It's just a thought...
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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 Oct. 2, 2020, 1:20 p.m. in Elections
Two weeks out from our general election we continue to see pressure being brought to bear on our political leadership to acknowledge and perhaps do something about immigration policy settings and what skills should be allowed to enter the country. Too late me thinks. The silence of the major parties in addressing our skills shortages and what we want out of immigration over the next few years is deafening.
Only this week the head of NZTech echoed my recent thoughts - (slowly) rising unemployment and a commitment to spend more on tertiary education is not a short term fix to the chronic and worsening shortage of IT skills. Labour market shortages and skills shortages can be quite different beasts. Unemployment might still be 4% (and potentially slowly rising) but that does not fill vacancies for software developers, systems analysts, testers, architects and the like. In the short term there’ll be some ‘musical chairs’ as locals lose one opportunity and take up another. Overall however we are not adding to the skills pool.
Thanks to the border closure around 5000 fewer highly skilled IT workers will not be coming to NZ this year. There was, earlier this year around twice that many IT jobs being advertised each month across the country. Already medium to large employers in this sector are struggling to fill vacancies. Our Universities only produce half the graduates needed to fill the thousands of jobs being created in this sector every year. Even if a few thousand 2020 school leavers decided they’d like to enter this field and went to University in 2021 we won’t see them graduate for three years and possibly four. Even then they are going to need a few years in the real world developing and hiring their skills because employers are not looking for truckloads of junior developers, they need the six or seven years of experience most skilled migrants bring with them.
To the IT sector you could equally add Construction with calls this week from employers struggling to fill construction and project management roles - all paying six figures. Then there’s the education sector with the country still 1500 teachers short across pre, primary and secondary schools. To that we can add agriculture with over 1000 manager jobs available and unable to be filled. Companies are still screaming for tradesmen/artisans - another workforce rapidly ageing and moving toward retirement.
If we don’t import the skills, how will these sectors thrive?
When every mid leveled IT job supports 4.5 other jobs what’s the downside?
The Government recently announced a $1.6 billion increase in spending on free apprenticeships. The only problem is they are about four years too late - the critical shortage in this area has been around for 30 years. Why did it take Covid to spur the Government into action? Even if young and not so young people take up the call (and history suggests they won’t with 74% of subsidised apprentices not completing their trade certificate) the labour market is still around four years away from them being qualified.
With a very a recent and widely unreported survey showing that New Zealanders support for immigration as a positive influence on the country running at a historical high it still perplexes me why no political party has published any sort of detailed immigration policy for the Covid world in which we now live. Plenty of promises about virtually everything else but nothing about what each party’s immigration policy might look like given the upheaval of recent months.
Every three years Government undertakes a ‘first principles’ review of our major immigration policies. Parents one year. Business Investors the next. This year the turn was to be for the Skilled Migrant Policy. As far as I am aware that has not taken place. No doubt the functionaries will tell us its because of Covid disruption, a very convenient excuse for no action. This Government wasted its first two years making a song and dance about the relatively insignificant issue of ‘migrant exploitation’. There was never any real evidence it was a significant issue, yet it tied up whatever Ministerial interest there was in this portfolio until the Minister resigned.
There could not be a better time, nor a greater need for that first principles review of the skilled migrant policy.
We should be asking ourselves if the policy is working. How it could be improved? How we might better integrate work and visitor policy with the labour market driven skills migrant policy in which getting a job is critical to success? How does international ‘export’ education feed into the migrant flows? Should we be dishing out graduate work visas to International students? Where do the lower skilled but no less valuable occupations like aged care or teacher aids fit into our long terms needs with an ageing population?
Is the policy even working?
I’d argue that the skilled migrant pathway is net positive for New Zealand but very hard on migrants. I often describe the process as ‘Darwinian’ and the survival of the fittest - those that are successful have the linguistic skills, the cultural capital, personal resilience, the financial wherewithal and skills to pass the ‘test’. Even for them the process takes its toll and migrants get precious little credit for bringing us their skills, energy and enthusiasm. Lord knows we make it hard enough to get the best. The country gets people that not only really want to build a future here but are wanted by the labour market. On paper it works for us.
That is not to say it couldn’t be improved in terms of a process as I have written about before.
Immigration policies this election, perhaps more than any other, demanded a rethink about who we let in, why we let them in and in what quantity we let them in. So much flows from that - think about housing, how many new schools we might need to build, infrastructure planning and build, health needs, hospitals and so on. Every decision any government must make flow from the number of people it is elected to serve.
I cannot fathom a country where immigration is viewed as a positive force for good by the significant majority, a country that so overwhelmingly welcomes new migrants, but that keeps squandering the opportunity by planning an active immigration policy rather than one that is reactive.
This is yet another missed opportunity by all the major and not so major parties to articulate a long term vision of what New Zealand might look like, literally and figuratively, in 10, 20 or 30 years from today. And to then plan for it and deliver it.
Alas we continue to be caught in this three-year electoral cycle where change is incremental and at snails pace.
All the while skills shortages will grow worse and that will hold us back as we grow our way out of this Covid induced recession.
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.
Posted by Iain on Nov. 27, 2015, 12:01 p.m. in Visitor Visa
That is the question...
Regular readers in South Africa will know that in recent times increasing numbers of South African citizens travelling to New Zealand are being questioned about the purpose of their visit when they check in to their flights in South Africa, in transit en route, during a stop over or on arrival in New Zealand.
It is causing understandable consternation among many.
I have been trying to get the NZ Government to acknowledge that it is quite legal to come to New Zealand to look for work, to attend interviews, to check out schools, cost of living, lifestyle and so on because you might think you fancy settling here if everything falls into place. And they have. What they don’t have though is a formal class of visa for this.
I believe there is a relatively simple solution to that.
To once again explain the issue; with New Zealand employers overwhelmingly demanding face to face interviews, demonstrations of commitment to the settlement process, fluency in English and cultural compatibility, there is only so much you can do through CVs, emails and Skype. In the end, our experience clearly demonstrates that employers want to see your boots on the ground here, evidence of real commitment and availability to start work subject to having appropriate visas.
As I have written about previously, we are finding about 10% of our South African clients are being questioned at check in, en route, or on arrival as to the purpose of their visit. The other 90% have no issue so this is not a big problem...unless you are one of the 10%.
On what to say if asked we have always advised clients to tell the truth - they are here to 'Look, See and Decide' if they want to settle here - primarily on vacation and as a secondary purpose to see if they are employable and might want to live here.
What happens when people are questioned depends very much on who does the questioning, rather than the answers given. Around half of the clients questioned are not hassled further and are allowed to board their flight or receive a ‘normal’ Visitor Visa on arrival. This means once they get their job they can stay in NZ and change their immigration status later e.g. get a work visa once they have secured their job rather than fly home secure the work visa and then come back to NZ a few weeks later.
About one in 20 of our clients has been given a 'Limited' Visa on arrival meaning they could not change their status once they found their job which as I understand it, all have done.
Realising this is a very subjective area of the rule book INZ recently issued one of their internal information circulars to their staff which sought to offer further guidance to their officers - what to do when someone standing in front of you says they are on a ‘LSD’ trip.
Officers have been told that if the person who might become the main applicant for residence i.e. the potential job seeker has sold their home and resigned their job then in the mind of Government the person has in fact ‘Decided’ and is only now ‘Looking and Seeing’ and should be as such given a Limited Visa.
Government is not wrong on this - given most South Africans fund their migration through the sale of their home many will have had to have sold it to raise the funds and to get the process under way.
Equally, given most migrants take 2-4 months to find employment once landed here they are forced to resign their jobs in order to have enough time to find work here. If they come for two weeks and try and land a job I’d suggest 99% would fail to secure the job.
So all the migrants (ones we will later congratulate on securing residence and adding to our nation’s skill base) here looking for jobs are effectively being forced to resign their jobs at home to maximise the chances of the outcome they seek here eventuating.
Given New Zealand employers ultimately determine who gets residence (because they decide who gets jobs) this situation is still highly unsatisfactory.
It is not unreasonable for migrants to want a degree of certainty they will be able to enter for the purpose of finding work - because this is what NZ employees demand and there is little to no evidence that South African citizens overstay their visas if they don’t find work - they go home.
It is not unreasonable for them to have to have the money to do it - and like most middle class skilled migrants their wealth is tied up in property.
Nor is it unreasonable for highly skilled, fluent english speaking migrants from anywhere to have resigned their jobs. Time is needed on the ground in NZ because most employers demand work visas before they will offer a job and the only remedy for that is applying for many roles to find the one employer willing to play the visa game. Time on the ground is the only solution on offer today.
At the same time New Zealand has a right to protect its borders and it is very clear that our Government has an opinion on what is happening in South Africa that has led to the ‘risk profile’ of South Africans being elevated to the level where people are even being stopped in South Africa before they board the plane.
There are some obvious solutions to this which would require tweaks in immigration rules but I continue to be disappointed no one inside INZ seems terribly interested in listening to what they might be even though it increases certainty for migrants and acts to protect the border at the same time.
The simplest solution would be if a person is employed in an area of immediate or absolute skills shortage that they file an Expression of Interest in residence, and if they meet certain criteria - age, qualifications in that area of skills hostage and X number of years experience, they be invited to apply for residence and at the same time are subject to health and character requirements being met. They'd then be issued an open work visa, valid for perhaps three months, so they have that long on the ground in NZ to find the skilled job offer to ‘top up’ their points claim.
That allows the Government to keep these people ‘at home’ until the risk is assessed, allows a detailed assessment of their employability and whether they tick the other ‘risk mitigation’ boxes and then give them work visas to travel (possibly alone and without any family which further mitigates the risk) to NZ.
If they find a skilled job offer in the three months, the process can move on from there.
Not difficult and it wouldn’t require immigration officers to do anything more than they do now in terms of assessing people against the set criteria we look to attract - it would simply change the order of bureaucratic and visa events.
To my way of thinking, that makes far more sense than sending out signals that a significant target market for skilled migrants might be increasingly excluded. To be fair I have no doubt the Government is NOT trying to exclude South Africans - their concern I would speculate is people who can get here visa free are people who can raise they hands at the airport and say ‘I want asylum’. If South Africa continues to deteriorate as it has in recent years that is a distinct possibility.
However, and in the meantime, we are having to advise clients not to sell their homes (just take out a flexi-bond or increase your mortgage if you don’t have the cash for the process saved) and think seriously before you resign your job and travel.
Remember, 90% of South Africans travelling here for the purpose of finding work are not challenged along the way and only 10% are (in terms of our clients anyway). Of that 10% less than half were given limited visas. So we are talking one in 20 with a problem, so it needs to be kept in perspective.
Our concern is that the number is increasing and it is unsettling. We do not know if we should raise the possibility that 10% have an issue and frighten the other 90% or just say nothing. Our morality doesn’t allow that unfortunately - we feel obligated to advise clients of all the risks just in case.
The internet is abuzz with false rumours and jibber jabber about this issue and for the sake of changing the system to accommodate principally the needs of NZ employers, INZ and the Government need to get with the (their!) programme.
Right now they are expecting the same people they want as skilled migrants (and it should be said not just from South Africa but from another 30 odd countries from which people can travel here without visas) to either not tell the whole truth or simply lie when asked the purpose - in order to meet the same Government’s residence programme criteria.
It isn’t fair to say to the highly skilled - 'we want your skills and we want you to secure a job but at the same time won’t let you in potentially to look for one when it’s what the employees who have the skills shortages demand'.
I would even be so bold as to say more it's more than a little crazy, when there is a pretty simple, risk free solution that I can offer.
Until next week
Posted by Iain on Aug. 8, 2015, 8:22 a.m. in Visitor Visa
I am sure that you were always told by your parents to tell the truth. As the old line goes, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear by being honest and truthful. Right?
What happens however when one rule contradicts a second that you must comply with later in order to win the game – and you have to comply with both to get what you need?
Should you lie to achieve the aim of the second if the first stops you achieving the outcome the second rule requires?
What am I talking about?
Most skilled migrants need jobs to achieve the stated aims of the Government residence programme. To get jobs, employers demand that a candidate be in New Zealand. That means getting permission to enter New Zealand either before you travel or at the border.
Only trouble with that is Visitor Visa rules are not compatible with Residence Visa rules.
Many people are being stopped at the airport on arrival and if they say they are on holiday but also intend looking for work (because they are interested in the skilled migrant residence programme and with the job have enough points, they now risk being turned around, given a visa that does not allow them to change their status or they get a normal visa.
My team and I have been wrestling for some weeks now over what to advise those clients who need job offers to secure their skilled migrant visa points who can travel to New Zealand without a visa, but to enter the country must get a visa at the border. Although this is not exclusively a South African issue we are in particular concerned about South Africans...
This condundrum has arisen because about 10% of our South African clients are now being stopped at Auckland airport on arrival and questioned on the purpose of their visit.
If they tell the truth – that they are in the country both on holiday and to check the place out as a possible settlement destination (all of our clients - if they can secure skilled employment - meet the points threshold for a resident visa) then recent history tells us telling the truth can get some into trouble.
It all depends which officer stops them and questions them at the airport - not the rule, but how the rule is applied and by whom.
Most are given ‘normal’ visas which allow them to change their status to a work visa once the job is secured. Others are given limited visas which allow them entry but if they get the job they then have to leave the country and return home to apply for their work visa offshore. I am even hearing of people (not our clients; thank goodness) being turned around at the airport and denied entry.
The only thing they all have in common are their South African passports. Thereafter, it is random – no pattern to who is stopped, who gets a normal visa and who gets the limited visa. The outcomes are consistently inconsistent. The outcome is determined by an immigration officer and how they feel.
Therein lies the dilemma.
If 90% of South Africans entering New Zealand are granted ‘normal’ visas that allow a change of status, why are we seriously considering advising all to apply for Visitor Visas before they travel? If 90% don’t have a problem and 10% do, isn’t this creating an additional cost and bureaucratic burden for all when only 10% have a problem?
I guess it depends on whether you turn out to be one of the 10%.
For the record it is perfectly legal to enter New Zealand as a ‘tourist’ and if you decide you wish to stay longer or even permanently or had even entered wanting to stay subject to finding a skilled job and you find a skilled employment, you are allowed to change your status. Given the significant majority of work visas are issued within New Zealand this clearly happens a lot.
I have met with everyone from Immigration New Zealand’s head of global border security in recent weeks to try and come to some agreement on resolving this issue and eliminate the risk for those 10% highly skilled ‘wannabe’ migrants who are hassled at the airport or to get some agreement that all of our clients coming over will be granted ‘normal’ visitor visas subject to demonstrating that they are not a risk to the country.
You might think that is easy when you can demonstrate that the number of our South African clients who have overstayed their visas is as far as we know – zero.
So if our clients tell the truth at the border about their intentions, some officials at the airport hold it against them. Some don’t. These officials are the same ones employed by the Government that is encouraging skilled migration and demanding that the majority secure work.
In trying to meet the Governments permanent residence rules, the client can be damned if they tell the truth and damned if they don’t at the border.
After three weeks of discussions the outcome I always expected happened a few days ago.
The Government suggested all of our clients should apply for these Visitor Visas offshore before they travel BUT they would not guarantee the client that on arrival at the border in New Zealand they would be granted a visa that would allow them to apply for a work visa onshore. That of course completely defeats the purpose of applying for the visitor visa offshore in the first place because once such applicants find jobs (and in the case of our clients about 98% do) they have to leave the country, apply for a work visa and return a few weeks later.
In the end this refusal to come up with a solution that is geared toward my low risk clients and to manage them as a subset of some greater perceived risk is incredibly disappointing but hardly surprising. If there is one thing Immigration New Zealand is not very good at it is holding the system to account and demanding consistency of outcomes whereby similar applicants with very similar circumstances be treated the same and should be able to reasonably expect the same outcome.
It leaves me concluding that it is not always smart to tell the whole truth. Applying for visas before a South African travels isn’t going to solve any problems.
Forcing visa applicants to be less than completely truthful in order to give the Government what they want in terms of the Residence Programme is a nonsensical and stupid way of dealing with risk.
However for the time being it seems to be just what Immigration New Zealand is demanding.
The discussions continue.
Until next week.
P.S. There's still time to enter our competition which runs until the 23rd of August - submit your photo and you could win $1500 in cash and 2 luxury nights for two at the Azur Lodge in Queenstown. To enter, click here: http://www.justimmagine.com/competition
Posted by Iain on May 29, 2015, 3:26 p.m. in Immigration
How do you know when an immigration policy is failing miserably?
I have been looking into visa application numbers, approval, decline and withdrawal rates for the Entrepreneur work Visa category.
The policy was put in place just over a year ago in April 2014.
It has to be considered a dismal failure.
We were initially shocked by two aspects of it when it was released - how high the bar was in terms of eligibility criteria and how loopy some of the definitions were.
Those of you that have attended one of our seminars might recall this temporary class ‘self employed work visa’ is the usual pathway the self employed follow if they want to come to New Zealand and buy into or establish a business as a means of securing permanent residence.
It is also the one we advise people to only choose if they have no other options and a very credible business plan behind them.
This is simply because the threshold for entry is so high and getting the visa doesn’t mean you’ll eventually secure a resident visa - residence is only granted after at least two years having made good on the commitments contained in the business plan to employ a number of New Zealanders, invest a certain amount of capital (usually in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) and make a profit - all within three years.
A big ask by any measure and one that comes with considerable commercial and emotional risk.
We have learned that since the policy was released approximately 200 applications have been filed, a small number are sitting in a ‘managed queue’ gathering dust and just under 100 are under ‘active management’ (which means they have at least been looked at).
Only 35 have been approved and 50 have been declined.
Of the 35 approved around 50% have been approved as ‘exceptions to instructions’ which means they don’t meet the rules but INZ has deemed them to have merit.
That is an extraordinarily high percentage of exceptions.
The reason is both surprising and disturbing. According to sources the bar is simply too high and the definitions make it virtually impossible to approve most applications.
It starts with the objective of the policy which intends for these proposed businesses or investment in an existing business ‘to contribute to economic growth by enabling experienced business people to grow or establish a high growth and innovative business with export potential in New Zealand.’
Four key criteria then in one sentence.
You have got be experienced in business. Check, but how experienced? This at least is somewhat answered in the points you claim for business experience.
The business must be ‘high growth’. Okay, but what defines that?
The business must be ‘innovative’. Yeah, but what does that mean?
The business must have export potential. Check, but to what extent?
Applicants must demonstrate all three as well as whatever being an ‘experienced business’ person might mean to an immigration officer.
To demonstrate how kooky it can be here is the definition applied to ‘innovation’ - it is a business that:
‘demonstrates a high probability of succeeding in discovering and applying new ways to produce more with the same quantity of inputs’
You need to show that the chances of your discovering new ways to produce more with the same quantity of inputs is high?
Which means proving what everyone else does now presumably (all your competitors) and how in the future you are going to discover a new or novel way of creating more of that thing with less? The weirdest thing of all is you don't have to have made the discovery yet but show you hav a high probability of doing so!
Save me from these mad people! Please.
How completely bizarre. You have to be a future inventor of sorts. And prove what everyone else in your ‘space’ in New Zealand does now.
Well, we don’t come across too many people like that.
Clearly neither does Immigration New Zealand.
What surprises me is that they must come across some because there has been something like 16 applications approved (out of 207 applications) that they have been able to approve without being an exception to the rule book.
INZ has now been authorised to take a more flexible view of the objectives of the policy.
In doing so they are advising that so long as the business meets one of the three criteria - can be ‘innovative', can be ‘high growth’ or can demonstrate ‘export potential’ and they will consider granting the visa.
Which is pleasing but if there is still going to be decline rates of around 60% (and applicants pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of the lottery) it is hardly good policy setting. I wouldn’t mind betting here and now the decline rates will actually increase.
I am surprised they are getting any applications at all.
And who wrote this stuff? Sounds like something that came out of a conference of a bunch of nerds who have never run a business in their life.
Thankfully change is afoot. There is a review of this policy going on now and we suspect it will lead to less complex criteria expressed in a more simple way.
That at least is our hope. Until there is something intelligent on the table that we can take to market as it were in order to offer certainty to clients we cannot in good faith recommend to anyone they go down this path.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on March 27, 2015, 6:42 p.m. in New Zealand Sport
Seats have been ‘shotgunned’ on couches. The whisky is breathing. The beer fridge is full. The large piece of beef is thawing and ready to be smeared in marinade in preparation for a slow barbecue come mid day Sunday.
Why you may ask?
Where have you been the past few days? Clearly not in New Zealand or in one of Britain’s former colonies.
Sunday will be the biggest sporting event since, well, the Rugby World Cup in 2011.
What do you mean we have had a Football World cup since then? Who cares!!??
This is our second national sport we are talking about. Cricket.
After six weeks of going through the pool games, quarter and semi finals unbeaten (despite trying hard on one or two occasions) the New Zealand cricket team have won through to the final of the tournament.
The old enemy.
The arch rivals.
The sons of sheep stealers.
No New Zealand team has ever made it to the final of the Cricket World Cup. Regular semi finalists but never a final.
To say excitement here is building would be an understatement. No one is talking of anything else.
I haven’t known this level of excitement since the All Blacks made the final of the Rugby World Cup here just under four years ago.
The difference with this event is we always expect the All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup (not that they do but it is expectation we are talking about). We have only ever dreamed of our national cricket team doing the same and to come so close on so many occasions has been terribly frustrating. Somehow end up among the bridesmaids.
The Southern Man knows a little about cricket.
Our ‘boys’ have long been able to beat the big guns of world cricket on our day but over the past two years this side has developed into serious world beaters in every form of the game (it comes in three flavours which I won’t bore the American readership with here - but think express baseball and over in two innings, normal baseball and baseball where a game can last five days……I know!! Imagine that? I like to think of the five day version as being the purest of them all). This version however only takes an afternoon and evening.
The Australians don’t lower themselves to play us all that often in international cricket but this is going to be a game of epic proportions - it might be David and Goliath in terms of the relative sizes of the populations of our two countries but these are two teams that on paper are equal in terms of talent and both full of game winners.
Most of us are still recovering from the multiple heart attacks we suffered Tuesday night as we pipped South Africa with a ball to spare in the first semi final. We have had a few days to gather ourselves.
With Australia knocking out the Indian team last night there are plenty of tickets coming on the market for Sunday’s game. In a sign of how badly we would all love to be in Melbourne on Sunday, since Tuesday night this week every seat on every flight to Australia (there’s about 40 a day heading that way on a normal day) was sold four or five days! Extra planes have been put on but even then I know many people trying to get flights but who cannot.
This is our Superbowl. Our Football World Cup.
A chance to add the Cricket World Cup to the cabinet alongside the Rugby World Cup. And oh how insufferable we will be for the next few years if we do!
Don’t bother calling anyone in New Zealand after 4pm Sunday - they won’t take the call. Don’t email them either because you have no show of getting an answer. You might get an answer to a text message but even then i am not so sure.
For the seven hours the game takes New Zealand will grind to a halt.
And Australia too - it is their national game after all and they are, for possibly the first time in a long time, appreciating that they might not actually be favourites against the Kiwis (they shouldn’t be surprised, we beat them in pool play).
Given that the last team they’d like to lose to are the little upstarts from across the Tasman Sea will ratchet up the pressure just that bit more on the Aussie lads.
I’m counting the minutes. I might be in to work late Monday win or lose.
May the best team win.
Until next week - Iain Macleod
Posted by Iain on Dec. 5, 2014, 4:53 p.m. in Immigration
What happens when an organisation has no competition, no profit motive and it is the only supplier of a service with a captive audience?
You call yourself a Government Department and you get the following true but barely imaginable story.
I won’t name the Branch of Immigration New Zealand as I hope to sort this problem out and I know the readership of the Southern Man even extends to some inside INZ. As a preamble it is worthy of note that a few years ago the Immigration Department showed some rare insight and rather wisely rebranded themselves from the ‘New Zealand Immigration Service’, to Immigration New Zealand. I guess when you wouldn’t know a service if you tripped over it, it seems a little silly to include it in your name. So they quietly dropped the ‘s’ word and now offer little pretence of service.
Even by INZ standards this story is a jaw dropper for its stupidity, cruelty and petty mindedness.
How people like this particular officer, who is famous in our circles for this attitude continues to be employed is an indictment on this department that charges hundreds and often thousands of dollars to process visas.
I met a woman this week who wishes to join her husband in New Zealand for a few months and to try and find work with a long term plan, under the well promoted NZ government Residence programme, TO settle permanently. Her background is impeccable and both are highly employable and would settle very well, contributing skills that NZ is, according the Immigration Department, in desperate need of owing to local skill shortages (on that score INZ is actually right). Her husband is an international student studying a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology (note the name) in Auckland.
In 2013 this client applied for an open work visa to join her husband for a few months. This was, correctly, granted to her and she went and they enjoyed a few months together. In time she had to return to her home country and continue working. He has continued to study.
This year she thought she’d apply again. Nothing had changed – same husband, studying the same course in the same University, her situation had not changed (beyond being a year older) so she was naturally confident she be issued the same visa.
What she hadn’t bargained on was a different officer.
This officer declined her visa application because her husband’s degree was not an exact match to a prescribed list of NZ ICT degrees that INZ works off.
The closest match to his Bachelor of Information and Communications Technology in New Zealand was a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technologies (you may need to read that again in order to spot the difference).
Here is the rule:
‘….partners of people granted student visas to study for a level 7 or higher qualifications in an area of absolute skill shortage as specified in the Long Term Skill Shortage List’……
….qualify for an open work visa (all other things being equal as indeed they were in this case).
A New Zealand Bachelor degree is Level 7.
When the client suggested that what her husband was studying was in name and substance virtually identical the officer told her to go and get a report from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (at a cost of NZ$746) which confirmed they were essentially the same thing.
The officer appeared to be serious.
INZ then applied their quality assurance processes (such as they are) and declined the application when the client, terribly confused and upset, challenged the processing officer on what the difference was between last years’ work visa application (approved) and this years (declined)?
Everything was identical. How could one visa be approved but the following year it is declined?
The 2014 officer said ’Well, the 2013 officer must have got it wrong’.
The sad truth is as I always say at all my presentations and consultations - who you get processing your visa can be the sole determining factor on outcome.
It is at times as if there is no rule book.
The truth is that it is in fact the 2013 officer got it 100% right – it was the 2014 officer who has got it badly wrong, shown limited intelligence and an obstructive, petty and pedantic attitude.
Quite clearly the aim and intent of the policy is to encourage international students to come, spend vast quantities of money (in this case NZ$20,000 each year for three years) and as part of the incentive to add to the export education coffers, to allow partners to join then and work.
It goes further – the stated aim of this policy is to enable those that are studying ICT (an area New Zealand only produces 50% of the graduates industry and business require) to stay on once their study is complete if they have found employment and become part of the Government’s Residence Programme.
A sensible economic strategy until you give it to a bureaucrat who pays their mortgage by turning up to work each day, who is never held accountable and gets paid irrespective of how bad they are at their job.
Confucius, had he known rampant bureaucracy and monopolistic Government practices may indeed have uttered something like, ‘one rule book and two bureaucrats assessing identical factors make for opposing outcomes…’
It is scandalous that this particular officer, who has a reputation for making these sorts of decisions is allowed to remain in a front line visa decision making role. Worse still applicants pay hard earned money and are forced to have her process their visas - no competition means this applicant cannot go down the road and get some real, consistent and sensible service.
In the private sector where competition and profit motive makes us all accountable this officer’s employment would have been terminated many poor decisions ago.
I am hopeful I can help INZ see the light over this stunning display of arrogance and stupidity and get this poor woman the visa she not only deserves but is entitled to.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on Nov. 14, 2014, 4:04 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
New Zealand has once again been ranked in the top three most prosperous countries in the world for 2014.
Topping the annual list this year is Norway followed by Switzerland in second place.
For what it is worth Australia came in seventh so a tidy little double for the Immagine Immigration countries of destination……
The least prosperous country this year was the Central African Republic. The United States came in 10th.
The 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index ranks 140 countries on their health and well being and so assesses factors including education, safety and security, health, economy, entrepreneurship, governance, personal freedom and social capital.
New Zealand ranked first for personal freedom, second for social capital and governance, seventh for education, tenth for safety and security, 15th for economy, 18th for entrepreneurship and 20th for health.
Not a bad effort when you are ranking 140 countries.
Translating this into the sort of lives we lead here I can explain it as reflecting our being a capitalist, socialist democracy which in other words means you have to play your part in paying your way pay but if you cannot, as my neighbour we will not leave you behind.
That philosophy runs very deep in the DNA of virtually every New Zealander and probably explains why Australia ranks in the top ten as well given their similar (if not louder) worldview and the Scandinavian countries also rank so high.
In new Zealand this mix of free market capitalism with a dose of redistribution of wealth all happens within bounds that the vast majority of New Zealanders are comfortable with.
There is a constant tension (relaxed and good natured if it needs to be said) between the philosophies of those that want untrammelled free markets and no regulation and those that want more centralised planning and Government involvement in our lives.
When it comes to heath, education and pensions for example we are all firmly in the camp of socialising risk i.e. spreading across all taxpayers, the cost of caring and educating all.
It does solve all problems however.
If you look at youth unemployment statistics in New Zealand they can be very high and 18-24 years olds runs as high as 20% in some parts of New Zealand.
Yet only this week the Tourism sector was bemoaning the fact that they cannot get enough young people into changing beds in hotels, bar work, café waiting and the like – there is a labour shortage. They were calling on the government to allow greater numbers of under 31 year olds here on open holiday working visas (meaning they can do whatever they wish without their employers having to prove they cannot find a local to fill the vacancy). Government responded that there are currently 62,000 young people from all over the world filling these sorts of jobs when the annual target was for only 50,000 to be here.
What this demonstrates is that the alternatives to what is often lower paid work in New Zealand are simply too attractive to many young New Zealanders.
It is hard to fathom how in a country which has strong economic growth, 1600 people a week coming off welfare, over 100,000 jobs created in the past 3 years, strong growth in tourist numbers that there is not a bit more ‘stick’ with regards unemployed young people. At this point in time for example the state agencies that are tasked with assisting young people into work do not say – well you can either go to, say Queenstown or Auckland and find work or you can lose your unemployment payments. They are generally allowed to stay living where they are with no incentive built in to getting off their chuffs and working. We do have cars, trains, buses and planes here I often reflect…
In what was an extraordinary first when the NZ government recently offered up to 1000 long term unemployed a one off payment of NZ$3000 (about US$2500) to go to Christchurch where unemployment hovers around 3% and find a job they filled the places. But seriously? We have to pay people who are being paid to do nothing to get off their backsides move to a city to find work?
It is just as well we are a prosperous first world economy and a nation of very tolerant tax payers. If we weren’t things here could get quite ugly quite quickly for a lot of people, particularly the young, who may well have squandered one of the worlds best education systems but who have a mentality of the world owing them a living.
Overall we get the balance pretty much right as is reflected in this survey and once again reinforces the view of many migrants and locals alike that this really is a very special little country. Possibly the best kept secret in the world.
Speaking of which the final seminars for the year in South Africa are underway and I will be travelling to Hong Kong and Singapore in about ten days. If you know anyone that might wish to attend they can click here for details.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on Nov. 7, 2014, 3:25 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand
I have written many times about the “chicken and egg” situation that exists for migrants trying to enter the labour market before they have a Resident Visa. That is that the employers generally demand Work Visas before they will offer jobs but the Immigration Department cannot (on the whole) give a Work Visa without that job.
It is the reason why many migrants fail in their quest to get New Zealand Residence (I hasten to add not our clients as we seem to do a pretty good job at identifying those who have all the appropriate attributes to secure employment).
I had an interesting experience this week which is worth sharing and might help employers who are willing to engage in the immigration process but who don’t want floods of applications from people not in New Zealand.
A client had applied for a job whilst in New Zealand through www.seek.co.nz.
He received a computer generated rejection on the basis that he did not have a Work Visa (it was one of the questions asked).
He then followed up with a phone call to the company and asked if they would be interested in talking to him or reviewing his CV. They suggested they would and he seemed like a very interesting and qualified candidate.
He then rang me to see if I could call the employer and explain how the immigration process worked given they were somewhat reluctant, he felt, to engage with the visa process.
I called the employer and quickly learned that contrary to the perception they might not be willing to engage the immigration process (a perception they created by their online advertising), they already employed ten migrants on various forms of temporary Work Visas.
I then called the client back, who has now had a conversation with the employer to be, which I hope leads not only to an interview, but a job offer and I will secure him the Work Visa within two or three weeks.
What would have been a more sensible approach from the company when advertising online, was to have three questions that they ask and which may trigger an automated response. These would be:
In this instance, had the employer done that they would have avoided getting thousands of applications from applicants who are not in New Zealand, not available for quick and easy interview and who might not be seriously committed to the process of migration, but they would have identified my client who is here, serious and available.
It continues to amaze me in this connected world how employers and recruiters still only deal in their minds with two types of potential “foreign” candidates – those who have Permanent Residency and those that do not.
There is clearly a simple way for them to further refine their criteria which both protects them from a deluge of overseas applicants but which provides them with access to potential employees who can get Work Visas who are in New Zealand.
Food for thought for all you employers out there facing increasing skills shortages.
Until next week
IMMagine New Zealand - Southern Man
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