have strict quotas. If you wait until your occupation appears on a state sponsorship list to begin the entire process, chances are you’ll have missed the boat as the quota for that particular occupation is likely already have been filled. Cart before horse stuff. You’ll end up waiting another year to see what occupations appear on these lists in the next immigration year. That could delay your migration by 12 months.
There are 504 occupations that are suitable for general skilled migration ‘points’ based visas and we can’t hope to mention all of them here. We’ve only singled out certain standout occupations.
If the state governments are aware of the federal government’s initiative (and it’s a big ‘if’) one would assume that the 19 occupations on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) should appear on state sponsorship lists.
The list is based on expert advice from the National Skills Commission and in consultation with Commonwealth departments:
We wouldn’t put too much faith in the state governments following the PMSOL and imagine that the state sponsorship lists will reflect the needs of their own economies just as they have in previous years.
The good occupations
Any trades or anyone in a technical role, construction managers, environmental consultant, internal auditor, actuary, economist, management consultant, architect, engineers, quantity surveyor, agricultural consultant, chemist, food technologist, life scientists, medical laboratory scientists, veterinarians, teachers, most healthcare related occupations (but sometimes registration issues may complicate matters), IT occupations (but numbers are usually quite low meaning it’s highly competitive but if Australia doesn’t want you, New Zealand almost certainly will), solicitors, psychologists, farmers, corporate services managers, specialist managers, senior managers, manufacturer, production managers, supply and distribution manager, quality assurance manager, laboratory manager, customer services manager, facilities manager, mathematician, statistician, social workers and anyone in a related occupation.
The bad occupations
Flower growers, music professionals, photographers, book or script editors, directors, film and video editor, program director, stage manager, technical director, video producer, print journalist, technical writer, television journalist, commodities trader, ICT trainer, gallery or museum curator, patents examiner, fashion designer, meat inspector.
A great example of the swan becoming the ugly duckling. Around five years ago accountants used to account for 30 – 40% of all the skilled residence visas but successive cuts to the annual migration quota or occupational ceiling have seen the annual quota fall from 14,000 a year to just 1000 in the current immigration year under general skilled migration OR the work to residence pathway.
That’s not to say that there is no demand for accountants in Australia, ask any employer in an accounting practice and they will tell you that they cannot find experienced accountants in Australia. In fact, the Australian Tax Office recently granted extensions to companies to allow them to file their audited financial reports because of the severe shortage of auditors in Australia. Yes, I know that it’s technically a different occupation but related in the visa sense.
We have no doubt that accountants will make another comeback, just as hairdressers, cooks and chefs have done. These occupations too were ‘ugly’ occupations circa 2012 but have made a strong comeback.
Of course some accountants can be ‘packaged’ and presented, quite legally, by the better immigration advisers as finance managers which has been a reasonable occupation as far as state sponsorship is concerned, and New Zealand has always welcomed accountants in the past if it doesn’t work for Australia (New Zealand is also particularly short of auditors)
Some occupations with a bit of cosmetic surgery can become beautiful and just because you are working in a particular occupation doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to obtain a positive skills assessment in that particular occupation. The tasks against which an occupation is assessed can often overlap with other occupations opening up opportunities for ‘repackaging’. The accountant/finance manager is a good example. Or you might find someone had previously worked as a tradesperson/artisan who went on to be a production supervisor or workshop manager. The trade occupation would be a much ‘better’ occupation than production supervisor or workshop manager and that person might still be able to obtain a positive skills assessment in the trade occupation and state sponsorship, thereby enhancing their chances of obtaining residence.
As with all this stuff it is seldom black and white and expertise an be the difference between success and failure. Given you cannot get the process 98% right and get a residence visa (it is a test you only pass if you score 100%) understanding these issues is what leads to the solutions we offer.
If you’re interested as to whether your occupation is good, bad or ugly for Australia you can complete one of our free preliminary questionnaires on the following page of our website https://www.immagine-immigration.com/assessments/free-evaluation/ and within 24 business hours we will provide you with a preliminary assessment report to tell you whether it’s worth your while paying for a detailed and private 90 minute eligibility and strategy consultation.
Until next time
Myer Lipschitz and Iain MacLeod
Posted by Myer on May 7, 2021, 10:20 a.m. in Immigration
It’s always easier the second time round.
It was words to that effect made casually over a barbecue (that’s braaivleis to our South African readers) by a good friend of mine that was the catalyst for today’s blog. He said to me that he found migrating to Australia a “breeze” compared to his previous experience regarding migration to the United States and, whilst I do think that Australia is an easier cultural fit for many of our clients than the United States, he said that a lot had to do with the fact that he had a much better mindset and attitude for his second migration.
I think that many of our clients who have immigrated previously to Singapore, Hong Kong or the Middle East will confirm that it is often easier the second time round.
Barbecuing duties and the distraction of too much good Aussie red wine prevented me from questioning him further over this casual comment but he elaborated subsequently.
When I look back on my migration to New Zealand as a twentysomething year old South African lawyer I recognise that I too made similar mistakes and found my migration to Australia (20 years later) substantially easier.
So what are the lessons learnt of prior migrations that can be passed on to new migrants?
1. Your new country, whether it be New Zealand or Australia is not perfect so don’t migrate expecting paradise. My partner Iain and I often tell migrants that we don’t live in paradise, we live in Melbourne and Auckland respectively. We have our problems as well but when you consider the lifestyle that we enjoy in both Australia and New Zealand and the type of issues that our clients have to deal with whether it be crime and violence in South Africa, lack of work life balance in Singapore or political instability in Hong Kong, we thank God for our lives in New Zealand and Australia. The point is however it’s not all good and it’s not all bad.
2. You need to create a life for yourself whichever country you immigrate to before you can make comparisons with the life that you have left. It’s unfair to make judgements about your new life until such time as you have lived in your new country for at least a year and can make a fair comparison between the sacrifices you have made to the gains you have achieved. I don’t suggest that anyone travels back home until such time as you have been living in the new country for at least a year.
3. My more motivated clients often tell me that they are prepared to “start at the bottom” if needs be but in actual fact one never starts at the bottom. Unless you are the managing director of Woolworths or some other “big wig” you will invariably start in the middle but be prepared to take up a position of employment that isn’t necessarily a step up the corporate ladder but might be commensurate with the type of position you occupied prior to migration.
4. Do as much research as you can prior to migration. Having family and friends can often be invaluable and listen to the settlement advice they give as they have often gained this advice from making mistakes themselves. Just don’t take visa advice from them. It’s far better to learn from the errors of others if possible.
5. Choose a good migration agent that can help you not only with the visa application process but also provide input into post visa grant issues.
6. It’s a team approach and if you have a spouse or partner they have to be completely on board with the decision to migrate. We find migration tends to make relationships stronger or breaks already weakened ones.
7. Children are more resilient than parents. So often parents tell me that they would like to immigrate within a particular timeframe to coincide with the commencement of the school year in order to reduce trauma for children. Young children are far more adaptable than we give them credit for. They will make new friends and adapt to a new environment far more easily than you, their parents will.
8. Be flexible about your destination. Whilst you might have a preference in terms of migrating to areas where you have friends or family often the visa process will select the migrant. For example it might be easier to obtain permanent residence in either Australia or New Zealand, not necessarily both and you may have to make compromises as to which state in Australia or city in New Zealand you migrate to because of issues relating to state sponsorship in Australia or perhaps points for migration out of Auckland in New Zealand.
9. When you first migrate realise that you are on a honeymoon. The honeymoon period tends to last three months, thereafter it’s almost as if the in-laws have moved in when reality sets in.
10. Remember the reasons why you migrated and have a big picture attitude to coping with minor irritations after the honeymoon period passes. I had a South African client of mine tell me that he wrote the reasons why he migrated on the back of a matchbox (in the days when smoking was far more popular and people used pens ) to help him stay motivated on the days that he felt despondent.
11. You cannot expect the same recognition that you enjoyed in your home country when you first immigrate. The fact that you may have owned a company that employs 30 people or your former station in life will have little bearing on the amount of recognition that you receive when emigrating. My friend told me that it was difficult to obtain his first credit card because of lack of credit history but as soon as he had one credit card he had 100.
12. I don’t think that the expression “blood is thicker than water” necessarily is true to migrants. Often the friends that you make whether they be fellow migrants or New Zealanders or Australians are far stronger than friendships that you had in your home country because they are forged in a cauldron of stress and upheaval. The fact that you might be going through similar difficult conditions and able to draw upon each other’s strengths tends to forge friendships that are as deep if not deeper than family ties. Some of my most enduring relationships were formed in the early days of my migration.
13. Be kind to yourself. I know that this sounds like an Ellen DeGeneres line but don’t have unrealistic expectations as to what can be achieved within a short period of time. I remember expressing admiration to a client of mine who managed to buy a house within his first year of migration only to have to listen to how much he had sacrificed in South Africa. It’s difficult to be happy when you are beating yourself on your back as opposed to patting yourself on the back for a milestone that should be a joyous occasion.
14. It’s not all about the job. We do understand that jobs are important but many have the misguided impression that if one secures employment one qualifies for residence. I recently consulted with someone who said that she was scared “shitless” about the prospect of immigrating without finding employment and that’s usually the aspect that concerns me least. Australia and New Zealand have very low rates of unemployment and nearly all of our clients find employment within three months. It’s far more important however to be concentrating on what are the steps to qualify for appropriate visas than focus on employment.
We have been working in the migration industry for more than 30 years and assisted thousands of migrants from all sorts of countries and backgrounds and can identify those that have the “right stuff” from those with what would be described as having a “sucky attitude” in Australia and New Zealand who may have to make some attitude adjustments in order to make a successful migration and are happy to share our wealth of knowledge with those thinking of making the move.
Posted by Iain on March 12, 2021, 11:18 a.m. in New Zealand Economy
A few years ago I got the most intelligent question ever from a potential client. He asked me what I believed was the greatest challenge NZ faced twenty years in the future. I had to think about it for a few minutes and after thinking about the many possibilities I said ‘Wrinkles’.
If you ever watched the movie Blade Runner, it speaks of a time on an over populated home planet where once humans get to a certain age, they are ‘dispatched’, permanently, to cut down on those needing to be looked after. Humans have a ‘use by’ date, strictly enforced.
A work of fiction but it raised a very interesting question - in a world of finite resources and ever increasing demands upon them, a deteriorating natural environment and an inability of natural systems to support ever increasing national and global populations, might it be an idea that people need to consider, however unpalatable?
Viruses as we have seen can only do so much of that work (but potentially a lot more of it in future).
I was pondering New Zealand’s ageing population dilemma following the New Zealand Government’s announcement its Skilled Migrant Category review is ‘priority’ and my business partner Myer’s thoughtful piece last week on the reliance by Australia on more and more young(ish) people going to Australia to keep the demographic triangle from ‘inverting’. That is to say more young people and a wider tax base funding the care of all, but not least, the elderly.
At the same time statistics revealed that in New Zealand our birth rate has fallen to 1.6 children per woman. It’s the lowest in 20 years (clearly not as much pandemic lockdown cuddling as many expected) and reflects a long term trend of fewer children. I understand 2.1 children per woman is the minimum ‘replacement’ value of a population.
This means New Zealand’s future now looks more like Japan and parts of Europe.
And that future is rapidly approaching - I’d suggest in 5 years we won’t need as many Primary school teachers as we do today, in 13 years fewer High school teachers, in 20 years, fewer University lecturers. Fewer IT workers. Fewer Accountants in 50 years. Fewer sales and marketing people in the middle as older people spend less and consume far less than younger people do.
At the same time we will need more aged care workers, qualified nurses, Doctors and mental health specialists (dementia and other aged related conditions will be numerically greater) and dare I say it Funeral Directors.
I wonder what, if any, planning for this ‘older’ future is in the minds of our immigration policy wonks and politicians. Will a rapidly ageing population play any role in the thinking going into this year’s Skilled Migrant Category review? Does any Government anywhere outside of China, let alone ours, really ever look that far into the future?
We are heading for an aged population and we cannot ignore the fact that planning for it needs to start now.
I look across the Tasman Sea for an example of how Australia is(n’t) dealing with it.
Australia has for the past 50 years adopted an economic policy largely centred around the two ‘Ms’ of mining and migration.
Immigrants consume so they are great for economies. Houses, cars, flat screen TVs, lounge suites, services - all add to GDP and employment of locals.
At the same time however the wealthy west is facing the very real dilemma of ever reducing resources, living with greater environmental damage and I’d suggest at some point ever diminishing economic returns while trying to support ever larger populations (and yes none of us know what might be invented or created in 5, 10 or 20 years time that might allow greater human carrying capacities but I’d suggest we might just have quality of life issues regardless).
Australia has an ongoing and critical shortage of water for example. Not because it doesn’t rain but it doesn’t rain enough where people live. Sure, you can desalinate salt water at incredible cost or build a pipeline from Darwin to Adelaide. But you need the energy and money to doit. Right now Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for its local energy needs. They believe they must export coal to support local jobs and keep the dollars flowing into the country. And by doing so they are contributing to their, and the world’s, demise through climate change, pollution and environmental degradation - all in large part to employ and meet the demands of an increasing population - many of whom they ‘imported’. Doesn’t make a lot of sense.
I have always thought any strategy that brings in more and more younger people to offset those that are ageing has one serious flaw. Young people have a bad habit of becoming old people. At some point the day of reckoning will arrive.
In New Zealand the Government announced the week before last the 12 month overdue Skilled Migrant Category ‘first principles’ review is now priority (not I imagine for any reason other than it should have been done last year but the Government didn’t get around to doing it and some Mandarin from the public service has been in the ear of the Minister).
The Minister of Immigration, in what is possibly not accidental additional commentary, did what all politicians do around here - made noises that future migrant numbers will be lower than they have been and New Zealand employers need to get used to employing locals. Which is requisite political posturing - they all say that every time the word immigration comes up.
All well and good if you think immigration is bad, but what numbers and what occupations might you cut when you currently operate a labour market driven residence programme where for the most part migrants are highly qualified and highly skilled and are not taking jobs away from locals? To get a resident visa migrants must convince often sceptical local employers to play the visa game, a game in my three decades helping migrants negotiate this process 90% simply will not play. ‘Go and get a work visa and come back and see me’ they say. But you can’t get the work visa without a job…all that means migrants don’t take a job when a Kiwi can fill it.
As a nation we do not train and educate the numbers that we need to fill the vacancies being created. Every year we create tens of thousands of low, semi and highly skilled jobs that we simply cannot fill for all sorts of reasons. Our Universities produce half the number of Engineers and ICT workers we need to fill existing vacancies. Currently 45% of employers are telling the Government - we’d love to employ Kiwis but we cannot attract any to apply for the jobs we are advertising. Fruit growers are still begging for locals to come and help pick fruit.
Unless and until we train up those we need to fill the more skilled vacancies we are always going to require a skilled migration programme (and until we make the young, fit and healthy move to fill the less skilled roles) so we have a few stark choices:
• Import the skills until we produce what we need - and if those people are not given the opportunity of staying permanently many will decide to vote with their feet and go to a country where they can e.g. Canada. Migration is competitive.
• Reform welfare to force those able to get into training or study, to study. The Government keeps raising the minimum wage (closing in on $20 an hour) which is actually a disincentive to hire young people and train them (how about the first $18,000 of cinome being tax free instead?)
• Stop subsidising the education of those skills we are never short of (law and marketing and the like…) and provide greater subsidies for those we believe we will always need - nurses, teachers, software developers and engineers
Of course who is to say with any precision what skills the country will need in 5, 10 or 20 years? Or 50….?
One thing is for certain, like all developed countries (the US is the one possible exception) we have a rapidly ageing population. If the Government doesn’t start making wiping bums and showering old people in retirement villages popular and affordable for locals we will be forced to import the skills to do it.
No politician wants to have to try and sell an immigration policy that says we are letting in 50,000 Filipino aged care workers over twenty years to work with our dementia patients and the elderly but that is exactly where New Zealand is headed. And in time, Australia. Japan is already there.
I had an interesting discussion last year with David Seymour who leads the third largest party in the current Parliament. He’s a nice guy, very intelligent and my local MP and I voted for him. He is implacably opposed to any sort of population policy because, as he rightly points out, who can know for sure what skills we will need in one, two or three decades time? On that score I believe him to be right. But on a national level one thing is certain - if we do not want to follow Australia’s model (and I don’t think it’s smart in a world of finite resources where we need to cut our personal rates of consumption) and we do nothing to even think about our future workforce needs, we are going to become a nation where the tax base shrinks and the number of older people needing to be supported by younger people will increase.
The population ‘triangle’ is going to invert. Australia is heading down a blind alley in terms of its population. New Zealand doesn’t use immigration as a consumptive tool even though most smart politicians recognise immigrants do add to economic activity. In my view though that should not be the reason to let someone join us. It should be based on what skills we need. If they buy a flat screen TV along the way, huzzah!
Do we face a Blade Runner type decision some time in the not too distant future or will the politicians ‘de-politicise' immigration, start thinking about what skills and labour we need to cater for this ageing population and put in place a bi-partisan 20, 30 and 50 year plan to deal with an ageing population encompassing immigration settings, education, aged care and health funding?
Given my age I don’t much fancy the Blade Runner option so I’d like to think the politicians start choosing their words when it comes to immigration policy reviews a little more carefully.
And intelligently. Stop thinking about next year and start thinking about next three decades.
Until next week
Posted by Iain on Feb. 25, 2021, 11:22 a.m. in Skilled Migrant Category
Last week I wrote a piece speculating on what the outcome of next month's review into resuming the expressions of interest selection process, might be.
The upshot of that analysis was that if the government does not start selecting expressions of interest next month, they have enough work on hand to see them through the rest of the year but by early 2022 they will be getting very low on skilled migrant applications.
I did apply some logic to that analysis – by making the assumption that all those who could file an EOI since the selections stopped in March 2020, would have. People acting logically is a big leap of faith I know but I can't see why people would not have filed an expression of interest if they could but I accept there may be some who didn’t.
Irrespective, and let's assume there's another 2000 families floating around New Zealand who have not filed expressions of interest but who might if they thought selections would resume at the end of March or early April, it still means the government will in 2022 to struggle to reach its own target/quota of 25,000 skilled migrant resident visas.
Speculation went through the roof about what the government is going to announce at the end of March in respect of resuming selections given that at 2 pm on Wednesday the Minister of Immigration announced that a review of the skilled migrant (points) system is a “priority”. No doubt out there in the ‘chatterverse’, the Facebook chat groups will be going into overdrive trying to determine if this review is linked to the review that is to be made at the end of next month.
I think that indirectly they probably are linked. The reason is that every three years a first principles review of the skilled migrant category takes place as the government of the day does with all major immigration categories on a three yearly cycle. The last SMC review was in 2017 and I was involved in that (and would love to be involved in the 2021 review). The government then is 12 months late in carrying out a fairly standard review.
I have a feeling that the government may well be talked by the immigration department into not resuming pool draws next month and this ‘review’ could be used as a smokescreen (given you can only blame Covid so long for so much). As I pointed out last week if this is a purely mathematical decision there is no reason for selections not to resume but this is not a purely mathematical decision - it is political.
INZ continues to experience unacceptable processing delays on skilled migrant cases. No one who filed a non-priority application after 25 July 2019 has at the time of writing been allocated for processing. "Priority" cases which are a minority are being allocated as soon as they are receipted. There’s about 180 a week of the former and 50 of the latter.
Although I am clearly no fan of the circus that is the immigration department and its management, when the previous government cut the number of skilled migrant resident visas available, the pass mark to be selected from the pool should have gone up (to reduce the numbers selected to better align with the visas available to be granted) but it did not. Immigration New Zealand doesn't have an option if it is told by Government to select someone from the pool based on their having enough ‘points' and it also doesn't have an option not to invite those people to apply for residence if the points claim looks ‘credible’. Because the government did not provide a formal target for INZ to work to when the current residency program expired at the end of 2019, the department was effectively flying blind on numbers - the. As a result they went on something of a "goes slow" and it took the current government around one year before they said to them to work as if there was a target of 25,000 visas in place. Hence the current backlog.
As a consequence of all of that we now have the 20 month delay in allocating the majority of cases to an officer for processing.
The delay in allocating residence cases has caused all sorts of unintended consequences including complications for those on temporary visas that could have been avoided if there was no backlog. A lot of hurt and misery for families split by the border restrictions to name but one.
There’s been a lot of navel gazing in social and main stream media over whether the Government might put up the pass mark at the end of March in order to ‘clean out the pool’ and start afresh. Yes, they could do that but I don’t think they would do so. They are more likely to simply not resume pool draws for a few months.
If they did push pass marks up what happens to the young teacher, software developer, electrician or engineer who even with a job outside of Auckland cannot get more than 160 points? If the pass mark goes up at all we will lose a whole lot of them. The babies will literally be thrown out with the bathwater.
What I didn’t mention last week was that EOIs are only valid or ‘live’ for six months. Therefore, in theory, if the Government did resume pool selections in early April this year and set the pass mark at say 180 or 200, anyone in that pool not selected is out. (They can file another EOI if they are happy to pay). Any EOI that has been in the pool for less than six months when the first pool draw takes place who is not selected in that first pool draw all remain ‘live’ for the balance of six months. So if they filed 4 months ago, weren’t selected in the first pool draw would stay ‘alive’ for another 2 months of pool draws.
So Government could flush the pool but I cannot imagine them being so cruel. Or borderline fraudulent having taken $530 off every EOI aspirant. If they were to be that cynical and cruel I am sure they’d also refund the money to assuage their consciences. At the same time reminding those that filed that all they did was to ‘express an interest in residence an dit was never any guarantee of selection or residence itself’. Technically rue but not what they spend millions of dollars every year marketing to the world.
My best guess today in light of this announced review is EOIs won’t resume in early April and Government will announce that decision will be reviewed in an additional three months. And three months after that. All because it gives time for INZ to get its embarrassing backlog sorted. Hold a gun to my head and I’d say they’ll resume September by which time the SMC review will be complete and they can ‘reset’ or ‘re-calibrate’ or however they might spin it.
Bottom line is NZ has an economy pretty much the same size as it was before covid landed. Unemployment is 4.9% and falling. Skills shortages are getting worse and now 45% of businesses are saying they cannot fill vacancies, particularly skilled ones. Until we produce all the skills we need locally we are going to need a skilled migration programme. And unless we force young people to stop studying things we have no demand for we are going to have an overs supply of lawyers and under supply of nurses and teachers. They have to come from somewhere.
I am not going to speculate on what the review of the skilled migrant programme might reveal but while the system is hard on migrants (get a job to get the work visa/residence when employers demand the work visa first most of the time) it does work. The most employable (linguistically and culturally), the most resilient and those able to afford to be unemployed for 2-4 months in New Zealand are the winners in the programme. That is why the three yearly review normally results in tweaking, not wholesale change.
If I could make one recommendation it is that we follow Australia and award points based on the result of the English language exam. I did advocate for this when I was involved in the review back in 2017 but the idea wasn’t taken up. If we are looking to tweak I'd also recommend looking to drop the maximum age for a skilled migration to 50 or even perhaps 45 (with certain exceptions like Australia does for those occupations where you are far likely to be older to be able to have the skills, knowledge and dare I add, wisdom, to do the job - thinking of Professors at university as one example).
As we wait for the government to make the call on pool draws resuming I think the smart money is on them kicking for touch for a few months. Not welcome news for anyone sitting in the pool but it sure as heck beats them increasing the pass mark because they want it flushed clean.
Until next week
Posted by Iain on Nov. 27, 2020, 10:10 a.m. in Immigration New Zealand
Once upon a time in a land far far away, two young men who loved animals decided they wanted to train to be Veterinarians. They both studied at the same University, received the same training and were conferred the same degree. Both began long careers as small animal Vets. As time passed they watched with great sadness their beloved country crumble as it was being run by corrupt and useless politicians. Both had families and children to consider and so looked overseas for a safe and friendly country to move to.
They heard of a mythical country, Neverland, a country full of animals, big and small, which had a terrible shortage of Animal Doctors but it was far away from everything they knew, loved and understood. The thought of moving there greatly troubled them. The Government of Neverland however spends vast sums of its people’s money advertising its permanent residence programme that said it welcomed people with skills like theirs and that attracted the attention of these two Animal Doctors.
Both sought the advice of wise immigration advisers on how a move across one very great ocean and a large pesky sandpit known as Australia, which also wanted their skills, might be made to happen. The wise immigration advisers reassured them both that if they found jobs in Neverland there was such a shortage of their wizardry they and their families would be welcomed to this wonderful land to build safe and prosperous lives.
After much deliberation both families decided to join the great trek to Neverland.
Both applied for jobs without leaving their country and such was the demand for their medical skills both were quickly offered positions. The money was good and they believed so much that they had heard about Neverland as a peaceful country with wonderful kind people, that they both slept well.
However, over the next few months they experienced trepidation and great excitement in equal measure as the enormity of migrating sunk in. Much work needed to be done and the wise immigration advisers helped them to prepare. Practices needed to be sold, houses needed to go on the market at a time few people were buying, they both wished their child(ren) to finish their school year if it were possible to minimise the disruption, they needed to try and time the shipping of their personal effects to coincide with their arrival and of course visas had to be arranged for Neverland which jealously guarded the right of people to enter its main castle. It was complicated and tiring.
All was going well under the care of the immigration advisers when suddenly disaster struck.
A nasty virus descended upon both countries leading the Government of Neverland to pull up the drawbridge to its castle and slam its border shut. The virus affected normal people much like the flu but it affected politicians quite differently. It looked to many like they panicked for they didn’t really have any plan for what should happen when a global plague of virus or locust might descend upon their fair land. Alas, the virus affected Government immigration workers even worse than the politicians. It seems the threat of the virus caused at least half of their brain to melt.
The Government of Neverland promised its people that foreigners like Animal Doctors who possessed great and magical talents that were not readily available in their paradise would still be given visas if they promised to be good, paid for 14 days in isolation in a four or five star hotel and they agreed to be tested against the nasty virus.
The two Animal Doctors agreed.
Time passed and in Neverland the two employers who needed these animal wizards grew more desperate for them to get their visas. Their animals were suffering. Future planning was impossible. Across the land there was 220 Vet practices in the same position. Alarm spread. The kind leader of Neverland kept promising her people that her first and greatest priority was keeping her people safe from the nasty virus. She didn’t tell her people that for many months there was several thousand managed isolation four star hotel rooms free to keep the foreigners happy and locked up in while they showed they weren’t infected by the nasty virus.
All the kind leader had to do was smile, tilt her head and occasionally frown and the people cheered her. She continued to sprinkle fairy dust and they loved her for it.
The wise immigration advisers filed applications for border exemptions for both Animal Doctors because their skills were so rare it seemed to them impossible their kind leader would reject the applications. Neverland had never trained up enough Animal Doctors of its own and therefore there had always been a terrible shortage.
The Animal Doctors themselves were hopeful after many nerve wracking months, they could fly to Neverland to join their patient but increasingly desperate new employers, one of whom was retiring from his practice shortly after Santa visited with bags of doggy biscuits and cat litter. Being himself very organized, this business owner had started planning for his retirement 18 months before he knew he would treat his last cat. Plenty of time he thought. What could go wrong?
Alas, a few days later the application for a border exemption for this first Vet was declined. A state functionary whose brain had clearly felt the impact of the virus explained that despite the national shortage and this occupation being on the Governments own long term skills shortage list, a list of occupations in ongoing and acute demand for many years, there was apparently Vets ‘readily available’ in Neverland to do this work.
‘We must keep the people safe’ they wrote.
This struck the wise immigration advisers as strange as the Veterinary Council of Neverland provided evidence it was in fact 220 Animal Doctors short across this fair land. The Advisers thought that the Animal Doctor would be in managed isolation for two weeks, just like the recently arrived Pakistan Men’s cricket team and the Animal Doctor wouldn’t have the nasty virus like some of the cricketers carried with them (or 200 Russian fishermen before them) and the Animal Doctor wouldn’t break the isolation rules as the naughty cricketers had been doing. Watching cricket for the people of Neverland, the kind leader decided, was seemingly of greater importance than treating her peoples’ pets. Still the people cheered even as their own pet dogs started to die. (‘Quickly, more fairy dust’ she whispered to her chief fairy helper.)
The employer was confused and distraught in equal measure. Everyone knew the kind leader of Neverland had around the same time granted her royal permission for 20 other Animal Doctors to cross the lowered drawbridge and enter Neverland. So why not his Vet?
The wise immigration advisers too were confused and angry and one of them, tasked with helping this family to join them in Neverland, with a big sigh explained to the Animal Doctor this is just the way Neverland is. A land of visa contradictions and inconsistencies where the kind leader employed state functionary fairies that operated with impunity and a great deal of inconsistency.
A land where what they said the rules were, wasn’t necessarily what, well, the rules seemed to be.
The wise immigration adviser sadly explained to the second Vet they’d likely face the same strange outcome but it was worthwhile trying for a border exemption anyway. After all, the Advisers counselled the Vet, how can you win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket?
‘It’s a lottery?’ the second Vet asked.
‘Oh yes, seemingly so’ replied the wise immigration adviser. ‘There are rules and there are criteria which on the face of it are quite easy to understand but in Neverland the border exemption decisions bear little to no relation to those rules. The conclusion, disappointingly, is that it is in fact little more than a lottery. Which functionary fairy gets your application determines the outcome.’
Sad and dejected that this country full of such kind people who had invited him and his family to come and settle in it, might now turn them away after investing so much of their time and energy, not to mention his hard earned cockle shells, for cockle shells was what they used for currency in this far away land, the second Vet said ‘Well let’s give it a go. I can’t stay in this land far far away much longer for I have no electricity and our leader, who smiles but is not kind, is stealing all our cockle shells!’
‘You also have a leader who smiles?’ asked the wise immigration adviser.
‘Yes we do, but crocodiles smile as well, don’t they?’ the Animal Doctor replied.
‘Oh’ the wise immigration adviser said, ‘we don’t have nasty creatures in Neverland so I wouldn’t know’.
The wise immigration adviser filed the border exemption application even though her spirits were by now also quite low.
Day turned into night. A full moon came and went.
A few days later the wise immigration adviser saw the kind leader’s fairy functionaries had sent her a message. She nervously opened it.
The wise immigration adviser’s jaw dropped.
‘It cannot be!’ she exclaimed to her equally wise colleagues. ‘My Animal Doctor...has been approved! Praise be, the Gods have been kind this fine summery day, let us rejoice!’
‘Our kind leader has lowered the drawbridge and let him and his family enter our castle in Neverland.’ she shared with her dumbstruck colleagues who had gathered to see what all the fuss was about.
The wise immigration adviser jumped up and did a small jig.
The IMMagine team clapped and cheered. They joined in with the wise immigration adviser and they all danced and sang with gusto. A great merriment descended upon the assembled IMMagine team who read and re-read the message from Government, hardly believing their eyes and the client's good fortune. They read it many times. They knew they had to check to see if they were reading it correctly for it was well known that many of the immigration functionary fairies did not have a great command of the English language.
Yet it was true - the border exemption had been granted.
One by one they slipped out to buy a Lotto ticket as they realised luck and good fortune had been delivered that day.
Naturally the Animal Doctor, although surprised, was also filled with great joy and he danced around his Braai hugging his wife and children. ‘Quickly children, pack your suitcases before they change their minds’ he giggled. ‘We are off to Neverland!’.
The children scattered, running this way and that. They grabbed teddy bears and all their other favourite possessions and quickly stuffed them into their suitcases.
Down the road the second Animal Doctor sat quietly with a pensive look on his face sharing a meal of maize gruel with his wife and children at their dinner table. The children were quiet. The mood was low as they had just been told by the very same wise immigration advisers of the good news for the other animal doctor.
‘What did we do wrong?’ he asked his wife, ‘I also have a job to go to in Neverland, we have also been invited to apply to live permanently in paradise by their kind leader, I have the same qualification from the same University and I do the same job as the other Vet’.
‘Ask the wise immigration adviser’ his dejected wife suggested.
And so he did.
The wise immigration adviser said in reply ‘Do you remember when we first met I explained that in the 14 centuries I have been looking after migrants and their Neverland employers, that the same visa evidence given to two different Neverland functionaries can result in two different outcomes despite there only being one rule book? Well, sadly this is the 3,768,963rd example of that’.
‘Can’t you speak to a Manager?’ the Animal Doctor asked.
‘Oh we do and we will’ the wise immigration adviser responded, 'but they don’t seem to care that their staff do pretty much whatever they want with little to no accountability. Although the fairies are meant to attend 'knowledge transfer circles' and 'calibration sessions' in Neverland an immigration manager is not allowed to instruct a subordinate fairy functionary on what decision to make on an application’.
‘How strange’ thought the Vet. ‘But you will fight this for us won’t you?’
‘Till my last breath, you bet I will’ replied the wise but tired immigration adviser.
And as the sun went down in Neverland the wise immigration adviser crawled into bed, having been tired out by all the dancing and jigging, determined that with the next sunrise she would take up the fight once again. Chasing shadows and fairies in her head she fell into an uneasy sleep.
To be continued….
Posted by Myer on July 17, 2020, 11:13 a.m. in Hong Kong
It’s been an interesting week as far as immigration policy to Australia is concerned and whilst it is supposed to be a curse in China to wish someone an interesting life, I’d have to say on the balance of probability that the past week could be described as “good interesting” with announcements from the Federal Government on the size of the migration quota for the immigration year commencing 1 July 2020 and special visa arrangements for Hong Kong citizens.
They have confirmed that until further notice, the migration program will continue in its current form and the program quotas will stay the same (160,000 migrants annually).
In terms of visa quotas this can be further broken down into:
- 108,682 places for the Skilled stream
- 47,732 places for the Family stream
- 236 places for the Special Eligiblity stream
- 3350 places for Child visas
The Department has reiterated the role that migration will play in rebuilding the economy so we don’t see a big impact on the current skills lists and numbers over the next 12 months. However, they have also advised they are focusing on the health and unemployment of Australian workers when issuing invitations to potential skilled migrants whatever that may mean.
As many of our clients are dependent on obtaining state sponsorship it was encouraging to read that the State and Territory nominated visa programs will play an important part in Australia's economic recovery and continue to be a part of the MIgration Program.
In the past week the government also announced special visa arrangements pertaining to Hong Kong citizens particularly those on student visas and intending to apply applying for student visas and also those on temporary skilled visas but as per similar announcements of this type was short on detail.
Not much detail was provided on the pathways to permanent residence, for instance the Government hasn’t specified whether normal permanent residence requirements will have to be satisfied at the end of the five year period mentioned above or whether applicants will simply obtain permanent residence (subject to character and health requirements) at the end of the five year period.
The Government has in the past made special arrangements for certain visa holders (such as New Zealand citizens) living and working in Australia for a period of five years and earning a minimum threshold and perhaps it has a similar plan in mind for Hong Kong passport holders.
I suspect the pathway referred to is meeting normal visa requirements with the special arrangements consisting of nothing more than a five year window of opportunity to do so.
The Australian Government treads a fine line between wanting to show support for Hong Kong citizens as part of the Five Eyes Alliance but at the same time not seeming to want to be granting permanent residence to approximately 11,000 additional residents at a time when Australia is experiencing increasing unemployment due to the effects of Covid 19 on the economy.
As one can imagine China didn’t take the announcement well, further straining an already strained relationship. As a result of Australia’s call for an independent enquiry into China’s handling of the Covid 19 pandemic China reacted by discouraging Chinese students from studying in Australia because of Australia’s allegedly racist attitude to Chinese. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, Australia has a $40 billion tertiary education sector that largely depends upon Chinese students.
I don’t think that Australia suddenly developed a social conscience which prompted the announcement of the special visa arrangements mentioned above, I think Australia is using the opportunity to encourage Hong Kong students, business people and skilled migrants from Hong Kong at a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract foreign students and at the same time flexing a little bit of political muscle although in this economic matchup Australia would have to be the 98 pound weakling and China resembling the Charles Atlas type of guy who just kicked sand in our face.
We've seen other announcements on the part of Government Ministers in the past that have proven to be all talk and no action such as exoressions of support on the part of Peter Dutton, The Minster of Home Affairs for White Farmers in South Africa facing extremely high murder rates so until such time we see the small print associated with announcements of this type it's difficult to determine what actions on the part of the government amount to political posturing or ulterior motices in encouoraging Hong Kong migration to Australia from genuine visa options for Hong Kong citizens.
Posted by Myer on June 26, 2020, 1:51 p.m. in Australia
The silly season is fast approaching in Australia and I’m not referring to Christmas or New Year. I am referring to 1 July which is the beginning of our immigration year and demarcates the beginning of the “silly season” in which state governments produce lists of occupations that they intend to sponsor for the immigration year that commences on 1 July 2020 and ends 30 June 2021. We are all then consumed with furious energy trying to secure state sponsorship for our clients with the limited number of places that are available her occupation.
We never know in advance which occupations are going to appear on state sponsorship lists or how many of a particular occupation the eight states or territories will sponsor but before you can apply for state sponsorship you need to have the results of your skills assessment and English-language test.
To borrow from the Christmas analogy, there are many of you that will be reading this without having done your “shopping” (skills assessment and English-language test) early and will be waiting for your occupations to appear on state sponsorship lists before you commence your shopping but for anyone with insight into how the state sponsorship program works you can’t afford to wait until such time as your occupation appears on a state sponsorship list before you “shop” for your English-language test results and skills assessment.
Perhaps I should end the shopping analogy just in case anyone forms the incorrect impression that English-language test results and skills assessments can simply be bought online. They have to be earned by obtaining a positive skills assessment from the relevant skills assessing authority and English-language test results have to be acquired through sitting one of the five possible English-language tests. Some states sponsor such a limited number of places in a particular occupation that the occupation closes often within hours or days of the publication of the state sponsorship list, for other occupations they linger on state sponsorship lists for the better part of 12 months.
Covid 19 hasn’t changed Australia’s immigration quota, we still want approximately 160,000 migrants per year with a preference that a large percentage would want to immigrate to regional Australia (i.e. the whole of Australia excluding the metropolitan areas of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane).
Australia doesn’t have a population policy. Our population is at present 25 million but there is no forecast figure with what our population might look like in 10 or 20 years time we have instead used our annual migration quota (currently 160,000) plus domestic growth to be a de facto population policy but many have been calling for a national debate as to formulating a population policy with the Covid 19 pandemic seen as an opportune time to have that debate.
The majority of politicians in Australia have been lamenting the fact that because of Covid 19 net migration numbers are expected to fall by 85% next year and they understand that migration does add to the economy in so many ways and that it’s a popular misconception that migrants take jobs from Australians. I should hasten to add that this drastic reduction in net migration isn’t as a result of a cut in quotas on the part of the Australian Government, rather a result of border closures in the wake of Covid 19.
On the other hand state sponsorship lists are supposed to be a representation of the skills needed by a particular state for the forthcoming immigration year and in the current economic climate with unemployment in Australia at 7.1% (from the pre-Covid rate of 5.2%) we would expect to see shorter state sponsorship lists evidencing fewer occupations in demand than when the last state sponsorship lists were produced on 1 July 2019.
It’s hard to justify the inclusion of many hospitality related occupations such as chef, Cook, restaurant manager, hotel and motel manager, hospitality manager not elsewhere classified et cetera when many of these businesses haven’t been able to trade and we just don’t know how many of them will actually continue to be in operation once government stimulus package such as Jobkeeper ends.
On the other hand Australia has traditionally always needed many of these occupations and they have always had a good representation on state sponsorship lists so if the lists are to mirror current demand for occupations they would be very short. If on the other hand state governments are forecasting what demand might be like in 8 – 11 months time we might see more generous state sponsorship lists.
Those migrants obtaining state sponsorship would probably only be factoring in a move to Australia towards the end of 2021 given current processing times and it’s going to be interesting to see whether the state sponsorship lists focus on the current economic climate or the forecasted improved economic conditions for 2021 or simply use the lists to boost migration numbers to compensate for the lost economic benefit of certain temporary visa holders such as students, working holiday visa holders and temporary workers.
Net migration also includes long-term student visa holders and as many of them can’t return to Australia to complete their courses because of border closures we may see shorter lists of occupations but more opportunity to acquire state sponsorship by those overseas who haven’t studied in Australia.
The silly season usually involves close scrutiny of state sponsorship lists and their publication (not all appear on one July) followed by frantic lodgement of state sponsorship applications and supporting documentation but given the factors mentioned above it’s perhaps going to be sillier than usual this year. I for one will be wearing my silly hat and looking forward to seeing what occupations Santa has put into my Christmas stocking this year.
Posted by Iain on March 20, 2020, 8:54 a.m. in New Zealand
At every consultation I have I remind people that the strategy we offer is based on a snapshot of their future eligibility for NZ or Australia. This is because there are so many steps and applications to third parties, English exams, skills assessments, qualification assessments, finding jobs and so on before anyone can file a visa. I warn those looking to make the move that every day they delay executing the strategy we offer, is another day for the Government to change the visa rules or things to change. I am sure more than a few think this is cynical sales talk. It has never been so.
Well, this week is the best example of that very good, non ‘sales’ related advice, I can think of!
What a week.
Last night the NZ Government announced they were closing the border from midnight. This applies to everyone except NZ citizens or (permanent) resident visa holders and on a 'case by case basis' some temporary visa holders whose partner or parent (if the visa holder is a dependent child) is in NZ on a temporary work or student visa (note, not visitor visa) and whose partner or parent is currently in New Zealand. Although the situation is rapidly evolving, INZ's messaging and advice was predictably muddled and confusing.
I have to presume that this border closure for NZ and Australia will be in place for at least a month, but I am picking it is more likely to be 12 weeks at least, as it will take that long to work this virus out of our systems. That is pure speculation on my part based on watching China, Hong Kong and Singapore deal, pretty effectively, with the virus.
I expect more restrictions on movement and gatherings will be put in place locally in NZ (and I expect, Australia).
Last week ‘self isolation’, ‘social distancing’ and ‘flattening the curve’ were all new terms for me, now it is as if they have been part of my vocabulary forever!
My wife, Karina, son Tom and I arrived back in New Zealand on Monday night from South Africa to mandatory 14 day self isolation. I left my colleague Paul behind in South Africa to do a series of seminars starting Monday evening.
We are cutting short his trip and he is flying home today, while we have the chance to get him on a flight. I don't think it will be long before all airlines are grounded except for vital trade/cargo routes. And even then only with Government support.
On Sunday night the South African President decided, belatedly in my view, it was time to address his nation on the imminent threat of Covid-19 and the measures being put in place to deal with the coronavirus, including banning meetings of 100 people or more. I suspect the horse has already bolted.
I couldn’t believe how this time last week while I was in South Africa, Covid-19 seemed such a non issue while it was rapidly spreading around the world and had already arrived in SA. Given our seminars see between 300-400 people attending we scrambled to secure multiple nights at the venues we'd booked to present two or three seminars to smaller audiences.
Unfortunately, all the hotels and venues have decided to either close for the next 6 weeks or so or are limiting meetings to no more than 10 people. No use to us, that's a knitting circle not an immigration seminar.
So Paul is heading home into self isolation.
Our Government has warned New Zealanders if they want to get home they need to leave wherever they are without any delay. As more and more airlines ground their fleets, it is definitely going to get harder to get to Australia or New Zealand over the next few weeks.
We have made a few key decisions this week:
1. All staff in Melbourne and Auckland will largely be working from home for the foreseeable future so we can minimise contact and ensure ‘social distancing’. We will have minimal and purely essential staff in the offices. The decision to spend big a few years ago on our own bespoke CRM allowing us to work from anywhere with wifi now looks like a very sensible business investment. I don’t expect clients will notice any difference to the way they interact with us.
2. Seminars - having had seminars cancelled in South Africa and made difficult in Hong Kong owing to their recent decision for almost everyone landing in Hong Kong to self isolate for 14 days, we are shortly going to offer our first online seminar to audiences in Singapore and Hong Kong. Once we iron out any wrinkles we will start offering them to our South African clients in a few weeks. In some ways I'm quite excited because the technology now exists for us to do this in a way that even a few years ago, we couldn't. Adversity sometimes forces change and those changes can be very positive. The end of my seeming never ending jetlag?
I have been very reassured by the reaction of our clients, virtually all of whom are carrying on with the process of migration and looking beyond the border closures.
For those, particularly in South Africa, who might be worried about their employment prospects, particularly in New Zealand given you need jobs to get enough ‘points’ to get visas, can I add some words of relative comfort. I have been through a few financial crises now - the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis, the fallout from the New York terrorist attacks in 2001 and the GFC of 2009/2010. None were pleasant, yet almost all clients coming to the country were still able to secure jobs. Over the past two years the majority of clients have been taking between two and eight weeks to find employment, I imagine we will be looking at three to four months or so, as clients were back in the GFC of 2008 - 2011.
I don’t want to sugar coat what is happening however. This virus is going to tip New Zealand and Australia into instant recessions. Economists here believe that the fiscal stimulus should limit it to around a 1% contraction.
Governments of both countries have cut interest rates to virtually zero and significant fiscal stimulus packages have been announced. Earlier this week the NZ government announced $5 billion of wage subsidies and health spending to prepare for the inevitable uptick in patients needing hospitalisation, equipment and if they can find them, personnel. Wage subsidies are being put in place for 12 weeks to assist employers keep staff (if you take the subsidy you cannot lay anyone off).
The Minister of Finance advised the package, amounting to 4% of GDP, is ‘just the beginning’.
The advantage NZ has is we have very low levels of public debt which currently runs around 19.5% of GDP (Italy by comparison has debt levels of 134% of GDP, the US in the order of 105% and South Africa around 65%). Our government therefore has a lot of room to borrow big and borrow cheap to get us through the next 12-24 months.
I couldn’t find a single economist finding fault with their announcements on keeping the money flowing. The sharemarket has been pretty stable this week while carnage has been the order of the day on most international sharemarkets.
On Thursday the NZ Government also announced a $54 billion infrastructure spending package covering projects over the next ten years. I suspect they were going to wait for the May budget to announce this (we are in an election year) but they wanted to give certainty to the construction companies and others that big money will be flowing as we build roads, freeways, light and heavy rail and public transport.
I expect other ‘war time’ measures to be announced over the next couple of weeks.
The Australian Government is busy announcing similar policies.
If you are sitting wondering if you are about to jump out of a frying pan into a fire (particularly those of you in South Africa) allow me to offer you some perspective on the risks. South Africa, before the outbreak of Covid-19 a couple of weeks ago, had 30% unemployment, was in a recession, had an insecure energy supply leading to power black outs virtually every day of 2-4 hours, had an insolvent national airline, bankrupt municipalities and affirmative action policies meaning the first people to lose their jobs as the recession deepens, as it will, will likely be you.…
However bad South Africa has got in recent years, it is about to get worse by degrees.
How will South Africa be able to respond when, not if, the virus gets into the overcrowded and unsanitary townships when you already have a health system that in the best of times cannot provide care for the majority of South African citizens?
New Zealand has been creating thousands more jobs every month for two years than we have had pepole to fill them. We continue to not produce enough teachers, engineers, IT workers and many more. Demand will take a hit but we come off a base of such accute skills shortages, the demand will not dry up.
If you lose your job or fear losing your job in South Africa you will still be far more employable in New Zealand than in South Africa no matter what happens here. I have long liked the frying pan and fires analogy when it comes to leaving South Africa (understandably worried about job prospects) and many South Africans and other potential migrants have asked themselves if in search of a better future they are jumping out of a frying pan into a fire by considering migration at any time. My view on South Africa has long been, that you are actually already sitting in the fire, upon which fuel is about to be poured. Migration is always hard and it is about to get a lot harder. It won’t be comfortable for a while but you won’t burn in the fire either.
I was in Hong Kong a little over a month ago. The economy is tanking there the strict border control and isolation measures, including shutting down schools, but they have shown the world how to get on top of this virus. Singapore has achieved it slightly differently but no less effectively.
I am absolutely confident NZ will cope with this. And the border closure is part of that. Shutting down the economy for three months works. It's incredibly painful and that pain awaits New Zealanders and Australians, but shutting down the border is really the only way of stopping more cases of those with the virus entering our countries.
In NZ, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore these measures are by and large understood and accepted by almost everyone.
I am less confident about South Africa and if I had the chance to leave I’d be looking to do so, no matter how long our borders remain closed.
For those clients headed for Australia, short of any change in Government policy you are in a very good position. The process to get the visa is taking around a year to 15 months at the moment, you have the thick end of 12 months to get to Australia to activate the family’s visas once approved and you have at least another 12 months, if you headed home, to go back to Australia and settle - that’s a very enviable four year window which allows Australia plenty of time to right the economic ship which will be listing for a year or two like the rest of us.
Make no mistake, as someone who has seen a few recessions, the next few months will be brutal on all of us to a greater or lesser extent.
NZ has taken the first step in closing ourselves off from the world and although it is not good for the economy, it is the only thing to do. The US, Europe and every other nation on this planet need to do the same thing or this virus will linger and fester and destroy economies, and kill thousands more people. If we can take the hit, bear the pain and then rebuild, we will get through this.
I’d far rather take that hit in a first world, law abiding land of plentiful energy and food like New Zealand than anywhere else on this planet.
Until next week,
Posted by Myer on March 13, 2020, 12:22 p.m. in Immigration
If you’re thinking of emigrating you might also be wondering when is the appropriate time to have a consultation regarding your visa options (and the smart migrants do seek out some good advice before they move).
I’m frequently told by those interested in immigrating to Australia or New Zealand that they will have a consultation with me but only after they obtain an offer of employment or for those I have met, they will engage in using our services once that job is in hand. In my opinion the consultation should have taken place long before the job search begins for both Australia and New Zealand and certainly if your mind is made up, then getting us on board ahead of time is absolutely crucial. The reasons differ slightly because the immigration policy for both countries is different even though the process of securing employment is largely the same.
I was prompted to write this blog by the experience of one of our clients, who was fed up with waiting for a general skilled migration visa (these visas don’t require offers of employment) and decided to travel to Australia for the purposes of securing employment in order for us to submit an employer sponsored visa.
He was qualified to be both an accountant as well as a finance manager. Much of our initial discussions were focused on an explanation that a job offer as an accountant in the non-regional areas of Australia, namely Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane could potentially result in permanent residence under an employer nominated residence visa. However, an offer of employment as a finance manager in these cities would not, notwithstanding the fact that the occupation of finance manager is often more senior in nature and often would be managing a number of accountants, consequently earning more than the accountants working under him.
If this sounds weird, welcome to my world.
Australia’s immigration program can broadly be described as lists of different occupations for different visa types. Some of these occupations will be suitable for work visas, some suitable for general skilled migration visas, whilst others will require one to live in regional areas of Australia.
So there is no point in a sales and marketing manager obtaining an offer of employment in Melbourne for example, if he intends to become a permanent resident of Australia through an employer sponsored residence visa program. This is because the occupation of sales and marketing manager doesn’t appear on the relevant list that allows a company based in this area to nominate the position. This isn’t affected by the salary one earns or the nature of the employer, the simple fact is that the sales and marketing manager isn’t suitable for non-regional Australia but would be a great occupation for regional Australia (the whole of Australia excluding Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane).
On the other hand a general manager would be suitable for non-regional Australia however the salary requirements for this particular occupation are that the applicant would have to have an offer of $180,001 salary per annum which is a reasonably high salary by Australian standards. The logic is fairly obvious, to avoid your smaller businesses employing a “general manager” as a means of obtaining permanent residence for the applicant.
There is even a list of occupations suitable for temporary work visas in Australia (known as a temporary skill shortages visa). Depending on the occupation that you are employed in, you can either be issued a longer term four-year visa that can be renewed thereafter, or a limited two-year work visa with an option of only gaining one more two-year term. There is no point in securing an offer of employment in Australia if you are not going to be in an occupation suitable for a work visa, and to potentially gain permanent residence in a few years time.
Some of these occupations that are suitable for work visas will require a skills assessment by one of the assessing authorities. At the moment it’s mostly trades that require skills assessments but they can take several months to obtain and no employer is going to wait this length of time for the assessment to be completed before applying for the work visa.
With so many variables and differing requirements, you need to have a consultation at least six months before you commence the job search to make sure you have an immigration plan. Just like you wouldn’t consider building a house without a building plan, so too do you need an immigration plan that has considered factors such as the requirements of each visa type (both temporary and permanent) the timeframes involved, the documentation required for each visa and an appreciation of the risks as well.
New Zealand has moved away from lists of occupations and instead focuses on skill levels and salary requirements for each occupation to determine if it meets the definition of ‘skilled’. There are different requirements for temporary work visas from permanent residence visas, with the former being focused on satisfying skill shortages and the latter focused on satisfying a points test.
It is as important in the New Zealand context (if not more so) to have a consultation well in advance of the job search and if we deem you eligible to start preparing yourself ahead of time, so that you are “document ready” when you commence your job search in New Zealand. Not only do you need to know the requirements of the different visa types but you need to know the documents required for both permanent and temporary visa applications because, while an employer will wait a period of time between offering you a position of employment and the date you are expected to commence work, they will want this period to be as short as possible and excessive delays can jeopardise the validity of your employment offer. Too many times we have seen applicant’s (not our clients necessarily) race ahead to secure a job, only to then discover that without the documentation they need, the Visa process becomes lengthy, complicated and more stressful than it needs to be. The worst case is the employer gets the “wobbles” because the application hasn’t been submitted quickly and the job is at risk. Why take that sort of chance, particularly when you consider the effort required to secure that job.
Contrary to the popular belief, it’s not all about obtaining a job in both Australia and New Zealand. With many having to quit jobs so they can spend enough time in Australia and New Zealand to secure employment, you need to be aware of the immigration requirements, documentation and strategy well in advance of your journey to a new life.
Being both employment and Visa ready are really important parts of the overall plan and can be the difference between success and failure.
Attend a seminar as a starting point to learn more about the lifestyle of each country, their general migration process and a broad overview of Visa categories.
Have a preliminary evaluation to establish which Visa category may suit you and whether it’s worth your while ordering a comprehensive Full Assessment.
Let us develop your detailed strategy, timeline and pricing structure in-person or on Skype. Naturally, a small cost applies for this full and comprehensive assessment.