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No SMC pool draw for six months

Posted by Iain on Oct. 19, 2020, 10:35 a.m. in Skilled Migrant Category


The NZ government (in waiting) announced this morning that they will not be resuming skilled migrant ‘pool draws’ for another six months. They haven't done any since March this year anyway so this is hardly ‘news’, more a clarification of an existing position.

It has many people aflutter as usual but I don’t feel the fear.

I have written about why they stopped pool selections previously and to me the agenda was always clear – they got themselves into a right processing pickle with many skilled migrant resident visa applications sitting unallocated and unprocessed for up to 24 months because there was no ability of the Government to agree on the numbers in their residence program. In fact there hasn’t been a residence programme since the last one finished in December 2019. The numbers of resident visas available has never been made official so INZ was flying blind for much of 2019 given they had already filled the years ‘quota’. Naturally the immigration department stopped approving visas (or at best were on a go slow in terms of allocation) last year and the backlog grew larger and larger. A number of months ago they clearly got a nod and a wink from the political parties in the government to resume processing and approving residence as if there was a residence program with the same numbers of visa places available as in previous years.

INZ then was presented with a de facto residence programme but by the time they started to gear up on processing, the backlog had grown exponentially.

After Saturday’s landslide win by the Labour Party, the ‘handbrake’ that was the NZ First Party that sat around the cabinet table with the Labour party has been released. If you haven’t heard New Zealand First is gone from the Parliament and the Labour Party is the first political party since 1996 to be able to govern alone without any coalition partners or side agreements with minor parties.

This announcement does not mean they are closing down migration because traditionally the Labour Party has always been very pro-immigration given its traditional voting base. Turkeys don't vote for an early Christmas so I think we will return to the days where we had sensible policy and residence programmes allowing INZ to stay on top of numbers.

Not that INZ is faultless in the debacle that has been the past 18 months. In order to deal with the skilled migrant case backlog and under the smoke screen of Covid back in March INZ stopped doing pool selections. They said at the time it's because they had no ability to work remotely but that was clearly untrue because as soon as they went back to work pool draws did not resume.

We have been waiting for this announcement since March.

I said back in March when pool draws stopped that INZ was buying time to start dealing with that backlog. It was becoming embarrassing on so many levels, with unintended consequences and creating a whole lot of uncertainty for anyone trying to plan their move here. In fact, it was confirmed unofficially to me by a very senior manager a few months ago that the truth was INZ wanted to get rid of the resident visa backlog. They are currently around 18 months from receipt date to allocation of these resident visa applications which means they are starting to get ahead of where they have been over the past 12 months.

So what does the future hold?  When they start resuming the pool draws what will happen to the pass mark?

Government will have a number of options and in some ways we might be about to go back to the future:

1.      Simply increase the pass mark to be selected from the ‘pool’. That will instantly lower the number of applications flowing into the system but the problem with that is the more points people need, the more points they tend to get. When for example the pass mark went up to 160 many clients dealt with the signal by getting a job outside of Auckland (30 additional points) and continued to qualify. And the more points people need the less control Government has over the skills mix – for example a 26-year-old genius software developer with a job offer in New Zealand or the 27 year old teacher we are desperate to find might only ever be able to get 160 points. Putting the pass mark up to 180 and cutting them but allowing entry to a 36 year Master of Arts carrying Marketing Manager might not be the best outcome for NZ. Increasing the pass mark will certainly slow down the flow of applications into the system but will create other serious problems so I don't believe a higher pass mark is the solution. I don't believe it will solve any of the problems.

2.      Return to the days of multiple pass marks and prioritise selection based on whatever has the most positive impact. We could therefore see multiple different pass marks once again. It worked before and was relatively transparent. For example, if you work in an occupation that is on the long-term skills shortage list the pass mark might be 160 points. You might make it 190 points for people who do not work in an occupation on a skills shortage list. If you want people to go outside of Auckland you might make the pass mark 160 but make it 190 for someone with a job in Auckland. If your priority is high income earners give them a lower points threshold or give points based on salary bands.

3.      We could adopt the Australian model whereby you keep the pass mark at, say, 160 points for everybody but it is a first in, first out situation. Given there is a finite number of resident visas that can be approved and issued in any given year, what the Australians do is they say if you are a Civil Engineer and you filed your EOI in July last year and you have the same "points" as a Civil Engineer who filed in January this year, you will be selected first.  I am not suggesting we go to annual quotas by occupation - it could simply be a pass mark of 160 and first in first out. It’s clean but again it means you might miss out on particular skills sets because the applicant has to wait for so long to get that shot at residence and they want certainty so take their skills off to Canada instead. 

There is always positives and negatives in any system.

The market always reads the sort of signal sent this morning as negative. I don't feel that way at all.

Clearly the skilled migrant system needs tweaking (and a points based system is a very blunt tool to begin with but given the intellectual capacity of your average civil servant the system is almost designed for them to not have to think terribly hard) but the backlogs in recent times was largely caused by the New Zealand First political party that wanted, and therefore could cause, significant disruption to the migration program.

Now that they are gone, that handbrake has been released.

The Labour Party has also said in their manifesto that one of their priorities is to review the settings of the Parent Category. This will be welcome news to many when the child(ren) they have living in New Zealand who currently don't earn enough to sponsor their parent(s). The only way the Labour Party could get any parent category policy past the New Zealand First coalition partner in the last Government was to limit the numbers annually to 1000 visas and also to impose household income levels that would put the sponsors in the top 20 to 30% of earners in the country or they couldn’t sponsor their parent(s). That excluded many people that would traditionally vote for the Labour Party and given many who traditionally vote Labour are immigrants themselves, I think you can expect to see some movement over the next few months in terms of parent category settings. An easing, not a tightening.

The next three years are going to be very interesting with the government able to govern without worrying about what any coalition partner might think. Given the Labour Party has moved to the right and are very much a centrist party, conservative with a small ‘c’ (but continuing to tell us they are progressives) these days they will want to keep as many of those who would traditionally be centre-right voters.

My prediction is they will return to their pro-immigration roots.

That doesn't mean an open door but equally nor should the confirmation that the pool draws will not resume for another six months be seen as New Zealand shutting the door. Think of it as a bit of house work.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

Tags: government | eoi | Eligibility

Skilled Migrant Backlog Explained

Posted by Iain on July 3, 2020, 12:29 p.m. in Immigration New Zealand

What is really going on with the skilled migrant category and the ever growing backlog of cases? 

Never has a queue been the subject of so much speculation and intrigue. Calls are growing louder for the government to front. To tell the truth. Hardly a day goes by without one media (mainstream or social) or another speculating on the cause of the skilled/business stream processing delays and backlogs.

I place little stock in the opinions of those on Facebook, migrant chat groups, online forums, ‘ethnic’ radio stations and even less so the MSM to actually get the answers people are looking for.

I’ve been trying for weeks to try and get a straight answer on what is really happening. I think I’ve worked it out and it is, for the most part nothing to do with ‘rising demand’.

On the one hand we have the ‘Ghost’ Minister of Immigration, using the coronavirus and the lockdown as the reason for processing delays despite the backlog and processing times being the same for the 12 months pre - lockdown as we are being told they will be post. He is either lying or just doesn’t know what is going on.

I have been engaging with a senior official on this question, who I am not going to name, nor reveal the designation of, but this person should know exactly what is going on on the ground and more importantly, is what in the media world would be called a highly reliable source.

This week I was advised that there are 14,000 skilled and business stream applications sitting in the unallocated queue, awaiting subsequent processing. This includes skilled migrant category applications (points) and those applying under the Residence from work (talent) sub streams. It covers a handful (low hundreds) of business and entrepreneur resident visa cases.

Each resident visa application historically represented 2.1 people so it means, in rough figures, there’s about 30,000 people sitting in the queue waiting for their residence to be allocated and processed, that this Government invited and encouraged to file their application.

I was advised, that when the previous residence programme ended in December 2019, INZ put it to the Minister of Immigration that unless they were advised otherwise, they’d assume the targets/quotas would be rolled over for the next 18 months. The Minister apparently responded with ‘Noted’.

That means INZ has given itself a target of 30,000 skilled and business resident visas for the period January 2020 to June 2021 to approve and issue. That’s roughly 14,000 applications over the period - the same number as the people currently sitting in the queue.

The current two year backlog only started to grow when INZ stopped allocating cases in December 2018. Prior to that it sat around 6-8 months.

Of the 14,000 cases on hand this month, only 600 are currently identified as ‘priority’, defined as those that have the principle applicant earning $51 per hour or who work in an occupation in NZ requiring statutory registration.  Even these are now taking months to be allocated.

Virtually no ‘non-priority’ cases have been allocated for processing since December 2018 despite MSM reports. Occasionally some are but we have been advised by the Residence Visa Operations Manager that such exceptions are ‘rare’ and the numbers ‘small’. One assumes statistically insignificant in the scheme of things.

As recently as this week the Minister of Immigration publicly stated that the ‘non-priority’ queue is also moving. He is, once again, either uninformed or embellishing the facts.

The bit I cannot work out and even my source cannot (or will not) clearly explain is why, when the numbers of priority applications sitting in the queue is only 600 (representing around 1,400 people) we are constantly told (officially and very publicly) that no ‘non-priority’ cases are being allocated, processed or approved by INZ.

At the same time my source tells me they are ‘on track’ to issue and approve ‘up to 30,000 resident visas’ by June 2021, but the truth is that they have only been processing the priority cases since December 2018.

The math doesn’t add up.

That’s only 40 odd cases a month being allocated. If that’s all they allocate and they approved every single one they won’t hit 30,000 resident visa approvals, they’ll hit 1400 over 18 months. That’s hardly being ‘on target’.

Even more curiously, these priority cases are spread across something like 50 case officers. They should be able to get through 600 cases in a month! And will have to to get anywhere near the target they claim to be on target to deliver.

I suspect a significant part of the answer is it is not that demand is exceeding the supply of places, as the Government and INZ has been telling us for the thick end of two years, it is, incredibly, that the department lacks the intellectual capability to process most of the cases on hand. They don’t have the knowledge and experience.

I believe that is the real reason for the increasing backlogs. A significant percentage of the case officers are not ‘fit for purpose’. I have all but been told that by my source.

We were intrigued and alarmed to learn a few months ago that within the so-called priority queue there was also an unofficial sub-priority queue covering teachers and ‘health workers’.  We couldn’t understand why there needed to be a priority queue within a priority queue. After all, all those people were on long term work visas and were not in any meaningful way in need of urgent processing. Certainly no more urgent, than say, applicants sitting on fixed term 12 month contracts (fine for a resident visa and points) and whose resident visas are not going to be allocated, processed and approved before they lose their jobs and with it, residence.

When pressed on what the justification was for a queue within a queue, my source has suggested these are, in large part, being used for training purposes because, I imagine on any visa scale of complexity a Teacher, working in NZ, is a less complex type of application for someone fresh faced, inexperienced or out of their intellectual depth to process. That's an incredible suggestion.

I think, although the source will not absolutely confirm (because this reflects pretty poorly on management as well), the real reason this backlog is growing is primarily because the managers do not believe the skills exist across the processing teams to accurately and efficiently process the cases. So the ‘easier’ ones are taking precedence. Not because they are more ‘valuable to NZ’ as INZ has told us more than once, but because they are usually less complex.

It seems then your chances of residence is now based primarily how complicated your case might look to INZ.

Adding to all of this is the fact that the previous Government cut the numbers of visas they were prepared to issue (paradoxically as the economy boomed and skills shortages worsened) and the current Government cut them even further for political reasons (to the current unofficial 30,000 people every 18 months).

The pass mark to be selected from the skilled migrant pool did not increase when both governments cut numbers as it needed to in order to not invite more people to apply for residence than there were places available. That of course, in a booming economy would have created a whole different set of issues but that is for another day (and Government policy review on the folly of a points based system in a labour market driven policy). The point is, two years ago the pass mark should have increased, or the processing backlog would inevitably grow as there is a maximum number of resident visas that can be approved.

‘Demand’ is being used now as an excuse by officials and Ministers but it is a red herring. It’s a smokescreen that no one has been able to see through. Until now.

Even with the lower target put in place by the current government the ‘backlog’ was only 6-8 months to allocate cases, so the numbers flowing into the system has not increased to the point where cases should be taking four times longer even to be allocated.

The department’s own numbers prove that is a lie.

There is now 3000 EOIs sitting in the pool. My source has confirmed that number and acknowledged that the processing ‘can’ is simply being kicked down the road. INZ doesn’t want these EOIs selected because they don’t want more cases flowing into the system because with every one that is, it makes INZ look even more hapless. And exposes the Minister and Government to more accusations they are missing in action. They aren’t chasing (another) crisis.

With INZ back at work after having to sit at home twiddling their thumbs while the rest of us were left working during lockdown, pool draws have not resumed. We were told they were stopped during lockdown because INZ wasn’t able to work.

Why hasn’t the selection resumed given INZ has been back at work for a month?

My guess is, with the shine coming off this government over border and quarantine botch ups and 8 weeks out from the election, when their (commanding) lead in the polls is falling, they will not authorise the resumption of pool draws till the election is out of the way. They are desperate to make immigration a non-issue during the election. And INZ management is not about to make themselves look any more useless than they look now by backlogs getting even worse.

INZ is never going to admit that the truth behind the backlog is a failure to have enough immigration officers with the experience, knowledge and intellectual capability to do their job. Managers clearly lack the confidence to give more than a case or two a week to these officers because they apparently believe they will make poor decisions and need a whole lot of babysitting and training.

The tens of thousands of migrants (being real people, not economic ‘widgets’) sitting in that queue, living day to day, hoping they won’t lose their job, who gave up everything to be part of this Government’s (unofficially official) programme, who were selected and invited to apply for residence by demonstrating a prima facie claim they met the criteria for approval, who have been charged $3000 plus per family by Government for the chance, are being treated with contempt.

Victims of gross political and bureaucratic mismanagement.

This is a growing scandal that the government hopes desperately to keep the lid on till after the election.

They will if we all let it.

Until next week.

Iain MacLeod


Southern Man

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Danger in the Pool

Posted by Iain on Nov. 24, 2017, 4:27 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the water after the Skilled Migrant changes earlier this year in both New Zealand and Australia, it seems that you might need to think again.

Both countries allow applicants to file Expressions of Interest and enter their skilled migrant pools – in Australia you need a minimum of 60 points and in New Zealand, 160, (we give more points to qualifications and work experience but the type of person with those scores will be very similar). In both countries the immigration year begins on 1 July.

New Zealand targets 27,000 skilled migrants per year with a variance of 10%. Between the start of the immigration year and 3 November, New Zealand approved and issued around 4,100 resident visas. If you annualise that you’ll see that it will barely reach 50% of the stated target. That is not to tell the whole story however. We had clearly signalled that there would be no pool ‘draws’ for six weeks through to late August as the new system was reset. This saw three draws skipped. 

It may be that numbers recover in the months to come but given the difficulties I have written about so often about the disconnect between the visa process and the labour market (employers want work visas but Government won’t give work visas without jobs for the most part), the jury is out on whether New Zealand will reach its self-declared quotas this year.

I see no prospect of pass mark increases.

The question is whether we will see it fall. If so when the politicians will let it as unemployment continues to fall rapidly in NZ. It is now down to 4.6% which effectively means if you want to work there is a job with your name on it.

We are continuing to find that in the significant majority of cases our English speaking and experienced clients are finding jobs in 8-10 weeks. If all migrants are doing the same then I think that there is a chance the pass marks may not need to fall and the next few months will confirm that.

Over in Australia things have taken a bizarre turn in recent times.

The Aussies, never ones for originality, took the NZ skilled migrant system – Expressions of Interest (EOI), a pool, selection and invitation, modified it and I believe are seeing the first signs of it falling apart.

Historically to meet their own skilled migrant quotas (which are not national quotas like NZ where you compete against everyone chasing one of those 27,000 places, but occupation quotas – you compete against those in the same ‘nominated occupation’ as you).

Historically, the Australians needed to select 2000 EOIs each selection period. They have cut that in half since July 1. Inexplicably or with an arrogance that one might suggest is misplaced, they feel no obligation it seems to ever explain what they are doing, nor why. The implications of cuts to the numbers being selected means more people are fighting for fewer places and that pushes up pass marks.

One might speculate they might be doing this to push applicants toward state sponsorship. It would be nice to know.

In Australia, each State or territory has its own ‘in demand’ occupation lists so there is the possibility the Federal Government is in effect abandoning their own national occupation targets and devolving the decision on which skilled migrants get into Australia to the various  States. If they are it makes some sense. I’ve never understood how some bureaucrat in Canberra can possibly know how many Primary School Teachers, Electrical Engineers or Software Developers the economy needs over the next year.

State sponsorship has the advantage of creating greater certainty for our clients as the pass mark for those with state sponsorship is fixed at 60.

Further, the Australian Government recently decided, again without explanation, not to do a pool draw. This has huge implications on many levels. We have at least one client in the pool (after racing the clock to get him to that point following a Herculean effort by our team in Melbourne) who turns 40 any day now. At that point, while he will still secure a Permanent Resident Visa, it won’t be the ‘live wherever you wish’ visa, but a State Sponsorship visa which requires him to have an ‘intention’ to settle, or at least spend two years in that state. He doesn’t have to live there, the law on that is clear, but he is expected to ‘give it a go’ (whatever that means).

If the Australian Government does not offer greater certainty to applicants they’ll lose people they say they need as more and more choose countries where a plan offers greater certainty.

We also suspect that Australia is suffering a flood of fraudulent or at least mischievous EOIs. Whereas in NZ you pay to file an EOI, in Australia you don’t. I have always thought this invited frivolous applications. When there is no skin in the game there is nothing stopping people filling as many EOIs as they like.

If they claim the pass mark they must be selected. Equally stupidly, unlike NZ, being selected from the pool leads to an automatic and guaranteed Invitation to Apply for residence. We believe that this is the reason that the pass mark for Accountants for example shot up to 85 points despite the annual quota of places being doubled this immigration year. The pass mark at the end of the previous immigration year was 70-75. When you double the supply of places unless there is an unprecedented increase in demand (which there has not been) the pass mark should have fallen, not gone up. That strongly suggests people are filing frivolous applications. And why not? It’s free!

I hope the Aussies learn from NZ some of the lessons of running a pool system. Charge to get into it. Don’t automatically invite everyone that you select. Carry out credibility assessments. Invite them when things look credible. They’d cut down on the fraudulent and plain stupid applications if people had to pay the $500 odd that you pay to file an EOI in NZ and while credibility checks in NZ still result in large numbers of applicants being declined, our system isn’t broken.

Australia’s is. While they don’t tend to take advice off Kiwis they might want to do so on this occasion.

If they don’t, skilled migrants will continue to look elsewhere when Australia’s slowly falling unemployment rates and an improving job market for skills suggests they need these skills sets.

But hey, they’re Aussies, and since when have you been able to tell an Aussie they might not be doing something right?

Until next week...

Skilled Migrant Category Review

Posted by Iain on Oct. 21, 2016, 3:49 p.m. in Immigration


It’s the thing about Governments everywhere I suppose. They have to give the illusion of being in control even if they are not.

The announcement two weeks ago of the pass mark increasing to 160 from 100 had an instantaneous impact on the numbers of Expressions of Interest being selected from the pool - it cut them by around 50% which was exactly what was intended. No surprises there.

The demonstration of lack of control came from the fact that the numbers of EOIs sitting in the pool that the computer had to select because ever increasing numbers were claiming 100 points or more including an offer of ‘skilled’ employment was allowed to grow and grow and grow. In the end the Government simply had to act - the ‘tsunami’ of EOIs I have so often written about and spoken about at seminars was washing ashore. Big time.

I still get this picture in my mind of Government Ministers standing in a huddled group on a beach with their backs to the sea wondering why everyone was running away for higher ground.  With puzzled looks on their faces they are asking one another ‘What’s the threat? What’s the problem? We can’t see any problem.There’s no problem here’.

Having been told by those that should know less than six months ago the Skilled Migrant Category was not going to be seriously reviewed for some time (policy review priorities lay elsewhere, principally with the Investor and Entrepreneur Categories) all of sudden the Minister announces that it is in fact being reviewed. Nothing to do with the system about to crash under the weight of EOIs, nothing to do with focus groups and polling showing immigration is going to a very hot topic in the run up to next year’s elections, nothing to do with the fact that the ‘quality’ those being selected has been falling for some time, nothing to do with Auckland house prices…..all now seemingly just one of these three yearly reviews ‘we always do’. A ‘tweak here’ and a ‘tweak there’ as you do when you are on top of the situation.

Except this one wasn’t gong to be reviewed for some time yet…and it won’t just be tweaks.

Government released a hastily put together public consultation document this week and has asked for feedback on how the rules might be ‘tweaked’ in order to improve quality. Over about two weeks.

What is clear is that New Zealand is in great demand as a migrant destination and we can choose who we want and likewise who we don’t want when we have so many to choose from.

So who don’t we now want?

The consultation document is interesting in that it essentially confirms everything I predicted it would in last week’s blog.

If the changes which are at this stage (if you can believe it) only talking points you can expect by mid 2017 to see a shift toward:

1. More highly educated applicants i.e. whereas qualifications have not been a pre-requisite for entry for the best part of five years now, they will play an increasingly important role in the future. The days of getting a resident Visa based on your age, work experience and having a skilled job offer are over for the time being.

2. More highly paid applicants - there is clear signal that entry level but skilled job offers are not going to be enough to get younger applicants over the finish line - I predicted last week salaries would come into the mix to both assist with determining skill level of jobs but also to act as a mechanism to prevent younger, less experienced applicants taking places in the programme away from older more experienced applicants.

3. Potentially applying a minimum work experience requirement on all applicants - designed clearly to cut out the young, international student who has studied in New Zealand. This takes  a leaf out of the Australian song book which they also introduced a few years ago to deal with the same issue of over promising international students a pathway to residence in order to develop an export education industry.

4. To focus through points on those aged 30-39 as being the ‘optimum’ aged applicants. This shouldn’t mean that older applicants won’t be able to still qualify and I’d suggest for those with higher education, jobs outside of Auckland and higher than median salaries they’ll still be okay.

I made the suggestion last week these rushed changes now and the more considered ones to follow in 2017 is designed to all intents and purposes to solve one problem - when you have a 23 year old who came to NZ to study (on the promise by the government of a pathway to residence) but that youngster is competing say with the 35 year old software developer for a single place in the SMC programme, the government was  forced  to decide which of the two was of more ‘value’ to the economy.

The answer is obvious to me but it does not bode well for the tens of thousands of international students lured here by Government, less than honest education agents overseas (unlicensed) and a fair number of private and public education providers who saw nothing but fees and commissions at the end of a principally Indian rainbow.

I was invited to a meeting a few nights ago where the Minister of Immigration was speaking to a small group of predominantly white, oldish men in cheap, ill fitting grey suits (bankers and investment types for the most part). Never have I seen a man’s lips move so much without actually saying very much and when he did it was by and large, garbage.

With a completely straight face he laid the ‘blame’ for the unfortunate reality about to confront thousands of international students who will not now get residence firmly at the feet of (unlicensed) education agents. 

For the second time in a week I heard him say ‘We (the Government) never promised anyone residence. Coming to New Zealand should only ever have been about getting a ‘world class’ education.’

That will come as a surprise to more than a few students. If this is the case why did the Government offer them all open work visas when they finished their study if it wasn't designed to provide a pathway into a labour market and from there to a resident visa?

Now that rug has been clumsily pulled from right under their feet, not by agents but by the government, Ministers I guess have to be seen to be controlling the situation as if this was their plan all along.

I’d be interested what a lot of these international students might think about it all given for a great number of them their dreams of settling here have been ripped out from under them and by mid 2017 any chance most have will surely be extinguished for good.

My only surprise about all this is that so far few seem to have cottoned on to what the Government has just done.

What they have done last week is to stick their finger in the dyke to try and hold back this ‘tsunami’ of graduate students looking for residence but the point that appears to have escaped these youngsters is how the government is about to start draining the lake behind the dyke without those frolicking in and on it realising they are the ones about to be drained.

I have to say it is quite a sight to watch the Government try and defend the indefensible and how incredibly well they seem to have done so. Equally how their target appears to have missed it completely (and by and large as has the media).

Whilst they were rapidly losing control of a situation of their own making the Government is doing a jolly good job of making it look they are in control. 

First line of attack - blame someone else.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

There and back again...

Posted by Paul on July 11, 2014, 2:09 p.m. in Immigration

New Zealand owes much of its history to migrants; in fact the country was settled, developed and created for the most part by people from foreign shores.

It started with Polynesian settlers sometime in the year 1280 and then later when Captain Cook claimed New Zealand in 1879.  40 years later missionaries and traders seeking out new lands formed the backbone of New Zealand’s migrant population. By 1830 there was a pool of approximately 800 non-Maori people residing in New Zealand of which roughly 25% were runaway convicts who had managed to secure passage from Europe (slightly less than the number of convicts in Australia).

Structured and controlled migration only really began after 1840 following the formalising of sovereignty and for the most part relied on migrants being shipped in from Europe. There were a handful of Asian and Indian migrants that made it over, however, until the 1960’s when New Zealand decided to officially diversify its migrant workforce, the bulk of new settlers to New Zealand were still European. From the 1960’s a large number of migrants were bought in from the Pacific Islands to meet the growing demands of the country’s manufacturing sector.

It wasn’t until 1987 that New Zealand decided to build a points based system that would remove the preference for migrants based on ethnicity to targeting specific skills based on economic demand. The system was loosely based on Canada’s migration scheme and officially came into being in 1991.

That system despite being altered, reinvented and tweaked is still largely the same system we use today. The only difference is that where previously the majority of people qualified sitting in their countries of origin, the focus now has shifted to being in New Zealand and employed. Whilst a number of popular migrant destinations (Australia and Canada to name just two) prefer to rely on qualifications and so on, New Zealand over the last few years has swung quite clearly in the direction of people securing job offers to meet the qualification criteria. 

As bizarre as it sounds, it does make some sense.

Often when I tell people that in order to secure Residence they need to travel here to find an offer of skilled employment first, they look at me as if I have just told them the sky is green and clouds are made of candy floss. The reality is, however, that for the vast majority of applicants under the Skilled Migrant Category (the points system) securing a job offer is the only way to achieve the end goal.

It wasn’t always like this however. In fact, prior to 2010 there were a large number of applicants who secured enough points to qualify without a job offer even if they weren’t able to claim many of the ‘bonus’ points we have now for those in specific occupations.

Let me give you an example.

Up until late 2009 someone who was no older than 40, held a recognised qualification (in anything), with ten years of work experience and either a family member in NZ or a partner with a recognised qualification (in anything) stood a reasonable, but slowly dwindling, chance of securing Residence whilst sitting overseas.

Today that person’s chances would be right next to zero. However, if that person was skilled and willing to travel to New Zealand to secure a job offer then they would definitely qualify. In fact, they wouldn’t need half of the points and could rely purely on their age, work experience and a job offer to get them across the line.

The signal is clear come over, secure a job offer and Residence awaits you. The Government, however, doesn’t make that clear to all those that would like to apply. For the four years that job offers have ruled the roost, the Government has continued to allow people to file EOI’s despite the fact that without a job offer they will almost certainly never be selected. Those whose points scores do not include the required bonus points or are too low to reach the automatic selection pass mark. They will always argue that the pass mark might change and so they allow people to pay the NZD$510.00 anyway, but we know (and they know) that for four years those people have been wasting their money (and hopes) whilst the Government has been collecting the fee. That is, however, another story for another blog.

There is some logic to the current trend to push people towards a job offer and whilst many migrants may find it a bitter pill to swallow it can, with very careful planning and strategy, be a successful pathway to follow.

Think about it. If you were given a Resident Visa right now, stamped into your passport, your ticket to the land of the long white cloud…what would be the next thing to cross your mind? For most it should be “I need to get a job”. Of course there will be a few who can afford to live without one but they would be in the minority.

The system that this Government has ‘slipped under the door’ simply puts the job at the front of the process and the Residence at the back. The bigger issue is that they don’t really make it that easy to navigate the process, which is why having good advice along the way is now far more important than ever before. It is no longer a case of just filling in a form, get your papers and send the courier to INZ. There is a lot more to it.

You need to be prepared for what lies ahead. Careful and strategic planning is required to make sure that when you do get here you a) know how the process works and how to secure that job offer and b) you have everything you need in terms of evidence and proof to make each application efficient and painless. Many a migrant has come unstuck being ill advised or ill prepared for the process that awaits them in New Zealand.

You also need to appreciate the bigger picture. You need to understand the market for your skills and how to tackle the job search process. You can read our other posts on this for more information, however if you have a skill, particularly in engineering, construction and ICT (but not exclusively just those areas) then you stand a very good chance of staking your family flag in our soil.

We have counselled and hand-held thousands of migrants through that very process. Understanding the timing and the logistics involved is something we are very good at and why despite rising pass marks and a recession we have continued to bring in successful, happy and settled families.

And to some degree getting the job offer first and then getting Residence makes for a more settled/successful migrant. Not that those who get Residence first don’t also settle, but having travelled here to secure the job, bringing the family over who can also start working and studying and then becoming accustomed to the routine of life in NZ, almost makes the Residence approval an anti-climax. It’s still a big deal of course but those with job offers first have already crossed the larger barriers in terms of employment and are pretty much established New Zealanders.

We also suspect that the current system of jobs up front is here to stay for a while at least. It allows the labour market to drive the demand and ensures that those people making New Zealand home are employed and contributing.

So if you have ever considered making the move, but have been put off by the prospect of having to secure the job offer first, perhaps you need to take another look. The most important step, however, is to first work out which pathway exists for you and then finding someone that can assist you in walking down that road.

We do it all the time and we do it very successfully.

On a separate but related note, don’t forget our upcoming seminars in South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia. They might just give you the answers you need to take that first step.

Also congratulations to James Turner, one of the team here who has recently passed his IAA Licensing course, with exemplary marks (some of the highest in the course).

Until next week – Paul Janssen, standing in for the Southern Man.

It isn't meant to be a lottery...

Posted by Iain on Dec. 6, 2013, 2:08 p.m. in Immigration

What you are about to read is a true story. It shows, if any evidence was needed, how inept the Immigration Department can be and how idiotic decisions can literally change lives.

I today met a Malaysian who on paper is possibly the highest scoring skilled migrant I have ever met and if he had a job offer would score over 220 points. Which, trust me, is about as good as it gets. A highly qualified Electronic Engineer he took his wife and young family to New Zealand and completed his PhD at Auckland University. Relying on the Immigration Department’s website and staff for advice he filed his Expression of Interest (EOI).  He had points to burn without needing a job offer. His family were well settled. They added to their family with a New Zealand born child. The eldest two went to school and considered themselves little Kiwis.

His EOI was duly selected, the Department carried out their credibility check and then invited the family to apply for their Residence Visas. They were not warned that their application was doomed before they wrote out their application cheque for almost $2000 and that they were destined to be declined.

They ran around and gathered everything they required at considerable expense, excited that they had been invited to file their residence papers.

Having filed their application they were in the fullness of time interviewed by an immigration officer tasked with the decision of whether they were likely to settle well and contribute to the great nation that is New Zealand.

For those unfamiliar with what happens after interview there are three possible outcomes – the case can be declined, the applicant can be granted unconditional residence or the applicant can be given a Work to Residence Visa (WTR). The idea is that those that have demonstrated an ability to settle well should be granted a Residence Visa. But someone forgot to tell this family’s case officer.  This family had lived in New Zealand for three years and they were as integrated as it is possible to be. The principal applicant was getting job interviews but understandably with a few months to finish his PhD he wanted to get that out of the way first. That did not prevent the granting of a Resident Visa - it was the obvious outcome.

Bizarrely, the officer said she could not grant them a Resident Visa (goodness only knows why) and she was going to offer a Work Visa but the officer explained she couldn’t do that either because he was a student. To give him a Work to Residence Visa would mean he couldn’t study any longer. Of course if he was granted a Residence Visa he could……

So the application was withdrawn/declined and the couple, frustrated, dejected and disappointed left NZ and returned to Malaysia where two of their children, who only really knew New Zealand education, felt dislocated and were teased for their accent and inability to speak Malaysian.

They were confused on many levels.

A good friend of theirs, also from Malaysia, was also studying a PhD in New Zealand and filed their own EOI and had enough points to be granted a Residence Visa. Following interview they were.

Same points profile, both studying a PhD in Auckland, both still to complete it – the parallels between these two cases are stark and obvious.

One application was processed in Auckland Central Branch and the other in Henderson Branch (both about 20km apart).

Though both were in Auckland there were two entirely different and potentially life changing outcomes.

How can that be? Two almost identical cases with opposite outcomes? 

Is there more than one rulebook?

No. There is only one.

So how could it happen?

Simple.  If you have two immigration officers and one rule you will often have two different interpretations of that rule.

I always remind audiences at my seminars that I have four golden rules to help them survive this process with any of their mental faculties left intact:

  1. Assume nothing about your eligibility and the process;
  2. Suspend logic – this process is illogical;
  3. Just when you think you understand the rules your visa is processed by an immigration officer who does not know the rules; and
  4. Treat with great caution what you read on the Department’s website – it can be both misleading and dangerous.

One family safely settling in Auckland, the other stuck in Malaysia looking for a way back to the life they loved and the city they want to raise their children in.

What happened to this Malaysian family should not have happened. And if they had known about Immagine New Zealand it would not have happened. We would not have let it.

It is utterly unacceptable that the Department continues to employ and deploy officers who have limited English and little to no understanding of immigration rules.

This family had uprooted and come to New Zealand in good faith. They ticked every box to secure their Residence Visa, but they were let down by a system that employs people you’d never employ in your own business.

Immagine will get them back to New Zealand.  They are just what the policy was designed to attract but what a shame they have wasted time and money in a fruitless exercise that should have been successful.

While it is always somewhat sad to listen to these stories (especially when the guy you are talking to is sitting there in his All Black jersey!), knowing his children will get the chance to recommence their lives in New Zealand once we sort of this avoidable mess is the reason my team and I get up in the morning.

The skilled migrant system is not meant to be a lottery but so often appears to be. We have the power to take the randomness out of it.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

INZ Short of the Mark

Posted by Iain on Sept. 13, 2013, 11:31 a.m. in Immigration

We have just ended the second year of the Government's three year residence Programme.

They are woefully short of their targeted Visa issuance at the 2/3rd stage of 54,000 skilled migrants and this has serious implications on the labour market, available skills and honesty about its intentions.

According to its own public statements the Government plans (and planned) on issuing 85,000 Skilled migrant Resident Visas by the end of June 2014.

That's 27,000 plus or minus 10% every 12 months.

They issued 18,000 in the first year.

Here we are shortly after the end of year two. How many Resident Visas have been granted this year?

Another 18,000.

So whereas the Government stated it wanted to issue 54,000 Resident Visas (plus or minus 10%) they have granted just over 36,000.

Now you might think 'who cares?'

Well I do.  All those thousands of people every year who file Expressions of Interest with a view to obtaining residence because they have 100 points or more are never told that the Government has absolutely no intention of selecting them, inviting them to apply for residence or granting them residence.

Each Expression of Interest costs NZ$510 (that's about US$460) and there is no warning by INZ that to be selected applicants really need to meet one of the following points profiles

  • 100 points or more including an offer of skilled employment
  • 140 points (which usually includes an offer of employment but doesn't always)
  • 135 points with at least 15 bonus points for six years or more of work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage.

All those people with 100 points or more who do not meet one of the profiles above are, without doubt, wasting their money - the Government of New Zealand has no intention whatsoever of selecting them from the Pool. 

I have no doubt that they will stick to the same level of approval in this the third year of the Residence programme. That will, by June next year, mean New Zealand has missed out on around 25,000 people the Government has included in its target.

A great many of those 25,000 did try, they did file Expressions of Interest - the Government simply never told them that in doing so, they were wasting their money.

Is that fraudulent? Taking money off someone who has no chance of getting what they are told they are paying for?

If it isn't fraud it is certainly less than honest.

I am convinced the Government moved from a 12 month target of skilled migrant visas they wished to issue to a thirty six month one in order to deflect accusations that they were cutting the numbers. There is no other explanation for it.

They can publicly deny cutting but when you have lost (at the end of three years) 25,000 people those are serious numbers indeed.

There is no doubt that as a Licensed Adviser if we take money off a client who has no chance of getting what they think they are paying for we can lose our licences. As we should.

So how does the Government get away with it?

Because they are the Government I guess. This makes our input so much more valuable as we are able to guide those who have enough points to file Expressions of interest but who will never be successful, not to bother or to find an alternative strategy.

I am about to board a plane to Malaysia to give a seminar tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur and then in Singapore next weekend.

One of my key messages will be to ensure that there is a strategy in place that should work to gain the Resident Visa clients seek with a high degree of probability.

Our philosophy has always been that morally we owe this to our potential clients given the enormous emotional, logistical and financial investment that is migration, and to ensure that people are not wasting their time, energy and investment.

Pity the New Zealand Government isn't as honest.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

Ill Be Back...

Posted by Paul on May 10, 2013, 2:12 p.m. in Immigration

Anyone remember Skynet? 

For those of you out there who have no idea what I am talking about, Skynet was the global computer system in the movie franchise ‘Terminator’ that went rogue, creating a race of robots which it then sent out to destroy mankind. 

It was and thankfully still is the stuff of sci-fi fantasy; however life may imitate the cinematic arts sooner than we think. 

Technology has moved ahead at such an incredible pace that there is really no gauge as to what we will be able to achieve in ten, twenty or even two year’s time. This is particularly alarming if you consider that in 1937 the first electro-mechanical computer was born (the Z1) which could perform basic multiplication in approximately three seconds; compare that to the Cray Titan, unleashed in 2012 which can perform the same calculation 20,000 trillion times per second.

What we can do now with computers, even the basic ones that we have at home, is nothing short of miraculous, and at the same time the proliferation of technology into almost everything we do is expanding at a similarly alarming rate.

I remember when email was becoming ‘mainstream’ and I would head to university to fire up the computer (which took enough time to boot up to prepare a cup of coffee and two slices of toast) and download, if I was lucky three or four messages. Back then emails were important and it was like receiving posted mail – just electronically – incredible really.

In the modern world emails are still important, but they are slow. People demand much faster and instant responses such as Tweets. Electronic mail has been surpassed by Instant Messaging. People send photos, videos, books and music rather than the written word. Our entire lives are lived virtually through social networking and there really isn’t any way to escape it. Technology is also no longer the domain of the ‘nerd’ or the ‘geek’ or the ‘young’. The elderly are becoming as IT savvy as Gen Y and ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks’ are now actually pseudonyms for ‘cool’ and ‘hip’. We have entire TV series devoted to being a ‘geek’ and the technology that kids carry around in their pockets today has more power and potential than the systems used to send man to the moon. Its enough to give you a headache, but don’t worry there is an ‘app’ that can help with that (seriously there is).

Right about now you might be wondering what any of this has to do with immigration.

A few weeks ago I attended a presentation held by INZ, where the senior managers attempted to unveil the first signs of their new online processing system. It would have been an event similar to something Microsoft would do, had the video presentation worked. Technical issues aside the presentation was revealing in a number of different ways.

Firstly Immigration, like many Government Departments, is slowly starting to realise that technology can replace a lot of their tired, paper based and slow processes. If you can fill it in on paper you can do it online and save a few trees in the process.

Secondly online systems bring cost and efficiency gains, removing bricks and mortar, speeding up lodgement procedures and making the entire process accessible from anywhere on the planet. 

Thirdly, these systems have the potential to replace people. Not in the ‘rogue robot’ kind of way but in the way that you don’t need to pay ten people to open envelopes and shuffle papers.

On these points I am all for an investment that brings the immigration process into the 21st century – long overdue in my opinion. They have tried it before and failed, just look at what happens when ten thousand hopeful migrants apply online for 300 Silver Fern Visas. I hope this time they get it right.

But there is a flip-side.

Immigration is not only talking about filing applications online but going a step further and having an ‘eligibility engine’ of sorts that will assess certain applications against pre-defined criteria. If the applicant ticks the right combination of boxes and the ‘engine’ completes a background check against its rules a decision will be made to issue or not issue a visa. All with little or no human interaction.

Other countries have introduced similar systems. Australia, for example, demands that practically everyone secures a visa before visiting, yet you can get one (if you are from certain countries) online and within 24 hours. No paper, no visa label just an email you print (or have on your smartphone) and show at the border. 

This removes the ‘visa-free’ status that many countries used to enjoy but allows the Australian Government to monitor and track any and all visitors, all of the time. They also collect a bit of extra revenue doing it. 

New Zealand appears to be following suit but, in typical fashion, wants to go one step further (because we can always do it better).

Not quite Skynet and I don’t envisage a rogue army of robotic visa officers being unleashed on the world; but still an interesting concept. 

Migrating is a uniquely ‘human’ process and whilst INZ is not indicating that people will be removed from the equation entirely it does look very much like fewer people will be asked to make decisions. Instead a large number of applications will simply be measured against a list of rules.

The minute you take the ‘human’ out of what is a very human process things get complicated. They might become quicker but decision making quality won’t necessarily improve. People are complex and migrants are amongst the most complex people, so having a computer decide on one’s fate is a relatively scary thought.

A number of other advisers who attended the same seminar were overcome with fear and dread that an online system would replace the need for advisers in the future. These people clearly don’t bring a lot of value to their clients with the current process.

If anyone had asked me whether this move to a virtual immigration world worried me, my response would have been – absolutely not. You can make an online system with all the bells and whistles, but you will never be able to replace the knowledge that a good adviser brings to the table and in the flesh.

I don’t anticipate this new system ‘taking over’ in the immediate future and if this Government has any sense they will have learnt from their recent mistakes with Novopay (the $30 million teachers’ payroll system that still doesn’t work) and take this all very slowly. However, as an ICT enthusiast, I shall be watching its development closely and keeping you all updated.

And of course we aren’t immune from the advances of technology here either. 

We are currently working on a new online software platform (all very hush hush) that will provide our existing and future clients with an entirely new and interactive way to work with us. We have made a pretty big investment in time and money developing this system, which we hope will enable clients to see more, do more and be involved more with their entire relocation. Ironically finding talent to build this system wasn’t easy, but despite an extensive search in the local market we wound up hiring a highly qualified and skilled ICT professional from the Philippines. Stay tuned for more developments!

For now however I need to respond to 35 emails that have arrived whilst writing this, post my regular ‘Tweets’ and check out what is going on in the world of Facebook…and if I have enough time post a good old fashioned letter to my mum for Mother’s day.

Until next week when the Southern Man returns

Paul Janssen

Work and Resident Visa Conflict

Posted by Iain on April 25, 2013, 4:32 p.m. in Immigration


When I started out in this game 24 years ago my first Boss had, until fairly recently, been a senior Cabinet Minister who had held a number of portfolios including immigration. He was quite fearsome, had an ego the size of Texas, detested the stupidity of bureaucracy and the way those rules were interpreted and implemented by state functionaries with little or no incentive to question them. 

No one would stand up more for the little guy than he.  Underneath the ‘bring it on’ exterior beat the soft heart of a man who would sweat blood for what he believed was owed to his clients.

And no one is more the little guy than a would-be migrant trying to move from one country to another.

I know, having lead a number of Ministries, he had great insight into what running a government is like. It is seldom pretty, giant egos clashing with giant egos, different agendas vye for their moment in the sun and where good politics is seldom the same as good economics. 

Being bright eyed and bushy tailed and very interested in the political process I recall asking him once if he entered Parliament believing he could change the world. He replied in the affirmative. I then asked him if he felt he had.

His hands flat on the board room table, he tipped back his head and gave one of his long, disconcertingly loud and gravelly laughs (he of the two pack a day habit).

He said no he had not. He conceded that at best he had tinkered around the edges.

Ultimately the machine was far bigger than he.

Which surprised me. A man of not insignificant ego – to effectively concede he changed little despite his best efforts I found deeply disconcerting. I always viewed him as highly intelligent and also a very crafty politician.

He has spent the rest of his working life both fearing and fighting against the machine he could never really control when he was one of the most senior politicians in it. I think it is fair to say the machine and its power actually frightens him to this day.

I suspect his world view can best be summed up as elected Governments come and go. The public service just keeps on.

Although since my old Boss’ day in the halls of power successive Administrations have tried to bring some order to bear and the public service today is far more accountable than it was in his day, meaningful reform has largely failed.  If I hear ‘culture change’ once when it comes to the Public Service I have heard it a thousand times in the past 24 years. Most Departments still seem to operate in their own reality vacuum.

I wrote last week about the Work Visa process and how the ‘system’ makes the assumption that employers would prefer to engage a sometimes hostile, always complex, generally inconsistent and confusing visa process and employ non-New Zealanders over New Zealanders despite every shred of evidence suggesting the contrary is overwhelmingly the case.

How, as a result of this utter misunderstanding of how the labour market really works, even when employers have already been working with Work and Income New Zealand (to no avail) the work visa application process still sees the Immigration Department engage through their own public sector channels the same WINZ functionaries who have so often been unable to assist the employer before the employer offered the job to a non-resident. And try, successfully in many cases, to deny employers access to the ‘foreign’ workers they’d prefer not to have to employ in the first place.

That process got me thinking some more.

The case I highlighted last week becomes even more surreal when you step back from the work visa process and examine it in light of the client’s intention to secure a residence visa.

The client in that case has a prima facie claim to a residence visa and once I get him his work visa I suspect he will apply for residency. I am confident based on what I know of him that he is eligible.

Bizarrely no labour market test is applied to Skilled Migrant Category residency applications that include job offers i.e. the employer is free to offer the job to the migrant and no one cares if a New Zealander is available or not. WINZ and local applicants simply do not enter into the equation.

However because the residence process takes so long the migrant inevitably requires a work visa to buy enough time to complete the residence process.

So on the one hand the Government demands most skilled migrants now have jobs before they can get the points to gain permanent entry but on the other will try and prove through WINZ, they aren’t really needed.

Government has a residence programme which it actively markets online and through employment and Immigration Expos to the world. It works alongside favoured employers at these Expos around the world (particularly in the UK and they now plan on running them in Singapore and Malaysia) and encourage these employers to go offshore and try and recruit.

However in the next breath and following receipt of a work visa application the Immigration Department is required to carry out the local labour market check which can and often does see the work visa being declined.

That said if the employer would keep the job open for the six months or so for the residence visa application to be processed, a residence visa is happily granted.

Why have a skilled work visa policy that so actively undermines your Residence Visa policy when the same job offer applies to both and you can get the residence without the work visa?

Seriously, this has been the case for my 24 years and no Minister, no Government and no public official has ever it seemed willing to question the insanity, inconsistency or conflict of these two intertwined policies and how badly that deprives local employers of highly skilled migrants.

A simpler solution would be to grant all those who have filed an Expression of Interest (in Residence) and been selected from the pool under the Skilled migrant category a work visa for say, six months.

No wonder my old Boss laughed that day. The machine is so big there is little mere mortal Ministers can do to change it. 

Didn’t he know it. Clearly Politicians in countries like ours are not experts in their portfolio. The Immigration portfolio is no different. Ministers are generally led by the nose by a Civil Service with no real clue how labour markets work and employers think.

The Skilled Migrant Category is currently under review and provides our political leadership an opportunity that only rolls around every few years to address the conflict between the two policies but I won’t be holding my breath.

Which is a little depressing for the employers of New Zealanders faced with increasing skills shortages along with all those highly skilled migrants looking to risk all to bring their skills to our country.

Until next week

Southern Man - Iain MacLeod

Is the New Zealand Qualifications Authority Being Totally Honest?

Posted by Iain on Feb. 1, 2013, 9:21 a.m. in Immigration


I remember being really surprised when I was in my third year of Primary School when my school report said among other things that ‘Iain never stops asking why’. My curiosity and unwillingness to take things at face value was clearly getting to my then teacher. I am pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.

Yet to me to question and to delve deeper was, and remains, as normal as breathing. If something doesn’t sound right, requires clarification or to my mind requires deeper analysis or explanation it has never occurred to me not to ask. I’m not a face value kind of guy. And by nature I am curious.

Of late I have begun focussing on the International Qualifications Assessment reports (IQA)  that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority carry out which for so many of our clients can be the difference between qualifying for a Resident Visa of New Zealand or not. I did so because increasingly many applicants are spending significant money on this Department’s fees but receiving outcome reports that provide them neither benefit nor advantage in their plans to migrate to New Zealand.

Initially this interest was somewhat restricted to Philippine Bachelor Degree holders’ as their IQA reports were often, but not always, indicating that the five year of degree level study in the Philippines was only ‘comparable’ to the learning outcomes of a two or three year Diploma in new Zealand, if that.

I asked myself  why would something that takes five years of fulltime study at a good Philippine University only be deemed comparable to the learning outcomes of a three year Polytechnic level Diploma here in New Zealand?

Thinking about this and digging a little deeper by asking questions of senior NZQA officials and obtaining files under the Official Information Act  (OIA) has now made me question the entire assessment process for all countries and the honesty of this process.

What I have uncovered I have found unsettling.

It was always my understanding that NZQA would look at what you studied, where you studied it, what your grades were and what qualification you had. They would then compare this information to a range of NZ qualifications and if yours was similar then the report would be generated confirming the named NZ qualification e.g. your Bachelor of Engineering is deemed to be comparable to the learning outcomes of a named New Zealand qualification e.g. New Zealand Bachelor of Engineering (Level 7).

I no longer believe that to be the process.

What I could never work out is how by simply looking at an academic record/transcript of papers/units studied and grades any state functionary could work out how ‘similar’ that was to the content of say the NZ Bachelor Degree.

I am rapidly approaching the point of concluding NZQA does not do what they say they do.

The assessment, it appears, pretty much only focuses on whether the Institution that issued the qualification is accredited by some higher education authority (itself recognised by NZQA) in that country. If it is, then the assessment outcome seems to be Degree for Degree, Diploma for Diploma, Master for Master.

If the Institution is not recognised by NZQA then the assessment outcome states either ‘there is no comparable qualification’ or it is as assessed as being at a much lower academic level e.g. Degree equals NZ Diploma.

This has major implications for those needing points to qualify for residence, especially those Engineers, IT specialists and the like who can often qualify for residence visas without job offers if their degrees are deemed comparable to NZ degrees.

I am intrigued that notwithstanding the key criteria for recognition appears to be the status of the Institution and its accreditation NZQA still suggest there is far more to the process than these files might indicate. NZQA's explanation of the process they claim to have followed when they issue the assessment report is:

“……there are quite substantial differences in structure, focus, content and intent between your qualifications and similarity to the broad learning outcomes specified at the particular learning outcome level on the NZQF.  The academic level recognition afforded your qualification, internationally, by other qualification recognition agencies and databases has been taken into account in reaching this outcome.’

Phooey! My reading of a number of files obtained under the Official Information Act shows quite clearly that NZQA did neither analysis nor comparison of the ‘focus, content and intent’ of these qualifications to anything in New Zealand. They only apper to have looked at the status of the awarding University.

Which in some ways makes sense.  How can anyone tell by looking at an academic record of say a Bachelor’s Degree from a British, Malaysian, Singaporean or Philippine University and possibly know what the content of those individual  papers were, the scope, the focus and so on?  Especially given there are potentially tens of thousands of degree and other courses offered around the world.

So why doesn't NZQA advise those that have spent a significant sum getting the assessment of that? Or warn those considering it that from many countries their particular qualification is not going to be rated at the same level in New Zealand.

I would have thought the simplest thing to do would be for NZQA to publish lists for each country which says in effect and for example ‘If you have a five year fulltime Bachelor Degree from X University that was completed from Year Y to now or between 1970 – 2015 (or whenever)’ then your degree is deemed automatically comparable to a New Zealand Degree of the same type’.

They do not need to do it for all countries – just those from which most of our migrants come – so that’s about a dozen countries, tops. That would not prevent some people having to apply for assessments for immigration purposes but for many more would make their (potential) journey to New Zealand not only more affordable but involve less form filling and dealing with bureaucrats.

Only this morning I consulted with a young Malaysian for whom this assessment is necessary. To her the assessment fee this Government outfit charges to ‘assess’ her Degree represents two weeks of her gross wages.

Of course if NZQA were totally honest and transparent and perhaps published lists of which institutions are accredited and therefore recognised so that we could work out if an assessment is necessary or likely to yield the results the client requires to continue her journey to New Zealand it could save an awful lot of people an awful lot of money in wasted application fees.

But then maybe a few less people would need to be employed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, right?

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

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