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Skilled Migrant Category Review

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

Control.

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


Decided, Looking and Seeing or Looking, Seeing and Deciding?

Posted by Iain on Nov. 27, 2015, 12:01 p.m. in Visitor Visa

That is the question...

Regular readers in South Africa will know that in recent times increasing numbers of South African citizens travelling to New Zealand are being questioned about the purpose of their visit when they check in to their flights in South Africa, in transit en route, during a stop over or on arrival in New Zealand.

It is causing understandable consternation among many.

I have been trying to get the NZ Government to acknowledge that it is quite legal to come to New Zealand to look for work, to attend interviews, to check out schools, cost of living, lifestyle and so on because you might think you fancy settling here if everything falls into place. And they have. What they don’t have though is a formal class of visa for this. 

I believe there is a relatively simple solution to that.

To once again explain the issue; with New Zealand employers overwhelmingly demanding face to face interviews, demonstrations of commitment to the settlement process, fluency in English and cultural compatibility, there is only so much you can do through CVs, emails and Skype. In the end, our experience clearly demonstrates that employers want to see your boots on the ground here, evidence of real commitment and availability to start work subject to having appropriate visas.

As I have written about previously, we are finding about 10% of our South African clients are being questioned at check in, en route, or on arrival as to the purpose of their visit. The other 90% have no issue so this is not a big problem...unless you are one of the 10%.

On what to say if asked we have always advised clients to tell the truth - they are here to 'Look, See and Decide' if they want to settle here - primarily on vacation and as a secondary purpose to see if they are employable and might want to live here.

What happens when people are questioned depends very much on who does the questioning, rather than the answers given. Around half of the clients questioned are not hassled further and are allowed to board their flight or receive a ‘normal’ Visitor Visa on arrival. This means once they get their job they can stay in NZ and change their immigration status later e.g. get a work visa once they have secured their job rather than fly home secure the work visa and then come back to NZ a few weeks later.

About one in 20 of our clients has been given a 'Limited' Visa on arrival meaning they could not change their status once they found their job which as I understand it, all have done.

Realising this is a very subjective area of the rule book INZ recently issued one of their internal information circulars to their staff which sought to offer further guidance to their officers - what to do when someone standing in front of you says they are on a ‘LSD’ trip.

Officers have been told that if the person who might become the main applicant for residence i.e. the potential job seeker has sold their home and resigned their job then in the mind of Government the person has in fact ‘Decided’ and is only now ‘Looking and Seeing’ and should be as such given a Limited Visa.

Government is not wrong on this - given most South Africans fund their migration through the sale of their home many will have had to have sold it to raise the funds and to get the process under way.

Equally, given most migrants take 2-4 months to find employment once landed here they are forced to resign their jobs in order to have enough time to find work here. If they come for two weeks and try and land a job I’d suggest 99% would fail to secure the job.

So all the migrants (ones we will later congratulate on securing residence and adding to our nation’s skill base) here looking for jobs are effectively being forced to resign their jobs at home to maximise the chances of the outcome they seek here eventuating.

Given New Zealand employers ultimately determine who gets residence (because they decide who gets jobs) this situation is still highly unsatisfactory.

It is not unreasonable for migrants to want a degree of certainty they will be able to enter for the purpose of finding work - because this is what NZ employees demand and there is little to no evidence that South African citizens overstay their visas if they don’t find work - they go home.

It is not unreasonable for them to have to have the money to do it - and like most middle class skilled migrants their wealth is tied up in property.

Nor is it unreasonable for highly skilled, fluent english speaking migrants from anywhere to have resigned their jobs. Time is needed on the ground in NZ because most employers demand work visas before they will offer a job and the only remedy for that is applying for many roles to find the one employer willing to play the visa game. Time on the ground is the only solution on offer today.

At the same time New Zealand has a right to protect its borders and it is very clear that our Government has an opinion on what is happening in South Africa that has led to the ‘risk profile’ of South Africans being elevated to the level where people are even being stopped in South Africa before they board the plane.

There are some obvious solutions to this which would require tweaks in immigration rules but I continue to be disappointed no one inside INZ seems terribly interested in listening to what they might be even though it increases certainty for migrants and acts to protect the border at the same time.

The simplest solution would be if a person is employed in an area of immediate or absolute skills shortage that they file an Expression of Interest in residence, and if they meet certain criteria - age, qualifications in that area of skills hostage and X number of years experience, they be invited to apply for residence and at the same time are subject to health and character requirements being met. They'd then be issued an open work visa, valid for perhaps three months, so they have that long on the ground in NZ to find the skilled job offer to ‘top up’ their points claim.

That allows the Government to keep these people ‘at home’ until the risk is assessed, allows a detailed assessment of their employability and whether they tick the other ‘risk mitigation’ boxes and then give them work visas to travel (possibly alone and without any family which further mitigates the risk) to NZ.

If they find a skilled job offer in the three months, the process can move on from there.

Not difficult and it wouldn’t require immigration officers to do anything more than they do now in terms of assessing people against the set criteria we look to attract - it would simply change the order of bureaucratic and visa events.

To my way of thinking, that makes far more sense than sending out signals that a significant target market for skilled migrants might be increasingly excluded. To be fair I have no doubt the Government is NOT trying to exclude South Africans - their concern I would speculate is people who can get here visa free are people who can raise they hands at the airport and say ‘I want asylum’. If South Africa continues to deteriorate as it has in recent years that is a distinct possibility.

However, and in the meantime, we are having to advise clients not to sell their homes (just take out a flexi-bond or increase your mortgage if you don’t have the cash for the process saved) and think seriously before you resign your job and travel.

Remember, 90% of South Africans travelling here for the purpose of finding work are not challenged along the way and only 10% are (in terms of our clients anyway). Of that 10% less than half were given limited visas. So we are talking one in 20 with a problem, so it needs to be kept in perspective.

Our concern is that the number is increasing and it is unsettling. We do not know if we should raise the possibility that 10% have an issue and frighten the other 90% or just say nothing. Our morality doesn’t allow that unfortunately - we feel obligated to advise clients of all the risks just in case.

The internet is abuzz with false rumours and jibber jabber about this issue and for the sake of changing the system to accommodate principally the needs of NZ employers, INZ and the Government need to get with the (their!) programme.

Right now they are expecting the same people they want as skilled migrants (and it should be said not just from South Africa but from another 30 odd countries from which people can travel here without visas) to either not tell the whole truth or simply lie when asked the purpose - in order to meet the same Government’s residence programme criteria.

It isn’t fair to say to the highly skilled - 'we want your skills and we want you to secure a job but at the same time won’t let you in potentially to look for one when it’s what the employees who have the skills shortages demand'.  

I would even be so bold as to say more it's more than a little crazy, when there is a pretty simple, risk free solution that I can offer.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


No Profit Motive, No Competition - Equals Visa Lottery

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


Chicken & Egg

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:

  • Are you a New Zealand Resident Visa holder or citizen of New Zealand or Australia? Yes/No
  • Do you hold a Work Visa that allows you to take up this job? Yes/No
  • Are you in New Zealand but do not have a Work Visa? Yes/No

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


Growing old gracefully...

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 must be 65 years of age or over to apply
  • You must be a New Zealand Citizen or Resident
  • You must normally live in New Zealand
  • You must have lived in New Zealand for at least ten years since you turned 20 with at least five of those years being after your 50th birthday.

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.


Unemployment Falling Fast

Posted by Iain on Aug. 8, 2014, 8:16 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

Reflecting an economy in expansion mode latest unemployment statistics must make very pleasant reading for a Government one month out from national elections.

The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in 5 years and at 5.6% New Zealand now has the 9th lowest unemployment rate in the developed world. By comparison our Australian neighbours were surprised this week by a jump in their unemployment rate to 6.4%.

When unemployment hits 5% in New Zealand skills shortages generally become acute and extend beyond the highly skilled to the semi and unskilled.

Over 85,000 new fulltime jobs have been created across all sectors of the economy over the past year.

Hiring intentions continue to run at historically high levels. Skilled vacancies are 17% higher than a year ago and employers continue to report difficulties in filling those vacancies.

With net migration running at close to 40,000 people over the past year many of these vacancies are being filled by highly skilled and fluent English speaking migrants. Including you might be surprised to learn the 25,000 Australian citizens who migrate to New Zealand every year under our open border policy for citizens of one another’s countries. 

As a consequence of this flow of Australians joining us, New Zealanders returning home from a contracting labour market in Australia and few New Zealanders heading across the Tasman, many migrants from other countries may continue to struggle to find the skilled jobs they need to secure their residence.

When asked how they intend to meet the growing skills shortages employers indicated:

  • 39% increased salaries to attract local applicants
  • 35% trained less qualified candidates
  • 26% brought in contractors; and
  • 23% recruited overseas

It is insightful how few consider migrants as part of the solution but explains why low unemployment does not always lead to securing employment more quickly.

In  greatest demand were tradespeople, forestry, manufacturing, construction, IT and Telecommunications.

What always interests me is how few employers seek to recruit migrants as part of their mix but chase an every decreasing pool of local applicants.

I appreciate that employers prefer migrants to be in New Zealand, preferably with work visas (which you cannot get without the job), fluency in English, culturally compatible, a personality they identify with and obviously some demand for their skills set.

Only 51% of employers survey4ed believed that the staff they have possess all of the skills they need to adequately carry out their jobs.

Looking on the bright side, although the bias toward local applicants continues we are heartened by the number of employers and recruiters (even!!) who are now more willing than they have been in recent years to entertain migrant applicants.

One might imagine that the Government might begin to increase the numbers of migrants they let in without job offers but it is my view that they will not. Recent experience suggests that as the Government has demanded more skilled migrants find jobs first, they have. This will reinforce the governments view that with a tightening local labour market migrants should (in theory) be able to secure jobs more easily. And the politicians can defend their jobs first for New Zealanders mantra (as they should).

Our message remains one of caution optimism for our clients urging you to carefully research the frequency of jobs that you might be able to fill, accept that you’ll need to be in New Zealand for 2-4 months to secure employment, to persevere, remain positive and accept that you need to apply for many jobs to secure a small number of interviews, an even smaller number of short lists but ultimately it is very rare for our clients not to secure the employment they require to secure their residence visas.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man


There and back again...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me give you an example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Kingdom For a Job...

Posted by Paul on June 28, 2014, 12:35 a.m. in New Zealand Employment

This week’s Southern Man comes to you a little late (apologies). The Southern Man himself is in Europe; we had two of the team in Singapore earlier this week and now one in Malaysia (me). All the while the rest of the faithful crew were busily working away in Auckland, fighting the good fight on behalf of our clients. A truly global effort!

This week’s topic is one often visited in our blog and almost always discussed with our clients both at the initial consultation we have with them and then throughout much of the journey. In fact I have just had this conversation over 40 times in the last week, speaking to hopeful migrants in Singapore and I am about to do it 30 or 40 more times in Malaysia.

So a good time to perhaps share it with the rest of you.

Whether you need the job offer to qualify or have enough points to secure Residence without one, at some point, you will become a member of the ‘job search’ club. You will be standing at the bottom of what looks like an insurmountable wall, wondering how on earth to scale it; but scale it you must and scale it, the well prepared will.

Having worked in recruitment for a short stint, I can speak with some authority on the subject and having helped many a migrant to tackle the task there are few tips I can share. These aren’t ‘magic potions’ or ‘simple fixes’, these are strategies, tools and hints that in almost all cases require a considerable amount of effort to implement.

Firstly, forget any idea of this being easy, it isn’t. Yes there are a few lucky souls that manage to secure work relatively quickly and without too much effort, but for the majority it’s a hard slog. It requires patience, persistence and perseverance, the same you might expect to find in a long distance marathon runner. 

The people that succeed understand this. They prepare for the challenge and gear up suitably. Understanding that the road ahead is a difficult one is half the battle won. I have seen many would be migrants arrive with delusions of grandeur, expecting jobs to be raining from the sky – they aren’t. We prepare people for what will be a fairly gruelling task and coping with the mental battle goes a long way to winning the war.

Secondly, you can dismiss any hopes of securing jobs from your home country, unless you are uniquely skilled and qualified and in an occupation in critical demand (don’t be fooled by INZ’s ‘Skills Shortages List’). Almost all clients secure jobs by being in New Zealand. We are possibly a bit unique in that sense. New Zealand employers like to meet people face to face and securing a job offer is as much about your personality profile and attitude as it is your skills. This is why you need to be in New Zealand. It displays a level of commitment and readiness that you simply can’t achieve sitting in your home country.

A lot of New Zealand employers don’t really know what they need until they really need it, or in many cases until it's too late. This is why most of them won’t entertain offshore applications, because they have no idea of when you might be ready to start, and they wanted you yesterday.

Thirdly, use recruiters but don’t rely on them. I know this for a fact. A lot of recruiters overlook good quality migrants, because to them, a migrant is in the too hard basket. They present a delay in achieving their commission and as such get filed under ‘R’ for ‘Recycling’. The good ones, do deal with migrants and see the skills and expertise rather than the quick commission cheque, but they aren't in ready supply. So don’t expect all recruiters to be able to solve your job search woes.

Going directly to employers is the key, alongside direct networking, Linkedin, Facebook and industry events. Get out there and make yourself visible. Talk to people in the business, make phone calls (yes cold calls) and get your details spread far and wide. Don’t just sit in your hotel/motel room, friend’s house or Starbucks on free WiFi sending your CV via online portals. It won’t work. Yes online search engines such as www.seek.co.nz and www.trademe.co.nz are useful and a good way to find jobs and employers but if you are sitting in NZ sending your CV out, you might as well be anywhere else in the world (refer to previous paragraph).

Finally, there are a few rules around ‘selling yourself’ that you need to bear in mind, after all this is essentially the key to it all – marketing yourself effectively to employers.

Some do’s:

  • Keep your CV simple, effective and relevant.
  • Tailor your CV and cover letter to the role you are applying for.
  • Build your LinkedIn profile and use this to network with people in the industry, but don’t ‘over connect’.
  • Research the companies you are applying to, find out who they are, what they do and their core business values and goals (you can usually find this all on their website).
  • Prepare yourself for the call/walk in, show you are serious and have done the research.
  • Be presentable, you can never ‘dress up’ at an interview if you are too casual; but you can dress down if your interviewers aren’t dressed as formally (remove the tie, jacket etc).

Some don’ts:

  • Don’t add a photo to your CV. Even if you fancy yourself as a GQ/Vogue model, leave it out.
  • Don’t overdo the task list in your CV’s. Keep it relatively short and focussed. Add in key achievements to show you not only can do the job but can do it well.
  • Don’t add in qualifications that you haven’t finished. This is a particularly strange trait for many countries. If you didn’t complete a degree, you don’t have a degree.
  • Don’t be over confident. Employers like confidence but not arrogance. Remember to talk about your skills and how you can accomplish the tasks required. You don’t have to talk about whether you met the queen or toured with Led Zeppelin.
  • Don’t put anything on your CV that you can’t explain. Nothing goes against you more than not being able to recall details from your CV accurately and clearly.

There are many other tips and tools that we utilise in the job search process but ultimately it comes down to hard work, patience and knocking on as many doors as you can. We can also guide you to 'career coaches' who are experts in this field and can give you a lot more guidance. For those that approach this process with a strategy in mind and a clear goal, they are overwhelmingly successful.

For anyone out there doing this, good luck and for those of you out there contemplating doing this, hopefully the above gives you a little bit of guidance along the way.

Until next week 

Paul Janssen – standing in for the Southern Man.


Lists, lists and more lists...

Posted by Paul on Feb. 28, 2014, 2:43 p.m. in Immigration

The immigration process is absolutely overflowing with lists. If there is one thing that public servants love to do, it is to create lists (and really bad promotional videos) for everything. And while these lists often serve as ‘tools of the trade’ to those in the know (like us), they can be a veritable straight jacket of red tape and confusion for the average ‘do it yourself’ migrant.

Amongst the myriad of lists available there are a few that cause people the most headaches, so I am going to explain the logic (where applicable) and purpose of these lists and hopefully dispel a few common myths along the way.

Let’s start with the most popular list – the Long Term Skill Shortage List (or LTSSL for short).

This list identifies occupations where there is a sustained and ongoing shortage of skilled workers across New Zealand. The list was designed to meet the demands of not only current labour market shortages but also bolster future economic and attempt to alleviate future shortages. The LTSSL tends to focus on specialist or technical occupations such as IT, Healthcare and Engineering. 

This list basically does two things. If you have an offer of employment within one of the occupations on the list and meet the specific requirements of that list (word for word) then you can potentially apply for a Work to Resident Visa based on that offer.  In this case the employer doesn’t need to prove to INZ that they have advertised for the role within the local labour market, otherwise known as a ‘labour market test’.

The second thing the LTSSL provides is additional or ‘bonus points’ for an applicant under the Skilled Migrant Resident Visa Category. If you hold qualifications or work experience in an occupation on the LTSSL and again meet the specific requirements of the list for that occupation, you may be able to add points to your Expression of Interest.

The biggest confusion with this list is that people assume you have to be in an occupation on the list to secure Residence which is simply untrue. These occupations are only a subset of what INZ considers skilled employment and you do not have to be in one of these occupations to claim points for an offer of skilled employment under the Skilled Migrant Category.

The other problem that many people face is claiming points for an occupation on this list when they actually don’t meet the specific requirements. To claim the bonus points that this list provides, you have to be an exact match for that specific occupation and this trips a lot of people up. If you are aiming to secure these bonus points, it’s essential that you understand the requirements of the list and are able to meet them exactly. Many a person has had their Expression of Interest rejected for claiming points on the LTSSL that they were never entitled to.

Our second contender is the Immediate Skill Shortage List (or ISSL for short).

This list identifies occupations that are in immediate or short term demand in New Zealand both nationally and within specific regions of New Zealand. It is designed to assist employers who periodically struggle to fill certain roles. Much like the LTSSL it contains a list of occupations and then specific qualifications or work experience requirements for each of those occupations and removes the need for employers to prove they have advertised for candidates within the local labour market to fill these roles. In our experience very few applicants meet the specific qualification or work experience requirements (which in some cases are outdated or too specific) and so whilst many believe this list will work for them, in reality it won’t.

There is also a separate version of this list specifically aimed at occupations within the Canterbury region to assist with the Christchurch rebuild, which is reviewed and updated separately to the ISSL.

Unlike the LTSSL, however, this list has absolutely nothing to do with Residence. Many occupations on the ISSL will never qualify for points under the Skilled Migrant Category. So if you secure a Work Visa in an occupation on the ISSL that doesn’t necessarily mean you will secure points for that job under the Skilled Migrant Category. 

Next is the List of Skilled Occupations.

This is a list that isn’t easy to find on INZ’s website unless you know where to look for it of course. This is kind of like the ‘master list’ and covers around 24 pages of occupations that INZ consider to be skilled and worthy of the 50 points you might want to claim towards a Residence application.

The list is divided into separate sections starting with the most skilled at the top and working down to the less skilled. Those roles in the last part of the list carry certain conditions on salary and work experience. All of these roles are considered skilled by INZ and will give you the 50 points required for skilled employment.

Although it’s not quite that simple. 

Each role on this list comes with specific tasks/duties and also specific previous work experience or qualification requirements. If you claim you are a Corporate General Manager by title but spend your eight hours a day making tea and club sandwiches, then that’s not going to fly. Similarly, if you have always worked as an Accountant but head to NZ and secure a job as the head of Neurosurgery at Middlemore Hospital that also won’t get you (or the patients) far.

There are of course many other lists such as the List of Qualifications Exempt from Assessment, the List of Occupations Treated as an Exception and there is also a list of people associated with Robert Mugabe (we won’t go there). The point is that it’s very easy for the average individual to get very lost in any one of them. And this normally results in applications being declined, money and time wasted and disappointment for all concerned (except possibly INZ).

Piecing together all of the lists, the requirements that are tagged on to them and then making sure you stack up against it all is something we do very well. Before you dive head first into these lists and the miles of red tape, consider whether you want to spend your time on these lists or perhaps tackle the more manageable ones like your groceries or laundry.

To find out whether these lists apply to you or how to make sense of any of them, why not attend one of our upcoming seminars or contact us today.

Until next week – Paul Janssen


Skilled Migrants Needed Now!

Posted by Iain on Nov. 1, 2013, 10:57 a.m. in Immigration

I don’t pretend to understand what goes through New Zealand politicians’ heads but “How do I get re-elected next time round” is probably right up there.

Only that thought can explain to me why we are not seeing Government increasing now, with a degree of urgency for next year and beyond, the numbers of well targeted skilled migrants allowed into New Zealand without job offers.

In the past three weeks media headlines have screamed:

  • Business Confidence remains at 5 year high (31 October)
  • Building consents at record levels (31 October)
  • Booming NZ game industry facing skills shortage (30 October)
  • Skills Shortage hamper rebuild (26 October)
  • Are you ready for the economic boom? (21 October)
  • Skills crisis needs fixing (8 October)

Recent statistics suggest that around 90% of all skilled migrants still require skilled employment before they can get enough ‘points’ to qualify for residence. Understandably, given the potentially real or perceived risks associated with getting those jobs, many choose not to join us in New Zealand for fear they will not be successful in their hunt (or as per last week’s Southern Man Letter from New Zealand they will be denied visas to come and look for work or be stopped at the border). 

For every ten families we consult with that would have an excellent chance of both securing employment and gaining enough points for residence, probably two actually go through with it. 

New Zealand and in particular Immigration New Zealand doesn't make it easy, so understandably many potential migrants don’t take up the challenge. Of course for those that secure the right advice and guidance, the process is overwhelmingly successful.

On the one hand with local unemployment sitting stubbornly around the 6.5% mark it must be tempting for Government not to be seen increasing the numbers of skilled migrants allowed in without needing jobs. As recently as two years ago they did when around 50% of skilled migrants gained Resident Visas that way.

On the other hand there are very real, concerning and increasing levels of skills shortages across many sectors. Not a day goes by when the headlines don’t scream we are short of architects, quantity surveyors, CAD experts, construction related trades workers, IT professionals and many many more. The Government risks losing the support of some of its traditional business power base at next year’s election if companies feel constrained by a lack of available labour to fill roles vital to their businesses.

Of course politicians the world over know that standing on a platform of increasing immigration wins no one any votes anywhere. This, despite the reality that skilled migrants do not compete with the locally unemployed in this country and skilled locals will always be ahead of migrants in the job queue. So the skills difference between these two sets of people mean their paths will seldom, if ever, cross and politically our Government should be confident enough to call it how it is.

Oh that they were so brave.

In the past two years the Government has issued 18,000 fewer skilled migrant visas than their own programme demands. So far they don’t seem bothered about it but when the good people of Christchurch continue to step over the rubble of their humbled city in a few years or Aucklanders face building costs going through the roof because of a lack of skilled workers it might have some political fallout.

If skills shortages start filtering through into wage/price inflation and all home owners watch their mortgage interest rates increase it won’t do anything for the Government’s popularity.

As the construction boom has moved to Auckland this powerful bloc of voters could easily be turned off the Government if they see their ability to maximise their commercial opportunities impeded by lack of skilled workers or it feeding through into cost of living increases that have largely been absent these past few years with inflation well under control and under 1%.

The New Zealand economy is on a roll – growth is forecast at between 3 and 4% over the next year. Every sector of the economy is expanding. Thousands of jobs are being created and hiring intentions are high and climbing. The country’s terms of trade are the strongest in years.

In recent months net migration has turned positive but not thanks to new residents being granted visas – instead largely by New Zealanders returning home from Australia as their economy cools following the end of the mining boom.  This is adding several thousand skilled and semi-skilled workers to the local pool which is a good thing but Government cannot target the specific skills sets we require – we might just be getting back many low to semi skilled workers chucked out of manual work in and around the mines. Again the skills mix might not be what the businesses of New Zealand need.

So there needs to be a sensible balance struck. Right now the Government is on auto pilot when it comes to migration and it would be nice, if only once, a New Zealand Government was proactive and ahead of the game rather than reactive and two years behind.

A skilled migrant who has the points to qualify for residence without needing a job is at least 12 months away and probably closer to two years away from being able to deliver these skills to the labour market of New Zealand.

A sensible approach would be to slowly ramp up the numbers of migrants approved who don’t have jobs but who have excellent English (given linguistic compatibility more than anything drives employment outcomes) and who have the skills sorely needed in New Zealand – Engineering, construction and IT being at the forefront.

A real problem for the skills strapped employers of New Zealand in 2014 is an election year and I cannot see the Government changing its current insistence on the majority of migrants burning bridges at home, travelling to New Zealand, running the airport gauntlet, trying to find work and taking the risk they will be successful.

Perhaps it is time for the politicians to look beyond next year’s election and get bold about migration.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man


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