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Immigration Blog

REGULAR POSTS FROM NEW ZEALAND & AUSTRALIA

Posts with tag: immigration policy

Immigration Blog

Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork; its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people. Understanding Australia & New Zealand at a grass-roots level is paramount to your immigration survival, and to give you a realistic view of both countries, its people and how we see the world, as well as updates about any current or imminent policy changes, subscribe to our regular blog posts by entering your details below.

Take Me Home, Country Road

Posted by Myer on July 20, 2018, 8:16 p.m. in Australia

And the place where you belong, contrary to what the song would indicate, is not West Virginia, but Geelong, Adelaide, Hobart or any other part of Australia that is “regional”.

Recent changes to Australia’s skilled migration program is going to have the effect of placing more of you on country roads than ever before.

Figures just released evidence that Australia accepted approximately 162,000 permanent migrants in 2017/18, down from about 183,000 the year before, and well below the 190,000-a-year quota. Net migration was 240,000 but this includes those who are not only arriving as permanent residents but those on visas allowing a stay of 12 months or more, which is a fair number of people to accommodate in terms of accommodation, transportation, healthcare facilities and education facilities.

We also learned this week that Australia’s population is set to reach 25 million in August 2018 some 24 years earlier than predicted in 2002.

Australia’s larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from congestion, infrastructure that cannot support a growing population, rising property prices (although having said that, at time of writing property prices in Melbourne and Sydney are forecast to decrease by 1 – 2%) and in the context of these issues migration to the larger cities is said to be adding to the burden.

Yet on the other hand, Australia has a shortage of skilled people in regional areas. Regional areas would constitute some of the smaller cities in Australia such as Adelaide and Hobart as well as anywhere outside of the metropolitan areas of Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Perth to name a few.

Since late 2016, job vacancy growth in regional areas has outstripped vacancy growth in our largest cities. According to the latest Internet Vacancy Index released by the Australian Government, vacancies in regions have grown by 20 per cent since February 2016 compared to only a 10 per cent increase in our largest cities.

These growing vacancies are occurring across a range of job opportunities. 

This is the context in which some of Australia’s recent policy changes have taken place aimed at reducing the number of migrants destined for Australia’s major cities and encouraging migration to smaller cities and towns. These changes include:

  1. A more restricted list of occupations that is available for nomination by an employer for permanent residence for those with jobs in non-regional areas (metropolitan areas)
  2. An increase in the pass mark for general skilled migration visas (points tested visas that do not require offers of employment) from 60 to 65 points on 1 July of this year. This may not sound like a significant increase however as state sponsorship for the regionally sponsored 489 visa is worth 10 points and state sponsorship for the non-regionally sponsored 190 visa is worth 5 points there is an added incentive for many more people to seek regional state sponsorship.
  3. A greater number of state governments listing more occupations available for subclass 489 visas only
  4. The addition of the regional occupation list which stipulates that certain occupations can only be sponsored by state governments for 489 visa applications.
  5. A number of positions normally available for independent 189 applications has been made available to those New Zealand citizens living in Australia for a period of five years more, earning a threshold income and paying tax although this type of change really just means swapping profiles of applicants from skilled migrants overseas without job offers to Kiwi’s who are onshore with job offers and paying tax.

As most of these changes have occurred in the months April– July 2018 they are to soon to have caused the reduction in permanent migrants in 2017/18, from 183,000 to 162,000 and their effects both in terms of the annual quota of permanent migrants as well as the effects on diverging migrant flows from metropolitan to regional areas is yet to be felt. 

In fact it may take some time before the true effects of these changes are felt because of transitional provisions available to those on work visas in Australia at the time these changes came into effect. Those on temporary 457 visas still have a greater number of occupations to transition to permanent residence and it could be as much as 4 years before the full effect of the changes take place.

It’s therefore ironic that we are having a debate about migration numbers in the context of some of the harshest changes to immigration policy that I have seen in the last nine years.

It is, however, overdue that we should have an informed debate about population size and whether the vision for Australia is a “big” Australia, or “sustainable” one as some of the terms that politicians have been bandying about and to then design in immigration policy designed to meet that target. Instead of what we have been doing the past is to come up with an arbitrary annual quota because in the absence of a formal population policy, Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy.

For the foreseeable future I expect that there will be more Van der Merwes, Singhs and Lees found enjoying the country lifestyle of Australia.

- Myer Lipschitz, Managing Partner (Melbourne Office)


No Racism Here?

Posted by Iain on July 6, 2018, 9:52 p.m. in Immigration

One hundred people are queuing up to enter Eden Park to watch a test match between the All Blacks and France. Ninety nine are admitted entry without incident, but one is stopped, taken aside and questioned. When asked why that one person was stopped the official replied "We needed to check that the ticket was legitimate and not purchased off a scalper, because scalping is illegal". When the official was then asked "Okay, but tell me why did you stop and check that particular fan when you didn’t stop any of the others?" The official replied that "It was simply a random check".

Is it simply coincidence that the one person stopped was not white and the 99 allowed unchecked entry were ‘European’?

This is not a true story and this incident did not take place, but we see the parallels in our day jobs dealing with visas constantly.

I have long had an uncomfortable feeling that the Immigration Department does make decisions - or least scrutinises certain applicants - in a different way such as it is difficult to conclude that it is based on anything other than ethnicity and/or nationality. There is also increasing evidence of INZ targeting particular ethnicities and assessing their visas differently to others, or in the way they have historically done - former international students, primarily from India, for example.

That, I appreciate, is more than a very strong suggestion New Zealand may not be the country that it thinks it is – one which prides itself on being colour blind, tolerant and welcoming.

Let me offer a recent example and you tell me what conclusion you might reach. This is a true story.

We routinely apply for visitor visa ‘extensions’ for clients who have travelled to New Zealand on the so called ‘Look, See and Decide’ trips. These are trips essentially to find work. While the majority of our clients have secured work within the time given on arrival in the country and we file work visas, some don’t.

While nothing in this game could be described as routine, we recently had a client needing an extension so that he could continue his search for employment. He was highly educated (in the UK), an Accountant, had a history of overseas travel (for study and living), had never breached the conditions of his visa when overseas or while in NZ, had the funds required to extend his stay, was in an occupation where all clients before him had secured employment and in every respect was no different to the majority of our clients in terms of profile; except he was from Uganda.

We had discussed among ourselves in te office that INZ would likely give him a hard time over this ‘extension’ and so the application was watertight.

Our concern at the treatment we expected he'd receive was partly because Immigration New Zealand had given him a hard time when we applied for his first visa to come to New Zealand and they really put this client under the microscope. Therefore, we didn’t expect anything different for his ‘extension’. There was no reason for them to give him grief with the first application and even less reason to do the second, but as we said, he is from Uganda...

Almost on cue, we received a letter from the Department outlining their ‘concerns’ with the application – they did not question the evidence or the way the case was presented but expressed some doubts that he was employable.

The only factor we could see that made this applicant different to the hundreds of others we help each and every year go through this process was his ethnicity/nationality. Was it merely coincidence he was singled out and treated differently?

We pushed back, hard, and INZ eventually granted the visa but we were left with the very uncomfortable feeling that he was treated differently because of the fact he was African.

INZ, if challenged on this, would undoubtedly dismiss any suggestion of racism and their spokseperson would trot out their standard line of ‘INZ assesses each application on its merits and all applications aremeasured against a set of objective criteria’. That is garbage and everyone working in this industry knows it is simply not true.

There is increasing evidence that there is either a cultural problem inside INZ and officers are (sub)consciously biased or applicants are being profiled in a way that most New Zealanders would not feel happy about. I hesitate to say decisions are based on the race of applicants, but we know INZ do have what they call ‘risk assessment profiles’. They might suggest they have evidence that Africans are more prone to lying than non-Africans but in almost 30 years of practice I've seen little evidence of that.

I accept that there is evidence that some applicants with particular profiles from some countries do present a higher risk to the integrity of the border, but I cannot help wondering if Immigration Officers, given the culture they work in, start by assuming that if you are from a certain country or from a certain ethnic group, you must be dodgy and are as such obliged to try and keep you out. 

Alternatively, if one was to be charitable, it could be as simple as officers do not know where to draw the line on what is reasonable questioning and what is not but every day they lay themselves wide open to accusations of racist decision making.

It is also difficult for any reasonable person to comprehend how, if rules do not change but outcomes do and 'like' cases end up with different results, that a different assessment process  can not be in play. Of course it could just be INZ is not very good at what it does and these are just inconsistent outcomes (for which they are infamous). That would be bad enough, but I don't buy it.

I cannot escape the conclusion that there is not racism or some agenda at play. While it is another blog in itself, I have written previously of the terrible treatment being given in the past eighteen months to former international students seeking to follow a pathway to residency our Government dangled in front of them as reason to come to NZ and study rather than go somewhere else. When challenged on this INZ is on record as saying 'all cases are assessed objectively against a standard set of criteria'.

Hardly a week goes by when we don’t get phone calls from distraught young people (always Indian) who have completed their studies, have got a job but are being denied work visas because INZ claims that their ‘qualification is not relevant to their job offer’. A common example is the graduate with a Diploma in Business being denied the opportunity to take up a job as an Assistant Manager. Apparently because according to the bureaucats, a diploma in business isn’t related to working in...business. It always was historically, but these days suddenly isn't. There was no rule change that tightened the definition of what ‘relevant’ means, just the outcomes were different. 

There might not be racist assessments going on and it could be as I have accused INZ of previously, of a hidden agenda to rid the country of these tens of thousands of students the Government now does not wish to stay. That would be no better but while we keep seeing Indian students being singled out it could be both a hidden agenda that just happens to be a racist one.

I think too often we scream ‘racist!’ without justification and it can be something of a catchall when things don’t go our way.

I can say, however, that I know the difference at least when it comes to visa applications. INZ is at best suffering from an subconscious bias they need to rid themselves of and at worst it does make assessments and decisions based less on the evidence in front of it than the ethnicity or nationality of clients.

There is, as I say, more and more evidence of INZ agendas at play and as that body of evidence grows, the pressure is going to mount on the Government to do something about it.

It is not a good look for a country that has long prided itself on treating everyone equally.

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod, Southern Man

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Who Controls the Past Controls the Future

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


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Why Dutton is So Dangerous

Posted by Iain on March 23, 2018, 9:37 p.m. in South Africa

Last week’s blog post on why the Australian Minister of Home Affairs (Immigration) is, in my view, either a racist and a hypocrite or simply a cynical Australian politician playing to a small racist constituency in Australia, hit a nerve in South Africa as I expected it would. The reaction to last week’s blog across various forms of social media and in private emails to me deserves some further exploration.

The reaction to it confirmed two things for me - what politicians anywhere will do for a few votes and how, sadly, South Africans are for the most part these days, seemingly incapable of any form of grown up discourse. 

On the Minister, I cannot believe he was not being very calculated and while I’d like to believe he had the best interests of South African farmers in mind, the way he has gone about handling the issue suggests his kite flying exercise was more for domestic consumption; appealing to an anti-immigrant (unless those migrants are white) constituency rather than any real interest in reaching out to a group in possible need of ‘rescue’ in South Africa.

There are clearly enough people in Australia who believe their pre-1958 ‘whites only’ immigration policy represented some sort of demographic ‘dream time’ that a cynical Australian politician will seek to exploit that minority world view. It is a shame that a country where 20% of its people were not born there and who, for the most part, all get on like a house on fire living harmoniously, has room for a Minister of Immigration who will try and exploit a minority view for political gain. If he was genuinely concerned with the plight of white farmers in South Africa (or, simply more intelligent) he would have quietly floated the idea to his colleagues, gauged their reaction and if they were in agreement that white South African farmers deserved special treatment, they could have quietly gone about creating a visa pathway for them without the political grandstanding. You have to ask yourself why Dutton handled the issue the way he did.

Recently New Zealand did something similar in creating a special pathway to residence for several thousand largely unskilled farm workers at a time the same Government was tightening up on migration in general because of concerns we were dropping the ‘quality’ of our skilled migrants. Sensibly, and with profound (or cynical, depending on your perspective) political judgement, it was done quietly and what could and arguably should have caused a political backlash, passed virtually unnoticed by the public. As a result, 4000 people who would not otherwise not have had any pathway to residence because they are effectively farm labourers but who were making an economic and social contribution to the rural economy, now have a path to achieve it. 

Mr Dutton, it seems to me, must have known his musings on maybe, possibly ‘looking at’ creating a pathway for white farmers was not going to fly and it is impossible for me to conclude that he has done anything other than cynically exploited the situation white farmers find themselves in across South Africa. He didn’t fly his kite for them, he flew it for political gain at home.

Those of you who think, so what, if it helps thousands of farmers to get somewhere ’safe’ and to a ‘civilised country,' you might want to reflect for a moment on what the chances of it happening really are.

It is very interesting that in the past few days the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, one of the Government’s most senior Cabinet Ministers, several senior politicians along with the Prime Minister himself have all poured cold water on Mr Dutton’s suggestion. It would suggest that his kite-flying exercise was pretty much simply politicking, not for the ultimate benefit of any white South African farmer, but for local consumption. That is what made me so angry and disgusted - if he was truly serious, he’d have gone about it very differently and in a way that might have been politically acceptable and worked.

The second tragedy the piece illustrated is that South Africans have sadly got to the point where they cannot have a grown up discussion about anything without it descending into ugly vitriol and accusing one another of every opinion being based on a racist worldview. Anyone who ever believed in a ‘rainbow nation’ must surely, by now, realise if it wasn’t always an illusion, it is a crawling baby struggling to learn to walk. I got to the point a while ago in South African hotels of dreading the question about what colour toast I wanted for breakfast, in case my preference for ‘white over brown’ might be construed as the outward manifestation of my inner racist, rather than a simple taste preference. (‘Why don’t white people want to eat brown bread I ask you!?’ I can hear Malema screeching into his bullhorn, ‘It’s because if it is brown, it is inferior to white!’ I imagine he’d then start dancing and singing about ‘one farmer, one piece of brown toast’).

That last week’s blog resulted in a very predictable firestorm of ignorance, abuse and hate on social media was sad. All I was saying was if white farmers deserve a break because their lives are threatened what about all the other people around the world being threatened for no reason other than their skin colour, religion, political beliefs as well? Why aren’t they being treated with the same ‘compassion’ as Dutton claims to be showing white farmers? There are thousands of people being held in appalling conditions in Australian detention centres who one might reasonably argue should be ahead of South African farmers in the ‘help us’ queue. 

No matter what the discussion point, if you don’t agree with my opinion, I must be a racist. If I don’t agree with yours, it is you who must be a racist. So it seems to be in South Africa. Even 24 years after the dismantling of apartheid, old world views in South Africa still run very deep. There are plenty of politicians, Julius Malema being the prime example in South Africa, willing to exploit those for maximum political gain. To also have a senior foreign politician in a country like Australia which has a very recent - some would suggest ongoing - sorry history of racist immigration policies, is to offer little other than pouring fuel on the South African flames. I am not sure who that actually helps in South Africa.

Is a target of 30% black ownership of land in South Africa such a bad thing if done properly, sensibly and fairly? Before I set anyone else off, I agree - if it is done properly - and over the past 24 years it is hard to find a lot of evidence this is an economy where the political leadership has done much ‘properly'. And therein lies the real problem - only when local politicians stop turning the economic argument into a racial one can there be any chance of success or peace in this land.

Maybe I didn’t explain it very well, but so many people either could not see beyond their own biases having read the piece last week and launched into racist attacks (seemed to be equally split between black on white and white on black) yet most, in their haste to rather froth at the mouth seemed to completely miss my point.

I feel as desperate for the farmers of South Africa as I do for any victim of the senseless violence that pervades this country.  

Mr Dutton has raised the expectations of literally millions of white people who now want to believe, because they are white, that Australia is some sort of knight in shining armour that will ride to their rescue.   

I am pretty certain that it will not happen - not for the South African farmers let alone any other white, ‘christian, cricket and rugby playing people’ that he has said ‘assimilate’ so well into Australia. If those things count then add ‘points’ for being a fully paid up member of your local South African cricket club to the ‘points’ criteria for skilled migration. If being Christian makes you a good Aussie, then give all those that go to a Christian Church 20 bonus points. Australia operates a test for English language so why not a tractor driving test, if what they want is farmers? 

Mr Dutton’s biggest mistake (or achieving exactly what he wanted) of course, was to go public with his musings rather than quietly make the suggestion, perhaps at a closed Cabinet meeting, for further discussion. 

Ironically, he has now put the Australian Government in a position where in my view, they cannot help the South African farmers and for me, that is the greatest tragedy of all - a cynical politician of the worst kind or just a very stupid one. 

Across Australia the clear majority of people have great sympathy for anyone who is targeted, officially or unofficially, because of the colour of their skin. Given how divisive the ‘benefit’ of economic migrants and refugee seekers is in Australia it is simply not going to open a residence door just because a person is ‘white’.

It is 2018 after all in most of Australia, even if where Mr Dutton comes from it is still 1918.

Until next week (when we will talk about something else)...

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...


NZ First & Labour: What Does the New Government Mean for Immigration?

Posted by Iain on Oct. 19, 2017, 10:40 p.m. in Politics

A few minutes ago the Leader of the NZ First political party - which gained a little over 7% of the popular vote in elections two week ago - announced it is forming a coalition with the Labour Party and the coalition will be supported outside of cabinet by the Green Party. 

Already my inbox is filling up with ‘What does it mean for my chances of moving to NZ?’ emails.

Without wishing to sound like the aforementioned political leader, if you read my blogs you’ll know that my view has been (and nothing has changed with this announcement today):

  • There will be no significant change to skilled migration policies or targets. In recent years the economy has created around 60,000 mainly skilled jobs each and every year. We simply do not produce the skills locally to fill them. These Politicians know that only too well, and the country desperately needs these skills to enable the new Government to fulfil its promises.
  • International Students are going to get the knife between the shoulder blades. Again. The Labour Party made clear in their manifesto just before the election they intended raising the bar on what courses international students will have to do to be eligible for graduate work visas at the end of their study and if they find skilled employment, resident visas. 

Today the Leader of NZ First all but confirmed my suspicions as he ‘anointed’ the Labour Party and their Green Party sidekicks. Don't be too concerned if you are highly skilled but be very worried if you are in NZ studying or planning on doing so.

Those applying to study in New Zealand are defined as ‘migrants’ and all the hot air coming from New Zealand First in recent years that we are being overrun by foreigners was clearly bogus and played on a wide mis-understanding as to how ‘migrants’ are defined. NZ has become a very popular place to study but it is quite true that at least half those coming to study were using it as a spring board to try and get residence. Some got it, most did not.

People were confused that students and many work visa holders were considered as ‘migrants’. I think most of us think of migrants as people moving permanently to a country - not those coming to study for 2-3 years or have working holidays for a year or two.

That is the reason we have had ‘record’ numbers of migrants - tens of thousands of international students. Not permanent residents.

That ignorance has been exploited election after election by NZ First. 

What the public has never been told by this politician is that the numbers of resident visas being granted every year has not changed. Not this year, not last year, not five years go. In fact, skilled migrant resident visas have also fallen as the Government pushed up ‘pass marks’ for skilled migrants in order to deal to the problems it created by promising international students a pathway to residence.

The Labour Party which forms the biggest bloc in the new parliament has always been pro-immigration.

It is insightful that the Leader of NZ First at his Press Conference confirmed that New Zealand continues to need and welcome skilled migrants, does not want low skilled ones and that international students should be coming to study. Which is precisely what the outgoing Government recognised — just too late electorally which was a bad miscalculation on their part. They have paid the price for seeming to have no solutions to population driven house value increases and infrastructure pressures - particularly in Auckland.

So watch for announcements in the next few weeks taking aim squarely at reducing pathways to residence for international students in order to take the heat off skilled migrants. That is a good thing as it should then allow pass marks to fall and those that can contribute most to the country will continue to be welcomed.

My pick is the new Government will leave the pass mark at its current historical high for a few months to carry on the (bogus) message of ’toughening and tightening up’ message. Then it may well fall back to levels where the current target of 27,000 skilled migrants and their families might be met. In the meantime it’ll be spun as ‘quality over quantity’.

Foreign buyers will be limited from purchasing of existing residential property but that is common in many countries. My pick is we will follow Australia's pathway of allowing foreign buyers to buy sections and build. Maybe.

Potential skilled migrants in my view should sleep well tonight.


The Politics of Immigration

Posted by Iain on June 12, 2017, 12:53 a.m. in Immigration

"Labour attempts to pick low hanging immigration fruit...that's already been eaten" - Iain MacLeod, Managing Director, IMMagine Australia & New Zealand Immigration Specialists

The Labour Party’s announcement today that they will make moderate cuts to immigration numbers will make no significant difference to the numbers of permanent migrants coming to New Zealand.

Putting the brakes on the numbers of students transitioning to work and potentially resident visas is a move that will, later this year, have enormous potential impact on thousands of international students that were studying with a clear intention to use the pathway to residence created by the Government. Clearly, an informed Labour Party is aware that the National Party had already played this card. Having promised cuts in the ‘tens of thousands’, I guess they had to come up with something, somehow.

Just as the Government hasn’t actually cut a single visa from its residence programme, it appears neither has Labour in its announcement today.

It’s all smoke and mirrors designed to take the wind of our of NZ First’s sails. 

No one suggests that many of the jobs currently being filled by temporary work or student visa holders shouldn’t be filled by locals, they should – but most employers will tell you those young Kiwis are not around to fill these roles or don’t want the work.

Denying many employers casual migrant labour might make a headline and take a few votes off Winston Peters but it’ll be interesting to see what ideas the Labour Party comes up with to reform our welfare entitlements to ensure there are young New Zealanders being ‘encouraged’ to fill these roles. Let’s hope so because there are going to be lots of vacancies. (Labour provided the example of a paediatric oncologist as benefitting from "their" changes – truth be told, anyone with these skills and qualifications would always have qualified for residence: would under National’s upcoming changes and will under Labour’s proposed rules.)

On the plus side, there is no doubt the changes announced by the National Party earlier this year and the announcements by the Opposition today will increase labour market shortages particularly in hospitality and tourism, creating plenty of opportunities for young New Zealanders to find employment in these sectors and in other casual work.

The export education industry will take another hit with these changes. The Government’s (quietly dropped) goal of it becoming a $5 billion a year industry just took another politically inspired hit.

Iain MacLeod, Managing Director, IMMagine Australia & New Zealand Immigration Specialists


Want Residence? Maybe You Don't Need Qualifications

Posted by Iain on May 13, 2017, 11:57 a.m. in Government

A week after receiving the new points that attach to the various skilled migrant criteria in August 2017 (and both modelling and testing in the field on over 150 consultations so far in South Africa and SE Asia this past week), it is very interesting who wins and who loses from these changes.

Clearly, owing to the new salary thresholds attaching to skilled job offers, those with entry level jobs (international graduates studying in NZ by and large) are clear losers unless the role they secure is highly skilled (think many Engineering, IT, Technical and Trades roles).

Those with more entry level and ‘white collar’ or hospitality/restaurant/tourism jobs will lose owing salaries for those sorts of occupations coming in under the new threshold of $48,800. I’m thinking Chefs, Bar staff, banking, insurance, marketing, sales, Secretaries/PAs and many of the roles in what is known as Part C of Appendix 6 (list of occupations deemed to be skilled) in the rule book.

What has been very interesting to me is how many people I am meeting who will qualify after August 14 who do not qualify today.

With the pass mark at 160 most people today require qualifications – trade, technical or academic representing 2-4 years of study.

However, come August 14, even at 160 points, many people with no (or low level) qualifications, will qualify but will usually require a job offer outside of Auckland.

Anyone aged between, say 30 and 45 years old that has ten years of skilled work experience and a skilled job outside of Auckland now scores at least 160 points. I have seen many people in this situation this week.

That leads me to ponder something I read last week in the paper Immigration Department officials sent to the Government in which they said they believe that these points ‘spreads’ would deliver the government their target of 27,000. I was sceptical of that and to some extent I still am given the sheer numbers of international graduates that have been swamping the SMC pool in recent years, who are now going to struggle to qualify but there might be something to it.

That has led me to conclude the pressure on Government to drop the pass mark to achieve its targets might not be as great as it was nor the need to do so in the short term so great.

That reinforces my belief that there will be no pass mark fall before the election in September – the Government won’t wish to be accused of not going tough on immigration (even though they really haven’t). 

As mentioned in previous blogs the media swallowed the ‘toughening and cutting’ line hook, line and sinker even though Government hasn’t (and has no intention of) cutting a single visa from the NZ Residence programme.

And what does all of this tell you?

International graduates from NZ institutions were a problem that needed to be dealt with. They were the ‘problem’ for the Government and the new points and salary thresholds has eliminated the problem.

What we will see over the next few months is a return to the historic profile of skilled migrant NZ traditionally sought – those aged 30-45 won’t need qualifications to get in.

If you have any questions about your eligibility -use theis link to order an assessment of your options: http://www.immagine-immigration.com/assessments/full-assessment/

 

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


When is a cut not a cut?

Posted by Iain on April 28, 2017, 3 p.m. in Immigration

It took about a week after the Government announced its changes to Skilled Migrant policy and announced a review of temporary work visa policy for the message to finally get through to the mainstream media that things might not be quite as they at first appeared.

Why the Government did what it did and who it was really targeting was, in my view, actually quite different to the press statements. 

I get an ironic chuckle the way a 24 hour, first-to-report-the-story news cycle meant that the way the Government ‘sold’ these changes was swallowed hook, line and sinker by the media and of course in this online and connected world of ours, on social media platforms around the world. Chat groups and forums are still full of jibber jabber about doors closing, migrants being unwelcome and more.

‘New Zealanders First’ was a tidy headline and in keeping with recent developments in the USA (Trump, walls, immigration), Brexit (‘too many bloody foreigners and Britain isn’t British any more’), Marine Le Pen’s right wing rise in France (‘immigrants won’t become French and they want to make us become Muslims!'), Australia’s ‘Australians First’ announcements last week set a nice scene. 

We are in an election year and the two smaller but main opposition parties are calling for cuts to migration levels. One always did and is rewarded every four years with 8-10% of the popular vote. The other, always strongly supported by migrants, should simply be ashamed of itself. They are polling in the low 20% and are of course a desperate five months out to lift their support (but anyone who is ‘anti’ immigration will likely vote for the other ‘anti’ immigration party).

Naturally, neither are being specific about which categories of immigration they’d cut or in what numbers.

There is no doubt there is real pressure being brought to bear on the Government to ‘do something’ about infrastructure pressure in Auckland; clogged freeways and rampant house price inflation caused by the fact that...it’s a great place to live!

The economy is performing strongly, job growth is strong for the skilled, fewer Kiwis are packing their bags for overseas, more Kiwis are coming home and more Australians are joining them (there is a downside to every boom I guess!), pleasant climate, great public education and healthcare; the list goes on. Every year tens of thousands of wannabe kiwis want to join us.

How true is it that the changes announced last week represent some seismic shift and tightening...or indeed, any tightening at all?

The answer is pretty clear – the Government never announced any cuts to skilled migrant numbers.

Late last year the Government announced a modest, margin of error ‘cut’ to our overall residence programme which covers all migrants coming to NZ under all categories; not just the skilled. The two year residence programme was cut from 90,000 plus or minus 10%, to 80,000 - 85,000 plus or minus 10%. Do the math. The number of visas issued over the period may well be exactly the same.

The number of places available for skilled migrants has within that remained exactly the same – 27,000 plus or minus 10%. As it has for the best part of a decade. That did not change last week. An important fact that seems to have been missed by pretty much everyone in the media.

So if the numbers of skilled, investor and family migrants is going to be pretty much the same next year as it is this year then what is actually going on?

Again, I’d suggest it’s pretty simple. There are more people chasing those 27,000 skilled migrant places than ever before. Demand exceeds supply and that requires fine tuning from time to time to control the inflow. 

Over the past two years the numbers of international students treading the promised pathway to residence has been climbing. These youngsters were increasingly jostling with older and more experienced skilled migrants.

We simply don’t have room for them all (apparently).

I explain the Government’s dilemma like this. 

If there was only one resident visa left of that annual 27,000 to give away and there were two applicants on 160 points, which one is better for NZ if one was a 23 year old international student, recently graduated from Auckland University, no work experience but managed somehow to secure a job offer in Christchurch as a Retail Manager paying $38,000 a year? Or is it the 35 year old Software Developer with a degree in IT, ten years’ experience and a job paying $120,000? 

The answer is pretty obvious. The Software Developer. Trouble is the Government promised and marketed a study to work to residence pathway to international students. Creating in the process a $3 billion dollar a year industry employing 35,000 New Zealanders. As of last year something like 127,000 were in the country. Half leave at the end of their study. The other half want to stay. There are only 27,000 places for all skilled migrants available. Again, do the math...

So, what did the Government do last week?

They announced that those under the age of 30 will get fewer points for their age, all their work experience will need to be skilled to attract points and unless the job offer in NZ pays $48,800, the job would not be deemed skilled and there is no pathway to residence.

Who does that impact? The older software developer looking to come here or the young international graduate entering the labour market?

The country will still get 27,000 skilled migrants but there will be a slight shift that favours those over the age of 30.

No cut to numbers though. Just a change in the ‘mix’.

Pretty obvious really and if you were a political spin doctor you’d be sitting back this week adding another wee drop of whisky to your glass and admiring your handy work. 

You’d be thinking – it’s election year and immigration is a hot topic globally. Brexit started something; Government is getting it in the neck over not investing enough in infrastructure;   Aucklanders are getting grumpy over their traffic woes; sky high house prices are an issue...

One piece missing – immigration. Migrants drive cars. Migrants stay in houses. Migrants are different to us. 

So – announce a tightening to migration and let it be (mis)interpreted as a cut to get one headline out in front of the people – ‘New Zealanders First’!

I have to say I actually admire their gall.

Having created the problem of encouraging all those students to come here, they have been quietly pushing the knife into them for the past six months which, for the most part, the students never even felt (pass mark raised to 160 in October to ‘flush’ the pool of these youngsters). Most of these students think the cuts are to other immigrants and not the stinging in their own back. 

What we saw last week was part two of what, to me, is a very obvious and well-crafted plan to extricate the Government from the indefensible position over international students and the promises they made them with as little fallout as possible.

We do have population pressures and particularly in Auckland but what great problems to have? We are a ‘victim’ of a strong economy for which the government deserves some credit; interest in settling here has gone through the roof, Kiwis don’t feel like leaving, more are coming home and we only have room for so many new migrants and the government is right to be choosy.

Trouble for me is no NZ Government ever seems to have any sort of end plan when it comes to immigration; we have no population policy (and immigration is a poor substitute), we have all these students coming seeking residence, we have around 70,000 young Holiday Working Visa holders having a great time - many of whom are seeking residence and we only have 27,000 skilled resident visas to give away. 

What I cannot for the life of me work out is why the Government has not put the lid on these tens of thousands of young Holiday Work Visa holders.

At least the international students are spending big money to be here, are part of multi-billion dollar export industry and many are studying courses we cannot fill with our own young people.

At the same time the export education industry is going to be under severe threat if they don’t switch their focus to more ‘high value’ areas like Engineering, ICT, Medicine, Health and Architecture where entry level salaries will be above the newly announced minimum of $48,800, because thousands of students will go to other countries if the barriers to long term residence are lower.

In the meantime, if  there was going to be anyone ‘cut’ from the pathway to skilled migration the Government should be focussing on putting limits to Holiday Working Visa numbers.

That would be a ‘cut’. But last week was a fine tuning, dealing with the international student ‘problem’ and anything but a cut to skilled migrant numbers. 

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


Investor Category Changes

Posted by Iain on April 14, 2017, 2:52 p.m. in Investor Category

In a few weeks’ time, new Investor Category rules will be rolled out. Government has indicated 27 May.

There is no change to those seeking a resident visa by investing NZ$10 million under the investor Plus category, the changes are only being made to the ‘Investor 2’ category.

This sub-category has traditionally been a points based assessment system where applicants claim points based on their age, business experience, an amount they wish to invest and who have an additional NZ$1m over and above the nominated investments for ‘settlement’ purposes.

This is not and never has been a ‘buy your way in’ policy but rather emphasised that those with wealth also had skills, acumen and perhaps more important than anything, linkages to the global business world.

Each year the number of places available for these investors was 300. 

It has been moderately successful but dominated by investors from China which has given the Government pause for reflection, given the aim and objective is to build linkages through global business. China is our biggest trading partner and very important to the country but it became clear that the policy was too dominated by that one market. The policy also faltered owing to the crackdown by the Chinese Government on the transfer of funds out of their country in the recent past. Consequently, most investors from China have not been able to make their investments.

The number of places available under the category is being increased to 400 per year.

So, what are the major changes?

Mandatory English language testing has been introduced and points will be awarded based on the outcome. Although the Government hasn’t said as much this is clearly designed to try and broaden the number of countries from where these migrants come from. 

The minimum investment amount has increased from $1.5 million to $3 million. At the same time the need for $1 million in additional settlement funds has been dropped.

Funds invested in ‘growth’ areas will attract additional points. The idea being to try and wean applicants away from lower risk Government bonds, which in reality don’t do a whole lot for New Zealand but are understandably preferred by investors for their guarantees and minimal risk. It is my opinion that the additional points for doing something more active with these investments won’t be of much interest to most investors; they’d rather invest more if pass marks demand in lower risk investments. We shall see.

Increased weighting on business experience as a percentage of a points claim. A smart move given New Zealand is more interested in the skills sets and ‘linkages’ investors can bring.

The big unknown is what the pass mark will be and where it will be set.

My sources suggest that the pass mark will be set relatively close to where it lies today, around 70. The type of person likely to qualify today will continue to qualify come launch day, if their English is good enough. This is simply to offer some consistent signals to potential investors which is to be applauded.

The change to English language requirements will also shape the pass mark. When the Government looked like it might be able to fill its 300-place quota two years ago they let the pass mark ’float’ off its minimum of 20 points. This resulted in creating a blind tender process where investors had to claim far more than the minimum investment amount of $1.5m to be certain of selection. As happens when there is scarcity and high demand the pass mark went through the roof (85-89 points) and, certainty for most investors, meant they’d agree to invest at least $3-5million.

That all went pear shaped given most applicants were from China (over 90%) and when their government cracked down on export of funds to support its currency our policy effectively collapsed.

This time with English being so important it will, in my view, act as a brake to pass mark increases as applicants will need to demonstrate a good command of English. 

In essence, the changes are relatively modest in terms of criteria but significant for those from non-English speaking markets of whom we may see far fewer applicants unless they are willing to invest significant funds to compensate.

If anyone would like more information on the new investor rules feel free to email me directly – iain@justimmagine.com

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man – Letters from New Zealand


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