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Immigration Blog


Posts with tag: Elections

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.

Stay ahead of the pack

Posted by Iain on Sept. 25, 2020, 10:01 a.m. in COVID-19

It’s our bottom line advice to those looking to move to New Zealand or Australia and who believe they have the skills or capital that the Australian and New Zealand Government’s traditionally have sought out. If you leave it too long till borders are fully reopen not only might you be waiting a long time but you might also be caught up with hundreds of thousands of people looking for the ‘arrivals’ door at airports across New Zealand and Australia.

I cannot believe over the past six months how many people are contacting us, now desperate to leave wherever they are and join us on one of our islands. For islands, even big ones like Australia, are currently viewed as the safest places to be during a global pandemic and beyond. Not hard to control the border when you can simply shut down flying. If Trump is re-elected in the US, Boris continues to stuff up Brexit, Europe continues to groan under the weight of illegal migrants and legal refugees, South Africa continues its inexorable economic decline, Hong Kongers realise the BNO passport might not be the answer to their China fears and Singapore battles with its economic recovery, we will continue to be busy as people’s priorities continue to shift. Countries like New Zealand and Australia with lower population densities, solid health systems and sensible Governments are simply going to become more and more popular.

The fact that the Australian Government has already signalled that it is not cutting permanent residence quotas this year and next is telling. Over the past quarter century a significant percentage of Australia’s GDP growth has come from the two ‘M’s - ‘mining’ and ‘migration’. The PM has already signalled it is his (wise) intention to let business, rather than Government, dig, literally it seems, Australia out of its recession. China is back buying up lots of ore. Migrants consume - all need houses, cars, flat screen TVs and lounge suites - and therefore spend money when they get off the plane which explains why Australia doesn’t want to cut and continues to process residence cases.

I am pleasantly surprised by this given Australian unions have enormous and disproportionate political power and in times of rising unemployment in Australia you’d think they’d be arguing for the labour market drawbridge to be pulled up. The unions might well be but the wind is blowing nicely at the back of the pro-business federal Government that has increased in popularity given its handling of the virus. Any calls for restricting migration are for the most part being drowned out.

In New Zealand and as I wrote last week, no political party has signalled what it is going to do with immigration policy settings or quotas if it makes it to the treasury benches next month. My guess is the Labour Party will be governing with the Green Party. If that happens you can expect no real change to immigration policy settings - strangely immigration simply doesn’t seem to be part of either parties social or economic policy mix despite the current economic downturn. The National Party seems to have no ideas on immigration and the changing needs of our labour market which signals status quo if by some miracle they form the next Government.

If and when international travel starts again the smart migrant will be prepared. They will have their papers in order and their bags packed. The competition for available and limited places is only going to heat up when (if) there is a vaccine even if that prospect is still 12-24 months away.

We are working hard with over 600 families many now who have heeded that advice, see the logic and are getting prepared.

Those that have options in Australia can still file their permanent or provisional residence visas and we are filing many. Preparation, lodging and processing times for Australia is still running around 15-18 months to approval with the thick end of a further year on top to get to Australia to activate the residence so those getting things underway now will be well placed when the Aussies allow those with PRVs to enter Australia (right now they are extending deadlines for those with them to travel, as is NZ).

The current NZ Government recently said that skills shortages would ‘primarily’ need to be addressed from within New Zealand. I thought it took four years to train an apprentice, to complete a Bachelor of Education degree, five years to complete an Engineering degree (if there is an intermediate year), ditto Veterinarians and at least six years to complete a medical or dental degree. What do they propose we do in the meantime if we need to see a Doctor or Dentist or we actually decide to start building some of the billions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects this lot keep harping on about? We don’t have the skills in the quantity we require.

The immediate challenge for the next Government in New Zealand is whether they are going to adapt to the new needs of the labour market - both skilled and less skilled - or they are going to stick with the current ‘get a skilled job and have enough ‘points’ and you are in’ strategy.  In many respects the NZ system makes more sense in a non Covid world than the Australian one as ours is labour market driven. In NZ the system is self correcting - if there aren’t enough people to fill annual quotas because they cannot get jobs, the pass mark can fall. If however demand increases, as I can see happening when the border fully reopens, the opposite should happen and the pass mark should go up. 

The big problem with this Covid world however is it is virtually impossible to manage that demand. This time last year the problem was too many jobs being created in NZ and not enough locals to fill them and therefore huge demand for migrants. Now, although unemployment is only 4% and that demand will have fallen as employers nervously try to map their future employment needs, skills shortages are not going away any time soon and to suggest, even in the heat of an election campaign that employers should fill jobs locally is wilfully ignorant of where the skills pressure points are in the labour market. If the Government is re-elected and continue that line, businesses will not expand - they won’t be able to. We rely too heavily on importing the skills we don’t produce enough of.

The reality is rising unemployment is not going to solve the bulk of our skills shortages. At IMMagine we are constantly being approached by recruiters asking if we can get border exemptions if a foreign candidate gets a job - particularly in the trades, Engineering, teaching and IT.

What our next government must look at in the short term is granting border exemptions to a far greater number of occupations than they do now. People are still being offered jobs here but for the most part rely on some low level state functionary to grant a border exemption to travel here to take up the job. And that process is dogged by inconsistent decision making.

As businesses in New Zealand learn to live with the virus (as clearly there is no alternative, eradicating is a pipe dream) employers are going to have to be able to bring in those skills we still don’t have, rising unemployment or not.

The smart migrant then will be ready and waiting. Prepared. Avoiding the ever growing pack queuing up behind them.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

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Immigration policies for NZ's election

Posted by Iain on Sept. 18, 2020, 1:29 p.m. in Elections


A month out from possibly the most important election in decades I decided to have a look at the immigration policies of the major political parties just in case any of them might have one.

You may laugh but the reality is no major, or even minor political party for that matter, views immigration as anything more than an adjunct to everything else they want to see happening in the country. For a country with an ageing population and a rapidly changing labour market for some silly reason I keep expecting every three years that at least one party might actually not just adopt the status quo. I wouldn’t say our immigration policy settings are broken but that is not say they aren’t in need of some fine tuning.

I am doing this exercise for you because for many of you this will be your first time voting in New Zealand. Here, anyone with a resident visa aged 18 or over and who has lived here for 12 months is eligible to vote in both local and national elections. Note, there is no requirement to hold permanent residence or even citizenship to vote (how cool is that?). Nor is voting compulsory as it is in countries like Australia.

The exercise exploring what the parties were promising was complete within about five minutes.

None have anything new for this new covid world, a closed border with limited exceptions nor changing skills needs given we are now in a recession with the rest of the world….. I am not making that up. None have published any policy that suggests any change they might make beyond throw away lines and platitudes.

You might think with unemployment expected to rise to 7.5% by early next year, Government debt ballooning with the printing of billions of dollars of new money and skills shortages in large part not being alleviated by rising unemployment, that the major parties might be asking themselves if immigration might need to go in a different direction.

Apparently not.

On Labour’s website, of 18 policy categories immigration does not feature. On current polling if they aren’t governing alone they will likely be doing so with the Green Party.

Only the Green Party comes close to any sort of proposed change to the status quo - they want more refugees settled here. Fewer economic migrants and more ‘humanitarian’. At least they seem to have a direction they want to take things. Trouble for them if they get back into Parliament is they have no real power so we won’t be getting more refugees.

As Parliament’s biggest party (currently) National offers a bland statement about the importance of immigration but no detail on what it’s policies might look like. That suggest it plans no change if it leads the next Government. Unfortunately for them, they won’t be the biggest party for much longer.  Their policies, immigration or otherwise, look pretty much the same as Labour’s, but Labour has a leader with a nicer smile (and that’s all it is going to take for people to vote for her party it seems).

New Zealand First - the traditional anti-immigration party has simply confirmed they want to cut skilled migration (and always make a big deal of it every three years). This time round they want 15,000 skilled migrants per year. That represents a cut of around 10% on the existing target so hardly newsworthy or I’d suggest worth voting for if you think immigration is a bad idea.

ACT - continues the vacuous statements about immigration being ‘valuable’ (I guess that is something) and New Zealand being a nation of immigrants, but nothing in the way of policy.

The Opportunities Party - expresses the view migrants must be able to add economic value - in essence fewer lower skilled people and more skilled people (which is what we do now). They are however silent on the numbers and the mechanism for achieving it.

What is so interesting about all of this is what it says about political attitudes to migration.

Despite being a ‘nation of immigrants’ and most companies and businesses relying on imported skills and labour to some extent, political parties view immigration as a vote loser. So they don’t talk about it except NZ First. No party seems to think our policy settings need to change.

I’ve got a few suggestions (funnily enough) for them.

Operationally I’d be a little more hands on - these days it is vogue for Ministers to not get involved in operational matters but they can set the expectations.

Whichever party governs come next month should start with sorting out INZ’s IT systems if nothing else. So far $38 million has been spent over ten years but come lockdown in March, INZ ground to a halt because staff couldn’t work remotely or visas couldn’t be filed electronically. The Government has printed $50 billion of fresh money over the past four months, so I’d be directing some of this to INZ with an instruction - start again - don’t try and build an online residence processing software platform on top of your old and antiquated existing temporary visa system.

We learned recently that one of the reasons INZ couldn’t work remotely during lockdown is many of their computers still use Windows 7. I think I was 22 years old when Windows 7 was released (I am now 56). The General Manager was quoted as saying a few days ago they are going to buy a few more laptops….riiiiight, good ‘plan’….

INZ needs to abandon their stupid model of having one set of officers in one branch process one type of visa and not have knowledge of any other visa types (like we do at IMMagine). We saw the folly of that when China and India operations shut down earlier this year. All of a sudden INZ couldn’t process visitor visas any more because all of them were being processed in our Embassy in Beijing. Those officers were all sent home and were all sitting doing nothing on full pay. Still are.

I’d also suggest that the Government continue with a labour market driven ‘skilled migrant’ policy because it works in terms of only allowing in those that prove they are employable and there is little doubt being employable leads to better settlement outcomes. It makes sense to allow those who can break into the labour market stay.  However I’d reverse the order of the skilled migrant process. It has always seemed daft to me to make the very people we are looking to attract, resign jobs, jump on planes, force them to tell lies about the purpose of their visit on arrival and then make them deal with the Work Visa/Job offer ‘chicken and egg’ - you usually can’t get one without the other - then start processing a resident visa (many of which are declined). I’d be allowing applicants to file their Expression of Interest, selecting them if they are within the job offer ‘points’ of the pass mark, then invite them to apply, get them to file their decision ready resident visa application and at the end of the process give them a work visa and six months to find a job and another three to work in it - then I’d grant them and their family a resident visa. If they are successful in that job search they stay, if they aren’t, then they weren’t really needed in the labour market.

I’d also be creating a pathway to residence for people who may not be highly skilled but who are still valuable to the country. I am particularly thinking about healthcare workers like nurse aids and those that work in geriatric care but who aren’t ‘qualified’ or ‘skilled’ enough to be granted residence as skilled migrants. They might not be highly skilled but we have a shortage of these sorts of skills sets and ever increasing demand. We need an immigration policy that starts to recognise New Zealanders just do not want to do that sort of work so if we don’t import the skills and offer those people some pathway to a future here, they’ll go to another country with an equally rapidly ageing population.

In respect of the Covid response and pulling the economy out of recession as quickly as we can, I’d be opening up managed isolation to private education providers in particular Polytechnics and Universities - if they want to pay for it, fill your boots. The export education and international students are worth $5 billion to this country - or was before we shut the sector down when the border was closed.  It employed around 35,000 people most of whom will be hanging on by the tips of their fingernails right now waiting for some action from Government. Universities want the responsibility and I cannot see any reason why they cannot make it a success. Government was running our border and isolation process and we ended up with community transmission…

Alas, none of these things are likely to happen because no political party is willing to publish any detailed policy on how immigration fits into their broader economic and social planning.

If you are in New Zealand or hoping to get here, don’t worry too much about the outcome of the election on immigration policy settings.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod


Southern Man

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Tags: politics | Elections

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