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Posted by Iain on Sept. 13, 2019, 11:36 a.m. in Work Visa
I’d be lying if I said this job doesn’t sometimes feel like I am living a modern version of the biblical David and Goliath story. Every day, my team and I take on the might of the state. We deal with an Immigration Department culture that is often disinterested, dismissive, inexperienced, largely leaderless (they call it empowerment, probably) and a bunch of bureaucrats that display a level of arrogance that is at times shocking.
If we weren’t in the ‘people’s futures’ games it might almost be comical. But every decision made by INZ affects real people.
If we didn’t have an excellent relationship with a number of very senior Managers (of branches and in the national office) I confess I’d probably have given up years ago. I do not know how consultancies and law firms without these higher level relationships stay sane (or in business).
There’s something in me and my team that feels compelled to fight for the powerless little (foreign) guy and I suspect that is why, over 30 years, I’ve led a team with a visa success rate of over 99%.
This past week has been one for the ages in that story.
It all started with a client’s work visa. Twenty years a policeman in South Africa secured skilled employment in New Zealand as a security company Operations Manager. Immigration rules require an applicant’s work history to be ‘relevant’ to their NZ job. We thought the connection was pretty obvious but as we do with every visa application we provided a very helpful, carefully crafted legal argument explaining the connection, so whatever desk it landed on, we had in effect, done the Immigration Officer’s thinking for them. We explained why the application and evidence met the rules.
None of us could have predicted what happened.
Until Christmas 2018, 95% of our work visa applications were receipted, processed and approved within 4-5 weeks, many in half that time. As I have written about previously the Department has descended into processing chaos this year and for many work visa applicants, processing times have blown out to four months or more (thankfully, not many of our cases).
One of the legion of new and inexperienced officers upon whose desk this application landed could not see, and could not be persuaded to see, the connection between policing (protecting the public and property) and security work (protecting property) and declined the application after four months… with gentle prodding from us during that time.
We remained patient, nudging and pushing in an assertive but not aggressive way during that time. The officials kept delaying, trying to ignore us and in the end, incorrectly declined the application.
Things got really interesting last week when we sought a reconsideration given the decision was patently wrong. We received what can best be described as a ‘f*** you’ response - by far the most aggressive and inappropriate email from an Immigration Manager I had seen in 30 years. To my staffer, in charge of the case who is by any definition a mild mannered and very polite Solicitor/Adviser, it was a frightening piece of correspondence. When my senior colleague, Paul, challenged the author, he received a reply that threatened him (and the consultant leading the application) with a complaint to our industry regulator, the Immigration Advisers Authority, if in effect, we didn’t back off and take the garbage ‘service’ INZ was dishing up.
Red rag to this bull I can tell you! I can deal with Government incompetence (it keeps me in business) but I am damned if I am going to have my staff threatened for doing their job.
Most immigration advisers would have backed off and backed down in the face of such aggression. I cannot overstate the inappropriate tone and content of the correspondence by the Manager who was, it seemed to us, defending the indefensible processing delays and the error INZ made in this case.
His mistake was not knowing us. IMMagine is no ordinary immigration consultancy.
My colleague Paul took on the Manager in a polite, professional but forceful way. For us to be told when INZ had got this wrong that the client could get in the queue with all the other reconsiderations (I suspect they are piling up because there are so many incorrect decisions) for another 4-5 weeks till INZ got round to making a decision, was unacceptable to us. We had not got this application wrong, it was the Department that got it wrong. We just needed an officer who understands the rules to look at it. This manager didn’t give a damn about getting it right - I suspect because he too doesn’t know visa criteria - so decided to threaten us instead.
I got involved and went even higher than Paul had - in fact, all the way to the very top of the Department and to the Deputy Secretary himself.
Within 24 hours the work visa was approved and issued, no questions asked.
There has been a (very open, frank, professional and polite) discussion with this particular Manager’s line boss who has unreservedly apologised.
We have also received a written apology from the top of the immigration tree in Wellington. Senior managers have confirmed the attack levelled at my company and my colleagues by their Manager was, to put it mildly, inappropriate.
In sharing this I am not gloating. I cannot tell you how emotionally draining and time consuming this sort of thing is. We expect disagreements with immigration staff, it’s the nature of poorly drafted and vague rules.
None of us want conflict with these officials however. We defend (and advocate for) the little foreign guys - the little guys that New Zealand employers need to help fill jobs that we cannot fill locally. The little foreign guys that help our economic wheels keep turning in the face of ever stronger global economic headwinds. The little foreign guys that are treated like some sort of enemy by a paranoid, dysfunctional and at times a dismissive bureaucracy.
As I have been writing about for months INZ has descended into a state of utter processing chaos and has continued to blame applicants, employers, Advisers and lawyers, the labour market, increasing visa application numbers (because there are so many jobs we cannot fill locally) and they have done everything but look in the mirror for solutions. The deeply concerning thing for me is that some have now started to crack under that pressure and have started lashing out as the professional Consultants like us who call them to account.
The Manager learned we will not be cowed by threats. His bosses already knew that.
Our client got their work visa. No matter how long it takes, they always do.
What was different this time was the naked aggression and threats levelled at a customer (us) which reflects I believe a Department coming apart at the seams.
I even discussed the situation with the IAA Registrar himself who at my request reviewed our correspondence with the Department over the past week and confirmed in his view we had acted professionally and appropriately.
I suspect it might be something of a watershed moment.
It sounds immodest, and I do not wish it to be because my team is a bunch of highly professional and knowledgeable, but quiet achievers, but when an application is filed accompanied by a legal argument from IMMagine Australia and New Zealand, I demand the respect our reputation and history deserves. Those immigration officers and their managers that have been around our work for a long time, know it is high quality, the people we represent are top quality and honest, we do not file frivolous applications and in the end the visas are always granted because we know our stuff. Pure and simple.
Our weapons are not slingshots but expert knowledge and while Goliath was felled this week, it saddens (and tires) me that a work visa application took four months, an incorrect decline decision, a threatening series of emails from an inexperienced and arrogant Manager and the intervention of the Deputy Secretary of the Department to secure it. Something that could have taken 30 minutes descended into threat and farce.
Our clients seldom appreciate what goes on behind the scenes to secure what look like ‘straight forward’ work and other visas. And we don’t scream these stories from the rooftops because this is our job and we are well rewarded (financially and emotionally) but this one needs the light of publicity shone upon it as a warning to applicants and immigration officials alike - INZ doesn’t limit this sort of behaviour to us and someone has to make them accountable - migrants and we are ‘customers’, after all. Threatening and bullying your customers isn’t the best way of doing business.
Thank goodness it’s Friday!
Until next week
Posted by Iain on June 8, 2018, 2:32 p.m. in Immigration
"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
So says the Party in George Orwell’s epic novel, 1984.
I do love my day job, I really do. Not dealing with the Government, but helping clients deal with a Government Department where up is down and down is up and no two officers seem capable of implementing the same definitions consistently. A system where it feels the bureaucrats, at times, have what seems unbridled power, where the checks and balances of a competitive market do not apply, their timid and weak leadership is unwilling or unable to pull their troops into line and they employ some of the best spin to deflect their idiocy, inconsistency and weak management.
They can, and do, run roughshod over applicants (or as they call you all, ‘customers’ or the more sickening, ‘stakeholders’) and their own rulebook. I always wonder how someone can be a customer when you can’t get a visa anywhere else and the government operates a monopoly. I’d call you prisoners because you can’t go down the road to buy the service from someone who offers it better. You are forced into dealing with whatever idiot the government says you must.
We are doing some work for a major telco right now that has been trying, without success, to fill a large number of technical customer support roles.
Unemployment in New Zealand is officially 4.4%. That effectively means we have no skilled unemployed and even the unskilled are able to find jobs if they look. As an example, the government recently announced that tourists on visitor visas would be given permission to help pick this year’s kiwifruit harvest in the Bay of Plenty because there is no one to pick the fruit and the danger is that it’ll rot before it can be picked. It’s hardly skilled work; it just takes attitude and getting out of bed for six weeks. I suspect then that our real unemployment rate, if that is defined as those wishing to work but cannot find it, is actually almost zero. Those that wish to work, are working.
The real businesses of New Zealand continue to create thousands of jobs every month. The economy is humming. The biggest problems employers have today across the country is a lack of applicants.
Back to the Telco. No company we have tried to help has spent more time, money and energy in recruiting locally, training, upskilling and promoting New Zealanders wherever possible. As they say, why would it be otherwise? They are a Kiwi company with Kiwi customers, and what company in its right mind would ever get involved with work and resident visas if they could find locals to fill vacancies? Who wants to deal with the Immigration Department?
Well, the Immigration Department seems to believe, many.
The positions the company seeks to fill are demonstrably skilled requiring these Customer Support folk to understand and dispense advice on IT products and services to their customers. Although they work in a call centre environment the evidence we presented to the Immigration Department clearly matches the tasks for what INZ call an ICT Customer Support role. Appeals have been won against the Department for incorrectly declining resident visa applications when identical roles as this Telco is needing to fill were labelled as not being skilled. INZ has ignored those appeal decisions.
The department is currently trying their utmost to turn down a request the company has made to be allowed to top up their local work force with non-residents via work visa policy. Notwithstanding the company sat with several INZ officials in a friendly and relaxed meeting in which the company felt they finally got through to INZ why these positions were skilled (beware the smiling fox was my advice at the time), showed them what the staff do, explained the difference between, say, a call centre worker selling cellphone data packages and one that requires detailed knowledge and understanding of the complex IT systems and software that smartphones run, INZ continues to insist that these roles are not skilled for the purpose of work visas. They have put that in writing. This role, duplicated across scores of workers does not meet the definition of skilled employment for work visas, they say.
The funny (peculiar, not 'ha,ha') thing is the residence team of the same Government department continues to approve and issue resident visas to the employees of this same telco already on work visas, because the position is deemed by them to be...skilled!
For the uninitiated, the definition of what is skilled for the purposes of securing a work visa is the same for the purposes of securing a resident visa.
You might want to read those last few paragraphs again. Not skilled for a work visa but skilled for a resident visa – applying the same definition.
Talk about Alice in Wonderland!
So...on the one hand, work visas, and the company’s application to recruit more ICT Customer Support staff is being knocked back because the role is not ‘skilled’, yet where other staff doing an identical job are applying for residence, applying the same test of what is ‘skilled’ they are being granted residence. As recently as a week or so ago.
At the same time and somewhat chillingly, officers of the Department are in effect threatening the HR Department of this company to stop calling the role ‘ICT Customer Support’ when they file work visas. Our advice to the company is because it is required to ‘nominate’ the occupation off INZ’s skilled occupation list and it is unlawful to mislead an officer or the Department (as they love to remind their ‘customers’), the company must select that occupation that most closely matches the tasks these people are to do. The closest match is, without a shadow of a doubt, exactly what the company is calling them.
Without strong representation from the likes of us, willing to stand up against ‘Big Brother’, it would be easy (some might even say sensible) for the company to cave in. The problem with that is if they do what the ‘Party’ tells them to do, the department can then control the past (‘last time you filed this sort of application you said it was a call centre customer role’) and in so doing they can control any future applications by forcing the company to do what the Department wants them to do.
Very Orwellian, and I read the Departmental spokeperson on this particular issue (it has made the mainstream media) advise, one presumes with a striaght face, that 'visas are assessed objectively against a set of measures and criteria'. Yeah, right. Of course they are - so how can the work visas be declined for not being skilled but the resident visas approved? One of those two outcomes simply has to be wrong if the Department is as claimed 'objectively assessing' them.
The Immigration Department is an embarrassment. Worse than that they hinder and obstruct business, they manipulate and frighten applicants, they seek control and one unit of the Department says a job is not skilled so we cannot give you a work visa yet those clients that manage to get past that particular set of functionaries and secure their work visas through another pathway (as many of them are bizarrely) are in time being granted residence by a different unit whose staff say the same job is skilled.
Even though we have pointed out this obvious contradiction INZ management refuse to see it. They refuse to acknowledge it and refuse to do anything about it.
I have often said if the Immigration Department was a business, as they like to call themselves, they’d have been bankrupted a long time ago.
Just like in that great novel, 1984, however they try and control what everyone is meant to think.
It is dark and it is dangerous and till my team and I breathe our last, we will fight it.
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod, Southern Man
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
Posted by Iain on July 31, 2015, 5:58 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand
The New Zealand Government announced a few days ago that it was increasing the bonus points that can be claimed for a skilled and relevant job offer outside of Auckland from 10 to 30 points. The internet is abuzz!
Not sure why. I suggest everyone stay calm. Much ado about very little.
Government announced they were doing it in order to encourage more migrants to settle outside of Auckland. This was clearly a response to the overheated Auckland property market and rising disaffection by Aucklanders that migrants are contributing to an overheated property market.
As usual when the press get hold of a very modest tweak in an existing policy they get confused on the consequence, don’t seem to bother asking an expert and the misinformation spreads like wildfire.
My inbox is full of enquiries from people asking me if they ‘must’ now get a job outside of Auckland and if this means it is easier to get into the country? One even telling me he read that if you have a job ‘offer’ outside of Auckland you don’t even have to live there but it is now easier to get in if you say you are ‘planning’ on settling outside of Auckland but you don’t actually have to live there.
Oh a dollar for every false rumour!
Sorry folks but this change is modest and if you get a job outside of Auckland you must take it up.
In fact not only must you take up the job you must work outside of Auckland for 12 months. Those with jobs in Auckland ‘only’ have to stay employed for three months for their resident visa to become unconditional.
So how effective will it be? Does it really change anything?
No is the short answer. This is a case of politics trying to trump labour market reality.
The pass mark for those with a job is 100 and so far I am not seeing anything that suggests that pass mark will increase. This policy will only make any significant difference if it does.
This is because a 30, 37, 41, 45 and 54 year old (and everyone in between) will still qualify for residence with a skilled job in Auckland if they have between 8 and 10 years of relevant and related work experience (all other things being equal). Even a 54 year old will still be able to get a job in Auckland, work for a while and accrue the points necessary to get to 100 point passmark.
The only people we have identified that will benefit from this policy would be a 55 year old with no qualifications and at least ten years of work experience related to the job offer he or she gets outside of Auckland. When you hit 56 you cannot apply no matter how many points you might claim or where your job is.
So the winners here? Unqualified 55 year olds. Absolutely neutral for everyone else.
I am in South Africa and have over the past week consulted with 44 families who are looking to gain entry under the skilled migrant category. Only one would benefit from this policy change. One. That individual will now qualify with a job outside of Auckland because he is 55.
More than that it is all very well rewarding people to head out to the regions to spread the skilled migrant love and their skills sets but the reason about 70% of migrants already get jobs in Auckland is largely because that’s where the jobs are. Not all of course and we have clients spread all around New Zealand but around 70% in Auckland.
So might the Government increase the pass mark for those with jobs to 100 or even 120?
They could and that would force greater numbers to look outside of Auckland. Is this on the table? Not as far as I am aware.
I would hope that behind closed doors Government will have been warned against it.
Given Auckland is the engine room of the economy and has the critical economic and cultural mass for many migrant communities (which feeds through into good settlement outcomes) a higher pass mark would prevent many otherwise excellent skilled migrants from coming.
So the Government has found a nice way of appearing to be doing something without in reality doing anything at all. They did get the headlines they needed however...
Good politics is all folks. So stay calm. You won’t be moving to the sticks – unless you want to.
Our photo competition is going along great guns and we are getting some fantastic photos coming in. I would like to see a whole lot more from those who live in New Zealand and illustrating what it is about every day life in New Zealand that they love.
I am thinking about photos of your house and street (no burglar bars or security walls you South Africans), your children climbing a tree (you Singaporeans), morning coffee at a sidewalk café (you French), walking along the street with your baby in a stroller without a protector, children riding their bikes, your office colleagues, and so on.
I am loving what we are getting but let’s see some of the real life stuff that you love about this wonderful country of ours. If you have missed the competition we are giving away a weekend in Queenstown at the five star Azur Hotel plus $1500 spending money. For further details if you have missed it click here to submit your photo entry - you can enter as many times as you like for more chances to win.
Until next week
Posted by Iain on Nov. 14, 2014, 4:04 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
New Zealand has once again been ranked in the top three most prosperous countries in the world for 2014.
Topping the annual list this year is Norway followed by Switzerland in second place.
For what it is worth Australia came in seventh so a tidy little double for the Immagine Immigration countries of destination……
The least prosperous country this year was the Central African Republic. The United States came in 10th.
The 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index ranks 140 countries on their health and well being and so assesses factors including education, safety and security, health, economy, entrepreneurship, governance, personal freedom and social capital.
New Zealand ranked first for personal freedom, second for social capital and governance, seventh for education, tenth for safety and security, 15th for economy, 18th for entrepreneurship and 20th for health.
Not a bad effort when you are ranking 140 countries.
Translating this into the sort of lives we lead here I can explain it as reflecting our being a capitalist, socialist democracy which in other words means you have to play your part in paying your way pay but if you cannot, as my neighbour we will not leave you behind.
That philosophy runs very deep in the DNA of virtually every New Zealander and probably explains why Australia ranks in the top ten as well given their similar (if not louder) worldview and the Scandinavian countries also rank so high.
In new Zealand this mix of free market capitalism with a dose of redistribution of wealth all happens within bounds that the vast majority of New Zealanders are comfortable with.
There is a constant tension (relaxed and good natured if it needs to be said) between the philosophies of those that want untrammelled free markets and no regulation and those that want more centralised planning and Government involvement in our lives.
When it comes to heath, education and pensions for example we are all firmly in the camp of socialising risk i.e. spreading across all taxpayers, the cost of caring and educating all.
It does solve all problems however.
If you look at youth unemployment statistics in New Zealand they can be very high and 18-24 years olds runs as high as 20% in some parts of New Zealand.
Yet only this week the Tourism sector was bemoaning the fact that they cannot get enough young people into changing beds in hotels, bar work, café waiting and the like – there is a labour shortage. They were calling on the government to allow greater numbers of under 31 year olds here on open holiday working visas (meaning they can do whatever they wish without their employers having to prove they cannot find a local to fill the vacancy). Government responded that there are currently 62,000 young people from all over the world filling these sorts of jobs when the annual target was for only 50,000 to be here.
What this demonstrates is that the alternatives to what is often lower paid work in New Zealand are simply too attractive to many young New Zealanders.
It is hard to fathom how in a country which has strong economic growth, 1600 people a week coming off welfare, over 100,000 jobs created in the past 3 years, strong growth in tourist numbers that there is not a bit more ‘stick’ with regards unemployed young people. At this point in time for example the state agencies that are tasked with assisting young people into work do not say – well you can either go to, say Queenstown or Auckland and find work or you can lose your unemployment payments. They are generally allowed to stay living where they are with no incentive built in to getting off their chuffs and working. We do have cars, trains, buses and planes here I often reflect…
In what was an extraordinary first when the NZ government recently offered up to 1000 long term unemployed a one off payment of NZ$3000 (about US$2500) to go to Christchurch where unemployment hovers around 3% and find a job they filled the places. But seriously? We have to pay people who are being paid to do nothing to get off their backsides move to a city to find work?
It is just as well we are a prosperous first world economy and a nation of very tolerant tax payers. If we weren’t things here could get quite ugly quite quickly for a lot of people, particularly the young, who may well have squandered one of the worlds best education systems but who have a mentality of the world owing them a living.
Overall we get the balance pretty much right as is reflected in this survey and once again reinforces the view of many migrants and locals alike that this really is a very special little country. Possibly the best kept secret in the world.
Speaking of which the final seminars for the year in South Africa are underway and I will be travelling to Hong Kong and Singapore in about ten days. If you know anyone that might wish to attend they can click here for details.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on Aug. 1, 2014, 8:28 a.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
It is high time New Zealand had a population policy.
As touched on last week immigration policy seems to reflect political cycles – short term thinking and no long term plan. Say what you like about China and Singapore but at least they have long term plans even if you don’t agree with them. They do have population policies and yes Singapore’s is daft given the size of the place but all credit to them for trying to address low population growth and a rapidly ageing population.
In New Zealand our thinking on population is limited to immigration policy and filling immediate skills gaps in the labour market which is a partial solution but the bigger story is surely what sort of future do we want? What sort of country do we want to live in? How many people do we want to share this beautiful land with?
Why do we not have a population policy?
Let’s not kid ourselves – even in tolerant, welcoming New Zealand there still lies in many hearts a fear of being ‘overun’ by this bunch or that if we increase migration levels.
The stark reality is New Zealanders are getting older and relatively quickly. Like all developed (and many developing) nations our low birth rate has created this rapidly ageing population. The overall population is growing through migration and natural increase. Net migration this year is running at a ten year high yet still only represents an overall gain of 0.7% of the population. Around 38,000 more people have moved here in the past 12 months than left. An important sidebar is this has NOT been caused by more foreigners being allowed in through the permanent residence programme but through fewer New Zealanders leaving, more New Zealanders returning from Australia and elsewhere and more Australians (they can just walk in….) moving to New Zealand. This can just as easily turn into a net migration loss as this number is dictated not by population policy but by the fickle winds of local, Australian (common labour market border) and global economic conditions.
One thing is certain - New Zealand will look quite different in 50 years than it does today. What we have is no national plan to control how.
It is quite incredible to me that we have no population policy in New Zealand. We seem to have a policy on everything else.
After my recent trip to France and Spain and my regular trips to South East Asia I realise that one thing we have no shortage of in New Zealand is space. And no shortage of highly skilled, financially secure and motivated migrants who would like to share it with us.
I suggest a New Zealand where we double the population to perhaps 10 million people over a twenty year period.
Imagine the challenge. Imagine the planning – infrastructure, schools, hospitals, houses, public transport, roads and so on. Imagine the immigration policy we would have to have – the skills mix would be radically different to what we have now and would change over time. Imagine the communities and economic opportunities we would create for locals and new arrivals.
Where would the people come from? I fear this would spark the biggest debate.
I touched on the rapidly changing face of Auckland last week and there is little doubt that Auckland leads on social and racial tolerance and integration of migrants. Not that the other major cities are too far behind but they have some way to go to become as international, outward looking and welcoming as my home town if my clients are to be believed. In two generations Auckland has gone from being mono-cultural with few migrants to a city where today over 600,000 of our 1.5 million were not born in New Zealand and we are far culturally and economically richer for it in my view.
Locals are not being displaced from jobs despite what some might try and argue. I am not eating dog with chopsticks. I am not learning to speak Russian. I do however work in a city where when I step outside my office I hear a multitude of languages around me and can eat at different restaurant every night serving food from virtually every corner of the planet. My children have grown up with a circle of friends whose parents come from many different countries but who all think Richie McCaw is a living God, there is no sport but rugby, cricket is king in summer, who speak English like they do and who are connected to the world through social media.
New Zealand is many things but one thing it is not is crowded. We have a country that is the size of Great Britain (which has 63 million people), Italy (60 million) and Japan (128 million – gulp…) yet we have only 4.5 million people.
That surely has its advantages that I would be the first to want to protect.
Our air is clear, the streets are clean, our beaches, once out of the city, tend to be lonely private places where you and the family have plenty of room to spread out and kick a football, where the fish are plentiful, the sea free of rubbish and pollution and within our cities we have, and could retain or even grow, plenty of open spaces - city parks, playgrounds for our children, skate parks and the like. Within thirty minutes drive of most cities we are blessed with islands, regional and national parks with pristine beaches, mountain ranges, rivers, forests and virtual deserts and of course farmlands. In the middle of Paris I saw few children outside playing and those I did I wondered how often their feet ever actually touched grass. It is the same in places like Singapore, Jakarta, London and Hong Kong and mega city after mega city. I pity them.
We could so easily fit in, if we thought it through, another 500,000 people a year for twenty years if we planned for it and built the infrastructure.
Our cities need not grow out and take up valuable farmland.
I loved Paris for its seven stories policy on so much of their central city buildings. How inspired of the town planners of three centuries ago to lay out a city where no building could be higher than seven stories and contain a mix of residential and commercial activities (pity they couldn’t inculcate a feeling of responsibility to clean up after one’s dog has poohed on the footpath). It means communities support local business and local businesses serve these residential communities. One feels part of a community, not trapped or isolated in dark urban canyons as in so many large cities. It is embracing and welcoming.
Likewise Barcelona (what a city) with its five stories building policy, its wide boulevards, tree lined streets, mad but cheap taxis and excellent public transport. And their population is virtually the same as Auckland’s – which sprawls endlessly and is generally poorly served by public transport (lack of population density to make it worthwhile). Spain might be broke but you cannot knock the vision of their town planners of two hundred years ago. If I could offer the Spaniards a wee bit of advice - get up a bit earlier and work a bit harder (the Spanish seem to have an even more laid back attitude to life than New Zealanders…) in order to keep paying for it all.
In Auckland we are still bickering about whether to keep our (already huge in area) city growing out or up.
I go home more convinced than ever that medium density along the height lines of Paris and Barcelona are the perfect urban design. Not too tall but tall enough to increase density without really compromising communities. Auckland’s plan to grow these medium density apartment blocks along main transport routes is a no brainer. It will enhance the city, not detract from it. It is interesting this is the approach being taken by those rebuilding downtown Christchurch.
All we need now is more people.
Ten thousand a week is a big number but if you could encourage these to be spread across Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin you’d be talking about, in rough terms 2000 people a week in each city and that suggests, if we selected migrants as we do now who tend to only have 2 children, about 500 families a week into each of these cities (and that is assuming they’d all want to live in one of those cities which many of course wouldn’t). I am not quite sure how you’d be able to force people to settle in particular cities – housing and tax incentives to businesses and home owners to settle outside of Auckland?
Break down the numbers and suddenly it is far easier to imagine doing.
I’d suggest that we decide how many people we want and work back from there. It would be the greatest undertaking in the history of New Zealand. It would be a chance to create within our major cities what the great European cities created two hundred years ago. A country that would eliminate once and for all the tyranny of being so far away from so many major export markets. A bigger and stronger domestic market would be created in a generation. Think of the opportunities without needing to compromise the lifestyle.
I don’t believe we would need significantly more land to be taken up to do it – the cities just need to be built a bit higher. Not high rise. Not ghettos in the sky. Modern. Mixed use. Medium density.
Already my suburban Mount Eden Street is being flagged for this sort of building density in the Unitary Plan. What I understand but disappoints me is how so many in the neighbourhood are against it. It will destroy the social fabric they cry (even though they probably don’t know more than two of their neighbours). You can’t tear down those beautiful old Victorian villas (they don’t seem to mind cross leasing their back yards and plonking some architecturally bereft modern three bedroom house on the back lawn – so much for quarter acre paradise and preserving a way of life…). I cannot wait. I’ll be the first to want to develop our property into a four storied apartment complex.
I confess it has taken me many years to reach this conclusion about what sort of New Zealand I want and strangely it is not because of the day job. For those who think you cannot have medium density housing but feel like you are still part of a community go and visit Barcelona. Cafes, bars, dry cleaning businesses, florists, schools and kindergartens all sit comfortably alongside one another. If anything it creates community.
We can preserve our parks and playgrounds – these can all be planned for. In fact we can learn from the mistakes of the European cities I have seen and expand on our open, public spaces.
We are not short of land. We are perhaps short on energy, enthusiasm, vision and political will. We are short of a population plan. Nothing can happen in a vacuum and we need politicians who recognise the importance of a long term plan in a country where the population is greying but we have so much to offer so many and the chance to build a truly international and integrated society.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
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.
Posted by Paul on July 6, 2014, 10:04 a.m. in Immigration
It’s that time of year again when politicians dust off their banners, cajole the media and take to the streets in an effort to secure votes in the upcoming 2014 general election.
One of the topics most widely contested and often used as a ‘political football’ in the run up to the election is immigration. If there is one issue that is normally sure to spur debate and get people moving alliances it’s the flow of people in and out of this country. The two parties particularly strong in this arena are the Labour and New Zealand First camps. Yet whilst the politicians from both of these parties have in recent months been bandying about rumours of cutting numbers, changing policies and ‘reinventing the wheel’ it would seem that the New Zealand public aren’t overly fussed about it.
The Labour party are in desperate need of a campaign rocket and in the past few months have raised the spectre of coming down hard on immigration, cutting overall numbers and imposing potential restrictions on foreigners buying property here. The fingers of New Zealand First have been pointed at migrants for rising house prices, potential increases in inflation and an untenable superannuation scheme, however in most cases these fires have been doused by a relatively cool headed public perception of the overall trends of migration.
Labour has all but back tracked on their promises to cut migrant numbers as recent polls have poured water on what they were hoping would be a raging fire. New Zealand First although still slightly warm on the topic have moved on to other issues with more fervour, leaving the immigration debate on the side-lines.
The New Zealand Herald very recently reported on their own poll which showed only one third of New Zealanders surveyed felt that migration levels were too high, ergo two thirds of people were either relatively comfortable or non-committal with where things were at. In fact the vast majority of people appreciated that migrants were an important part of economic growth, fuelling both productivity and creating further employment opportunities. More surprisingly for the first time in years, there was a much greater public awareness of migration trends, with a large majority of the people being polled, relatively aware of migration patterns over the last few years.
In another similar review on www.stuff.co.nz, it appears that both Labour and NZ First, who have always used immigration as one of their key policy platforms, are wasting their time. Only four percent of respondents cited immigration as the big ticket item on the agenda and almost all were more concerned with day to day issues such as healthcare, education and the overall state of the economy. This is despite the last year seeing a rise in temporary migration numbers (owing mostly to the Christchurch rebuild).
In previous years the public have been swayed by pre-election stories of ‘soaring’ immigration numbers and this so called ‘foreign invasion’ yet this time it appears as though the majority of New Zealanders see other things as being more important.
It makes sense.
The country is well into recovery mode and continues to hold the title of the ‘rock star economy’. Growth in most sectors continues, whilst unemployment slowly falls. The recruiting firm Hudson recently confirmed that the number of employers seeking to hire within the next quarter had increased 4.5% to a total of 31.8% nationwide. Whilst there is still an air of caution out there, many employers are feeling confident with recent economic conditions and this then leads to a stronger commitment to grow their workforce. All signs point to this continuing.
Christchurch is one of the major contributors to this and they still need skills down there – a lot of them. Further spending has been earmarked for the rebuild and although hiring intentions slowed very slightly in the last quarter that looks likely to swing back to the previous high demand as the rebuild money continues to flow.
So for the potential migrant, concerned about what politicians are saying in the run up to the election, don’t be. Even the political parties normally keen to throw the immigration football are heading for the benches on this one.
It appears that public opinion on this one has already ruled. We understand that migrants are important; more people now understand that and are happy with the current flow of talent into New Zealand. I suspect that you will see discussions on migration lessen as the election draws nearer, with the parties at the bottom of the polls scrambling to find other fuel to throw on the fire.
So if you have hesitated in making the move because of political uncertainty, I wouldn’t be worried. New Zealand isn’t going to close its doors. Instead the signs of economic growth, increasing business confidence and a relatively buoyant economic outlook are all signs that we will continue to welcome those with skills to add to the mix.
Until next week – Paul Janssen (standing in for the Southern Man).
Posted by Iain on April 4, 2014, 11:40 a.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
I don’t often get excited by surveys but when one appears that affirms the message we give potential clients, I do get excited. Few have excited me as much as one released this week from the Washington based Social Imperative Forum that ranks countries by social progress.
It’s not as dull as it sounds as it goes to the heart of what our society is about, how we got here and what challenges remain.
The survey asks three essential questions:
It ranks New Zealand top out of over 130 countries for social progress. While historically Gross Domestic Product has been the indicator of choice as a measure of the ‘success’ of an economy and a country, what I like about this report is that it looks beyond that purely economic measure and looks at overall wellbeing.
It paints a picture of an egalitarian society that is cohesive, relatively prosperous with real opportunities for all, irrespective of background, but which also confirms what we always advise people – it ain’t paradise and it does have problems. But as a client from South Africa once told me the big difference between countries like mine and his (that he was leaving) is having lived in New Zealand for a while this little country of ours has no problems it cannot solve.
What is interesting is that we have achieved this top ranked status through a mix of open economy, strong and transparent democracy along with the socialising of three sacred pillars of our society – tax payer funded education, healthcare and social security.
What struck me is that we rank 25th in the world for per capita GDP proving there are 24 countries where people are wealthier but none are better off.
It also fidentified some things which at first glance appear at odds with a county where everyone looks out for everyone else – we have a relatively high rate of death through pregnancy, we come mid-table for suicide and we are getting very fat…
A closer examination of this explains these apparent anomalies.
With 15 deaths of pregnant women per 100,000 we rank 76th yet experts in New Zealand explain that this is because New Zealand captures the deaths of all pregnant women for many reasons other than death during childbirth (a rate which is actually extremely small) and captures those that die of pre-existing conditions and heart failure for example.
On suicides New Zealand is known for examining all ‘suspicious’ deaths through referral to the Coroner and where most countries will not call the death a suicide, New Zealand does. So it is not so much that New Zealanders are jumping off buildings in greater numbers, so much as we investigate deaths and if the conclusion is suicide we call it as it is. Most countries, including highly developed ones, do not. We are statistics and accuracy freaks.
There is no denying New Zealand has an obesity epidemic and that is very real, dragging us down the ‘progress’ ladder. I have to say given what you put in your mouth is individual choice there is possibly not a whole lot that can be done about it. Except educate and try and change behaviour.
So why are we doing so well?
I am convinced it is our history. The early settlers in New Zealand were determined to establish a (relatively) classless society where ‘Jack is as good as his Master’. I often speak to this at seminars and how deeply this egalitarian ideology runs in our DNA.
Simply put, we give a damn about one another and look after each other. It serves us all very well.
How did we achieve this?
The report in many ways explains our success but equally points out fairly where we can do better and where challenges remain (Maori, for example, make up 15% of the population yet represent over 50% of all prison inmates).
New Zealand is not perfect but we seem to be doing an awful lot right.
This helps to explain why I wouldn’t want to raise a family or live anywhere else. I urge you to read it (click here to download the report) if you are thinking of joining us in New Zealand (particularly pages 47-49). I could not sum up the essence of New Zealand better.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on Jan. 17, 2014, 11:43 a.m. in New Zealand Economy
Happy New Year to all our regular Southern Man Letters from New Zealand readers.
The team is back in the office, tanned and relaxed (that lasted about two days!) and looking forward to an extra busy year. For us it is going to be a year of firsts – we are now dipping our toes in the Hong Kong and Indonesian markets. Across the Tasman Sea our Australian colleagues are heading to Botswana, Greece and Turkey to test the migrant waters there.
And what of New Zealand in 2014? How are the tea leaves looking?
If you can believe the various surveyors and economic forecasters we are in for a very good year and several beyond this. A few key points in recently released surveys show:
Short of any major external shocks things are looking overwhelmingly positive. No one is talking about an overheating economy or boom times but there is a real and broad based momentum that has been building across all sectors and all regions.
This, I suspect, will embolden the New Zealand Government to continue with high skilled migrant pass marks and forcing a majority (note, not all….) of would be migrants to come and find jobs in order to have certainty of residency approval.
Those employers unwilling to recruit form the ranks of those offshore or who refuse to travel overseas to interview and recruit are within the next few months going to be staring into a very shallow pool of local talent. This will have an upward movement on incomes (we are already seeing it in construction and IT in particular).
While no one who reads this who thinks they may make a move this year should take getting work for granted, there is no doubt that 2014 for the vast majority of you will be a year of greater employment opportunities. Through 2013 we saw average times for most clients to find jobs here get down to a few weeks rather than a few months as it was through 2011-2012. If you are fluent in English, skilled, do your research on demand in the labour market for your skills set and are willing to get on a plane and get here, chances are you’ll find work within 4-6 weeks.
As we reported in December the Government has closed the Long Term Business Visa or self-employed pathway to residence while they think about a new ‘improved’ visa class for Entrepreneurs which they hope to launch in April. We have been offered an outline of the new criteria which we have agreed will remain confidential but what we can say without breaking those confidences is that the new criteria is less a pathway for the self-employed to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency to a move to focus on greater job creation and export related businesses as priority for approval. For the first time the amount of funds invested comes with a minimum and the more invested the higher the chances of success. In essence what we will gain is effectively a new sub-class of Investor – lower investment thresholds than those who apply to many looking to secure residence under the Investor Categories but a much higher threshold than historically in place for the self-employed. As always there will be winners and there will be losers.
Skilled Migrant Category also underwent its standard three year review during 2013 and I expect we may see changes this year. My own view is the changes will be minor (why change a formula that appears to be working?). My only two suggestions to Government were that we should be more prescriptive in regard to English language as the Australians are (better your English the higher your points) and I would also be re-instating points for those with capital they can transfer to New Zealand. Although it is proven that those with more money find it easier to settle I cannot see the Government taking me up on this suggestion; they might on the English language however. We shall see.
My colleague Paul will also be in South Africa in early February kicking for our first round of seminars there.
It is going to be a big, exciting and nerve wracking year for some of you as you pack up and join us here in New Zealand. For some 2013 was the moving year and 2014 will become the year of return to some sort of normality. For others 2014 will be the year of the ‘big decision’ to migrate or not. Wherever you are on that spectrum the Immagine team and I wish you every happiness and success for the year.
Until next week
Southern Man – Letter from New Zealand
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