It's just a thought...
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Posted by Iain on July 10, 2020, 1:08 p.m. in Immigration New Zealand
Last week I wrote that INZ had all but admitted that in addition to their published criteria where some skilled migrants were being given priority over others while the significant majority were being ignored and continue to gather dust, it turned out that there is within that priority queue, a separate unpublished second priority queue. Criteria apply which are not publicly disclosed to that second group who get the on the faster, fast track. It turns out that Teachers and "Health workers" are being given priority priority. Very few applications that don't meet priority criteria (whether published or not) have been allocated for processing since 19 December 2018.
This week under an official information request, the General Manager of Visa Operations has confirmed that is the case. The General Manager has confirmed:
‘Immigration New Zealand may allocate these applications as a group to improve efficiency or for training purposes’
That is outrageous. INZ’s most senior Manager of visa processing has just admitted that the chances of your resident visa being allocated and processed then is directly proportional to the intellectual capabilities of the INZ workforce to understand what they are dealing with.
Teachers, as I said last week, are on the face of it, less intellectually challenging than many other types of skilled migrant cases. As a consequence, they are being used to train up new and inexperienced staff and to keep the approval numbers where INZ wants them. That is what they mean by ‘efficiency’. They have 'kpis' to meet and they are admitting they couldn’t meet them without picking the less complex cases out of the pile.
My blood boils that no one in Government or even the Parliament seems to care. There is a fundamental unfairness to this. All applicants are charged the same fee. Everyone in that queue has, presumably, a prima facie claim to residence or they would not have been invited to file that resident visa in the first place. Cases sitting unallocated for almost two years gather dust while INZ uses the less complex cases to train their staff?
That is an outrage.
Applicants who have for example fixed term 12 month contracts who would be granted residence if INZ processed cases in chronological order, are now certainly going to be declined their residence. Quite simply because INZ does not have the depth of knowledge it requires to process such cases (which aren’t actually any more complex than a Teacher’s case for the most part).
And as one wit in my office has pointed out, even the less complex cases are proving challenging for the inexperienced officers. She said:
‘It’s clear the officers processing Teacher applications for training purposes need a heck of a lot of training – I had one ask me for the divorce document between a client and her children’s father to prove custody despite the fact the biological father died years ago and we presented his Death Certificate. It’s more like we’re the ones training them…’
Truth is nobody seems to care in Government and getting any traction on this with even opposition politicians is impossible.
In other developments this week, a couple of interesting statements from the Minister of Immigration warrants some scrutiny.
Using the wide range in powers recently granted to itself under the Immigration Act, the government has announced that anybody who holds a Work Visa (of any type presumably) that expires before "the end of the year" (presumably 31 December) will automatically have that extended for six months. No application form nor fee is required.
The mainstream media focused on the Minister’s statement that this would provide "certainty to employers and migrants”. That is to say, aren't we kind?
What has been less widely reported is the Minister also clarified why the grant was for only six months. He made it clear that the six months was designed in effect for employers to start seriously looking for New Zealanders to replace those migrant workers.
Of course, he really needs to say that because unemployment here is rising, although not as quickly nor as precipitously as had been projected as recently as three months ago when the country went into lockdown.
The government has saved itself a whole heap of processing trouble by avoiding processing over 16,000 individual work visas that were due to expire between now and the end of the year. It should be cold comfort however to those holding the work visas many of whom will likely be denied any extensions beyond that.
Bizarrely however, this blanket extension does not apply to partners or dependent children of those Work Visa holders. INZ has confirmed that they must still apply for their own “extensions”, pay the fee, fill out the forms and provide all the updated evidence normally required.
So much for improved efficiency.
The government is making it clear that the bar to get a labour market tested Work Visa is getting higher. I’m not suggesting forcing partners and children to apply for visas as part of a strategy to make New Zealand less attractive, I’m pretty sure it’s just something else no one in the halls of power bothered to think very hard about.
Also this week while watching a current affairs piece on why the government is showing such seeming disregard for families who normally live in New Zealand on temporary work and other similar visas, but who are stuck overseas by the border closure with jobs to come back to, and who for the most part are not being allowed in, he said the government was "working on" a solution. This sharper than most journalist kept pressing him for when this "piece of work" might be completed. Ever evasive, he said "Soon". To which the journalist responded along the lines of ‘I keep being told that things are being worked on and announcements will be made soon, but tens of thousands of people are sitting in limbo trying to make plans. So when is soon?’
To which he finally conceded there are no plans to allow most people stuck overseas or split by the border closure to re-enter, or enter New Zealand for the first time, "for months”. Months does not mean weeks. It certainly means after the election in September which is obviously the first goal of the current Government.
I suspect six months or more because the government simply doesn't have the isolation/quarantine capacity to scale up the number of facilities quickly enough.
Supporting that viewpoint is the incredible announcement this week that as majority owner of Air New Zealand, the government has now effectively ordered the airline to limit the number of New Zealanders travelling back to the country over the next three weeks. Singapore Airlines and Emirates quickly fell into line. Between those three airlines something like 95% of available capacity is held.
In fairness, it does seem that there are significant numbers of New Zealand citizens or permanent residents who are heading home. As the world continues to implode and job losses mount around the world it makes sense that they may as well come home to their family and social support networks (and an unemployment benefit not available to many of them if they stay overseas) and possibly jobs given our economy is recovering reasonably well from the initial lockdown.
The government has now requisitioned 26 hotels (there were four shortly after we went into lockdown) and they are looking to expand. Politically, and legally, they cannot prevent New Zealanders coming home. As the Prime Minister was very quick to say this week, she isn’t saying they can't come home at all, they are just staggering their arrival. (I think that is called dancing on the head of a pin). Apparently, they are "working on” a framework whereby if a New Zealander might need to come back for some urgent reason they might be allowed to do so.
There are already howls of protest. Australia announced today they are also doing something similar for the same reasons - insufficient facilities to isloate and quarantine.
There are lots of things about this pandemic that the government cannot control and no one can blame them for. With a Kiwi diaspora in the hundreds of thousands spread to all corners of the globe, I am sure many are going to come home. They must come first because they have the right to be here and unfortunately, at least in the short term, it does mean that many migrants are going to end up in a very long queue by the looks of things.
At the same time however IMMagine has had our first ‘humanitarian’ border exemption granted. We’ve already had one ‘critical worker’ approved. While we are very pleased for the client, we are left scratching our heads what made their circumstance any different from many others that we have with families that have been split by the border closure. In this case we have a mother and two children in New Zealand on work and student visas respectively. The partner is in South Africa holding an open work visa. The first time we applied for him to get an exemption to fly to New Zealand and join the family, the application was declined without explanation. When pressed, INZ agreed to re-examine the decision and then out of the blue earlier this week they approved it.
Despite our head scratching about what made this situation meet the high bar for ‘compelling humanitarian circumstances’ when it describes the same situation that so many people are in, we are very pleased to have got this result for the client.
It seems that part of the thinking might be to try and reunite split families before they try and let whole families caught offshore when the border closed re-enter. But who knows?
I just wish those that are here, in that (mis)managed skilled migrant resident visa queue, begging for some certainty were treated with the fairness and respect they deserve.
To admit many are going to miss out on residence simply because INZ lacks the intellectual capability to process anything other than the simplest of cases is a scandal of the highest order. It proves everything I have ever believed about this out of control Government department.
They need a serious audit by the Auditor General.
Until next week.
Posted by Iain on June 12, 2020, 1:13 p.m. in New Zealand
New Zealand is now back to normal. No restrictions on what we do, where we do it or in what numbers. There are no active cases any longer in New Zealand. The virus will only arrive on planes (or boats) so the borders will remain closed, with few exceptions (except it seems movie makers and those with work visas for positions of regional or national importance, earning twice the median income for a time critical project,etc) and no end in sight.
Still the Government stays silent on its plans for the majority with visas who are stuck offshore.
What an interesting three months it has been.
I've learned so much these past few weeks as the lockdown forced upon us new ways of thinking about how we live our lives, how (much) we shop, how we get around, how we work and how we do business in a world where if you can't work remotely and don't have an online sales portal you are largely screwed. A world where, just as we get over this pandemic, experts are telling us a global pandemic is now expected every ten years as we continue to grow our population, further encroach on natural spaces and get in ever closer contact with the creatures that share the planet with us but which we want to run over with bulldozers and/or eat.
With NZ now free of coronavirus we've enjoyed, for the first time in over two months, the freedom to go where we want, however we want and in whatever numbers we want.
It is actually quite surreal.
I've learned that at IMMagine we can continue to deliver our service without all sitting in our downtown office. I've learned that there's no need for a Monday to Friday work regime. Even less for a 9 to 5 workday. No reason to spend hours sitting in traffic (cutting greenhouse gas emissions), being stuck on buses or trains or travelling to work at the same time as several hundred thousand others Aucklanders.
I've learned I don't miss Auckland. Sitting up here in Northland in early winter having lunch in the sun in shorts and tee shirt, is really quite nice. I realise I don't miss airports, planes and hotels.
And there's one other thing I've learned.
If you have a problem do not look to Goverment to solve it. Don't expect politicans to know the answers. Not to the big questions, nor the small.
Look even less to the public servants, those agents of Government.
This week we were asked by INZ's General Manager to complete a survey on the quality of their service over the past few weeks. I'm not sure what he expected us to say given they were not at work for 8 weeks because they are so useless they couldn't work remotely, but at the same time I am not sure he will enjoy the responses he got from my team.
What first caught our eye was this bold statement:
‘As trusted stewards of the immigration system, we continue to facilitate and protect New Zealand’s interests throughout this unprecedented time.’
For starters, nobody who deals with these clowns trusts the Immigration Department. Nobody who works with them every day like we do, anyway.
They aren’t ‘stewards’, they are state functionaries that get in the way more than they add much value to anything.
We don’t see too much evidence of facilitation either.
Even less protection of the interests of thousands of employers with staff stuck in visa limbo.
What we see is a deer trapped in the headlights not knowing which way to turn.
Infrequently we receive announcements that they are thinking about doing a 'piece of work' on this 'framework' or that 'joined up' cross agency approach....announcements that they are thinking about thinking about stuff. (They actually get paid to think about thinking).
There will be no new normal for INZ as there is for the rest of us. They have already slipped back into their distorted reality, one size fits all, unplug the brain cells approach to, well, almost everything it seems.
Exhibit A. As New Zealand went into lockdown we filed a work visa for a highly skilled client. He had been offered the position of a Lift Mechanic. He was in New Zealand, his family was in Zimbabwe, the company was looking to fill several such roles. They had advertised for months. He was the only one they found. We filed his work visa, fully documented and almost decision ready (it was when a case officer finally picked it up)
INZ sent out their now standard post lockdown patter, a robotic letter demanding the employer demonstrate that they could still not find anyone to fill the vacancy. Didn’t matter that they couldn’t when they offered the job to our client, all that is important to these ‘facilitators’, these ‘stewards’ was whether they could find someone on the day the visa application was finally assessed. No matter how long they sat on it without actioning anything.
The employer had not stopped advertising when our client was offered the job, as they were looking for several.
We were told by INZ they were not demanding the company advertise some more, but that was the clear inference (even though the employer had been until very recently).
We obtained a letter from an expert industry specific recruiter confirming that the lockdown and rising local unemployment had not seen any rise in the numbers of local applicants available or applying for this and similar highly specialised technical roles. In fact, the opposite is happening - as everyone is back at work and the construction sector is working in full catch up mode, demand for these skills had increased.
We pointed out to INZ that the labour market isn’t imploding across the board, it is selective and some sectors are seeing lots of advertising.
Advertising dropped by around 90% as we went into lockdown and through April (obviously and predictably) but jumped by 75% in May. Hardly an imploding labour market demanding any great change in the way INZ carries out local labour market testing. However, the instruction from on high was they should, so rather than breaking things down by sector or occupation, thinking about how each sector might be impacted (tourism decimated; hospitality lockdown hit but at level 1 now rebounding; ICT, Education and Construction - hardly affected at all) and rather than treating ‘each case on its merits’ we started seeing the same templated garbage being pumped out.
Prove you still can’t find a local they demanded. Okay. Easy, here is a reminder of the evidence we supplied previously and here is an updated snapshot of the market.
Here is the verbatim response (meaning the grammar and syntax is not mine) to that initial response from us:
‘To proceed further of the client’s application to process, we require the following information:
Income tax or bank statements from overseas over a period the client works between April 2012 to July 2019. We note that you have provided the work reference letters from South Africa, however we require this information for the verification purpose only. Also, employer is looking for the applicants to have at least five years length of experience to qualify for this role’
What the officer failed to realise, because she clearly doesn’t know even the most basic of rules is that a person can be qualified for the role they are seeking to fill in NZ if they have a particular qualification OR a certain number of years of work experience. This client has both and is qualified by either and his work experience is immaterial. No need to verify anything.
Further, this is not the first correspondence with this officer - we can but scratch our heads over why this issue wasn’t raised the first time around over two weeks ago (answer - because she hadn’t thought about it the first time she emailed us, she must have thought of this ‘concern’ later).
My colleague questioned why this work experience verification was only being raised now and pointed out that it wasn’t material to the decision.
The officer replied she’d go and speak to her Supervisor.
She replied a few minutes later advising not to worry about the work verification. No apology. No nothing.
Clearly, she didn’t know the rules. We called her out. Only then did she go and ask what the rule was. The Supervisor told her IMMagine is right.
The work visa was approved and issued today. But what a struggle!
Don’t you think, just maybe, if you have a trainee you’d do what I do when someone without much experience joins IMMagine and demand they draft their correspondence, show it to someone who knows the rules, ask them to justify their thinking, get it right and then send it to the client or their legal representative?
Generally, no new Adviser at IMMagine is allowed to send out unchecked correspondence for a year until we have absolute confidence they can do so accurately.
The General Manager of INZ claims he leads an organisation that sets out to ‘facilitate and protect’ during these ‘unprecedented times’. What he leads is actually a three ring circus without a ringmaster. They facilitate little. They obstruct much.
As I reflect on everything that has changed these past ten weeks, how our business has evolved rapidly and successfully to the point where reading this you have no idea where I am writing it, or where the Lead and Second Lead Consultants working on client files are working from, it occurs to me that one thing that will never change is INZ.
The politicians and bureaucrats won’t get us out of the economic hole we are in. It is our clients, their employers and all the other private sector businesses that face the rigours and discipline of a competitive marketplace who will do so.
INZ remains, sadly, a rigid and monopolistic government department that deludes itself as to its role and importance.
They seem to have learned no lessons as at all.
Until next week
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 Aug. 8, 2015, 8:22 a.m. in Visitor Visa
I am sure that you were always told by your parents to tell the truth. As the old line goes, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear by being honest and truthful. Right?
What happens however when one rule contradicts a second that you must comply with later in order to win the game – and you have to comply with both to get what you need?
Should you lie to achieve the aim of the second if the first stops you achieving the outcome the second rule requires?
What am I talking about?
Most skilled migrants need jobs to achieve the stated aims of the Government residence programme. To get jobs, employers demand that a candidate be in New Zealand. That means getting permission to enter New Zealand either before you travel or at the border.
Only trouble with that is Visitor Visa rules are not compatible with Residence Visa rules.
Many people are being stopped at the airport on arrival and if they say they are on holiday but also intend looking for work (because they are interested in the skilled migrant residence programme and with the job have enough points, they now risk being turned around, given a visa that does not allow them to change their status or they get a normal visa.
My team and I have been wrestling for some weeks now over what to advise those clients who need job offers to secure their skilled migrant visa points who can travel to New Zealand without a visa, but to enter the country must get a visa at the border. Although this is not exclusively a South African issue we are in particular concerned about South Africans...
This condundrum has arisen because about 10% of our South African clients are now being stopped at Auckland airport on arrival and questioned on the purpose of their visit.
If they tell the truth – that they are in the country both on holiday and to check the place out as a possible settlement destination (all of our clients - if they can secure skilled employment - meet the points threshold for a resident visa) then recent history tells us telling the truth can get some into trouble.
It all depends which officer stops them and questions them at the airport - not the rule, but how the rule is applied and by whom.
Most are given ‘normal’ visas which allow them to change their status to a work visa once the job is secured. Others are given limited visas which allow them entry but if they get the job they then have to leave the country and return home to apply for their work visa offshore. I am even hearing of people (not our clients; thank goodness) being turned around at the airport and denied entry.
The only thing they all have in common are their South African passports. Thereafter, it is random – no pattern to who is stopped, who gets a normal visa and who gets the limited visa. The outcomes are consistently inconsistent. The outcome is determined by an immigration officer and how they feel.
Therein lies the dilemma.
If 90% of South Africans entering New Zealand are granted ‘normal’ visas that allow a change of status, why are we seriously considering advising all to apply for Visitor Visas before they travel? If 90% don’t have a problem and 10% do, isn’t this creating an additional cost and bureaucratic burden for all when only 10% have a problem?
I guess it depends on whether you turn out to be one of the 10%.
For the record it is perfectly legal to enter New Zealand as a ‘tourist’ and if you decide you wish to stay longer or even permanently or had even entered wanting to stay subject to finding a skilled job and you find a skilled employment, you are allowed to change your status. Given the significant majority of work visas are issued within New Zealand this clearly happens a lot.
I have met with everyone from Immigration New Zealand’s head of global border security in recent weeks to try and come to some agreement on resolving this issue and eliminate the risk for those 10% highly skilled ‘wannabe’ migrants who are hassled at the airport or to get some agreement that all of our clients coming over will be granted ‘normal’ visitor visas subject to demonstrating that they are not a risk to the country.
You might think that is easy when you can demonstrate that the number of our South African clients who have overstayed their visas is as far as we know – zero.
So if our clients tell the truth at the border about their intentions, some officials at the airport hold it against them. Some don’t. These officials are the same ones employed by the Government that is encouraging skilled migration and demanding that the majority secure work.
In trying to meet the Governments permanent residence rules, the client can be damned if they tell the truth and damned if they don’t at the border.
After three weeks of discussions the outcome I always expected happened a few days ago.
The Government suggested all of our clients should apply for these Visitor Visas offshore before they travel BUT they would not guarantee the client that on arrival at the border in New Zealand they would be granted a visa that would allow them to apply for a work visa onshore. That of course completely defeats the purpose of applying for the visitor visa offshore in the first place because once such applicants find jobs (and in the case of our clients about 98% do) they have to leave the country, apply for a work visa and return a few weeks later.
In the end this refusal to come up with a solution that is geared toward my low risk clients and to manage them as a subset of some greater perceived risk is incredibly disappointing but hardly surprising. If there is one thing Immigration New Zealand is not very good at it is holding the system to account and demanding consistency of outcomes whereby similar applicants with very similar circumstances be treated the same and should be able to reasonably expect the same outcome.
It leaves me concluding that it is not always smart to tell the whole truth. Applying for visas before a South African travels isn’t going to solve any problems.
Forcing visa applicants to be less than completely truthful in order to give the Government what they want in terms of the Residence Programme is a nonsensical and stupid way of dealing with risk.
However for the time being it seems to be just what Immigration New Zealand is demanding.
The discussions continue.
Until next week.
P.S. There's still time to enter our competition which runs until the 23rd of August - submit your photo and you could win $1500 in cash and 2 luxury nights for two at the Azur Lodge in Queenstown. To enter, click here: http://www.justimmagine.com/competition
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 June 19, 2015, 9:10 p.m. in Immigration
With my latest tour to South Africa nearing an end I wonder if this country is ready to implode.
Just when it seems the Government cannot make themselves look any worse, they load that shotgun and aim it at whichever part of their foot they didn’t blow off last week. I cannot help wondering if there isn’t now a creeping arrogance given they have no effective opposition and their hold on power absolute.
Before anyone jumps down my throat let me say that there is still much about South Africa I admire and by and large it is still a country that is well worth a visit.
If you step back and try and view it objectively here are some ‘highlights’ of the past three weeks.
Before discussing these however may I offer some context that in the past three weeks where I come from I suspect nothing has happened that would make page 17 of the national papers in South Africa (unless it involved rugby perhaps). On the political front in NZ the biggest news is a Government Minister has offered to resign because his brother has been charged with sexual assault. His brother!…..I agree that might be over kill but a few politicians around this country might take a leaf out of that book.
In my first week the President of this country dripped sarcasm in Parliament 24 hours before he knew his Minister of Police, having conducted an ‘investigation’, was to announce that he did not have to pay back any of the NZ$22 million the taxpayer paid to upgrade his ‘house’ because among other things the swimming pool was in fact a ‘fire pool’ to be used to store water in in case of a fire. I cannot recall how he justified the chicken coop or cattle kraal as aids to boost the security of the property but it will have been in there somewhere.
Oh and then there was the small matter of the multi million rand security fence with gaping holes that the cattle from the kraal probably use to enter and leave the high security facility. Gaping holes and not the best security one might conclude but no one cared about until it was shown on national TV.
In week two the country gets dragged into the FIFA scandal and the Government denies that they paid any ‘bribe’ to anyone to secure the hosting rights to the 2010 World Cup. They paid US$10m allegedly to help fund the ‘African Diaspora’ in the Caribbean. All parties have said that with a straight face. So far scant evidence of these exiled Africans enjoying much football development. While it seems pretty clear that if anyone anywhere wants to host a World Cup, Governments offer all sorts of incentives and inducements so it escapes me why the South African Government doesn’t just shut up……..somehow these guys just keep on digging.
Last but by no means least the Government snubs its nose as its own Constitution when it fails to arrest the President of Sudan earlier this week who was in town to attend the African Union Summit. That really was a ‘wow’ moment for me. This guy is wanted for among other things genocide. Papers are filed in Court and lawyers reminding the Government they have no choice other than to arrest him but instead the Government offers a full police escort as this suspected criminal scuttles for his private plane at the airport and flees the country. All in the name of African brotherhood and solidarity they say. Oh really? This guy is accused of mass murder of some of those same African brothers! The Government says that they might pull out of the Rome agreement that they signed up to as there is a bias in the ICCs charges (as in they only seem to file charges against leaders who insight or induce mass murder and like it or not there is a whole lot of them in Africa). And yes the US and Israel have not signed up because there are a couple in their past or present leadership that might end up on ICC charges as well. But South Africa signed up. They wanted in. Till they needed out.
The scariest thing is they were willing to ignore their own laws to do it and that is a frightening insight into how they view the law, the Courts and their obligations not only to the world but their own people.
This country is slowly but surely sliding into one party (benign?) dictatorship where the Government genuinely seems to believe they are above the law.
The currency has continued to fall through the floor. Our potential clients are increasingly currency prisoners with emigration a pipe dream given the costs. The nation has an official unemployment rate of 25%.
South Africa has many problems it did not create, like a porous border through which several hundred thousand people have entered illegally in recent years (over 100,000 refugees pouring into Cape Town every year), a culture of non-payment for services left over from the fight against the apartheid regime, a resultant crumbling in infrastructure, constant power cuts that are increasingly driving businesses to the wall and a birth rate that like in many third world countries sees the per capita tax take not keeping up with expanding demand.
Is it just me or does this all read a bit like the recent history of Zimbabwe?
It doesn’t help confidence when the majority continue to vote in politicians from Municipality up who are often incompetent, cannot do their jobs and seem to think that positions of power are an open invitation to plunder the public coffers. They ruin it for the hard working and honest politicians of which I am sure, or at least am desperate to believe, there are many.
It is all so sad to watch as I have been for 25 years of regular visits. It is a slow train crash that has been unfolding for years.
Luckily and if there is any hope left for this place, the one credible opposition party has recently elected a charismatic, articulate and highly intelligent young black man to lead them. It is possibly the only way the black majority might turn their backs on the ANC and stop the rot because most it seems will not vote for someone of non-African ethnicity. Most seem wedded to the ANC because they lead them to freedom but what sort of freedom do most have with ‘leadership’ like this?
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on Feb. 14, 2015, 10:47 a.m. in Living
It’s been a big week and my apologies for the later edition of the Southern Man.
It’s that time of year when the Accountant wants to see me, the Dentist decided on a bit of root canal, I had a mediation over a leaky house issue before it gets to the Courts and somewhere in among all that did a week’s worth of work. Collapsed on the couch last night and dozed instead of sending this out.
Hey, I am only human and Southern Man’s letter from new Zealand just had to wait.
A bit of a hotch potch this week of thoughts and events.
Paul is off to South Africa on Monday for two weeks of Seminars in Johannesburg (now looking to be virtually fully booked), Durban and Cape Town. Suggested he pack a good torch and some extra batteries. How far has this once proud nation fallen that there is now four hours a day of power blackouts (something the South African spin doctors call ‘load shedding’). Call it what you like if but you can’t boil the water it’s a power blackout……. My partner Myer has been there the past two weeks talking to packed houses about moving to Australia. He wryly observed - they seem to have got used to 20,000 murders a year, a rape every three minutes, rampant Government corruption, public service inefficiency but cut off their power for four hours a day and they all start running for the door. It’s curious what we get used to.
I’d suggest the last one out should turn off the lights, but the lights it seems are likely already off.
Locally, we have electricity in abundance but as happens in most years we now have drought conditions declared on the east coast of the South Island (cricket fans might not believe that as this morning’s first game of the Cricket World Cup in usually very dry Christchurch is threatened by rain interruptions). Up here in Auckland (nearly 1000 km away from Christchurch) there has been no substantial rain for over 6 weeks - the back garden needs regular watering to keep it alive.
Temperatures have been a very pleasant 25 - 28 degrees Celsius now for six weeks and we are told to expect this through to April. Wonderful, unless you need to grow things for a living.
The World Cup of cricket kicks off n about an hour and it is filling all local cricket fans with an excitement not really experienced before. For the first time in a very long time, if indeed ever to be brutally honest, New Zealand can consider itself among the favourites. Those of us who enjoy this sport have been in that ‘I can’t wait’ mode for at least the past week. My apologies to those who think thesis like watching paint dry but can 1 billion Indians all be wrong? I don’t think so…….
Wonderful to see Christchurch playing host to the (rather low key but a hell of a lot better than what Australia put on as co-host!) opening ceremony. This was a chance for New Zealand’s second city to show the world it is back. out of adversity comes some wonderful opportunities including the new ‘village green’ type of cricket field at the Hagley Oval. Compare that venue set in a huge park with grassy areas and ‘low rise’ seating stands to the concrete jungle that is the MCG, where England take on the typically cocky Australians later today. The MCG is magnificent but in typical low key New Zealand style Hagley Park oval somehow seems more intimate.
In a final thought before i grab another coffee and settle into the couch for the Black Caps versus Sri Lanka I get the feeling that momentum is building for the addition of a compulsory IT qualification for all school leavers. Shockingly for a country that exports over $7 billion in ICT products and services every year only 6% of school leavers have a recognised IT qualification. The fact that there are in Auckland alone today over 1500 unfilled high skilled IT roles reflects the fact that our universities and technical institutes only produce 50% of the graduates this booming industry needs to satisfy it’s demand.
Around 20% of all my clients work in IT and they are the one group of clients that can generally expect to find work in a few short weeks of landing with a high degree of certainty. This industry is also showing the most rapid increase in salaries with graduates starting around $60,000 and with 5 years experience most are on $85,000 plus. Thereafter the sky really is the limit. There has been a sea change here in this industry and New Zealand, if it can find the workers required, will see ICT exports become one of our top three or four exports within the next few years. it is already in the top ten.
For any of you (or any of your family and friends) might be thinking of joining us we are still trying to help a local IT recruiter fill some 200 IT roles and while we don’t hold ourselves out to be recruiters, we may be able to help some wannabe Kiwi IT specialists into roles locally if they retain us to handle the entire visa and settlement process.
Our New Zealand bound clients will shortly (if they haven’t already) receive an invitation to start using our sexy new in house developed client management system called HuM (as in ‘Helping U Manage’). In development for the past 18 months HuM was designed to help us better manage our clients visa applications in an electronic environment given from later this year more visas will be filed with the Department electronically and we wanted to be ready.
It has also given us the opportunity to provide our clients a one stop shop on our server to upload documents we need to see and to manage the logistics of their move - a place to create folders specific to the move such as ‘Bringing the Dog’, ‘Shipping my personal effects’, ‘Finding accommodation’ and ‘Finding jobs’. Rather than have folders for this stuff all over your desktop you can save it all in your secure personal file on their own protected cline file on our server. Noting earth shattering but we hope a tidy solution designed not just for migrant but any small(ish) business with multiple clients that need to be managed in an increasingly electronic and cloud based world.
We will roll this out to our clients using our Melbourne office a little later.
Last but by no means least in about a month’s time you are going to notice a change to the IMMagine branding - principally to shades of blue. This change is the final step in the re-brand of IMMage new Zealand and IMMagine Australia to better reflect the ‘one company, two country solution’ we offer to those seeking a better life.
We will be rolling out a new website which we believe better reflects who we are and what we do across these two countries.
Okay, the umpires are making their way out on to the field shortly so I need to get to the couch before my son ‘shotguns’ it.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on Dec. 5, 2014, 4:53 p.m. in Immigration
What happens when an organisation has no competition, no profit motive and it is the only supplier of a service with a captive audience?
You call yourself a Government Department and you get the following true but barely imaginable story.
I won’t name the Branch of Immigration New Zealand as I hope to sort this problem out and I know the readership of the Southern Man even extends to some inside INZ. As a preamble it is worthy of note that a few years ago the Immigration Department showed some rare insight and rather wisely rebranded themselves from the ‘New Zealand Immigration Service’, to Immigration New Zealand. I guess when you wouldn’t know a service if you tripped over it, it seems a little silly to include it in your name. So they quietly dropped the ‘s’ word and now offer little pretence of service.
Even by INZ standards this story is a jaw dropper for its stupidity, cruelty and petty mindedness.
How people like this particular officer, who is famous in our circles for this attitude continues to be employed is an indictment on this department that charges hundreds and often thousands of dollars to process visas.
I met a woman this week who wishes to join her husband in New Zealand for a few months and to try and find work with a long term plan, under the well promoted NZ government Residence programme, TO settle permanently. Her background is impeccable and both are highly employable and would settle very well, contributing skills that NZ is, according the Immigration Department, in desperate need of owing to local skill shortages (on that score INZ is actually right). Her husband is an international student studying a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology (note the name) in Auckland.
In 2013 this client applied for an open work visa to join her husband for a few months. This was, correctly, granted to her and she went and they enjoyed a few months together. In time she had to return to her home country and continue working. He has continued to study.
This year she thought she’d apply again. Nothing had changed – same husband, studying the same course in the same University, her situation had not changed (beyond being a year older) so she was naturally confident she be issued the same visa.
What she hadn’t bargained on was a different officer.
This officer declined her visa application because her husband’s degree was not an exact match to a prescribed list of NZ ICT degrees that INZ works off.
The closest match to his Bachelor of Information and Communications Technology in New Zealand was a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technologies (you may need to read that again in order to spot the difference).
Here is the rule:
‘….partners of people granted student visas to study for a level 7 or higher qualifications in an area of absolute skill shortage as specified in the Long Term Skill Shortage List’……
….qualify for an open work visa (all other things being equal as indeed they were in this case).
A New Zealand Bachelor degree is Level 7.
When the client suggested that what her husband was studying was in name and substance virtually identical the officer told her to go and get a report from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (at a cost of NZ$746) which confirmed they were essentially the same thing.
The officer appeared to be serious.
INZ then applied their quality assurance processes (such as they are) and declined the application when the client, terribly confused and upset, challenged the processing officer on what the difference was between last years’ work visa application (approved) and this years (declined)?
Everything was identical. How could one visa be approved but the following year it is declined?
The 2014 officer said ’Well, the 2013 officer must have got it wrong’.
The sad truth is as I always say at all my presentations and consultations - who you get processing your visa can be the sole determining factor on outcome.
It is at times as if there is no rule book.
The truth is that it is in fact the 2013 officer got it 100% right – it was the 2014 officer who has got it badly wrong, shown limited intelligence and an obstructive, petty and pedantic attitude.
Quite clearly the aim and intent of the policy is to encourage international students to come, spend vast quantities of money (in this case NZ$20,000 each year for three years) and as part of the incentive to add to the export education coffers, to allow partners to join then and work.
It goes further – the stated aim of this policy is to enable those that are studying ICT (an area New Zealand only produces 50% of the graduates industry and business require) to stay on once their study is complete if they have found employment and become part of the Government’s Residence Programme.
A sensible economic strategy until you give it to a bureaucrat who pays their mortgage by turning up to work each day, who is never held accountable and gets paid irrespective of how bad they are at their job.
Confucius, had he known rampant bureaucracy and monopolistic Government practices may indeed have uttered something like, ‘one rule book and two bureaucrats assessing identical factors make for opposing outcomes…’
It is scandalous that this particular officer, who has a reputation for making these sorts of decisions is allowed to remain in a front line visa decision making role. Worse still applicants pay hard earned money and are forced to have her process their visas - no competition means this applicant cannot go down the road and get some real, consistent and sensible service.
In the private sector where competition and profit motive makes us all accountable this officer’s employment would have been terminated many poor decisions ago.
I am hopeful I can help INZ see the light over this stunning display of arrogance and stupidity and get this poor woman the visa she not only deserves but is entitled to.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on Nov. 7, 2014, 3:25 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand
I have written many times about the “chicken and egg” situation that exists for migrants trying to enter the labour market before they have a Resident Visa. That is that the employers generally demand Work Visas before they will offer jobs but the Immigration Department cannot (on the whole) give a Work Visa without that job.
It is the reason why many migrants fail in their quest to get New Zealand Residence (I hasten to add not our clients as we seem to do a pretty good job at identifying those who have all the appropriate attributes to secure employment).
I had an interesting experience this week which is worth sharing and might help employers who are willing to engage in the immigration process but who don’t want floods of applications from people not in New Zealand.
A client had applied for a job whilst in New Zealand through www.seek.co.nz.
He received a computer generated rejection on the basis that he did not have a Work Visa (it was one of the questions asked).
He then followed up with a phone call to the company and asked if they would be interested in talking to him or reviewing his CV. They suggested they would and he seemed like a very interesting and qualified candidate.
He then rang me to see if I could call the employer and explain how the immigration process worked given they were somewhat reluctant, he felt, to engage with the visa process.
I called the employer and quickly learned that contrary to the perception they might not be willing to engage the immigration process (a perception they created by their online advertising), they already employed ten migrants on various forms of temporary Work Visas.
I then called the client back, who has now had a conversation with the employer to be, which I hope leads not only to an interview, but a job offer and I will secure him the Work Visa within two or three weeks.
What would have been a more sensible approach from the company when advertising online, was to have three questions that they ask and which may trigger an automated response. These would be:
In this instance, had the employer done that they would have avoided getting thousands of applications from applicants who are not in New Zealand, not available for quick and easy interview and who might not be seriously committed to the process of migration, but they would have identified my client who is here, serious and available.
It continues to amaze me in this connected world how employers and recruiters still only deal in their minds with two types of potential “foreign” candidates – those who have Permanent Residency and those that do not.
There is clearly a simple way for them to further refine their criteria which both protects them from a deluge of overseas applicants but which provides them with access to potential employees who can get Work Visas who are in New Zealand.
Food for thought for all you employers out there facing increasing skills shortages.
Until next week
IMMagine New Zealand - Southern Man
Posted by Paul on Oct. 24, 2014, 4:01 p.m. in Retirement
We all grow old. It is an inevitable consequence of living. Can't escape it, can't change it. You may, if you happen to be incredibly wealthy and with no medical aversion to plastic, be able to postpone it, but no matter what tactics you employ to stave off father time, we all get there in the end.
For some (including myself), the thought of the 'twilight years' brings with it visions of plush leather recliners, comfy slippers and hot cups of tea in the newly built conservatory attached to a free-hold home in the suburbs. This would all be nicely topped off with being able to throw off the shackles of employment (or self-employment) and live a life of freedom away from the daily grind.
For others, the thought of growing old brings a sense of dread. Where will the money come from, will there be support, will I have house, where will I live and of course the overwhelming sense that this burden will have to be carried by the children.
In many countries, caring for the eldery is both culturally and economically the responsibility of the children, which translates, interestingly enough, in to differences in attitudes between how New Zealanders see their responsibility towards parents as compared to people form South Africa, or many parts of Asia.
I'll give you an example of how this works. I regularly catch a ferry home in the evenings and amongst my fellow travellers are Kiwis, Brits and South Africans. There was a group of us yesterday who got on to the topic of migration (it follows me around) and that then led to whether or not each person in the group had considered bringing their parents to New Zealand. The two Brits, who were both ten years plus in New Zealand, were quite adamant:"We love having them here for holidays but anything longer than a few weeks...no thanks" (said in the nicest possible way).
Myself, I wasn't really able to comment as my mother lives in New Zealand (where else would she be?!).
The South African however, who had only been a Resident for a few years was quizzing me right away on the Parent Category, because they had already made up their minds that mum and dad were NZ bound. Given the prospects for the elderly in South Africa, that is a pretty common and understandeable reaction.
I suspect that most New Zealanders have quite a different outlook on caring for their parents than people in a great many countries around the world do; mainly because we have far less to worry about. New Zealand as a country has always had a tradition of looking after its older generation, administered at the State level. Whether that is economically sensible with an ageing population has yet to be fully seen, but for now it works.
But how does it actually work?
Well we start off with all the usual benefits that are afforded to Residents and Citizens, including first class healthcare, which, lets face it when you are heading into senior years is probably one of the most important 'perks' you will have. You will inevitably need it more and so knowing you don't have to pay for any of it (ever) is quite a nice bonus.
Then on top of this, the state gives everyone over 65 that meets the criteria (see below), a liveable income in the form of superannuation; this is paid even if you continue to work past 65. Granted it is not going to send you on luxury cruises every month but it will keep you supported for the essentials. It was always intended to 'top up' the elderly who by that stage, one would hope, have accumulated their own assets, paid off a mortgage and have some savings.
There are varying rates of assistance, dependent on your circumstances but in basic terms if you are married or in a defacto relationship and you both qualify under the critieria listed below, then each person would receive a fortnightly, after tax amount of $564.52, which over a year would be equal to a combined income of NZD$29,355.04. That would get you to a few bowls matches.
If you are single, then you receive slightly more, taking you to a yearly after tax income of NZD$19,080.88.
Of course there are some rules to qualify for this, which include the following:
You can get more information on all of the above, by clicking here>>
Of course there are also other minor perks such as concessions on local transport and cheap entry to Museums, galleries and certain tourist attractions, but the key staples, such as healthcare and an income are given to you by the Government. Add this to a country with one of the lowest crime rates on earth (and falling), then it is easy to see why New Zealand is an attractive destination for not only the younger generation of migrants but their elders as well.
There are of course immigration categories that cater for this, which although were changed a couple of years back in an attempt to reduce parent numbers have actually made it slightly quicker for those parents who come from English speaking backgrounds. This is particularly useful for South Africans, where parents are the next item on the 'to do' list once the kids have migrated.
From my own perspective, I have a mother approaching 80 years of age (in fact 80 next week), she lives in her own home in Hamilton, she receives her superannuation and fortunately for her, she also receives a pension from Holland (having not lived their for over 55 years - another country that looks after its elderly). She travels every two years, does plenty of shopping for her 11 grandchildren and lives an independent, worry free life. I should probably visit her more than I do, but I have no fears that she doesnt have all she needs to live out her twilight years, with comfy slippers, leather recliner and sunny conservatory. Thanks NZ, I appreciate the help.
If you are thinking about making the move or have made it already but want to know what might be available for your parents, by way of a safe and secure retirement, then perhaps you should get in touch. Speaking of which I will be in South Africa, in mid November for two weeks (the last trip of the year, before we all take a break) and the Southern Man will be in Hong Kong and Singapore later in November for our last SE Asia tour.
If you want to attend, drop by the website and register - comfy slippers optional.
Until next week (after the long weekend here)
Paul Janssen, standing in for the Southern Man.
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