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Posted by Iain on Aug. 6, 2021, 3:34 p.m. in Immigration
If you see someone drowning do you offer them hearty cheer and words of encouragement to keep swimming or do you throw them a large floaty thing with a rope and pull them to safety?
This week the opposition National Party decided to throw a safety line to the immigration department which is rapidly going under.
I’m fully supportive of the policy released by the opposition which is a not so subtle throwing down of the ‘kindness gauntlet’ to our ‘kind’ government to finally do the right thing, clear the immigration decks, reward all those migrants in NZ who have stuck with us since the pandemic began and provide certainty to their employers.
I was asked by Erica Stanford, the party’s spokesperson for my input and naturally I wasn’t short of advice.
I confess I was very pleasantly surprised in the lead up to their announcement that they wanted to extend sorting out the mess to everyone in the country when the border closed and who hold Essential Skill Work Visas, irrespective of skill level.
I made two suggestions on the proposal to pull into the plan those that don’t currently have any long term residence pathway:
1. Provide a three year extension to their work visa and a guarantee they will be granted residence if they remain out of trouble and work for at least an aggregate two of the three years (bearing in mind there’s many reasons - child birth for example - that might cause someone to briefly stop paid work).
2. Uncouple essential skills work visas from specific employers. One of the clear risks these processing backlogs has created is tying work visas to specific employers. It is heightened especially for those at the lower end of the (allowed) income spectrum increasing the chances migrants will be exploited by a small number of bad faith employers because the employer knows the work visa holder is often effectively beholden to them.
I’m pleased to see the Nats have run with these two recommendations.
I was also asked how INZ might expedite those highly skilled applicants who have been invited to apply for residence and/or have filed applications and eliminate the backlog within a few months.
My recommendations were:
1. All those sitting in the so called ‘managed queue’ have their current employment against relevant rules verified. That would mean IRD summary of earnings for the past three months, checking of applicant bank statements and a phone call to the employer confirming the applicant is still working. Would take all of thirty minutes per application.
2. A local police check to ensure the applicant has not committed any serious crimes since arriving in the country. Bearing in mind to hold a 24 plus month work visa the government must have been satisfied the applicant was already of good character. This would take a few months given the Police would be required to do a lot more in less time than usual.
I was heartened to see those two key recommendations made it into the proposed policy.
What of the 4,000 to 5,000 Talent and Long Term Skills Shortage (LTSSL) visa holders (representing perhaps 10,000 peole once partners and children are included) who are queuing up to file their resident visa applications toward the end of this year and early next or who have already filed their residence applications and are waiting (for the majority) over two years to be processed?
For those who have already filed their residence application and are sitting the processing backlog the same as above - proof of work and local police check. To secure the Talent or LTSSL work visas the health standard they get for their temporary visa was the residence visa standard.
For those who will file after October when there’s several thousand eligible to file:
1. Application form, fee, passport
2. Local police check for the same reason as above
3. Verification they’ve worked the required 24 months so that would include checking employment against relevant/current rules. IRD summary of earnings for the past two years, checking of applicant bank statements and a phone call to the employer confirming the applicant is still working.
And finally, what of the 10,000 Expressions of Interest languishing in the ‘pool’ since selections were suspended in March 2020? These are the people I worry about most. These people rightly fear the current government could simply cut them all loose.
I recommended immediately selecting all those who claimed 160 points and if that claim upon examination looks credible they be invited to apply for residence. Normal, as in current, rules would apply. We know from history roughly 90% of EOI claimants are found to have a credible claim following selection which means roughly 9,000 applications would hit the processing stage within a few months. Not all will be approved because ultimately their points claim, while genuine, is not supported by the evidence they can produce.
By the time this group entered the processing system INZ should have cleared the backlog of 10,000 or so applications covered by the first group and be well advanced expediting the second.
Priority through the end of 2021 and early part of 2022 would go to the second group, those applying for residence from work. The rest of 2022 would be focused on those currently sitting in the pool.
I would close the category to any new applications for 6 months, It would be temporary (really temporary not ‘I am waiting on advice from officials before restarting selections’ temporary) and a cast iron commitment to not prolonging it.
This would truly be an immigration reset.
It would buy any government precious time to develop new policies for our new Covid based, border restricted world (and here at IMMagine we’ve got some really good ideas how that might look).
It allows the bureaucrats to clear their decks over the next 18 months so that when we see greater international travel through 2022 and beyond they are ready.
The one fly in the ointment, apart from the fact the National Party is not the government(!) is the intellectual capability of INZ to deliver this. At the end of June, the latest period we have been given staff numbers for, there were 83 officers employed to work on the residence backlog. In the past two weeks only 191 residence applications were allocated for processing. INZ management simply can’t give them more cases, not because they have high caseloads (the average as best I can tell is between 25 and 30 which is a third of what my crew have) but because there’s not enough experience or institutional knowledge to deal with more. And staff continue to leave in worrying numbers.
My plan if adopted would allow these officers to cut through the work, not endlessly repeat checks (like health and work history) that is a box ticked at previous work visa stage for example and get on and clear the residence backlog.
What Erica Stanford has come up with is big, bold, pragmatic and above all, kind. It represents no threat to the integrity of the immigration system, the security or health of New Zealanders.
There’s no risk to New Zealand, there’s no greater pressure on housing or infrastructure that doesn’t exist today because those who would be approved are already here. We take on no more cost or risk than exists presently.
It is going to be interesting to see how the real Government responds to National’s politically brave proposal. To date they’ve simply announced a reset (by a stand in Minister) devoid of any actual policy or delivery timeline.
I am confident my plan works and benefits everyone - the processing headache goes away for the bureaucrats, we reward all those migrants in the country filling jobs we could not and who did not abandon us when the borders closed and arguably most importantly thousands of local employers have the certainty they need to get through this Covid crisis and can focus on creating even more jobs and wealth for the country.
Posted by Iain on July 24, 2020, 1:27 p.m. in Immigration New Zealand
The plot thickens.
Just what is going on with the processing of skilled migrant cases?
I received pushback this week from a senior Immigration Manager demonstrating one thing these people clearly do not appreciate is being questioned or held to account.
A problem I suggested in return might be easily solved if they publicised accurate and timely information on their website. They do not. Why?
We have learned under various applications made under the Official Information Act that:
1. On July 2 INZ actually only had 427 skilled migrant resident (SMC) visa cases that met their priority processing criteria (high salary or occupational registration). I had been told there was 900 at the same time by a senior manager who should have known the number.
2. INZ appears to have around 70 case officers assigned to process skilled migrant (points) cases and residence from work/talent visas.
3. There is a priority queue within the priority queue (used for training up inexperienced officers and ‘efficiency improvements’ - translation - meeting kpis and not looking completely useless)
4. There is 14,000 SMC applications (covering around 28,000-30,000 people) sitting in the queue to be processed at the time of writing
5. No Expressions of Interest are being selected - we were told during lockdown ‘no boots on the ground’ was the reason. The boots have been back on the ground now for around six weeks but still no pool draws. I am advised there’s around 3000 EOIs sitting in the pool currently. No invitations to apply for residence have been made for three months - so there’s little no new work adding to the queue.
6. The Government has a target of around 25,000 resident visa approvals between Jan 2020 and June 2021.
7. At IMMagine we have had four residence cases over the past week or so where we have been advised the case officer is happy with the evidence and arguments and moved to an internal INZ second person (quality and accuracy) check for sign off and the application has been sent back to the case officer because the more experienced officer has found fault with the first officer’s assessment. This is unprecedented in our experience. The officer training doesn’t seem to be going that well.
8. The (now former) Minister of Immigration has as recently as ten days ago advised publicly that both priority and non priority queues are moving. The last non-priority case allocated for processing was receipted on 20 December 2018 (not 2019). Snails also technically move - doesn’t mean they will get anywhere any time soon…
What does all this mean to those waiting and wondering what is happening with their applications?
There is more people in the system than places available under the programme but only by the 10% variance allowed for. That hardly supports the notion that ‘demand’ for places is outstripping the ‘supply’ as the Minister and senior bureaucrats keep telling the world is the reason for the queue not getting shorter.
INZ Managers either do not know what is happening on their watch, how many cases representing priority and non-priroty are sitting in their queue or they are not telling the truth about it. I don’t think they are lying.
On the face of it when senior managers tasked with overseeing the ‘queue’ cannot advise us how many cases meet priority criteria and their Head Office Managers confirm that teachers and health care workers are being prioritised for training purposes, you know you’ve got a problem.
I don’t know how the number of officers is split between SMC processing and Residence from Work (I couldn’t get a straight answer) but given there’s probably 10 SMC cases for every one of the latter, that suggests there should be roughly 60 immigration officers processing the priority cases.
If there really was only 427 SMC priority cases sitting in the queue on 2 July as the Government advised under an OIA request, that means each officer would get roughly 7 cases. Seven! I also don’t know how long it would take an officer to process a case but let’s be generous and say, eight hours. That suggests the queue should be pretty much gone within a week.
So why, contrary to the Government’s statements that both queues are moving is there no evidence of it among the advising community which handle something like 40% - 50% of all cases in the system? The reports I am receiving are consistent - none of the corporate advising community is seeing any non priority cases being allocated for processing beyond a small number that have been ‘escalated’ through a strange process called EVE. I was told by a Visa Operations Manager these numbers are ‘very small’ and ‘rare’.
So what exactly are the case officers doing all day?
They can’t all be cutting their teeth on teacher applications.
Why can’t INZ (and the Government) just be honest with us all?
Are they hiding something because this maths and the experience of our industry just does not add up?
I am not suggesting there’s wholesale lying going on but the only other explanation is the government and the senior management of INZ do not know what is really happening in the branches and on the ground. I am not sure which is worse.
Senior managers can whine at those of us pushing for answers about what the numbers really are or they could get their act together and publish the real numbers. Don’t they want to know how they are performing?
I am calling on INZ to publish (accurately and I’d suggest weekly) in one place on their website:
1. The number of SMC cases sitting in their yet to be allocated queue
2. The number of residence from work cases sitting in the queue
3. The number of priority cases within that number (1) above
4. The number of priority SMC cases approved and declined weekly
5. The number of non-priority SMC cases approved and declined weekly
How hard could that be? If we had those five simple metrics we could all stop firing off OIA requests tying up time of low level functionaries in Wellington who I know are often being asked the same question multiple times.
Wouldn’t it be in everyone’s interest, not least the Government's, to provide this snapshot each week when it is the government and INZ trying to convince the world, against all the evidence that the problem is demand for visas exceeding the supply of them?
What are they all so afraid of?
Until next week
Posted by Myer on March 13, 2020, 12:22 p.m. in Immigration
If you’re thinking of emigrating you might also be wondering when is the appropriate time to have a consultation regarding your visa options (and the smart migrants do seek out some good advice before they move).
I’m frequently told by those interested in immigrating to Australia or New Zealand that they will have a consultation with me but only after they obtain an offer of employment or for those I have met, they will engage in using our services once that job is in hand. In my opinion the consultation should have taken place long before the job search begins for both Australia and New Zealand and certainly if your mind is made up, then getting us on board ahead of time is absolutely crucial. The reasons differ slightly because the immigration policy for both countries is different even though the process of securing employment is largely the same.
I was prompted to write this blog by the experience of one of our clients, who was fed up with waiting for a general skilled migration visa (these visas don’t require offers of employment) and decided to travel to Australia for the purposes of securing employment in order for us to submit an employer sponsored visa.
He was qualified to be both an accountant as well as a finance manager. Much of our initial discussions were focused on an explanation that a job offer as an accountant in the non-regional areas of Australia, namely Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane could potentially result in permanent residence under an employer nominated residence visa. However, an offer of employment as a finance manager in these cities would not, notwithstanding the fact that the occupation of finance manager is often more senior in nature and often would be managing a number of accountants, consequently earning more than the accountants working under him.
If this sounds weird, welcome to my world.
Australia’s immigration program can broadly be described as lists of different occupations for different visa types. Some of these occupations will be suitable for work visas, some suitable for general skilled migration visas, whilst others will require one to live in regional areas of Australia.
So there is no point in a sales and marketing manager obtaining an offer of employment in Melbourne for example, if he intends to become a permanent resident of Australia through an employer sponsored residence visa program. This is because the occupation of sales and marketing manager doesn’t appear on the relevant list that allows a company based in this area to nominate the position. This isn’t affected by the salary one earns or the nature of the employer, the simple fact is that the sales and marketing manager isn’t suitable for non-regional Australia but would be a great occupation for regional Australia (the whole of Australia excluding Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane).
On the other hand a general manager would be suitable for non-regional Australia however the salary requirements for this particular occupation are that the applicant would have to have an offer of $180,001 salary per annum which is a reasonably high salary by Australian standards. The logic is fairly obvious, to avoid your smaller businesses employing a “general manager” as a means of obtaining permanent residence for the applicant.
There is even a list of occupations suitable for temporary work visas in Australia (known as a temporary skill shortages visa). Depending on the occupation that you are employed in, you can either be issued a longer term four-year visa that can be renewed thereafter, or a limited two-year work visa with an option of only gaining one more two-year term. There is no point in securing an offer of employment in Australia if you are not going to be in an occupation suitable for a work visa, and to potentially gain permanent residence in a few years time.
Some of these occupations that are suitable for work visas will require a skills assessment by one of the assessing authorities. At the moment it’s mostly trades that require skills assessments but they can take several months to obtain and no employer is going to wait this length of time for the assessment to be completed before applying for the work visa.
With so many variables and differing requirements, you need to have a consultation at least six months before you commence the job search to make sure you have an immigration plan. Just like you wouldn’t consider building a house without a building plan, so too do you need an immigration plan that has considered factors such as the requirements of each visa type (both temporary and permanent) the timeframes involved, the documentation required for each visa and an appreciation of the risks as well.
New Zealand has moved away from lists of occupations and instead focuses on skill levels and salary requirements for each occupation to determine if it meets the definition of ‘skilled’. There are different requirements for temporary work visas from permanent residence visas, with the former being focused on satisfying skill shortages and the latter focused on satisfying a points test.
It is as important in the New Zealand context (if not more so) to have a consultation well in advance of the job search and if we deem you eligible to start preparing yourself ahead of time, so that you are “document ready” when you commence your job search in New Zealand. Not only do you need to know the requirements of the different visa types but you need to know the documents required for both permanent and temporary visa applications because, while an employer will wait a period of time between offering you a position of employment and the date you are expected to commence work, they will want this period to be as short as possible and excessive delays can jeopardise the validity of your employment offer. Too many times we have seen applicant’s (not our clients necessarily) race ahead to secure a job, only to then discover that without the documentation they need, the Visa process becomes lengthy, complicated and more stressful than it needs to be. The worst case is the employer gets the “wobbles” because the application hasn’t been submitted quickly and the job is at risk. Why take that sort of chance, particularly when you consider the effort required to secure that job.
Contrary to the popular belief, it’s not all about obtaining a job in both Australia and New Zealand. With many having to quit jobs so they can spend enough time in Australia and New Zealand to secure employment, you need to be aware of the immigration requirements, documentation and strategy well in advance of your journey to a new life.
Being both employment and Visa ready are really important parts of the overall plan and can be the difference between success and failure.
Posted by Iain on Nov. 15, 2019, 2:29 p.m. in Education
Spending a lot of time in Hong Kong and Singapore of late, a common question has emerged in my consultations.
When I explain to those who seek residency of New Zealand under the Skilled Migrant Category that they will need a skilled job, first, in order to secure enough points and that overwhelmingly demands for around 97% of clients that they resign their jobs and head off to New Zealand only to be confronted by a very real ‘chicken and egg’ situation (no work Visa means no job but no job means no work Visa), the blood usually drains out of their faces. The truth is most people, unless incredibly committed, are simply not going to resign their jobs, fly away without their family and try their luck in the labour market no matter how employable I believe they are (although right now however we are representing over 350 families who will).
As a consequence, I often get asked the question "What if I come and study in New Zealand as a pathway to residence?’ What is very clear to me is that in markets like Singapore and Hong Kong more than a few (unlicensed) education agents, push this line hard. It is a very seductive message (and keeps the cash flowing for the agent) but I'm not always convinced it is good advice.
I believe the advice is often given because in many cases it suits the person giving the advice rather than the migrant seeking a pathway towards residence.
If the holder of a Student Visa is studying toward a Bachelor degree or postgraduate qualification, they have 20 hours per week (and more during summer holidays) of work rights while they are studying and for the most part once they've completed their studies they are given a three-year Work Visa.
Those studying a research (thesis) based Masters degree or PhD have unlimited work rights while they are studying.
I think a lot of agents and immigration adviser/lawyers sell those advantage as if it is some silver bullet in terms of dealing with the ‘chicken and egg’ situation.
They seem to be incredibly active in the Indian and Asian markets despite two or three years ago the then National Party led government, as I have written about before, stabbing tens of thousands of, mainly Indian, international students in the back by changing who could get a work Visa at the end of the study. For many years in an effort to boost the export education industry, tens of thousands of youngsters were encouraged to come to New Zealand to study relatively low level and frankly garbage 12 month diplomas, not because of the knowledge they gained but because at the end of it they could get a Work Visa. I always believe this was borderline fraudulent on the part of the government and the private sector because the reality was most of those youngsters could not get the “skilled" job they needed in order to secure the points to remain in the country.
Interestingly, when the minimum level of qualification to obtain the Work Visa at the end of the study was increased to Bachelor degree there has been no significant drop off in the number of student visas been granted. This either means the world rates our education system incredibly highly (arguably, it should) or the government dangling the ‘carrot’ of a work Visa as the pathway to permanent residency at the end of the study, remains an incredibly strong incentive.
There are certainly pros and cons.
In the pro column:
1. Work rights while studying does offset the not in significant cost of study in New Zealand;
2. Knowledge is always a good thing and if you can get that while experiencing a different culture and environment that can be an end in itself;
3. New Zealand universities generally offer a high standard of education (Auckland University for example is consistently ranked in the top 100 in the world);
4. A three year open work Visa at the end of the study does buy a lot of time to secure skilled employment.
5. A work visa in hand absolutely does speed up the process of securing employment for some
6. A qualification can of course, be an end in itself.
1. It is very expensive. A Bachelor degree is going to cost a non-resident something in the order of NZ$25,000 – $30,000 per year and most degrees will be three or four years long;
2. Living in New Zealand is not cheap and unless you have a benefactor bankrolling you with limited work rights you're either going to get into debt or your parents are going to fork out a lot of money;
3. It's all very well to have 20+ hours of work rights every week but full-time study is never easy at that level and squeezing in at least half a job can be very taxing;
4. A student Visa is a temporary Visa. The graduate Work Visa granted at the end of the three years is also a temporary Visa. Every day on a temporary Visa is one more day for a government to change the residence or other immigration rules and looking three plus years into the future is potentially a risky game to play;
5. That open Work Visa is no guarantee of skilled employment.
It is that last point which concerns me more than anything else for those choosing the study, to work, to residence, option.
Just because someone has a New Zealand Bachelor degree (or higher) does not mean the job that they get will be skilled in order to secure residence.
In particular those studying the soft subjects which don't qualify you for a particular ‘skilled’ occupation in my view should be avoided.
I think if someone is going to go down this pathway they need to study something which is going to give them, at entry level, skilled employment – I'm thinking engineering, IT, teaching, food technology and the like. Graduating with majors in Marketing, Business, Tourism or Hospitality is generally a waste of time because if you are young and you don't come to New Zealand with middle to senior level experience already, the entry level job you get on that work Visa is highly unlikely to be skilled enough to secure the points needed for residence.
For those who already have undergraduate degrees from abroad I will sometimes recommend if they do end up preferring this ‘study first’ option, to consider an MBA. It has a number of advantages - not least that you gain 20 additional points over a bachelor degree. While studying an MBA, there's going to be a lot of networking opportunities opening up and networking can often lead to jobs.
If you have a (foreign) Bachelor and a NZ MBA then there's a reasonable probability that the job you get is going to be skilled, but even that is no guarantee. There are plenty of international students who have come to New Zealand over the past decade and completed Masters degrees that cannot find skilled employment because they simply don't have the relevant work experience to get it.
Part of me says the three year graduate Work Visa option is a little more honest than the previous government's policy because three years is a long time and even if somebody graduated in New Zealand and took up a job that is not skilled enough to get residency, they may have enough time to get promoted to a position that is skilled.
The advice I tend to give most of the people that ask me about this option is that it should be Plan B. If you speak fluent English, you are a good cultural fit, you have skilled work experience already and you are resilient with a few dollars in your pocket (quite a few) then you are employable in the current market for the most part.
We are representing at any given time around 370 families all of whom need skilled jobs to get sufficient points to stay long term in New Zealand.
In the past year I think there might have been ten clients who came to New Zealand that did not find employment or did not get the right type of job. That suggests we are fairly good judges of who is likely to succeed and fail in the current labour market and although it is frightening prospect for most people to resign a job, jump on a plane and come to New Zealand and deal with ‘the chicken and egg’ it is still a quicker, cheaper more certain pathway to residency for the majority.
Not for the faint hearted and I sometimes think it is the less confident (or less well researched or advised) that end up going down what they perceive to be an easier pathway, of studying first.
Posted by Myer on Aug. 9, 2018, 11:32 a.m. in Visas
If you know some of the pitfalls in the process, student visas can be a useful pathway to not only acquiring an Australian qualification but potentially a pathway to obtaining permanent residence. However the location of your studies in Australia is as important as the subject matter of your studies.
Of course you have to satisfy a number of requirements including a genuine temporary entry criteria relating to student visas, and have to have sufficient funds to pay for your studies which can be quite pricey as an international student.
A student visa does allow you to work for 40 hours per fortnight as well as your spouse or partner and you have unlimited work rights when your course is not in session. This can help offset some of the living costs as well as gaining work experience in the Australian environment.
There are some advantages to studying towards a degree in Australia (two years of study required) or studying for a course that is on the medium to long-term skills shortages list. As either option could entitle you to either a two-year post study work visa (in the case of a degree) or at least an 18 month graduate work visa in the case of studying for a suitable course in an occupation on the medium to long-term skill shortages list.
While the Government does not endorse Australian study as a pathway to permanent residence, progressing from the temporary work visas to permanent residence is largely dictated by where you study in Australia.
There are two ways to obtain permanent residence, either:
1. through nomination by your employer in one of two schemes, the employer nomination scheme or regionally sponsored migration scheme or
2. through general skilled migration visas which are points tested and don’t require you to obtain an offer of employment.
This blog is largely focused upon pathway 2 above i.e. the pathways that are available under general skilled migration visas.
Because of the very high pass mark for the independent general skilled migration visa (the type of general skilled migration visa that does not require state sponsorship) more and more applicants for general skilled migration visas are relying upon state sponsorship as a pathway to securing permanent residence.
There are eight states or territories that produce lists of occupations that they will sponsor depending upon the needs of the economy of that particular state. However, because the pass mark for the independent general skilled migration visa is so high (in the region of 70/75 points for most occupations) more and more people are relying upon state sponsorship to obtain permanent residence.
As we don’t know in advance which occupations will appear on state sponsorship lists or what the quota is for a particular occupation should an occupation appear on a state sponsorship list, it’s impossible to know what qualification you should be studying that will improve your chances of gaining residence.
There are three states that will consider you for state sponsorship irrespective of whether your occupation appears on a state sponsorship list. These states are South Australia, ACT and Tasmania although Queensland does have a separate list for those who have studied in Queensland in certain occupations.
To give you a practical example Betty is a 23 year old student travelling to South Australia to complete a bachelor’s degree in marketing. She completed a diploma level qualification in Singapore in marketing and will be studying at least two academic years towards a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
At the end of her studies she can apply for a post study work visa. It will be valid for a period of two years and having this visa will enhance her employment options because most employers in Australia would prefer to employ those who have work rights. Once she completes one year of work experience in Adelaide she can then obtain a positive skills assessment as a marketing specialist if her year of employment is a close match for a marketing specialist.
Even if the occupation of marketing specialist doesn’t appear on the South Australia state sponsorship list she can nonetheless apply for state sponsorship for South Australia (assuming that she scores 65 points, has adequate English language ability and meets other requirements of a general skilled migration visa). This is greatly advantageous because the occupation of marketing specialist very rarely appears on state sponsorship lists.
She wouldn’t be able to do this if she studied for the same qualification in New South Wales. New South Wales does not give credit to those people studying for occupations that don’t appear on state sponsorship lists like some other states. It is critical to not only study for a qualification that is going to benefit you from a career perspective, but careful consideration of where you study in Australia is important if your end goal is to obtain permanent residence via the general skilled migration visa route.
Studying in Australia does not guarantee that you will get residence, and policy changes on a regular basis, so it’s preferable to try and avoid having to study in Australia if one can possibly obtain permanent residence without it. But if you are going to study in Australia, choosing the correct course and the correct location in Australia could be a useful pathway for those young enough with sufficient resources to have a pathway to permanent residence in Australia.
- Myer Lipschitz, Managing Partner & Immigration Attorney, IMMagine Melbourne Office
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
Posted by Iain on May 5, 2017, 7:23 p.m. in Immigration
Information received under the Official Information Act proves (if any proof was needed) that the Skilled Migrant Category changes Government is implementing on 14 August are largely directed at stemming the flow of international students through to residence and will not radically reduce the chances of those over the age of 30 that would likely qualify today.
INZ officials are quoted in advice to Cabinet:
The remuneration threshold is likely to have a bigger impact on former international students than people entering through other SMC pathways. International students will typically have less experience and therefore earn less than migrants with more work experience. Around 50-60 per cent of the international tertiary graduates who were employed in New Zealand in 20135 (sic) earned below the proposed threshold.
Told you so...
The Government’s promise to international students to provide a residence pathway has, effectively, been broken. Under these new rules the minimum salary threshold of $48,800 will see significant numbers of graduates from our local institutions no longer qualifying.
That must hurt the $3 billion export education industry far more than they care to admit right now.
While I feel for them, New Zealand offers limited numbers of places to skilled migrants each year and demand far exceeds supply. We have an obligation to get the most for our visa ‘buck’ so while for me it is a shame these students have been let down badly and the Government hasn’t ‘fessed’ up to really stuffing things up in that quarter, something had to give and it was the 'lower value' migrants that are missing out.
It is worth repeating there is no cut to the annual target of 27,000 resident visas under this category.
So, what are the new points?
Those aged 39 and under will score 30 points for age. This represents status quo for those under 30 years of age but 5 more points for those aged 30-39.
We can also reveal that high paying jobs with remuneration (note, not necessarily salary it seems) of $97,713.00 will attract 20 new points.
Masters and Ph.D. holders will see their points for these qualifications increase to 70 points from the current 60. Goodness knows why......
In possibly the biggest change, those claiming points for work experience will only be able to claim points for that experience that is skilled (and in the jargon, Skill Levels 1,2 and 3 in ANZSCO). Right now, all work that is ‘relevant’ to a recognised qualification or a NZ skilled job offer gets points up to a maximum of 30.
However, the points that can be claimed from August 14 increases to a maximum of 50 points for ten years of skilled work experience. That's 20 more points available to those with ten years of skilled work experience than exits today.
A case of taking with one hand and giving with the other, reasonably in my view and recognising that those with greater levels of skilled work experience are better for the NZ economy.
New Zealand based work experience points increases from 5 to 10 once 12 months of skilled work has been notched up.
Gone, as reported in another blog post, are:
So, if you are aged over 29, have University, Technical Institute or Trade level qualifications these changes will be more or less neutral as I have written about before. Those that qualify today are almost certain to qualify after 14 August because they were not the targets of this fine tuning of the skilled migrant category.
The high salary/remuneration bonus points will assist some who don’t have qualifications to qualify but it is possible some will miss out.
What the Government might need to do (and may in fact be considering) is a return to multiple pass marks so that, for example, someone earning over $98,000 might have a lower pass mark than someone earning under that. The system is designed with and historically always has had multiple pass marks.
My analysis of these changes suggests government will still struggle to fill the annual 27,000 skilled migrant target it has had in place for over ten years with this new points spread.
That analysis demands a drop in the pass mark but given that is a political decision I suspect what happens from here is the Government will be pleasantly surprised the media completely swallowed the announced changes as a ‘tightening’ and ‘cuts’ (both of which have not happened) and leave the pass mark at 160 till after the election in September. They’ll be hoping they’ve painted a (false) picture of ‘toughening up’, New Zealanders ‘first’ and all that ‘anti’ talk in order to neutralise the opposition parties calling for reductions in migrants.
Then, once they have been re-elected (possibly in coalition with a small anti-immigration party), they’ll let the pass mark fall, confident neither will look like they haven’t ‘tightened up’ and have delivered on a promise to force a ‘cut’ to immigration without having done anything of the sort.
Wonderful use of smoke and mirrors that represent a few tweaks and a bit of fine tuning that in reality only impacts on those would be skilled migrants under the age of 30. Most of whom are international graduate students.
And we might see a few restaurants close around town because of the new minimum salary threshold of $48,800 unless we are all willing to pay more for our Phad Thai and pay migrant Chefs more.
Until next week...
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...
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