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Work in NZ: The 5 Key Drivers

I hear myself explaining the disconnection between the way the visa process works and the way the labour market works, i.e. what employers want is people with works rights and residency preferably, whereas the Government says ‘find a job first and we’ll think about giving you a visa’. I think ...


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Work in NZ: The 5 Key Drivers

I hear myself explaining the disconnection between the way the visa process works and the way the labour market works, i.e. what employers want is people with works rights and residency preferably, whereas the Government says ‘find a job first and we’ll think about giving you a visa’. I think ...


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Work in NZ: The 5 Key Drivers

Posted by Iain on Feb. 9, 2018, 5:14 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

The start to 2018 has been among the busiest we’ve ever experienced here at IMMagine. Packed houses across Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur and turning people away in South Africa, literally in their hundreds, as that country continues to make building futures - particularly for its youngsters - an ever more perilous proposition.

Part of the plan to handle the demand is to encourage people to order Skype consultations with us so that we can give them the answers they want far more quickly and without having to wait for our regular seminars. Naturally of course, that also enables us to offer our services to far more people from far more countries. New Zealand continues to be attractive to people from, well, almost everywhere.  

What strikes me when I consult with people on the Skilled Migrant pathway (the points system) and the process to achieve the current selection points of 160, is that while most understand the process and the steps to achieve the visitor, work and resident visas that virtually all Skilled Category cases demand, many still miss the point on the executing the strategy and order of events. In particular, how to go about securing a job and the timing of that part of the process.  

Once I complete the consultation, given how much ground we cover during the 60 – 80 minutes it takes, I always invite questions in the days following. I think it’s fair to say that once the reality of what the process demands sinks in respect of the financial, emotional and logistical commitment, many are probably shell-shocked.

Most, understandably, cannot get their head around how a Government that professes to welcome skilled migrants and which itself spends close to NZ$9 million a year marketing the country, makes it so damned difficult for those skilled migrants it says it wants so badly.

I hear myself explaining the disconnection between the way the visa process works and the way the labour market works, i.e. what employers want is people with works rights and residency preferably, whereas the Government says ‘find a job first and we’ll think about giving you a visa’.

As I explain to everybody at seminars and consultations, the 5 key drivers which determine the speed with which migrants get jobs that open the doors to Work Visas and Residency, in descending order of importance, are:

  1. Being in New Zealand, available for interviews and sending a very strong signal of commitment to the process;
  2. Speaking very good English;
  3. Cultural compatibility, i.e. for most positions, the less like the dominant culture you are, the less likely you are to get employment;
  4. Resilient personality – you must be able to take the hard knocks of rejection for weeks and sometimes months;
  5. Demand for your skills — if you tick the four boxes above demand takes care of itself — most of our clients are not on any skills shortages list.

Most people imagine that it is demand for skills and shortages of skills that determines the speed with which people get work. This has never been the case in my experience; it is those first 4 criteria that are the key drivers and none more so than number 2. There are some exceptions to that, especially in highly technical roles such as IT where there isn’t a lot of human interaction going on.

What still amazes me is how many people email me a few days later and they say “Right Iain, so what I need to do first is to get a job so I will start applying online...”

To them I reply “No, the first thing is not to get a job, the first thing to do is to lay the foundation for coming to New Zealand to find a job and that usually involves English language examinations, qualification assessments, gathering all the documentation required so that when you get the job, we can move very quickly in order to keep the New Zealand employer happy in terms of a prospective start date.' 

I completely understand why many people freak out at the prospect and simply roll over and go back to sleep, hoping tomorrow will bring better prospects for their family’s future than today.

That is the very reason why all the talk in the local media about Brits fleeing Brexit and Americans fleeing Trump is simply not true and there is no evidence to support the assertion that New Zealand is benefitting from those two acts of nationalistic madness. Unlike a country like South Africa which is clearly falling apart at the seams, people in the UK still have law and order, still have running water, don’t have a broken political system (well, not very broken) and as vile as Trump may be, most Americans still have electricity, running water, rising wages and jobs.  There’s no great pressure on them to take the risks inherent in the NZ Skilled Migrant Category process, real or perceived.

For those people who live in countries where the future is far less certain, a small percentage will decide - having weighed up the risks, done their research and consulted with professionals - that it is their only option. They still need to commit and to be in, boots and all. There is not much to be gained from applying for online jobs - it works for a minority, but no more than 10% in our experience.

Not understanding the reality of the job search process is the main reason why the Brits will still be complaining about their weather, crowded motorways and too many immigrants in Birmingham long after Brexit has run its course.

Ultimately, skilled migration takes incredible planning, careful execution, usually a great deal more money than most people ever imagine and a single-minded focus on the reasons what needs to happen to climb the visa mountain.

The New Zealand Government never seems interested in making it easier and nor for that matter do most employers, despite their constant moaning about skill shortages as this economy continues to create around 10,000 jobs a month and we have a labour market with virtually no skilled unemployed anymore.

Understanding the pathway to employment is critical in any successful strategy for skilled migrants and our consultations cover that in some detail.

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod, Southern Man

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6 comments on this post
Feb. 9, 2018, 6:47 p.m. by Jimmy

Thats very informative Iain, and very true as well, As an African myself, i guess us as the people from Africa, me being one of them who was lucky to have consulted with IMMAGINE, and already onboard with IMMAGINE IMMIGRATION, on my way to Australia, we need to be very bold and take the bull by its horns and make the big leap of faith which will ultimately land us in a much more secure and better life for our families and us. Life and living standards in South Africa where i am now are deteriorating dismally. Unemployment is on the upward trajectorry, political uncertainity reigns and the future is getting darker by day! Its really not getting easier for Africans.....

Thank You,


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Feb. 9, 2018, 7:36 p.m. by Sean Lewis

Your posting of 9 Feb 18 Ian is spot on. I saw the only way of getting here to get a job was to invest in getting here in the first place, then the interviews lined up. It is though very helpful to have a friend or family to put you up and show you the ropes. I fortunately had a daughter. I have now been here almost a month on a 5 year visa. Next thing is to persuade your officials to open up the family parent visa again so that when I am past my useful working age (I am 59) I can look after my grand children while my daughter goes off to work! Presently I am only permitted a “temporary “ visa.

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Feb. 9, 2018, 10:42 p.m. by Ian de Lange

I would like to know more about the 5 year visa that Sean Lewis is talking about.
What is the current situation for family / parents visa?
As far as I know it has been stopped.

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Feb. 10, 2018, 11:09 a.m. by Iain
I presume he got an Essential Skills Work Visa for a highly skilled job and he is hoping that the Parent Category might re open to provide him a pathway to residence. I guess he is over 55 and cannot qualify for residence as a skilled migrant. Our best estimate will see the Parent Category able to reopen in 12-18 months based on current applications in the system. Whether there is any appetite to do so politically is the big unknown. There is of course a Parent Retirement category for those worth $1.5m, annual income off NZ$60k and who are willing to invest $1m for four years. We are finding this incredibly popular for those with the funds.
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Feb. 10, 2018, 12:20 a.m. by BIANCA


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Feb. 11, 2018, 5:34 a.m. by Dawid Vermaak

Thanks Iain for some very practical insights and a powerful summary of all the aspects involved!

Although I haven't met with any potential employers in New Zealand as yet (only heading off there in a few weeks time), my interaction to date with them has left me wondering to what extent they are actually aware of this catch 22. It seems they just have a standard tick-box response in saying that they need potential candidates to already have a work visa, without fully considering where skilled immigrants should get their first offer of employment from in order to qualify for the work visa. Their HR departments also seem to shy away from the requirement in having to prove that no other New Zealander can do the role and that it would need to be a very niche role to be able to sponsor.

That leads me wondering what strategy if any these companies have in being to do so? Perhaps a targeted marketing campaign by immigration agencies (such as yourselves) should be launched together with NZ's larger companies to lobby the NZ government to change things sooner rather than later?

It would also be great to hear some stories from other candidates whom you've helped in the past and who have successfully steered through this process, so that we can learn from them on a practical level.



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Feb. 12, 2018, 1:06 p.m. by Tracy Kruger

It has been almost a year since our family have had the privilege of starting our journey from SA to NZ with Iain, Jo and team. After a potential disaster with another highly recommended agent, connecting with Iain was the best thing that ever happened to our family. We were determined to make NZ work for us and have seamlessly integrated into our new home and community. But it was the confident, knowledgeable and experienced guidance of Iain and Jo that gave us the tools and enabled us to follow a clear pathway to our new lives in New Zealand.

We have been inundated with messages and emails from friends, family and acquaintances all wanting to know "How we did it' like there is a magic recipe we cooked up and got ourselves here all on our own.

With 100% commitment and armed with some skills and experience and a very clear vision of where we wanted to be, along with the solid expertise and support of Iain and Jo, we leveraged every cent we had and abandoned a life and people we loved and knew. And prepared ourselves to tackle anything and everything that came our way.

The stress and pressure of what i to dot and what t to cross were handled with such seamless expertise and efficiency, our path was paved and laid out ahead of us for us to see.

Our kids are in their final year of high school here in NZ and we are already preparing for the First World Tertiary education moment that is available to them at the end of this year. They walk to school, ride their bikes, walk around at night on their own and have more opportunities than would ever have been available to them in SA. Armed with an NZ degree, our children will have keys to the world, which is now on their doorstep.

And trust me for that, you can definitely live without your Maid, your Merc and your Manicures. It definitely was not easy, it definitely was not cheap and there is not one day where we are not acutely aware of just how worth it this all was. Thank you Iain and Jo, for everything.

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Feb. 13, 2018, 9:11 a.m. by Cheryl Wilson
Thank you Tracey for your comment. It is wonderful to hear your story. If there are any other families that have made the move, those of us in the process of getting to NZ need to hear your stories. I would like to ask a question. Did you and your husband resign and move over together or did one move and the other follow, one a job was found? We are at the stage where we are in a dilemma, do we resign and go over and be available for interviews, or does the primary spouse go over and secure a job? Then to those who have made the brave move, well done and please share your advise, what you would have done differently or what worked for you. Thank you.
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