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Immigration Blog


Posts in category: Immigration

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.

Crystal Ball Border Gazing

Posted by Iain on Jan. 15, 2021, 9:58 a.m. in Immigration

Happy new Year everyone.

Naturally our inboxes at IMMagine are full of the same question from clients as the new year starts - when do we think the Australian and New Zealand borders will re-open?

The short answer is your guess is as good as ours as the NZ Government in particular has been all but silent on any plan. Australia only slightly less so. But here is what might be termed a very good educated guess based on public statements by the political leadership.

The New Zealand Government has made clear that it only plans to begin vaccinating border facing and front line health workers in March. The rest of us will have to wait till they start to roll out a national vaccination programme in July. The Australian administration has set the same timeline, I imagine for precisely the same reasons, but has recently advised they are pushing ahead with vaccinating front line health and border workers starting in February.

Why the delay when other countries are rushing to vaccinate?

The short answer is the Governments in our corner of the world have basically kept the virus at the border. Good management and a deal of good luck along being surrounded by a lot of water helps both countries in that regard. Australia has seen recent outbreaks but they seem to be doing a great job keeping them contained without risking lengthy national, state or city wide lockdowns (Brisbane for three days last week the exception but it seems to have worked).

Prime Ministers in both countries have said they want to watch and see what happens in the rest of the world for a while. Sit back and watch. Are the vaccines safe? Are they effective? Let’s not rush to inoculate our people until we know - that seems to be the plan.

Both Australia and NZ have more than enough doses on order (not sure if they are all in the countries yet) to roll out national vaccination programmes.

If both roll out programmes I imagine it’d take until the end of the year to get to that ‘magical’ 70% mark which we are told is the minimum expected to provide some sort of ‘herd immunity’.

On the other side of the ledger I cannot see either Government opening up their borders to general travel till those wishing to come can prove they are vaccinated and that the vaccination is effective and safe.

The two Governments can obviously control the rollout of their own programmes but they cannot control the roll out that might or might not happen overseas.

So two things need to happen in my view - we need to get a majority of Kiwis and Aussies vaccinated and people overseas need to get vaccinated (certifiably and verifiably which of course is yet another risk).

That suggests to me that the borders will remain closed to general travel for the most part or all of this year. Before you panic… I don’t know this - I am, like most of you, pulling together the public statements and whatever titbits of information I am reading about.

Both countries will continue to allow border exemptions for humanitarian cases and for some critical workers.

In the case of New Zealand we were effectively advised by a national manager in INZ right on Christmas that they had been granting humanitarian exemptions in error for much of 2020. After months of us, and others in the industry, challenging the bureaucracy on why two cases, so similar in circumstance saw one being approved and one being declined, INZ finally put it in writing - they should not have said yes to most of the humanitarian cases that they had. And that includes split families where, say, one partner is in NZ on a work visa but partner and/or children are stuck offshore. One thing is for certain this year - expect far fewer such humanitarian exemptions to be granted. Quite an admission but par for the course.

This will be shocking to many in this position as the NZ Government allows sheep shearers, film makers, fishermen (another bunch just arrived from Russia and at least 14 brought the virus with them), fruit pickers, sports teams and individuals, musicians (NZ had its annual raft of multi day musical festivals across the country full of international acts over the festive season) into the country.

It makes no sense not to reunite what is in effect a small number of families and is especially cruel on those split families with children and even more difficult to understand when INZ has resident visa applications in process for many of them but refuses to prioritise them (which would provide an elegant solution to the clamp down on granting humanitarian exemptions to reunite these families as those with resident visas can come to NZ without an exemption).

I do believe that the number of critical worker visas that will be granted border exemptions will increase in NZ at least. Job adverts on, NZ’s largest online job site, showed job vacancies surge 19% in December and get this - it means there are more jobs being advertised in NZ today than there was before the pandemic reached these shores! This reinforces another statistic released just before Christmas - in those businesses employing 20 people or less, the number of people employed was actually 1.3% higher than pre-pandemic.

Therein lies the Government’s dilemma. The economy has not just rebounded from the lockdowns of last year, it has grown. Skills shortages for the most part have not gone away. Unemployment at 5.3% has probably peaked (the biggest losers were young and the low skilled, so not those the Government wants to be part of the residence programme).

Pressure will mount for the list of critical workers to grow. After much lobbying and pressure from people like us, Vets were added to the list of critical workers (but what a s*** show getting that across the line) just before Christmas.

In Australia, personal savings rates are up over 11% on this time last year. The printing of billions of dollars and its dispersal has meant that demand there is pent up. I cannot believe how much money the Australian Government is giving away. They continue to send us money as well which we are very grateful for but here in NZ we’ve been standing on our own two feet since September last year. 

The elephant in the room of course is balancing the pressure to increase numbers crossing our respective borders with the increased risk of the new South African and UK variants, both, as you’ll be aware, far more transmissible than the original varieties.

This has led to the Australian Government halving the number of people they are allowing to go to or return to Australia. They announced last week all travellers will have to have a negative test before boarding flights to Australia.

The NZ Government has also announced all travellers will also now need to test negative before boarding flights - including Kiwis.

A number of prominent local epidemiologists have spoken out strongly that the NZ Government is not going far enough. They are encouraging the Government to ban all flights that originate in places where this virus is out of control - UK, US, India, South Africa - to name four. That would be a big step but our border is currently under assault as is Australia’s. I would be surprised if the Australian PM isn’t wrestling with the same question.

Anecdotally, including in my own personal circles, plenty of New Zealanders are now saying that if as a Kiwi you didn’t take the opportunity of getting home last year, don’t whine now that you might not be able to now. That’s a little harsh perhaps as they seem to forget some perhaps couldn’t come home for all sorts of reasons. It would be a big step for the Government to effectively ban thousands of Kiwis that might want to return home but there’s some merit in the argument - many had their chance but chose to stay put - especially in the UK and the US where you’d hardly be able to argue Governments there have covered themselves in pandemic glory.

I wouldn’t bet the farm on flights being banned from certain countries because I am not sure either how effective it would be. You can’t fly direct to NZ from the UK (you can fly London to Perth) and most international travellers coming here have to have at least one stop over. That stop over complicates everything. You might pick the virus up at an airport en route.

I’m also not sure how the Government here could stop someone who lives in the UK, catching the Eurostar to Paris, boarding an Emirates flight to Dubai and then flying non stop to NZ. I am sure this is the reason why banning flights would be a last resort. Any of you sitting in South Africa quietly freaking out at that prospect you too cannot fly here directly and every flight involves at least one stop - so that would be a last gasp effort in my view by Government.

As more and more epidemiologists around the world are lamenting, many Governments particularly in the US and the UK are treating this virus as a short term problem and no one seems to be doing much planning for the next few years. When you add to that countries won’t be able to afford to vaccinate everyone (South Africa is one such country) it begs the question - what does 2021, 2022 and beyond look like? You could add the NZ and Australian Governments to that list - particularly the Aussies where the political leadership is all talk about recovery and good times ahead. It might take longer than they are publicly willing to admit and I’m not sure anyone really has a longer term plan.

My final thought is that all of this is going to increase the pressure on the Government here to throw caution to the wind, if indeed that’s what these vaccines represent, and start the roll out, at the very least to those MIQ, border and front line health workers sooner rather than later. Maybe they are worried some will refuse to take it and they’ll no doubt be having talkfests ‘around’ personal and human rights. Whatever the safety and efficacy risks are, the vaccines perhaps represent the lesser of a number of evils.

Hold onto your hats!

Until next week


Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

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Light at the end of the Australian Tunnel

Posted by Myer on Nov. 6, 2020, 4:38 p.m. in Immigration

Melbourne is about to be released from the constraints of the longest lockdown in any city in the world having just completed 111 days of lockdown. With much of Europe initiating a second wave of lockdowns perhaps this unenviable record will be broken but Melburnians emerge from this nightmare to find an Australia very different from when we went into second lockdown.

At the time of writing we have just had our seventh successive day with zero new infections in Victoria and just eight new infections today in the whole of Australia. We still have restrictions in terms of how we socialise and the distance we can travel but these are largely expected to be relaxed by the end of November to the extent that its forecast that we will be allowing a crowd of approximately 25,000 to the Boxing Day cricket test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in December so life is worth living again.

Interstate travel is also expected to be relaxed by Christmas to allow families to be reunited for the Festive season, even by hardnosed State Governments like Queensland and Western Australia that have doggedly refused to relax border restrictions and jealously guarded their Covid free status.

On the Economic front the news appears to be better than earlier predictions anticipated. The Reserve Bank of Australia is expecting a more robust economic rebound and stated:

"In Australia, the economic recovery is under way and positive GDP growth is now expected in the September quarter, despite the restrictions in Victoria," the bank said. "It will, however, take some time to reach the pre-pandemic level of output."

The Bank is expecting GDP growth to be around 6 per cent in the year to June 2021 and 4 per cent in 2022.

The unemployment rate is expected to peak at 8 per cent, below the 15-20 per cent it had been previously expecting. These were unemployment figures last seen in the great depression (1929 – 1933). By the end of 2022, the unemployment rate is expected to be around 6 per cent which is just marginally above the pre-Covid rate of 5.4%.

The present rate of unemployment is masked by the fact that employers with a 30% decline in revenue are still entitled to Jobkeeper payments aimed at assisting employers to retain staff and this will continue until end of March 2021. Only then will the true nature of the rate of unemployment become apparent however if we look across the Tasman to New Zealand, they phased out their wage subsidy in September and the number of New Zealanders in work today is 34,000 higher than this time last year.

Inflation is negligible in Australia, to the extent that the Reserve Bank was comfortable about cutting interest rates to just 0.1% and we are anticipating that this translates to home mortgage rates of between 1.79 – 2% .The Reserve Bank also announced it would buy AU$100 billion of longer dated government bonds to support the economy and with all this cash available the Australian government is under real pressure to spend the money to stimulate the economy.

Melbourne will soon be accepting more Australians stranded overseas into quarantine facilities (at present there are something like 23,000 Australians still stranded overseas) and one hopes that this time round more stringent quarantine controls will be put into place as this was the cause of the second wave of infections in Melbourne.

We have a judicial enquiry considering the factors that led to the virus escaping from two quarantine hotels in May and June, rapidly spreading around Melbourne, forcing the city back into lockdown.

Some 800 people lost their lives and 1,200 jobs per day were shed as businesses were forced to close their doors.  

The government has faced criticism for using private security guards - instead of police or ADF troops - to man the quarantine hotels. 

The inquiry has struggled to work out who made that decision as the program was set up on March 27 as most state government officials seem to have developed a collective case of amnesia.

Perhaps it’s a cumulative effect of all of this positive news that has prompted the Department of Home Affairs to start processing visa applications for those overseas in non-critical occupations and after a long delay we have started to receive some positive responses from the Department.

Hopefully the sense of “opening up” (or to use Gorbachev’s term of Glasnost) of Australia albeit in baby steps will extend to the list of occupations in demand (state sponsorship lists) to be released by State Governments towards the end of this year. With growth rates of 6% next year, I think there will be a rapid redeployment of unemployed Australians in the workforce and also the creation of a number of skill shortages in occupations. I’m expecting Australia to suffer stretchmarks at the rapid rate of expansion and hopefully the government will be quick to recognise and respond to that.

With tertiary academic institutions in Australia badly affected by the lack of international students the government cannot afford to ignore this important economic sector which traditionally accounts for a boost of $40 billion to the national economy and is largely used to prop up the tertiary education sector in Australia.

Clearly we have a long way to go and “Covid normal” is not the same as “normal normal” but it’s nice to see some positive indications on the not too distant horizon. We are in the stages of an opening up of the national economy both in terms of allowing domestic travel and a travel bubble with New Zealand that is already in existence but will be adopted by more state governments as Covid infection rates continue to fall in Australia. It’s not going to be too long before other countries with relatively low infection rates such as Singapore will be added to the bubble.

It’s too premature to say that good times are just around the corner, but perhaps it is accurate to say that the worst times are behind us and it’s very clear that Australia has dodged an economic bullet.

Tags: lockdown

When Is The Right Time To Book A Consultation?

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.

I Want My Mum

Posted by Myer on Oct. 25, 2019, 1:41 p.m. in Immigration


With the announcement that the parent category in New Zealand is to be operational in May 2020 it’s perhaps opportune to compare the options available to parents wishing to be reunited with children in either Australia or New Zealand. Whilst both Australia and New Zealand are reluctant to accept parents because of the greater healthcare costs elderly parents will place upon the health systems of both countries, the immigration policies are quite different.

New Zealand 

As far as residence visa options are concerned, New Zealand reopened the category for parents that they "temporarily" closed three years ago and have limited the annual quota of parents under this category to 1000 per year. Whilst parents don’t have to have any specific amount of capital to qualify under this category, their children in New Zealand would have to have a significant earning capacity with annual incomes of at least $106,080 to sponsor a single parent or $159,120 to sponsor two parents but up to as much as $212,000.    

I’m not sure of the logic behind this, clearly income earning capacity on the part of children is used as a means to limit the number of parents who can qualify to those with children in the top 10% of income earners in New Zealand.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that these parents are less likely to require state funded healthcare, and given the fact that children don’t necessarily need to pay healthcare costs on the part of parents, I can’t quite follow the logic on the part of the government. It seems a relatively arbitrary (but very effective) way of culling the number of parents entitled to apply for permanent residence.

The sponsoring child in New Zealand needs to have been the holder of a resident visa for three years before they can act as sponsor but the parents don’t have to satisfy a “balance of family” test like they do in Australia. Having just one child in New Zealand to act as sponsor is sufficient.

There is, in addition, the parent retirement category which does place an asset test requirement on the part of the parent to prove NZ$1.5 million in cash or assets and be willing to invest at least NZ$1 million in income producing investments for a period of four years. They also need to demonstrate an annual income of at least NZ$60,000 in the 12 months preceding their resident visa filing. The majority of parents that contact us don’t meet these requirements - particularly the final one - but if they do this is a pathway which create a high degree of certainty. The NZ child acting as sponsor only needs to hold a resident visa but not for three years.


As far as Australia’s residence visa categories for parents are concerned, parents have to satisfy a balance of family test by proving that they have at least as many children lawfully and permanently residing in Australia as any other country. The Sponsoring child also needs to have lived in Australia for at least a period of two years and be a permanent resident visa holder. This can include periods of temporary residence prior to the child obtaining permanent residence.

Sponsors don’t have to have any particular level of income but the cost of a contributory parent visa application is quite steep. There is a rather large “contribution” payable by each parent of AU$43,600 which is aimed to recoup some of the healthcare costs the Australian government is likely to spend on elderly parents as their medical costs will escalate in their advancing years. There is also an Assurance of Support Bond that needs to be paid and is held for 10 years before it is returned to the sponsor of AU$14,000 for two parents and AU$10,000 for a single parent.

The quota or annual of contributory parent visa applications is 7175 and in addition there is another 1500 places for the non-contributory parent visa application.

Temporary Visas

Because processing times of contributory parent visa applications is lengthening (it’s approximately four years at present) the government has, in July of this year announced temporary visa options for parents that will allow them to spend either three years in Australia or five years in Australia at a cost of AU$5000 or AU$10,000. These temporary visas can be extended for up to a total of 10 years.

New Zealand also has temporary visas available for parents because of the time it’s going to take to process a residence visa, allowing parents to spend six months in New Zealand in each year of a maximum of three years but it remains to be seen when the category reopens if this will be sufficient time for the parents to remain in NZ while their residence is being processed.

So often I have consultations with applicants, particularly in South Africa where I’m told that skilled migrants want to immigrate with extended families including siblings and parents. Whilst it is possible for siblings younger than 45, in the case of Australia, and younger than 56 in the case of New Zealand, to apply on their own merits, it’s becoming harder to make plans to immigrate with parents included. We are fast approaching (if we haven’t already approached) the time when migrants need to focus on the reasons why they are thinking of immigrating, and if these reasons are primarily for the purposes of securing a better future for their children (as it is in most cases) it will be an added bonus if their parents can be accommodated at a future point in time.

I’m not unsympathetic to the plight of parents and they are clearly the migrants that Australian and New Zealand governments will grudgingly accept. Whilst the concept of family cohesion is a laudable one, it’s becoming harder to accommodate in terms of immigration policies for both Australia and New Zealand. Time, as my partner Iain is fond of saying, is your enemy when it comes to migration and parent residence categories are prime examples of this.

When an A Grade Means Fail

Posted by Iain on June 7, 2019, 8:23 p.m. in Immigration

I wrote a few weeks ago about the critical importance of filing ‘decision ready’ work visa applications in order to minimise the risk of the application being deemed ‘high touch’ (in English, requiring closer scrutiny) and being placed in an allocation queue which can mean four months simply to allocate to an officer for processing.

One of the four criteria that will see a work visa allocated to the slow queue is a medical certificate and tests that are not able to be immediately ‘auto cleared’ as indicating an acceptable standard of health.

A few years ago INZ introduced a grading system whereby all medicals receive an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade by the Government appointed, and presumably trusted and trained, Doctor. An ‘A’ means ‘no significant findings’. We’ve always interpreted that to mean the applicant is of an acceptable standard of health.

After recent discussions with senior INZ managers we believed that a medical that receives an A grading, indicating no serious conditions, would be allocated to the ‘low touch’ queue because less scrutiny is required. We couldn’t work out then why a number of clients with an A grading were being referred to INZs in house Doctors for a recommendation on the clients fitness for entry.

From the ‘assume nothing’ and ‘suspend logic’ file when dealing with INZ, we nearly fell off our chairs last week (we seem to spend more and more time on the floor these days) when we were advised that just because an applicant receives an A grading and the Doctor declares ‘no significant findings’, this does not guarantee the medical will be cleared on lodgement. 

When I asked why this is the case I was told it is because someone deemed to be healthy by INZ’s trusted overseas Doctor might not meet INZ’s own health standards. I thought, clearly stupidly, that the Doctors tasked with testing migrants health and reporting on it, were trained in the standard NZ requires migrants meet. When they confirm there’s nothing of any concern, it meant something.

It got even more bizarre when a few days ago a client who is in NZ, had her medical done here, who received an A grading, failed to be ‘auto’ cleared upon receipt of the visa application.

That suggests, perhaps, that even NZ trained and trusted Doctors also don’t understand, or haven’t been trained, on the standard of health, costs of treatment and so on.

Hardly credible and hardly believable.

It also begs the question that if the trusted Doctor declares there’s nothing of any significance and stamps the medical with an A grading, yet it ends up needing to be looked at my a second Doctor inside INZ, what is the purpose of the grading system?

As we go to press I’m still waiting for an answer.

INZ did proudly tell me that 70% of the 3000 medicals looked at every week are ‘auto cleared’ and gave themselves a pat on the back. That still leaves 900 a week that are not.

I wonder how many of those get an A grading and could/should be ‘auto cleared’ up front, thus streamlining and speeding up the remainder of the work visa process.

So be warned, an A grading and a Doctor trusted by the NZ Government to test and interpret medical information for them, who says there are ‘no significant findings’, might still mean excessive and avoidable delays on work and other temporary visas.

NZ Skill List Changes Explained

Posted by Iain on May 10, 2019, 1:37 p.m. in Immigration

Every government likes to put their own stamp on things when they come into power to demonstrate that they are ‘doing things’. I remember being told this many years ago by a new Minister of Immigration over a coffee who changed the name (but nothing else) of the Appeal Authority. When I asked her why it was done given the cost involved to the tax payer (think how much it must cost a government department to simply change stationary letterhead for example), she looked at me and smiled and said "We all do it, it's called stamping our name on things’. The taxpayer be damned, obviously.

Unfortunately, this can lead to rank confusion in the marketplace such as is happening this week as my inbox is filling up with people, registered on INZ’s website (who are bombarded with marketing and pronouncements telling them how much we want them in New Zealand) proudly noting their occupation is now on one of the ‘new’ skill shortage lists and asking how that changes our strategy to secure residence.

As it seems with all things immigration, not everything is what it might first appear.

New Zealand operates a number of ‘skills shortage’ lists and their importance is by and large limited purely to whether or not employers need to prove a labour market shortage when wishing to employ migrants who require work visas. 

Only one impacts on residence eligibility or strategy, the others have no import whatsoever, either directly or indirectly on residency policy or eligibility for residence.

The first was until this week known as the ‘Immediate skills shortage list’ and this was a list of occupations, deemed to be in acute shortage in some regions of New Zealand. It has been renamed as the "Regional skill shortage list" and virtually the only change has been to increase the number of regions from 6 to 15. The occupations of Pre-primary, Primary and High school teacher has been added. The reality however is that the Immigration Department has been, for at least the past 12 months not expecting employers to demonstrate a labour market shortage because everyone knows there's a desperate need for teachers in New Zealand. 

Effective change? None.

The second is known as the ‘Construction and Infrastructure shortage list’ which is in effect exactly the same as the regional skills shortage list only it focuses on, as the name suggests, construction and infrastructure related occupations by region. 

Effective change? Nothing to not very much.

The third is known as the ‘Long-term skill shortage list’ (LTSSL) and this serves a double purpose. 

If a migrant has been offered a job in NZ in an occupation that is on that list and, crucially, has the New Zealand equivalent qualifications and/or minimum years of work experience that deems them qualified to be on that list, then it is accepted there is a shortage of those skills and no labour market test is carried out before a work can be granted. 

If a migrant has a job in one of these occupations, it also creates a pathway to residency. The applicant will receive a 30-month work Visa, and once they have worked for 24 months, they can then apply for residency from work, all other things being equal. This is not a ‘points’ based process and is in no way related to the Skilled Migrant Category. 

It is very rare however anyone with a job offer on the Long-term skills shortage list would ever need to wait for 24 months before having to file a residency Visa. The reason for this is simply because in all probability they have enough "points" to qualify under the Skilled Migrant Pathway. I don't think I've ever had to advise the client to wait 24 months to apply for residency from work if their occupation is on this list. It's a list we could probably get rid of or incorporate into the regional shortage list.

It's worth pointing out here that all of these lists are in effect not occupation lists but qualification lists because having a job in New Zealand with a job title that appears on one of these lists, but not having the required New Zealand equivalent qualification and/or work experience means any application will be treated as if you are not on the list and that therefore requires the employer to demonstrate to the immigration department a national shortage of those skills. You might want to read that again! It is one of those bizarre paradoxes that confuses everybody.

The point is, it is effectively a qualification test.

Take Software Developer for example. To be considered to be on a regional skills shortage list and for the employer not to have to demonstrate a labour market shortage, an applicant must hold a qualification comparable to the learning outcome of a New Zealand Bachelor Degree in IT or similar. Of course there are many Software Developers who do not hold bachelor degrees but do exactly the same job as those who hold them. 

For assessment purposes the one that holds the degree is not required to demonstrate they are not taking a job away from a New Zealander but the one who does not have a degree is required to demonstrate the not denying a New Zealander and opportunity.

My advice is no one should get too excited about these pronouncements this week. And effect they changed little to nothing but 99.9% of those looking to work temporarily or migrate to New Zealand.

Until next week...

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How Do You Prove a Negative?

Posted by Iain on May 3, 2019, 3:32 p.m. in Immigration

I have no intention of this blog becoming a weekly whine about dealing with the Immigration Department. I do appreciate that their inefficiency, inconsistency and often downright stupidity creates a lot of very rewarding work for my team and me.

Many in my industry live by the mantra that ‘change is good and chaos is better’, but I can only take so much of it.

Take the recent workshops put on by the Immigration Department to try and teach the private sector how to prepare "decision ready" visa applications. Against my better judgement, I sent a few of my team along to get an insight not only into how the immigration department thinks but also how the knowledge of my team compares with a lot of the ‘competition’. 

There was also the chance, of course, they might learn a thing or two but by and large they all said it was a complete waste of time; an out of control ‘circus’ where the Department officials were unable to answer anything more than very rudimentary questions and it descended into chaos and the inevitable arguments about individual cases which all attendees had been warned by INZ management not to bring to the meeting. 

Handouts were given which detailed what documents the department expected to see for, among other things, work visas to be "decision ready” at the time of lodgement. All that this confirmed was everything that is submitted by my company, barring medical abnormalities, are cases which subject to verification can be allocated for processing and approved very quickly.

This is increasingly critical because the department is quoting 15 working days to allocate "decision ready" applications and 60 days for those that are not. There is clearly a very strong incentive to get it right first time.

Being able to file decision ready applications then is increasingly important and something my company has a proud track record of presenting. 

Being able to hold the department to their own expected service standards is critical so they can be held to account themselves.

There is one very interesting criteria which is demanded of the employer of work Visa applicants that I'm still awaiting clarification on. 

That is that the employer must be able to demonstrate a "history of compliance with employment and immigration law" and that they are not on the Immigration Department’s "Non-Compliant Employer List."

The second of those criteria is very easy for the department to check as they keep the list. This is a list of those employers that have been found to have transgressed immigration and/or employment law and are in effect blacklisted for a period of time from offering jobs to immigrants. 

The first however requires most employers to prove a negative.

How can you prove that you are compliant with the law when there will only be a public record if you have not been? There is no such thing in New Zealand as a "Compliant Employer List”. The only records that are kept will be against companies or businesses found to have transgressed the law - with, for example, the Employment Tribunal. There is therefore no way of demonstrating at the time of work visa is filed the employer has complied and has a history of compliance.

My fear until this is explained and resolved is that the immigration department officers could use that criteria as an excuse to flick work visas from the 15 day allocation queue to the 60 day allocation queue and believe me they will if they can get away with it.

All onshore work visas are now being processed by Immigration New Zealand Christchurch Branch and under their watch we have gone, between December 2018 and January 2019, from processing times of around 3 to 4 weeks, to 3 to 4 months. 

Initially they blamed Christmas for the blowout which is curious because for my 54 years on the planet, Christmas seems to arrive at the same time every year. Most of us that run businesses know it is coming and make plans.

By February they were blaming the fact that they needed to train a lot of their new staff - one presumes when the handover of processing to this branch took place, they were aware they needed to engage in training. It seems not.

By March they were, seriously, blaming the Christchurch mosque massacres for their inability to get on top of their work. They justified this as the government offered priority processing of offshore visitor visas to family members who needed to travel urgently to New Zealand which is fair enough. However, it's hard to believe there could more than perhaps 150 families needing these which are pretty simple applications. Given the branch was moaning they had too much work was no consideration given to a very small team of officers in another branch processing these?

With the visitor visas out of the way, April’s excuse was the Government's decision announced last week to create a new residency pathway for families of the victims already in New Zealand on valid visas. 

Given the very small numbers of these applications, coupled with the fact that these people are already in New Zealand on various temporary visas, what’s the rush? How does this decision increase the workload to such an extent most employers of highly skilled migrants are now being relegated to waiting four months or even longer for work visas?

Surely, given the victim's families are already safely on temporary visas, there is no desperate rush to process their residency. Given the numbers of applications are relatively small by the government's own admission, it is incomprehensible to me that Immigration New Zealand in Christchurch should be quoting 60 days to allocate Essential Skills work Visa - and those work visas are deemed less important than residency cases which would ordinarily be processed over many months anyway. 

And let's not forget the priority being given elsewhere to all those tourists around New Zealand who can go and get variations of conditions to their holiday plans to go and pick Kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty.

Lame excuse after lame excuse from a 'business' that rakes in $300 million in fees. I tell you, it is a circus.

This is why understanding the criteria for applications to be deemed "decision ready” is absolutely critical whether you are filing your own Visa, filing one on behalf of an employee or if you are an Immigration Advisor or lawyer.

Assuming I get a straight answer on this question of how businesses can demonstrate a history of compliance with the law, it should enable all our work visas to get what is currently "priority" allocation without the department having the excuse of kicking it into the three-month allocation queue.

Until next week...

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Why Do I Do What I Do?

Posted by Iain on April 26, 2019, 12:28 p.m. in Immigration

I was asked few days ago in South Africa why I do this work. It was funny because I was in a very reflective mood as I passed my 30th anniversary helping people establish their residence eligibility and working for them to process the visas necessary for the new life that they were after. 

I think she was surprised with my answer. Of course I get a great deal of pleasure out of helping people with what is the biggest decision of their lives and assisting them with what is undeniably an incredibly emotional and complex process where getting things 98% right actually means failure. 

I explained I do this work more because I am a New Zealander and these immigrants are needed for New Zealand to be the best it can be.

Increasingly, however, I feel it is like we are having to drag these migrants, exhausted, over the line. It is taking increasing effort from us as we deal with an immigration department which is out of control. To be fair, they too are suffering from an inability to attract the kind of staff with the intellectual capacity to deal with the complexities of this process. Good young people are being fast tracked to management within the department who are now rushing for the exits and looking for ways to escape the madness. Too much career deadwood remains in senior roles.

I am increasingly feeling a level of despair at the calibre of visa officers employed. I am dismayed at the unwillingness or inability of INZ managers to deliver on any of the myriad of promises constantly made to improve service delivery. Lots of talk. Little real change.

It is telling that it takes just as long to obtain any kind of visa today as it did when I started out in this business at the end of 1988, a time when we did not have instant communication, emails or the Internet. Despite technological advancements, what has not changed is the department continues to be a hotbed of distrust and paranoia. I do acknowledge that at times it cannot be an easy job but the department management has isolated themselves from the decision makers sitting at the immigration counter. In this absence of leadership, the quality of the decision-making continues to spiral downwards and alarm.

In their ‘MBA-speak’ the Managers probably call it ‘empowerment’ of the officers on the front line but the truth is what is happening at the counter level is truly frightening. It is quite clear that inexperienced and poorly trained officers with enormous amounts of power are being left with little effective guidance or support to make some very important decisions. Decisions which change futures.

Senior management, almost as a badge of honour, proclaim they don't need to know immigration rules. There was a time not so long ago when these managers had all worked as visa officers and this institutional knowledge of the rules was seen as vital to credible service delivery. If the immigration department was a profit motivated enterprise, I would suggest they would have gone out of business a long time ago. The entire system is in a state of constant crisis but as a government monopoly we can't go anywhere else to get better service and so we are all stuck with whatever they choose to deliver no matter how damaging it is to the country.

At the same time, given the reality that New Zealand in effect has little to no skilled unemployed people, means that the department is being forced to employ a calibre of person who is out of their intellectual depth. Above them anyone with a modicum of potential has been fast tracked to management without the solid grounding and years of experience that this process demands. 

We have been advertising lately for someone with in-depth immigration policy knowledge to join the company and we have had two Immigration Department managers apply to join us. I wouldn't generally entertain any ex-immigration officer simply because they come from an environment of negativity where distrust of migrants and employers is the order of the day, whereas we are employed to try and find ways to say yes. What was truly interesting is that both are frustrated and alarmed at the calibre of people being employed in decision making roles and their inability to ensure a service delivery standard that matches the rhetoric of those in management above them. 

One described the immigration department as "a shambles” and expressed frustration that they could not trust the decision-making ability of those at the front line. One described a culture that is so deeply entrenched and negative they feel it will never change. That was a very frank admission; nothing we did not know already because we deal with this culture on a daily basis. What's so surprised these young managers was just how bad it is on the inside. Enormous power is vested in people who do not know what they doing. 

Having otherwise good people who join the public service and have been fast tracked into management roles apply for a job with a company like ours and admit that they do not know immigration policy is a frightening reflection on how removed from reality the immigration department managers have become. Can you imagine any business having managers who don't understand the product or service that has been offered and wear it as some sort of badge of honour?

I have a case on now that I have written about previously where an application was declined when the department decided that the position that the applicant was working in was not skilled (despite granting a work visa that required that it must be). The position was obviously skilled but as I warned the client at the time of our being retained, the department would do all that they could to find a reason to decline it. Not because they should, but because the position the client held represented a type of job the bureaucracy was not happy to approve despite it meeting all the criteria. The case was declined because the job was not skilled.

Around that time the government introduced a new rule which changed how previously “unskilled” roles were going to be assessed through applying a salary test.  An ‘effective hourly dollar rate’ was introduced and it is a simple criteria. At a certain number of dollars per hour being paid a job that was not previously deemed to be skilled, now was, simply by virtue of the dollars being paid.

That presented an elegant and obvious solution. We advised the employer that if they wished to keep the applicant in their employment, given in this case the applicant had been working for them for over two years, consider a pay increase. The employer thought about it, weighed up the value of the applicant to their business given they were increasingly wanting to step back from the day-to-day operation themselves and, in an act of obvious self interest, they agreed to the increase. The pay increase was significant, entirely legitimate and genuine. The job was now skilled based on the dollars per hour, pure and simple. 

The client has been being paid the higher amount now for around eight months and the Department has verified it.

What I had not bargained on was the vindictiveness or the stupidity of the immigration department (I am still trying to work out which). They have now threatened to decline the application on the basis that the job is not "genuine" and that the decision to increase the salary to a level that made it skilled represents "a threat to the integrity of the immigration system’. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Despite numerous requests to the officer and her senior line managers to explain why someone already being paid the hourly rate that deems it to be skilled, it is suddenly a ‘threat’ to the system, neither the officer nor her managers will (can?) give an intelligent answer. The best the case officer - so clearly out of her intellectual depth - has come back with is that the salary increase was designed to secure residence and that represents a threat.

Of course the salary increase was designed to satisfy the simple rule. The reality is the applicant has been paid this for over eight months so how could it not be genuine? The rule book says that if you are being paid X dollars per hour then the position is skilled. The employer’s motivation for doing so is not part of the criteria.

Every day we advise employers and migrants on how to meet immigration rules. For example we often tell people who have jobs in Auckland that they will need at some point to get a job outside of Auckland in order to gain additional bonus points to meet the skilled migrant pass mark. Or we advise the employer to apply for ‘accreditation’ to create a work to residence pathway for the migrant.

We recently advised a company to restructure their existing employment agreement with an existing work visa holder so that the applicant’s remuneration changed from salary plus allowances (value $105,000) to a higher straight salary (of $105,000 and losing the allowances) in order to meet the criteria that allowed for 20 bonus points to be granted for higher salary. 

I have on numerous occasions advised people to complete qualifications, sometimes in New Zealand, in order to attract higher points.

In none of these cases has any client ever been accused of representing a threat to the integrity of the immigration system by organising their affairs in such a way that in doing so they will secure residence.

To credibly suggest that my client’s employer in giving a pay rise is a threat to the immigration system is a little bit like the tax department accusing someone who legitimately arranges their finances to minimise their tax bill as representing a threat to the integrity of the tax system.

A judge would laugh that right out of their court. 

Yet as the managers of the immigration department proclaim not knowing immigration rules and unleashing inexperienced and poorly trained immigration officers onto unsuspecting Visa applicants is the future, this is the kind of thinking that we are now dealing with. 

In 30 years it has never been this bad. 

The system is thoroughly broken. It is a rudderless ship without a captain, the first mate and senior officers huddled in a cabin removed from the ship’s staff and a significant number of the men and women below decks on the oars are untrained and inexperienced and seem to be pulling the oars in different directions. The ship’s owners just look the other way defending the fact the ship is going round and round in circles and not getting anywhere.

It is thoroughly depressing and I am worried that New Zealand is going to be denied more and more highly skilled migrants unwilling to put up with the risks. People that we so badly need to fill the thousands of vacancies being created each and every month. If, just once, we had a Minister of Immigration that had any idea of how visa processes work, the risks that migrants take to be part of the program, the barriers we put in the way of employers to employ migrants and the low calibre of people sitting in judgement, we might see some change. 

I am not holding my breath.

Until next week...

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What Am I Doing Here?

Posted by Iain on April 5, 2019, 5:05 p.m. in Immigration

A client of ours, seven days off the plane in Wellington, has today signalled his displeasure with the impact of “damp". Yes, that’s right, damp. He is thinking of returning to South Africa. While it would be easy to dismiss this as a little silly given he’s only been in the country a few days, it does highlight a very genuine problem that we have as immigration advisers.

How can you prepare people for all the differences they are going to find when they immigrate anywhere and the insecurities they are almost always going to feel? We are not trained Psychologists, but in fact much of what we do falls squarely in the realm of that discipline.

We do have reasonable numbers of clients having (or choosing) to get work in Wellington in order to get the additional points for a job offer under the skilled migrant category. When the government of New Zealand forces people to get jobs in order to secure enough points to gain residency, sometimes they don't have any choice. They go where their skills are needed, not necessarily where they want to live. I warn everybody in every consultation where ‘windy’ Wellington might be a possibility that it is very trendy and cool and on a sunny day it is probably one of the prettiest cities in the world. It is the kind of city where you can live, work and play in the central business district. Lots of museums, theatres, restaurants and cafes but the truth is sunny, calm and windless days are few and far between. 

At my seminars I usually say something along the lines of "If New Zealand or Australia was exactly the same as… (insert Singapore/Malaysia/South Africa/UK)… what is the point in moving there? It has to be different doesn't it, or you might as well stay where you are”.

Yet it is those very differences that create, often within a few weeks or months the question in migrants’ minds, "What the hell was I thinking? What am I doing here? This is not like home. This plan is never going to work out for me”.  That is when some can get a hankering to return home. In the case of this young client, after six days.

Obviously, one size does not fit all when it comes to our advice. We have plenty of clients who have arrived and live in Wellington that don't seem bothered by the climate. Or much else for that matter. I tell everyone that of all the places I could choose to live in NZ, I could not live in Wellington. For that very reason. Climate. What I don't like however doesn't set the standard and we have many clients, particularly from South Africa, and Singapore along with the Philippines, blissfully happy in that city. 

A few months ago I wrote a blog called "The six week wall" and it was my attempt to try and help people understand how their emotions and feelings might change over the first six weeks or so once they have stepped off the plane. Excitement and curiosity is replaced by disappointment and frustration, then fear….as the rejection emails roll in for jobs critical to the success of the long term visa strategy.

In that piece I tried to put into words the insecurity and vulnerability many feel and pointed out that you wouldn't be human if you did not feel like that when you are in a "strange" land, usually having resigned your job, having left the family behind and then being made to feel somewhat alien in a labour market you’d be right to perceive (but incorrect in reality) as somewhat hostile to migrants (you must have a work visa to get the job but you can’t get the job without the visa).

Remember, employers are not anti-immigrant, they are most certainly ‘anti’ dealing with visas and the Immigration Department. No one wants to deal with the Immigration Department in New Zealand any more than anyone wants to deal with any immigration department anywhere on the planet. Like most, our Immigration Department is a shambles and worse than a three ring circus.

I give two pieces of advice to people when I sit down to consult with them, particularly in South Africa, but not limited to this market. 

The first is that there are no shortcuts to finding jobs and it is seldom as easy as applying online from the comfort of your living room couch overseas. Statistically, with 94% of all job specific work visas issued while the migrant is in New Zealand, for every one person that can secure employment without leaving home, nine more must get on that plane in order to create the future for them and their family that they want. The process is in the end, Darwinian, the ‘fit and strong’ survive. You go where you need to go to get the job that gives you the points. And suck up the differences, be they cultural, linguistic, or climatic.

From New Zealand's perspective, I have to say for those who do get to the top of this ‘mountain’, the country gets incredibly committed, positive and of course, employable migrants. The sad reality however for those that cannot afford good advice or think they can negotiate the process without professional assistance, many (I would hazard a guess, most) will perish on the slopes. Half will never get on the plane to go to New Zealand to climb the mountain, because they don't have the stomach or the money for it, and of the half that do get off the plane probably 50% of them will run out of money, or enthusiasm or they just plain can't take the emotional pressure and head home. 

The second piece of advice I give is that my team and I cannot, even after all these years of helping clients, adequately prepare people emotionally for that first 6 to 12 weeks when they get off the plane. I say to people in consultations "Think about it – you will have resigned your job, you have left your loved ones behind, left behind your security (real or perceived), you’ve likely dropped from two incomes to one and even with all the (social media) research in the world, until you are out there in the labour market trying to find work you cannot really know how awful an experience it going to be. You will feel vulnerable and you will feel insecure. There will be many dark days and lonely nights ahead”.

Usually people look at me, especially in South Africa, nod and tell me they are up for the challenge because they must be. They must get the children out of South Africa and they must create a better future for the family. I agree, there is little about the future of South Africa that looks bright for minorities but none of that is of any interest to my government or the employers of New Zealand.

I gave a seminar in Durban on Monday night. I wasn't feeling that well and I confess I was pretty negative on the whole stupidity of the way New Zealand and Australia select their immigrants. I was particularly dark over the fact that New Zealand forces people to take such incredible, yet calculated, risks in order to secure residence. I even said at the end, "I wouldn't blame you if you didn't make appointments to come and see me’ but the usual numbers lined up and I've been seeing them all week. 

I always tell people that at IMMagine we will tell them what they need to know not what they want to hear. We do not sugarcoat the process and would not ‘sell’ Australia or New Zealand as ‘paradise’. I remember one woman who had sat in the crowd and glared at me sternly all evening booked a consultation and I met with her and her partner yesterday. What she said about my presentation was "There was no bullshit and that's what I appreciated”. Praise be.

Right now we are moving approximately 360 families to New Zealand and virtually all are going to require jobs in order to secure residence. I know that there will probably be six or eight of them who will come to New Zealand and not find work. That is all. I know that because my team and I tell things how they are and in doing so it seems we put off many and only represent the strong(ish). It seems we better manage people's expectations, in particular and critically, to get them through those first 6 to 12 weeks while it feels like it has all been for nothing and is destined for failure. 

Don't believe the marketing of the New Zealand government. Migration is a very high stakes game, you cannot do it cheaply and as I say there are no shortcuts. We prepare people emotionally as best as we possibly can but still that's the biggest challenge we face.

Migrants must be tough and most people after one week on the ground are not thinking so much about damp housing, they are excited that everything works, there is electricity all day (the South Africans reading this will know what I'm talking about), the streets are safe to walk and the people are friendly.

As the weeks unfold the mood normally darkens somewhat as those insecurities build and the ‘What ifs’ ring louder in the mind, but we still have around 97% of our clients from South Africa and almost the same number from the rest of the world, securing employment within three months of getting off the plane.

Once they have that job offer, the sun comes out and life is worth living once again.

Until next week...

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Enquiry Due on the Immigration Department

Posted by Iain on March 8, 2019, 5:34 p.m. in Immigration

If there existed an Immigration Fairy who could grant us just one wish, it would be that the Immigration Department was consistent in what it did and the decisions it made. In my case this has been a 30 year wish; still unfulfilled.

Consistency offers migrants, living in ‘no mans land’, the ability to make concrete plans based on reasonable expectations. 

It seems like this Department (despite the rhetoric and the millions of taxpayer dollars a year they spend marketing NZ to migrants) always fails on the delivery. When I say always...I mean always. Despite millions of dollars on new IT systems, shutting down offshore processing, bunkering residence teams together in New Zealand, it takes exactly the same amount of time today to get a visitor Visa, a Work Visa or a Resident Visa as it did when (as a much younger man) I started my business back in 1990, before the Internet and emails existed the way they do today. 

While at times the job that immigration officers have to do is complicated, it is, for the most part, routine. How is it they can be so useless at so much for so long? 

Take the issue of visitor visas being granted to people coming to find work. We all know there is no such "purpose" for a visit for "Job Search”, but around three weeks ago, following more lengthy email exchanges, a very senior immigration manager advised us that if one of three conditions were met, an applicant could "expect" to be granted a Visitor Visa; in part to travel to find skilled employment.

It seems management understands and accepts that an overwhelming majority of skilled migrants get their Essential skills Work Visa when they're in New Zealand (the number is in fact around 94% based on the departments own statistics) and therefore in order for people to secure skilled employment and to keep the skilled migrant category alive, applicants must be able to come to New Zealand as "tourists" even though they will also be looking for work. This manager sseemingly accepts this is a reality in order to try and assist creating a pathway to a Resident Visa under the Skilled Migrant category. 

Those three criteria are:

  1. The family home has not been sold; OR
  2. The main applicant is travelling alone to New Zealand and leaving family behind; OR
  3. The main applicant has not resigned their job.

As sure as the sun will rise in the east it took around a week for us to receive two decisions based on two applicants who are coming to New Zealand for the same reason – to find employment in the first step towards being part of the skilled migrant residency program.

One is South African, young, single, owns no property and had resigned his job. We warned him that as he does not tick any of the above three boxes, the risks were substantially greater that the Visa would not be granted. I confess, we were nervous.

The other is also South African, married, his partner and children were not included in the visa application as were staying behind in South Africa and they had not sold the family home but he had resigned. We told him to relax.

Which one do you think was approved and which one do you think was declined?

You got it! The young, single, no home to sell and ’I've resigned’ applicant.

Some of my more cynical industry colleagues do love to say that “change is good and chaos is better" and an entire industry exists thanks to a fundamental reality that where there is no competition and any sort of profit motive, delivery can be inconsistent and poor, and there is nothing the customer of that monopoly can do. At least for our client who was declined, this decision will be overturned. The truth is, however, that it should never get to that point.

In my more cynical moments I too am grateful for the fact that Immigration Department is a three ring circus without any ringmaster but when they cannot even get consistency on relatively simple visitor visas, you start to appreciate just how damaging to New Zealand, not to mention migrants, they actually are.

Two weeks ago we were being told by the Department that critical Essential Skills Work Visas were taking three months to allocate (for processing) and we should all just suck it up and tell the employers of New Zealand they would be waiting at least four months to fill their vacancies. Three months ago we could with hand on heart tell most employers that the processing would take between two and four weeks from the time we filed these visas. Over 90% of the time, when there were no health issues involved, we delivered. How, only two months later, could those processing times have ballooned to 4 months? 

There has been robust email exchanges between myself and senior immigration officials in which they have never once said that they created the mess, and never apologised for it. We kept being told they were working on "triaging", assessing ‘high-value, low touch’, ‘high touch, low value’, Lord knows what other garbage language terms, in order to get the decision-making "in flow”, but the fact remained, they are still quoting 90 days to allocate. 

As usual however things on the ground can be very different. 

As one of my colleagues lamented this week when an Essential Work Visa was filed, allocated and processed in nine days for a client on a relatively low salary, "I could have avoided being screamed at by the applicant's wife, when I told her that allocation times have ballooned out and while we are pushing hard to get our cases given priority, the bureaucrats either don't care or are powerless to do to do anything about it. It's going to take two or three months to process this Work Visa”.

Maybe we should be grateful for small mercies but while that ‘low touch’ (English translation, low risk) Work Visa was being processed other "high-value" (translation higher skill level and usually a much higher salary) cases continue to gather dust.

The chaos obviously creates a business for me and several thousand other people. There is no doubt that this business of ours where we look after high-quality migrants, prepare top class applications which really require little in the way of processing (or dare I say, thought), represents a clear processing advantage to the bureaucracy. There is never much argument over documentation as we pride ourselves on presenting applications which subject to verification can be approved without much drama. Little to no recognition is ever given to that. I'm never quite sure if it is simply envy on the part of the bureaucrats that they don't prioritise applications from companies like ours, even though it's demonstrably better for them. I sometimes think that they get a kick out of flexing their bureaucratic muscles but in doing so they look like nothing but inept fools.

Immigration New Zealand is great at the MBA business buzzwords, but they are lousy on delivery. They talk a big game but generally deliver very poorly, the one consistency being their inconsistency. It would be nice, just once, if what their senior managements tell us is going to happen when we file visas, actually does. 

After all, in the scheme of things they don't run a very big business. What they do is not rocket science, so why are they consistently so bad at delivering? Where is the political leadership given the critical importance of skilled migrants to New Zealand employers?

This government has launched more reviews than almost any Government before them in history - perhaps it is time one was carried out on this department. 

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