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Immigration Blog

REGULAR POSTS FROM NEW ZEALAND & AUSTRALIA

Posts with tag: visa changes

Immigration Blog

Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork; its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people. Understanding Australia & New Zealand at a grass-roots level is paramount to your immigration survival, and to give you a realistic view of both countries, its people and how we see the world, as well as updates about any current or imminent policy changes, subscribe to our regular blog posts by entering your details below.

Go Home, Stay Home

Posted by Paul on Oct. 29, 2021, 11:06 a.m. in Travel bubble

When I was younger (much younger), like most New Zealand children, one of our favourite summer evening games was “go home stay home”… a twist on the traditional “tag”, where you and your neighbourhood comrades had to reach a particular place (we used to refer to it as a base) and yell “go home, stay home” as loudly as possible and much to the chagrin of your neighbours. Whilst all of this was going on, one person was tasked with chasing the players down and ‘tagging’ them, which usually resulted in many a fall and plenty of irreversible grass stains on your new Stubbies (look that up). Fond memories for many of us living in New Zealand.

Fast forward a fair few years (I won’t tell you how many) and nowadays the phrase “go home, stay home” has taken on an entirely new meaning. Globally most of us have experienced the game of lockdown in which we all must go home and stay home, although it is nowhere near as much fun and leaves a very different kind of stain.  There are however plenty of New Zealanders stuck offshore, who would love nothing more than to be even able to just get home let alone stay home, forced in to playing the MIQ lottery in order to do so (MIQ is our mandatory isolation process for arrivals in to New Zealand). As far as games go, the MIQ process, where equally worthy contestants virtually line up to be randomly selected in order to secure one of a limited number of places, is pretty Orwellian.

For almost two years, citizens and Resident Visa holders returning to New Zealand or those approved to come here to fulfil critical roles have had to compete with each other for valuable places within the MIQ system and demand has far outweighed supply. Equally some of these MIQ places have been made available to isolate and quarantine local Covid cases as they have appeared, which up until August of this year were relatively small numbers.

With the arrival of Delta to our shores two months ago and despite the country being thrown in to varying levels of lockdown (Auckland bearing the brunt of it for the last two months), community case numbers have continued to increase, leading to further pressure on the local demand for MIQ – all the while those offshore continue to run the lottery with each new set of room releases. The system that was already a mess and straining under the weight of people competing for a spot, is now practically unworkable.

Like many countries, New Zealand has now finally realised and the Government has admitted (perhaps a little too late) that the elimination strategy and making people go home and keeping them there for months on end, isn’t going to win the war – the only real way out is to vaccinate as many people as you can and ensure your health system is ready to cope with the potential overflow. Covid being out and about is inevitable, eliminating it is fanciful, managing it is the best you can hope for. With the push for a 90% vaccination target (which many think is overly ambitious) that will lead to the end of lockdowns and a new traffic light system to manage our freedoms (yes, traffic lights), we will no doubt move to a more workable border management system as well.

There are signs that this is coming and given the inevitable increase in local case numbers, using the already faltering MIQ process to isolate those onshore cases was never going to work. The plan of course is to move to allowing people to self-isolate at home dependent on their vaccination status and introducing that will take the pressure off the MIQ process which simply couldn’t cope with case numbers increasing at the current rate. In fact, as this goes to print, some unlucky Covid recipients in Auckland are already being allowed to quarantine at home as an interim measure – no doubt because the MIQ system is already bulging at the seams.

Logically (for most of us) if you can have someone onshore with Covid, self-isolating as a means to manage the spread of the virus, then it would stand to reason that someone coming in from offshore, fully vaccinated and with a negative test before arriving should be able to do the same. It appears as though the penny has dropped with the powers that be.

As of Thursday this week, our Covid response Minister outlined that the overall risk profile of those coming in via the border versus those already here with Covid has been reviewed and it makes sense. The number of Covid cases arriving at our border is incredibly low, compared to those cases spreading in the community and thus there is a strong argument to rebalance the use of MIQ in both situations.

From 14 November MIQ stays will be reduced to one week, followed by short stays of home isolation, along with testing at regular intervals. This on its own will free up a lot of MIQ rooms which will go back in to the system to allow more people to return.

In addition to this, fully vaccinated travellers from a small number of low risk countries will be able to enter NZ without requiring MIQ and instead being able to self-isolate at home. These countries are however largely our pacific neighbours where Covid is virtually non-existent.

Lastly and in the early part of 2022, a wider range of international arrivals will be able to arrive and self-isolate, rather than having to fight for quarantine accommodation.

While the details are a bit vague at this stage and largely refer to New Zealand citizens and Residents being able to come back first, eventually this approach will extend to those people coming in for many other purposes, including workers, students and visitors.

There is no doubt that all of this will be staggered out over time and different groups will be able to take advantage of the ability to self-isolate (thus avoiding the MIQ headache) at different times, but the message is clear – NZ is aiming to open up. One might find some irony in the fact that it took another outbreak and an increase in Covid cases marching their way up and down the two islands to bring about this realisation – but we shan’t protest (too much).

For New Zealanders and those with Visas already in hand, this is potentially great news and brings a lot of light to the end of what has been in some cases a very dark and long tunnel. Equally for those of you looking to make the move and settle here, it reinforces our previous messages, that New Zealand is not closed for business.

There is also no question that the Government has had the beleaguered MIQ process and rising onshore case numbers at the front of mind when planning the border reopening but equally there is rising economic pressure due to an incredible and ongoing shortage of skills that will be adding to the border management puzzle.

So poorly managed is the existing MIQ process that even though we can secure Visas for those whose skills we critically need, they can’t actually get here to deploy those skills, when the last step is essentially a lottery for hotel rooms. There is no shortage of press coverage over how flawed this approach is and how much it is hurting our economic recovery and growth, particularly when unemployment numbers remain consistently low.

In a recent post, we commented on the current labour market predicament and the scarcity of skills and how that would clearly indicate that New Zealand is by no means ‘closed for business’ as far as migration is concerned. This move to remedy the current MIQ system and free up spaces, along with eventually allowing those who are fully vaccinated to be able to travel in and out more freely, clearly reinforces that.

For those of you considering the move here, it has been an uncertain time and there are still plenty of potential changes to be revealed, but the underlying fact is that New Zealand needs those with the skills we are so desperately lacking and we are working (slowly) towards being able to bring them through.

While some uncertainty remains, what myself and my colleagues are convinced of is the fact that when the borders do open up and potential migrants are able to make their way here, the competition will be fierce. Despite our somewhat fortress like approach to the pandemic, New Zealand remains a very popular destination for the would-be migrant and there will be people lining up to secure those jobs when the opportunity arises. The question now, for those considering the move, is will you be ready to be at the front of that queue or will you be lagging behind. The smart money will be on those who take the time now to prepare themselves as best they can for when the flood gates open.

There is no question that in the race to call New Zealand home, there will be a few grass stains acquired along the way as the Government continues to navigate (some might say fumble) its way through the pandemic, but with the right team mates on board and identifying the right strategy now, there will be plenty of opportunities to yell “go home, stay home” from this side of the world.

Until next week…


Winds of Change

Posted by Paul on May 14, 2021, 2:22 p.m. in Immigration New Zealand

INZ recently released more detail in regard to the upcoming Work Visa changes (which we posted a newsflash about late last week) and like clockwork, social media was set ablaze with rumour, conjecture and panic.

To help demystify some of the online fog and settle a few nerves we have added some detail to that explanation and a few things for applicants and employers to consider as these winds of Visa change blow across the land.

First of all, and to give a few of you out there fewer sleepless nights – anyone who is on a Work to Residence (Accredited Employer) Visa now and has either lodged their Residence application or has yet to do so, will still be able to secure Residence. Although INZ were a little lost on this point during their recent webinar, the Minister has subsequently confirmed that the pathway for these folks remains in place.

This ties in with the fact that the current rules allow for anyone on a Work to Residence Visa to still apply for Residence even if their employer has not renewed or even lost their Accreditation status. This seems to be a point of significant debate out there in the online migrant world, but the simple and confirmed (by INZ) fact is that if you hold this Visa and during the two years you need to work in NZ, your employer doesn’t renew their Accreditation or it is rescinded, then your ability to apply for Residence remains intact. As long as your job continues to meet the same conditions that applied when your Work to Residence Visa was initially issued.

That rule then would apply when the current Accredited employer scheme ends in June and the existing Work to Residence policies are wound up in November.

In addition, there has been discussion on many a social media thread that refers to having to secure a Variation of Conditions to your Visa if your employer’s Accreditation ends mid-Visa – again also a bit of a myth, perpetuated by some poor template letter writing on the part of INZ.

Lastly, anyone who holds one of the six Visas that are being mothballed in November, which includes two of the Work to Residence streams (Accredited Employer and LTSSL), two Silver Fern streams and two Essential Skills streams – your Visas remain valid and don’t suddenly expire. Also anyone that holds a Visa that doesn’t fall within the six earmarked for extermination, nothing changes (these are predominantly Visas that don’t require a form of employer support).

Panic over (for some of you at least).

However, if we step back a little and look at what INZ is undertaking and the timelines being proposed for it to be rolled out, it is either very ambitious or somewhat unrealistic. I suspect the latter.

In summary, the changes will be phased in over three separate timelines:

·         June 2021 – Employer based schemes for Accreditation, Labour Hire and Approval in Principles will end. These are the employer based applications, not the Visa applications.

·         Late September 2021 – Employers will be able to start applying under the new Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme.

·         November 2021 – From the beginning of the month, six Work Visa categories will be retired and be replaced with the one Accredited Employer Work Visa policy.

In a perfect world, INZ’s plan might make a lot of sense. The world however is far from perfect. What I suspect the good folks within INZ policy have dreamed up is a picture where all employers who have ever or might ever hire a migrant worker, line up in September and apply for the new Accreditation scheme, having studied the literature and with the correct documents in hand.

Unlikely.

There will be plenty of larger employers with HR teams, pouncing all over this and who will be ready to go when the gates are lifted, however for many employers this will be something they will get to later. Often employers don’t realise they need to hire a migrant until they need to hire a migrant (realising that the labour market isn’t going to deliver a local). For them, the process to secure that migrant is now going to appear (not necessarily be) more logistically complicated.

Add to this the fact that INZ are about to roll out an entirely new set of rules, where officers will be grappling with commercial concepts in assessing businesses, not just the usual paperwork associated with a Visa applicant – expect delays.

It also creates an unusual situation for the last-minute Visa crowd – those who tend to leave their Visa applications until just before their current Visas expire. If you suddenly discover you have two weeks left on your Work Visa and need to reapply but your employer isn’t Accredited, that process has just become a lot more challenging.

As sure as the temperature has dropped a few degrees of late, you can be certain that this period of change will bring some complications.

So naturally we have some advice to offer and we would encourage anyone reading this to share it with their migrant colleagues, friends and their own managers.

Firstly, for any employer who currently has migrant staff on board, or expects to be making some migrant focussed recruitment decisions in the next 12 months (and with low unemployment that is likely), we would suggest you line up in September and apply. Whilst there will be a cost (yet to be confirmed by INZ) and some admin involved, the downstream savings in time, money and stress will be substantial. Once you are Accredited, this will initially last for 12 months and then on renewal becomes valid for two years. The renewal process is likely to be a lot simpler than the upfront Accreditation and even that doesn’t look onerous.

This means that rather than scrambling to complete the Accreditation step first, when you find that ideal applicant, you will be sorted and ready to go.

For any migrants out there on temporary Visas that may be expiring within the next 12 months, speak to your manager or HR, ask them if they are aware of these changes and if they aren’t, recommend they find out. Forewarned is forearmed and no employer wants to be saddled with this process at the eleventh hour before a Visa is due to expire.

Overall we see these changes as positive because anything that removes one step in the already convoluted assessment process for a Work Visa should be welcomed by the industry, employers and applicants alike.

However, if history is anything to go by, change is not something that Governments do well, despite their extraordinary ability to talk a lot about it. These changes were initially tabled in 2019 and whilst we have had Covid in the mix, the fact that the actual rules haven’t yet been finalised or released speaks volumes as to how well this transition is likely to be managed.

So getting in front of this process as quickly as you can will remove a significant amount of stress and provide a measure of that all important factor for all migrants and employers – certainty.

We are certainly going to be raising this with the employer we have engaged with and also with our clients and of course navigating this process for employers is going to be a somewhat foreign concept because up until now, supporting a migrant has been a pretty simple process (in terms of paperwork).

If you want to know more about how this might all work, be informed as to what the rules will look like in detail (when INZ have finalised them) then get in touch and we can make sure that the winds of change are little more than a breeze, rather than a raging cyclone.


Kia kaha

Posted by Iain on Feb. 14, 2020, 4:22 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Kia kaha.

In Maori this means "stay strong”. It is one of those terms that has found its way into every day usage in New Zealand. I love it. It speaks to where I come from and the work that I do. People everywhere are freaking out over the skilled migrant resident visa allocation and processing times, frightened by what the government might do.

At my seminars I like to paint a picture that migration is like climbing Mount Everest. It takes a lot of good planning, careful execution, patience and courage. Mental toughness is rewarded. Migration is emotional, logistically complicated and generally expensive (as in, employ a cheap mountain guide, or no mountain guide at all and your chances of summiting Mount Everest are significantly lower — indeed that decision to do it on the cheap may cost you your future).

Migrants are always tested but never more so than today in New Zealand where allocation and processing times continue to get longer and longer. I have written recently something has to give in terms of what is going on with the skilled migrant category. Foolishly the government cut the number of resident visas they wanted to approve last year but left the points pass mark at 160.

Demand is not diminishing, nor increasing (as incorrectly claimed by the Minister of Immigration recently), but by cutting numbers while keeping the pass mark the same, has led directly to these processing backlogs - most skilled migrants are going to be waiting 18 to 24 months for their residence to be allocated, processed and approved unless they work in an occupation for which they have NZ registration or are earning at least $104,000.

Backlogs in and of themselves don’t necessarily suppress demand. Having dealt with the Australian system for some years the significant majority of resident Visa applications take 18 to 24 months to process. The big difference between Australia and New Zealand however, is none of those people wanting to move to Australia have sold their houses, given up their jobs, given the dog away to their neighbour, found employment in Australia and are now sitting waiting and worrying over their Resident Visa outcome. They are all still sitting at home getting on with their lives. All the people affected by the backlog in New Zealand, are in New Zealand on work visas. They have burned plenty of bridges to be part of the Government’s residence programme (that curiously they still spend millions of dollars marketing).

These NZ migrants cannot make any long-term decisions. Many have children finishing school and wanting to go to university during the waiting period and the majority simply cannot afford to pay international fees for university. Many are having to put on hold decisions to buy houses. Some might be stuck in jobs that are not ideal but serve the residence purpose.

I find we have two kinds of clients. Those that simply suck it up, and get on and enjoy life in New Zealand having faith we know what we are doing and residence is a matter of when and not if. They appreciate the delays are not of our making. As possibly the best Advisers in the game they appreciate that all we can do is to ensure that we file decision ready applications which is what we do.

Then there is the second kind. These are the people that take it out on us. Thankfully they are a minority but it isn’t very pleasant being blamed for changes in the rules half way through the game - when we don’t write the rules. There's nothing we can do to make the government go faster but we along with the entire industry has made it very clear to the government that the current situation is unsustainable and ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

Ultimately however it is the Minister that sets the pass mark to get out of the skilled migrant pool and it is the government that sets the criteria to qualify as a migrant. As I have written about recently I have no doubt some plan is being hatched in Wellington to deal with the situation. My major concern is the solution might be politically expedient rather than economically sensible.

Every single skilled migrant requires a highly skilled job to get into New Zealand. Employers the world over prefer to employ locally simply because of the perceived or real hassle getting visas. That means the government has in that backlog people who have been able to break into the labour market, secure a job for the most part against the odds, and that says one thing and one thing very clearly - their skills were desperately needed in New Zealand by that particular employer because no employer I’ve ever dealt with will play the visa game if they can avoid it. That reality seems lost on the politicians - or they choose to ignore it for political gain.

Obviously the simplest solution is for the government to increase the number of resident visas they will issue and clear the backlog. Sell it as a good economic news story, for that is what it is. Too many jobs, not enough Kiwis to fill them.

I was thinking the other day that another solution could be to return to the multi passmark system we used to have. The way things used to work was that applicants were ranked not just on raw points total as they are today, but according to what we deem more important and valuable e.g. claiming points for a job in an occupation on a national or regional skills shortage list, or having a partner with a skilled job offer, or higher salary - the criteria themselves could be ranked. Then, at least, it is transparent.

Or consider prioritising processing in terms of the points score that people claim. The more points you claim the faster your case could be allocated. The obvious problem with that of course is people would start claiming points they are not entitled to. I would then adopt the Australian approach – a bit of a scorched Earth - if you claim it and you can't prove it you’d be declined. That would force people into getting it right up front and first time but the flip-side of that is it would require immigration officers to understand their own rules completely — and we know how bad they are at that. It is however worth considering. It would certainly force migrants to make sure they have the evidence of their points claim before filing an Expression of Interest in residence. That alone should cut down on applications that are always doomed to fail under the current system.

A simple across-the-board increase in the pass mark would obviously decrease demand for the available places but equally it's going to deprive the labour market, particularly in Auckland, of skills desperately needed that we do not produce ourselves as a country.

And that makes the simplest solution, the best. Recognise that the skilled migrant category rewards those that are able to break into a labour market that is, owing to the disconnect between employers wanting people to have work visas, but the government not wanting to grant work visas without jobs, seldom easy. The annual target of resident visas allowed to be issued should simply be increased — at least while the Government comes up with a better idea that does not hurt the economy. The government backtracked on infrastructure spending recently, perhaps they should backtrack on cutting skilled migrant numbers as well - and take the heat they will rightly get for making silly, politically motivated decisions in the first place.

If they were to do that and the economy keeps growing, then of course it creates more jobs. So arguably the problem never goes away. It’s a valid point (unless and until we can create the skills we need locally). The government should recognise that with that would come an increased demand on infrastructure, schools, roads, housing and everything else that would come with a growing population.

Well, here’s a thought — how about a population policy?

What this situation shows is it is a complex issue and you can't solve the problem unless you have an idea about how many people we want to share this land with and that demands a population policy which New Zealand has never had.

And no New Zealand government wants to have a discussion about what our ideal population might be.

So we find ourselves in a situation where the government sits on its hands when it comes to this critical issue and I continue to fear they will do something really really dumb.

Some positive news to end, however. Visitor Visas now seem to be being issued once again and we have had at least one issued this week for a South African client that was filed in mid-January. 

That's a real relief for us and our clients looking to come over and find jobs.

Remember, migration is stressful and our jobs at IMMagine exist because the process is legally complex, logistically challenging and emotionally very tough. Don't start the process if you're not up for it because there's no point getting halfway up that mountain and turning around and going back down again.  And migration is as much political for any country as it is economic so you will always be at the whim of self-serving politicians (or well-meaning but simply stupid ones) until that precious resident Visa is in your passport.

For migrants to be one of Darwin’s ‘winners’ it takes the creation of a good strategy (usually incorporating a Plan B), a steady nerve and listening to the advice that you are paying for. In our case it's normally spot on and we continue to enjoy watching over 98% of our clients come to New Zealand and find skilled jobs and go on to secure their residency.

Even if now, it is going to be a two year process.

Kia kaha. 

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


Visitor Visa Changes

Posted by Iain on Oct. 3, 2016, 10:10 p.m. in South Africa

In this age of instant communication, word has spread fast of today’s announcement by the New Zealand Government that from 21 November, all South African passport holders will no longer be able to travel to New Zealand without first obtaining a Visitor Visa to do so.

Historically, South African passport holders could look to travel visa free and apply for a visa on arrival. Over the past two years, increasing but still very small numbers of you have been stopped at OR Tambo; in transit or on arrival in the country. It is still less than 10%. While this may be a case of babies and bathwater, it is going to shake up a few plans for those looking to join us more permanently.

This has major implications for anyone travelling to New Zealand for any reason on a South African passport but in particular those that wish to travel to find employment in order to be part of the Government’s Skilled Migrant Residence policy. Things just got a whole lot more complicated and potentially uncertain; particularly for those attempting to migrate without professional assistance. 

For the past 18 months or so, I have quietly but repeatedly warned audiences across South Africa that the visa waiver agreement with South Africa was under pressure and under review, owing principally, I am advised, to the risk caused by corruption within the South African Department of Home Affairs and the ability of people (from anywhere) to buy South African passports. I also understand (please do not shoot the messenger!) that the NZ Government has an opinion about what is happening in South Africa and that opinion is not all that positive. There is concern that without closer scrutiny placed on the documents people travel on and their reasons for travelling, New Zealand is potentially exposing itself to risks to the integrity of its border.

Whilst I have argued the ‘visa free’ corner with senior officials in INZ for some time, I accept the risks are real and the risks are increasing as South Africa continues its sad decline. In making this change New Zealand is doing nothing different to what Australia has always done along with the US, Canada and more recently the UK.

Given IMMagine’s standing in this market and with Immigration New Zealand, we were telephoned yesterday and reassured by a very senior official that the arrangement that IMMagine has had for some time now with INZ to facilitate the grant of Visitor Visas to those of our clients who represent 'low risk but high quality'; who demonstrate they are skilled and employable and who do not sever their ties with South Africa, can expect to continue to be granted Visitor Visas to travel to find work. Our clients...

The question then is what does everyone else do, given a Visitor Visa is a tourist visa? My concern is those that now apply without professional assistance and protection to come to New Zealand for a holiday but who are actually coming to find employment, who later apply to change their status to work visa if they secure skilled employment, might now run the real risk of being accused of a false declaration at Visitor Visa stage.

I have seen it happen before...

So is the Government closing the door on South Africans and suggesting they are no longer welcome? No chance – it is too valuable a source of highly skilled, culturally compatible migrants that New Zealand employers want.

That has to be balanced against the risk to the integrity of our border.

Clearly, the pigeons are somewhat coming home to roost in terms of corruption inside South Africa’s public services, and no one can blame the New Zealand Government for a cautious approach in this age of international terrorism and uncertainty. Being able to buy South African passports (as I have been reliably told has happened already with at least one arrival confirming he "bought" his South African passport off Home Affairs, pleading asylum on arrival) was all the reason the Government needed to tighten things up.

For any of our many clients who this affects, we will be in touch over the next day or two with personal advice as to how this may impact you and how we can assist solving the additional complexity it now adds to an already complex process.

I do not see it as a deal breaker for our clients.

I certainly would not wish to now be entertaining a move to New Zealand as a skilled migrant or investor, however, without a very well prepared Visitor Visa application understanding the entire visa process thereafter; particularly for those needing jobs to secure a resident visa.

Managing Director, Iain MacLeod

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For any questions or further information, please contact us on info@justimmagine.com. If you're interested in attending one of our upcoming South African seminars (where this change will no doubt be mentioned), please click here.


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