It's just a thought...
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Posted by Iain on March 20, 2020, 8:54 a.m. in New Zealand
At every consultation I have I remind people that the strategy we offer is based on a snapshot of their future eligibility for NZ or Australia. This is because there are so many steps and applications to third parties, English exams, skills assessments, qualification assessments, finding jobs and so on before anyone can file a visa. I warn those looking to make the move that every day they delay executing the strategy we offer, is another day for the Government to change the visa rules or things to change. I am sure more than a few think this is cynical sales talk. It has never been so.
Well, this week is the best example of that very good, non ‘sales’ related advice, I can think of!
What a week.
Last night the NZ Government announced they were closing the border from midnight. This applies to everyone except NZ citizens or (permanent) resident visa holders and on a 'case by case basis' some temporary visa holders whose partner or parent (if the visa holder is a dependent child) is in NZ on a temporary work or student visa (note, not visitor visa) and whose partner or parent is currently in New Zealand. Although the situation is rapidly evolving, INZ's messaging and advice was predictably muddled and confusing.
I have to presume that this border closure for NZ and Australia will be in place for at least a month, but I am picking it is more likely to be 12 weeks at least, as it will take that long to work this virus out of our systems. That is pure speculation on my part based on watching China, Hong Kong and Singapore deal, pretty effectively, with the virus.
I expect more restrictions on movement and gatherings will be put in place locally in NZ (and I expect, Australia).
Last week ‘self isolation’, ‘social distancing’ and ‘flattening the curve’ were all new terms for me, now it is as if they have been part of my vocabulary forever!
My wife, Karina, son Tom and I arrived back in New Zealand on Monday night from South Africa to mandatory 14 day self isolation. I left my colleague Paul behind in South Africa to do a series of seminars starting Monday evening.
We are cutting short his trip and he is flying home today, while we have the chance to get him on a flight. I don't think it will be long before all airlines are grounded except for vital trade/cargo routes. And even then only with Government support.
On Sunday night the South African President decided, belatedly in my view, it was time to address his nation on the imminent threat of Covid-19 and the measures being put in place to deal with the coronavirus, including banning meetings of 100 people or more. I suspect the horse has already bolted.
I couldn’t believe how this time last week while I was in South Africa, Covid-19 seemed such a non issue while it was rapidly spreading around the world and had already arrived in SA. Given our seminars see between 300-400 people attending we scrambled to secure multiple nights at the venues we'd booked to present two or three seminars to smaller audiences.
Unfortunately, all the hotels and venues have decided to either close for the next 6 weeks or so or are limiting meetings to no more than 10 people. No use to us, that's a knitting circle not an immigration seminar.
So Paul is heading home into self isolation.
Our Government has warned New Zealanders if they want to get home they need to leave wherever they are without any delay. As more and more airlines ground their fleets, it is definitely going to get harder to get to Australia or New Zealand over the next few weeks.
We have made a few key decisions this week:
1. All staff in Melbourne and Auckland will largely be working from home for the foreseeable future so we can minimise contact and ensure ‘social distancing’. We will have minimal and purely essential staff in the offices. The decision to spend big a few years ago on our own bespoke CRM allowing us to work from anywhere with wifi now looks like a very sensible business investment. I don’t expect clients will notice any difference to the way they interact with us.
2. Seminars - having had seminars cancelled in South Africa and made difficult in Hong Kong owing to their recent decision for almost everyone landing in Hong Kong to self isolate for 14 days, we are shortly going to offer our first online seminar to audiences in Singapore and Hong Kong. Once we iron out any wrinkles we will start offering them to our South African clients in a few weeks. In some ways I'm quite excited because the technology now exists for us to do this in a way that even a few years ago, we couldn't. Adversity sometimes forces change and those changes can be very positive. The end of my seeming never ending jetlag?
I have been very reassured by the reaction of our clients, virtually all of whom are carrying on with the process of migration and looking beyond the border closures.
For those, particularly in South Africa, who might be worried about their employment prospects, particularly in New Zealand given you need jobs to get enough ‘points’ to get visas, can I add some words of relative comfort. I have been through a few financial crises now - the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis, the fallout from the New York terrorist attacks in 2001 and the GFC of 2009/2010. None were pleasant, yet almost all clients coming to the country were still able to secure jobs. Over the past two years the majority of clients have been taking between two and eight weeks to find employment, I imagine we will be looking at three to four months or so, as clients were back in the GFC of 2008 - 2011.
I don’t want to sugar coat what is happening however. This virus is going to tip New Zealand and Australia into instant recessions. Economists here believe that the fiscal stimulus should limit it to around a 1% contraction.
Governments of both countries have cut interest rates to virtually zero and significant fiscal stimulus packages have been announced. Earlier this week the NZ government announced $5 billion of wage subsidies and health spending to prepare for the inevitable uptick in patients needing hospitalisation, equipment and if they can find them, personnel. Wage subsidies are being put in place for 12 weeks to assist employers keep staff (if you take the subsidy you cannot lay anyone off).
The Minister of Finance advised the package, amounting to 4% of GDP, is ‘just the beginning’.
The advantage NZ has is we have very low levels of public debt which currently runs around 19.5% of GDP (Italy by comparison has debt levels of 134% of GDP, the US in the order of 105% and South Africa around 65%). Our government therefore has a lot of room to borrow big and borrow cheap to get us through the next 12-24 months.
I couldn’t find a single economist finding fault with their announcements on keeping the money flowing. The sharemarket has been pretty stable this week while carnage has been the order of the day on most international sharemarkets.
On Thursday the NZ Government also announced a $54 billion infrastructure spending package covering projects over the next ten years. I suspect they were going to wait for the May budget to announce this (we are in an election year) but they wanted to give certainty to the construction companies and others that big money will be flowing as we build roads, freeways, light and heavy rail and public transport.
I expect other ‘war time’ measures to be announced over the next couple of weeks.
The Australian Government is busy announcing similar policies.
If you are sitting wondering if you are about to jump out of a frying pan into a fire (particularly those of you in South Africa) allow me to offer you some perspective on the risks. South Africa, before the outbreak of Covid-19 a couple of weeks ago, had 30% unemployment, was in a recession, had an insecure energy supply leading to power black outs virtually every day of 2-4 hours, had an insolvent national airline, bankrupt municipalities and affirmative action policies meaning the first people to lose their jobs as the recession deepens, as it will, will likely be you.…
However bad South Africa has got in recent years, it is about to get worse by degrees.
How will South Africa be able to respond when, not if, the virus gets into the overcrowded and unsanitary townships when you already have a health system that in the best of times cannot provide care for the majority of South African citizens?
New Zealand has been creating thousands more jobs every month for two years than we have had pepole to fill them. We continue to not produce enough teachers, engineers, IT workers and many more. Demand will take a hit but we come off a base of such accute skills shortages, the demand will not dry up.
If you lose your job or fear losing your job in South Africa you will still be far more employable in New Zealand than in South Africa no matter what happens here. I have long liked the frying pan and fires analogy when it comes to leaving South Africa (understandably worried about job prospects) and many South Africans and other potential migrants have asked themselves if in search of a better future they are jumping out of a frying pan into a fire by considering migration at any time. My view on South Africa has long been, that you are actually already sitting in the fire, upon which fuel is about to be poured. Migration is always hard and it is about to get a lot harder. It won’t be comfortable for a while but you won’t burn in the fire either.
I was in Hong Kong a little over a month ago. The economy is tanking there the strict border control and isolation measures, including shutting down schools, but they have shown the world how to get on top of this virus. Singapore has achieved it slightly differently but no less effectively.
I am absolutely confident NZ will cope with this. And the border closure is part of that. Shutting down the economy for three months works. It's incredibly painful and that pain awaits New Zealanders and Australians, but shutting down the border is really the only way of stopping more cases of those with the virus entering our countries.
In NZ, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore these measures are by and large understood and accepted by almost everyone.
I am less confident about South Africa and if I had the chance to leave I’d be looking to do so, no matter how long our borders remain closed.
For those clients headed for Australia, short of any change in Government policy you are in a very good position. The process to get the visa is taking around a year to 15 months at the moment, you have the thick end of 12 months to get to Australia to activate the family’s visas once approved and you have at least another 12 months, if you headed home, to go back to Australia and settle - that’s a very enviable four year window which allows Australia plenty of time to right the economic ship which will be listing for a year or two like the rest of us.
Make no mistake, as someone who has seen a few recessions, the next few months will be brutal on all of us to a greater or lesser extent.
NZ has taken the first step in closing ourselves off from the world and although it is not good for the economy, it is the only thing to do. The US, Europe and every other nation on this planet need to do the same thing or this virus will linger and fester and destroy economies, and kill thousands more people. If we can take the hit, bear the pain and then rebuild, we will get through this.
I’d far rather take that hit in a first world, law abiding land of plentiful energy and food like New Zealand than anywhere else on this planet.
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 Feb. 21, 2020, 1:26 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category
Writing these weekly blogs is a delicate balancing act between informing over matters relating to visas and migration, hopefully with a bit of explanation into the whys and wherefores, and frightening people who might start to wonder if they are moving from or to a disorganised third world county.
I can assure you New Zealand is overwhelmingly ‘first’ world but right now the Immigration Department is operating like something from the DRC (which might be an insult to the Democratic Republic of the Congo). It isn’t corrupt but it is not functioning well. Much of that is self-inflicted but some of the blame must be directed squarely at the Minister of Immigration and his parliamentary colleagues.
On the positive side visitor visas are once again slowly being processed which is great news and we seem to be seeing more of these taking around 4-5 weeks to get through the system.
Work Visas are largely back to historical processing time norms and for most of our clients coming through in around a month for clients without health issues or any other complications.
ARTICLE UPDATED Saturday 22 February - INZ has just released advice confirming they are moving officers who process Essential skills Work Visas to process visitor visas - they are warning now of significant delays processing work visas. Allocation times on these which have been ten days to 6 weeks.
The problem continues to be resident visa processing. With every passing week the visa allocation queue gets longer and longer and longer. The greater issue now is the Government’s delay in publishing its residence programme (quotas) that was meant to be published at the latest in December last year with a start in January 2020.
All the while the Government continues to spend millions (around $11 million a year to be precise) every year marketing and encouraging skilled migrants to join that queue. Say what? You encourage them to come and find jobs, you invite them to file and pay thousands of dollars for a resident visa application and you don’t have any residence programme in place? If I did anything like that I’d lose my license, my business and I imagine I’d be facing fraud charges. It is more than a little disturbing that in all their glossy advertising they don’t warn their ‘customers’ what is happening (or more to the point, not happening). More than a little dishonest, actually.
I am not saying that those that have applied will be declined, only that we cannot tell them when they are going to be approved.
All the while, INZ continues its 30% staff churn every year, meaning as fast as they develop some institutional knowledge of policy, which should lead to higher productivity, faster and better decisions…people leave. The department continues to be undermined by the good people leaving and the deadwood hanging around.
My senior colleague Paul was bemoaning the fact that on Wednesday this week he was having five pretty inane yet critical conversations with five different immigration officers about visa rules that are plain and simple to understand if you’ve been doing this as long as he has, but which the officers not only did not understand, but when it was explained how they were misinterpreting or misunderstanding the rule in question, they ran off to their line supervisors who circled the wagons around them and defended them (God knows how) and the line managers above both, then joined the defensive lines.
I’m all for a united front when it is justified, but when the rules clearly require a particular type of evidence and these officers insist on something different, despite history and precedent (if not common sense) supporting our interpretation, it is embarrassing for the department and by extension, the country. Yet no one ever blushes. Managers generally won’t intervene in applications (they probably call it ‘empowerment’, I call it abdication of professional responsibility) and they let the junior and inexperienced staff get on with ruining lives.
The Department might be staffed and managed by people that as a colleague snidely suggested after this weeks antics, ‘I wouldn’t let manage my Big Mac Order’ but they are not entirely to blame.
While the Department in my experience has weak leadership, the Minister of Immigration and the current Government has an awful lot to answer for. With every passing month they continue to demonstrate they are clueless.
The Government was supposed to announce their residence programme last year for the 18 months from January 2020. That programme confirms how many resident visas they intend dishing out over the following 18 months. The target was 60,000 in the 18 months ending December 2019 under all categories. Previous Governments released their programme before the end of the current programme. The current one is now two months overdue.
Without a programme INZ cannot approve too many resident visas. The Government will at some point soon get around to releasing the programme quota or targets but in the meantime, they are keeping everyone, including INZ, guessing.
Therefore INZ is restricting themselves to only giving priority processing to those skilled migrants earning a high salary ($104,000, about to become $106,000) or those with NZ occupational registration. I still cannot fathom why they believe those applicants are better ‘value’ for New Zealand and more worthy of priority than the rest of the applicants who paid the same fee. Everyone who is non priority as I have previously written about is being told to suck it up and wait, no matter the uncertainty, inconvenience, cost and frustration that is causing them.
One presumes the Government will come up with a number but in the meantime no ‘non priority’ resident visa application receipted after 11 December 2018 has or will be allocated until INZ knows what their target/quota is.
I am certain that the upcoming election in September is dictating the thinking inside the halls of power. Having promised to cut skilled migrant numbers and doing it when they took power in 2017; having abandoned the promise to build us 100,000 houses over their first ten years in power (not least because of skills shortages), recently over turning their own 2017 cancellation of over $8 billion worth of much needed infrastructure projects of road, rail, hospitals and schools, they now find themselves in a visa numbers pickle.
To deliver on these new infrastructure projects, to keep Auckland employers happy and the country growing, they need more, not fewer, skilled migrants. But they promised the cut and I cannot see them backing down on it. There’s only so many back downs and u-turns you get away with before the voters realise they voted in a bunch of wallies.
So things continue in processing limbo for the vast majority of skilled migrants.
I am increasingly recommending Australia over New Zealand (those that know me know how much that hurts!). The problem with Australia these days is not so much processing delays (they too cut their numbers which has led to faster processing times) but they are increasingly only issuing five year ‘work to resident visas’. That doesn’t suit a lot of people looking for certainty in troubled times particularly in South Africa and Hong Kong.
I just wish politicians might appreciate immigration isn’t ideological, it is driven by labour market reality. If employers cannot secure the skills they need on a long term basis they will not grow - in fact with an ageing population, businesses will shrink. Surely it a non-partisan issue? We either need Teachers, Engineers, Solutions Architects, Nurses, Carpenters and Welders among others or we do not.
If we continue to not encourage (force if they want subsidised tertiary study?) our own young people into courses the labour market wants (enough lawyers, already!), we will continue to need to supplement our work force with foreign talent. If we restrict those foreigners with the skills we desperately need because we are creating so many jobs, to a few years on a work visas, most won’t come.
These delays for those applicants in the system already has more than an emotional impact. Even if no one in Government gives a toss about the migrants, I am hoping they give a damn about the employers of New Zealand, the tax take and all the New Zealand jobs at risk if businesses have to start thinking about downsizing or not taking on that additional export order because they cannot offer certainty to the migrant they need to complete their labour force planning.
This numbers question will pass (the fools inside INZ will remain) and a degree of certainty will return, but right now it has never been as bad as it is currently trying to help people make decisions and plans.
I can just imagine the Government announcing an unchanged quota or even a reduced one and with a straight face tell us all that the decision was not based on internal squabbling between the Labour Party and the tiny but powerful anti immigrant NZ First party (to whom the Labour Party must daily grovel to stay in power) but something like ‘the economic fundamentals of New Zealand remain strong but the external economic environment is becoming less certain, creating short term challenges for local businesses caused by the coronavirus and head winds in our export markets, suggesting to the coalition government that it is appropriate to take a cautious approach to the numbers of visas we approve.’
And the Minister or the Prime Minister will say, ‘We think on balance we have the numbers about right’.
Bullshit we do.
Until next week
Posted by Iain on Aug. 8, 2015, 8:22 a.m. in Visitor Visa
I am sure that you were always told by your parents to tell the truth. As the old line goes, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear by being honest and truthful. Right?
What happens however when one rule contradicts a second that you must comply with later in order to win the game – and you have to comply with both to get what you need?
Should you lie to achieve the aim of the second if the first stops you achieving the outcome the second rule requires?
What am I talking about?
Most skilled migrants need jobs to achieve the stated aims of the Government residence programme. To get jobs, employers demand that a candidate be in New Zealand. That means getting permission to enter New Zealand either before you travel or at the border.
Only trouble with that is Visitor Visa rules are not compatible with Residence Visa rules.
Many people are being stopped at the airport on arrival and if they say they are on holiday but also intend looking for work (because they are interested in the skilled migrant residence programme and with the job have enough points, they now risk being turned around, given a visa that does not allow them to change their status or they get a normal visa.
My team and I have been wrestling for some weeks now over what to advise those clients who need job offers to secure their skilled migrant visa points who can travel to New Zealand without a visa, but to enter the country must get a visa at the border. Although this is not exclusively a South African issue we are in particular concerned about South Africans...
This condundrum has arisen because about 10% of our South African clients are now being stopped at Auckland airport on arrival and questioned on the purpose of their visit.
If they tell the truth – that they are in the country both on holiday and to check the place out as a possible settlement destination (all of our clients - if they can secure skilled employment - meet the points threshold for a resident visa) then recent history tells us telling the truth can get some into trouble.
It all depends which officer stops them and questions them at the airport - not the rule, but how the rule is applied and by whom.
Most are given ‘normal’ visas which allow them to change their status to a work visa once the job is secured. Others are given limited visas which allow them entry but if they get the job they then have to leave the country and return home to apply for their work visa offshore. I am even hearing of people (not our clients; thank goodness) being turned around at the airport and denied entry.
The only thing they all have in common are their South African passports. Thereafter, it is random – no pattern to who is stopped, who gets a normal visa and who gets the limited visa. The outcomes are consistently inconsistent. The outcome is determined by an immigration officer and how they feel.
Therein lies the dilemma.
If 90% of South Africans entering New Zealand are granted ‘normal’ visas that allow a change of status, why are we seriously considering advising all to apply for Visitor Visas before they travel? If 90% don’t have a problem and 10% do, isn’t this creating an additional cost and bureaucratic burden for all when only 10% have a problem?
I guess it depends on whether you turn out to be one of the 10%.
For the record it is perfectly legal to enter New Zealand as a ‘tourist’ and if you decide you wish to stay longer or even permanently or had even entered wanting to stay subject to finding a skilled job and you find a skilled employment, you are allowed to change your status. Given the significant majority of work visas are issued within New Zealand this clearly happens a lot.
I have met with everyone from Immigration New Zealand’s head of global border security in recent weeks to try and come to some agreement on resolving this issue and eliminate the risk for those 10% highly skilled ‘wannabe’ migrants who are hassled at the airport or to get some agreement that all of our clients coming over will be granted ‘normal’ visitor visas subject to demonstrating that they are not a risk to the country.
You might think that is easy when you can demonstrate that the number of our South African clients who have overstayed their visas is as far as we know – zero.
So if our clients tell the truth at the border about their intentions, some officials at the airport hold it against them. Some don’t. These officials are the same ones employed by the Government that is encouraging skilled migration and demanding that the majority secure work.
In trying to meet the Governments permanent residence rules, the client can be damned if they tell the truth and damned if they don’t at the border.
After three weeks of discussions the outcome I always expected happened a few days ago.
The Government suggested all of our clients should apply for these Visitor Visas offshore before they travel BUT they would not guarantee the client that on arrival at the border in New Zealand they would be granted a visa that would allow them to apply for a work visa onshore. That of course completely defeats the purpose of applying for the visitor visa offshore in the first place because once such applicants find jobs (and in the case of our clients about 98% do) they have to leave the country, apply for a work visa and return a few weeks later.
In the end this refusal to come up with a solution that is geared toward my low risk clients and to manage them as a subset of some greater perceived risk is incredibly disappointing but hardly surprising. If there is one thing Immigration New Zealand is not very good at it is holding the system to account and demanding consistency of outcomes whereby similar applicants with very similar circumstances be treated the same and should be able to reasonably expect the same outcome.
It leaves me concluding that it is not always smart to tell the whole truth. Applying for visas before a South African travels isn’t going to solve any problems.
Forcing visa applicants to be less than completely truthful in order to give the Government what they want in terms of the Residence Programme is a nonsensical and stupid way of dealing with risk.
However for the time being it seems to be just what Immigration New Zealand is demanding.
The discussions continue.
Until next week.
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Posted by Iain on June 19, 2015, 9:10 p.m. in Immigration
With my latest tour to South Africa nearing an end I wonder if this country is ready to implode.
Just when it seems the Government cannot make themselves look any worse, they load that shotgun and aim it at whichever part of their foot they didn’t blow off last week. I cannot help wondering if there isn’t now a creeping arrogance given they have no effective opposition and their hold on power absolute.
Before anyone jumps down my throat let me say that there is still much about South Africa I admire and by and large it is still a country that is well worth a visit.
If you step back and try and view it objectively here are some ‘highlights’ of the past three weeks.
Before discussing these however may I offer some context that in the past three weeks where I come from I suspect nothing has happened that would make page 17 of the national papers in South Africa (unless it involved rugby perhaps). On the political front in NZ the biggest news is a Government Minister has offered to resign because his brother has been charged with sexual assault. His brother!…..I agree that might be over kill but a few politicians around this country might take a leaf out of that book.
In my first week the President of this country dripped sarcasm in Parliament 24 hours before he knew his Minister of Police, having conducted an ‘investigation’, was to announce that he did not have to pay back any of the NZ$22 million the taxpayer paid to upgrade his ‘house’ because among other things the swimming pool was in fact a ‘fire pool’ to be used to store water in in case of a fire. I cannot recall how he justified the chicken coop or cattle kraal as aids to boost the security of the property but it will have been in there somewhere.
Oh and then there was the small matter of the multi million rand security fence with gaping holes that the cattle from the kraal probably use to enter and leave the high security facility. Gaping holes and not the best security one might conclude but no one cared about until it was shown on national TV.
In week two the country gets dragged into the FIFA scandal and the Government denies that they paid any ‘bribe’ to anyone to secure the hosting rights to the 2010 World Cup. They paid US$10m allegedly to help fund the ‘African Diaspora’ in the Caribbean. All parties have said that with a straight face. So far scant evidence of these exiled Africans enjoying much football development. While it seems pretty clear that if anyone anywhere wants to host a World Cup, Governments offer all sorts of incentives and inducements so it escapes me why the South African Government doesn’t just shut up……..somehow these guys just keep on digging.
Last but by no means least the Government snubs its nose as its own Constitution when it fails to arrest the President of Sudan earlier this week who was in town to attend the African Union Summit. That really was a ‘wow’ moment for me. This guy is wanted for among other things genocide. Papers are filed in Court and lawyers reminding the Government they have no choice other than to arrest him but instead the Government offers a full police escort as this suspected criminal scuttles for his private plane at the airport and flees the country. All in the name of African brotherhood and solidarity they say. Oh really? This guy is accused of mass murder of some of those same African brothers! The Government says that they might pull out of the Rome agreement that they signed up to as there is a bias in the ICCs charges (as in they only seem to file charges against leaders who insight or induce mass murder and like it or not there is a whole lot of them in Africa). And yes the US and Israel have not signed up because there are a couple in their past or present leadership that might end up on ICC charges as well. But South Africa signed up. They wanted in. Till they needed out.
The scariest thing is they were willing to ignore their own laws to do it and that is a frightening insight into how they view the law, the Courts and their obligations not only to the world but their own people.
This country is slowly but surely sliding into one party (benign?) dictatorship where the Government genuinely seems to believe they are above the law.
The currency has continued to fall through the floor. Our potential clients are increasingly currency prisoners with emigration a pipe dream given the costs. The nation has an official unemployment rate of 25%.
South Africa has many problems it did not create, like a porous border through which several hundred thousand people have entered illegally in recent years (over 100,000 refugees pouring into Cape Town every year), a culture of non-payment for services left over from the fight against the apartheid regime, a resultant crumbling in infrastructure, constant power cuts that are increasingly driving businesses to the wall and a birth rate that like in many third world countries sees the per capita tax take not keeping up with expanding demand.
Is it just me or does this all read a bit like the recent history of Zimbabwe?
It doesn’t help confidence when the majority continue to vote in politicians from Municipality up who are often incompetent, cannot do their jobs and seem to think that positions of power are an open invitation to plunder the public coffers. They ruin it for the hard working and honest politicians of which I am sure, or at least am desperate to believe, there are many.
It is all so sad to watch as I have been for 25 years of regular visits. It is a slow train crash that has been unfolding for years.
Luckily and if there is any hope left for this place, the one credible opposition party has recently elected a charismatic, articulate and highly intelligent young black man to lead them. It is possibly the only way the black majority might turn their backs on the ANC and stop the rot because most it seems will not vote for someone of non-African ethnicity. Most seem wedded to the ANC because they lead them to freedom but what sort of freedom do most have with ‘leadership’ like this?
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on 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:
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
Posted by Iain on July 24, 2014, 4:39 p.m. in Immigration
I have just spent four weeks in Paris and Barcelona (relax this isn’t a story about what I did on my summer break…) on a working holiday and am constantly surprised not so much what I learn about other people and places on these trips but what I learn about New Zealand and New Zealanders. And how these experiences shape my view of what would make good immigration policy and an even richer country.
Take the importance of English as a current part of our immigration criteria (for everyone except family category applicants and the uber-rich).
For many people from similarly Anglo-Saxon countries, New Zealand has historically been an easy cultural fit in part because of the commonality of English as the dominant language between migrant and New Zealander. There is little doubt in my mind it has been an important settlement tool. And probably will be for a while yet.
While those with English as a second language face a more challenging settlement process, with increasing numbers of ethnic communities reaching a critical mass it is arguably becoming less important. I recognised a long time ago the key to good settlement outcomes was linguistic compatibility and thereafter cultural compatibility. This has served migrants and New Zealand well as a country but I question in future how important it will need to be when the 'linguistic compatilibility' refers to English and the 'cultural compatibility' predominantly 'South Pacific British'.
Right now we rightly demand migrants speak, read, understand and write English to a reasonably high level – the rule book ‘only’ demands conversational or competent despite in my experience ‘native’ employers demanding a greater level of fluency. As more New Zealand employers are not ‘native’ however is it as important when those employers local and overseas customers don’t speak English as their first language?
Immigration policy is almost always a year or two behind the times. There is a disconnect between immigration policy and an evolving labour market, particularly in Auckland. Outside of Auckland it is fair to say that many (would be) migrants will struggle to secure employment at a similar level to that from which they have come given potential local employers will be largely ‘native’ New Zealanders and a high level of English is a must have.
This is why at Immagine we focus on the English speaking markets of the world and irrespective of how many ‘points’ a potential client might have we only agree to represent those that we believe have English good enough to secure them the job and the future they seek in a short(ish) period of time.
Spending two weeks in Paris with only two years of boyhood French to call on was something that filled me with trepidation before I left New Zealand. Luckily I found, in Paris anyway, the outcomes of a European education and business system that produces a significant bi-lingual population who could speak English. This came as great relief – I didn’t want a diet of steak and chips for two weeks.
It does make me and a great many other New Zealanders feel somewhat inadequate that we come from a country that has historically been, by and large, mono-lingual. This constrains us somewhat when we travel and that of course creates disadvantages in not being able to maximise business (not to mention leisure) opportunities that exist to the multi-lingual.
All of that got me thinking that in New Zealand we have no ‘end game’ in mind with our immigration policy. Skilled migration tends to be based on a relatively short time horizon – New Zealanders emigrate (shock horror) and there are skills we do not produce enough of. The simple solution is to encourage migrants to fill those current vacancies. Traditionally those migrants have needed to speak fluent English because historically most employers only spoke English.
But times they are a changing.
In my own suburb of Mount Eden the population over the past 20 years has moved from being largely Pakeha (New Zealander of European descent) and Polynesian to North Asian – mainly Chinese. I have three local supermarkets – one ‘western’ and two ‘eastern’ within a few minutes’ walk of home. I generally shop at one of the Asian ones. Everything is labelled in Chinese so if I don’t know what I am looking for I am in trouble. When I walk in the door I am often the only Pakeha in sight. Few people are speaking English. I don’t speak Chinese. It still works. I get my bok choy and chicken thighs.
What has happened where I live then is a whole lot of people had to prove they spoke English to the level of a competent user to get their Resident Visa but once in, there is now a sufficiently critical mass of Chinese speakers for them to revert to their home language and apparently thrive.
Although it is a controversial thought, perhaps it is time to have different English language levels for different migrant groups or even different cities if they have jobs inside or outside of Auckland. Given in Auckland we now have 20% of our residents born in North Asia and 15% in India, is it appropriate in 2014 we demand such a high level of English for Chinese and Indians if the job they get is say in an exporting or tourism related business? If as skilled migrants they could get a skilled job offer what do we really care if they score English in the IELTS exam of 6.5 or higher?
I can but wonder if we had 20% of our migrants coming from Italy, France or Spain if we would feel differently. Imagine an Italian quarter, a Spanish quarter, a Brazilian or a French quarter in Auckland where many people speak their home language with a smattering of English. I have seen it in New York and it seems to work okay. I doubt anyone would feel threatened.
I say we have little to fear but much to gain. Aucklanders, (but perhaps not yet the rest of New Zealand), have shown that in the space of a generation they have accepted becoming one of the most ethically and linguistically diverse societies on Earth where 42% of the residents were not born in New Zealand. When I was a boy in the 1970s there was only about 10% of us not born locally. The sky has not fallen in as that has changed.
The children of these migrants will all be fluent English speakers thanks to our education system and if mum and dad can survive quite adequately speaking little English does it really matter if they were able to secure the ‘skilled’ job the Government demanded of them to gain entry in the first place?
I can but hope their parents demand these children remain fluent in their second, ‘ancestral’ language. And that these first generation Kiwis appreciate the economic and cultural strengths of maintaining the language of their parents and forebears.
I also wish that a second language was compulsory for all New Zealanders.
We have, thanks to our small domestic population always been a nation of exporters. What better tool could we use to secure our own future economic prosperity in a globalised economy than competency, if not fluency, in a second major language – be it Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese or French? Rather than forcing migrants to speak fluent English in future might we be better served economically if they can speak some English but bring with them fluency in other languages?
In some respects the Europeans are increasingly forced through the political and economic integration of Europe to learn at least one other language (usually English). I was amazed, delighted and relieved how many Spanish could speak excellent English and French. And how many French could speak excellent English and Spanish.
New Zealand is the poorer for our one language focus both in our education system and with our migrants.
I love the fact when I walk out of my office and along the streets of downtown Auckland I can hear 20 -30 languages in the space of 15 minutes. We are richer for it. It makes me feel part of the global family.
I made a recommendation as part of the Skilled Migrant Category review a year or so ago that those with better English be rewarded for it. I stand by that recommendation but I do wonder if it is appropriate to still be doing so in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time as different linguistic (migrant) communities reach a critical mass whereby they are able to secure or create for themselves meaningful economic opportunity once here. If they cannot speak great (or are not willing to learn) English and they do not become dependent on the state what’s our loss? The risk is theirs.
Australia awards points for English on a sliding scale with a minimum threshold – the higher the score the more points awarded. It is the one part of the Australian skilled policy which seems logical to me at this point in time. I was interested to see that it is one of two recommendations made by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a report they issued earlier this week on New Zealand’s immigration policy. They have encouraged this reward for superior English for the same reason.
I am not at all certain any more the future lies with our country’s education remaining mono-lingual and I am increasingly far from convinced that we should expect migrants to speak ‘the Queen’s’ English as well.
For our country to thrive in the 21st century as many people in the population need to be bi-lingual if not multi-lingual as we can create or import. Migrants play a vital role in creating those conditions. In the meantime that does not eliminate the importance of English for most migrants at least in the short term but we must be smart (or brave) enough to know when it is appropriate to review this position.
I think we are almost at that point.
Until next week
Southern Man- Letter from New Zealand
Posted by Paul on July 6, 2014, 10:04 a.m. in Immigration
It’s that time of year again when politicians dust off their banners, cajole the media and take to the streets in an effort to secure votes in the upcoming 2014 general election.
One of the topics most widely contested and often used as a ‘political football’ in the run up to the election is immigration. If there is one issue that is normally sure to spur debate and get people moving alliances it’s the flow of people in and out of this country. The two parties particularly strong in this arena are the Labour and New Zealand First camps. Yet whilst the politicians from both of these parties have in recent months been bandying about rumours of cutting numbers, changing policies and ‘reinventing the wheel’ it would seem that the New Zealand public aren’t overly fussed about it.
The Labour party are in desperate need of a campaign rocket and in the past few months have raised the spectre of coming down hard on immigration, cutting overall numbers and imposing potential restrictions on foreigners buying property here. The fingers of New Zealand First have been pointed at migrants for rising house prices, potential increases in inflation and an untenable superannuation scheme, however in most cases these fires have been doused by a relatively cool headed public perception of the overall trends of migration.
Labour has all but back tracked on their promises to cut migrant numbers as recent polls have poured water on what they were hoping would be a raging fire. New Zealand First although still slightly warm on the topic have moved on to other issues with more fervour, leaving the immigration debate on the side-lines.
The New Zealand Herald very recently reported on their own poll which showed only one third of New Zealanders surveyed felt that migration levels were too high, ergo two thirds of people were either relatively comfortable or non-committal with where things were at. In fact the vast majority of people appreciated that migrants were an important part of economic growth, fuelling both productivity and creating further employment opportunities. More surprisingly for the first time in years, there was a much greater public awareness of migration trends, with a large majority of the people being polled, relatively aware of migration patterns over the last few years.
In another similar review on www.stuff.co.nz, it appears that both Labour and NZ First, who have always used immigration as one of their key policy platforms, are wasting their time. Only four percent of respondents cited immigration as the big ticket item on the agenda and almost all were more concerned with day to day issues such as healthcare, education and the overall state of the economy. This is despite the last year seeing a rise in temporary migration numbers (owing mostly to the Christchurch rebuild).
In previous years the public have been swayed by pre-election stories of ‘soaring’ immigration numbers and this so called ‘foreign invasion’ yet this time it appears as though the majority of New Zealanders see other things as being more important.
It makes sense.
The country is well into recovery mode and continues to hold the title of the ‘rock star economy’. Growth in most sectors continues, whilst unemployment slowly falls. The recruiting firm Hudson recently confirmed that the number of employers seeking to hire within the next quarter had increased 4.5% to a total of 31.8% nationwide. Whilst there is still an air of caution out there, many employers are feeling confident with recent economic conditions and this then leads to a stronger commitment to grow their workforce. All signs point to this continuing.
Christchurch is one of the major contributors to this and they still need skills down there – a lot of them. Further spending has been earmarked for the rebuild and although hiring intentions slowed very slightly in the last quarter that looks likely to swing back to the previous high demand as the rebuild money continues to flow.
So for the potential migrant, concerned about what politicians are saying in the run up to the election, don’t be. Even the political parties normally keen to throw the immigration football are heading for the benches on this one.
It appears that public opinion on this one has already ruled. We understand that migrants are important; more people now understand that and are happy with the current flow of talent into New Zealand. I suspect that you will see discussions on migration lessen as the election draws nearer, with the parties at the bottom of the polls scrambling to find other fuel to throw on the fire.
So if you have hesitated in making the move because of political uncertainty, I wouldn’t be worried. New Zealand isn’t going to close its doors. Instead the signs of economic growth, increasing business confidence and a relatively buoyant economic outlook are all signs that we will continue to welcome those with skills to add to the mix.
Until next week – Paul Janssen (standing in for the Southern Man).
Posted by Paul on June 13, 2014, 4:10 p.m. in Immigration
If you asked most people how many different kind of Work Visas there are for New Zealand, I would bet good money that none of them would guess the real number.
There are in fact more than a dozen different types of Work Visa, some with their own separate variations and all with their own unique set of rules. Despite this the one Work Visa that is probably misinterpreted the most, but ironically the one that is the most common is the “Essential Skills” Visa or “ES” for short (and so I don’t have to keep typing it).
There is a lengthy description of the ES Visa on the Immigration Department website, which effectively boils down to a category of Visa that is designed to assist employers in filling temporary shortages in the labour market by granting Work Visas to those that have the skills that can be proven to be in short supply.
It is not officially a pathway to Residence but for most people who travel here to secure a job with a view to applying as a Skilled Migrant, the ES Visa is the first step in that process. As a Residence case is likely to take between six to nine months to process then getting the ES Visa first, which allows you to take up the offer before the employer loses interest, is the key.
Because it is so commonly used and frankly in the overall scheme of migrating as a Skilled Migrant a particularly important step in the process, I thought it would be useful to clarify a few basic rules for this Visa type and also dispel a few myths.
ES Visas can only be applied for when someone has an offer of full time employment paid by salary or wages (no commission only roles). If the role is fixed term then the Visa will be issued in line with that period. If the role is permanent then the Visa will be issued for between one and five years depending on the level of skill involved in the role. There are also two key components that have to be satisfied when anyone applies for an ES Visa:
For the first point, this is relatively easy to explain. Every job you can think of is listed in a publication called the Australia/New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations or ANZSCO for short. This gives a list of the duties for each role, a skill level and then the required qualifications or experience that an applicant should have. For example an Accountant should have a Degree, whereas a farm labourer need not have any experience at all. The higher the skill level the higher the qualification or work experience requirement. To file an application for an ES Visa you need to demonstrate that you have the qualifications or experience that ANZSCO prescribes.
The second point gets slightly more complex, although is probably the most vital part of any ES Visa application. As the Visa is designed to fill temporary gaps in the labour market where employers simply cannot find staff locally to fill that role, it is vital that the employer is able to provide solid evidence to support that. In general this means showing that the role was advertised and that a robust recruitment process was followed to determine that there was no one else available with the required skills and/or experience. And you have to prove it. Simply stating that in a letter won’t fly so the proof needs to match the claim.
Although it might not sound like much, never underestimate INZ’s ability to scrutinise these applications to within an inch of their life. Sometimes the ones that look the easiest can often become the biggest battles.
But it doesn’t stop there.
More often than not the mistakes don’t occur during the initial application but rather once the Visa has been issued. There are conditions attached to the ES Visa which are important for both the migrant and the employer to be aware of and unfortunately are often overlooked.
For the migrant the ES Visa is specific down to the occupation, employer and location that was applied for originally and this is stated on the label. So if you have a job working as a Plumber for ‘ABC Pipes’ (I am guessing there is no such company) based in Gore, you cannot go and work as a Taxidermist for ‘Stuffed Animals Are Us’ in Palmerston North (I also hope this company doesn’t exist) using the same Visa. If your employer or location changes and the role is the same you may need to apply for a Variation of Conditions (depending on the details), however, if your occupation changes then it’s a new Work Visa application entirely.
It’s also slightly more intricate than that. Even if you stay in the same company, in the same department but are promoted to the Manager of Taxidermy, then technically this requires a new Visa and remember the same rules in regards to advertising and the required skills apply. Because this isn’t obvious and certainly not made obvious by INZ, many people end up being promoted and then ending up being in breach of their Visa without knowing it.
The golden rule is that if your situation changes, you need to change your (Visa) situation.
If you want to bring your children with you on Student or Visitor Visas, then you also need to be aware that there is a minimum income threshold for parents on an ES Visa. The current minimum income threshold is NZD$35,294.60 per annum and must be met before any Visas will be issued for the kids (not negotiable). If you want to bring your spouse or partner over on an Open Work Visa then there is no minimum income requirement but your ES Visa must be valid for more than six months.
Whilst most of the ES rules are the responsibility of the applicant, it’s important for employers also to be aware of their obligations. If a staff member does change roles, it’s good practice to check their Visa status to make sure that it allows them to be employed in that position or recommend that they get it varied or file a new application. I often suggest that HR managers or business owners keep a register of who has a Visa and what that Visa allows so that if things change, then the right steps can be taken. This saves a lot of time and hassle later particularly if you have to try and apply for a new Visa for a new position that your employee has already started working in.
Overall the key thing is to remember that with any Visa there are usually conditions or obligations attached, so getting it is half the battle, staying within those conditions is the second half. Like most things immigration related the rules can be far more complicated than they first appear and certainly more complicated than INZ might suggest on their website so if you are on an ES Visa and thinking of changing careers, or pushing for that promotion, spare a few moments to consider what steps you might need to take to sort your Visa as well.
Or why not get in touch with us so we can assess your options and point you down the right track.
Until next week when the Southern Man returns...
Posted by Iain on March 28, 2014, 2:14 p.m. in Government
Did Confucius or some other sage (at Saatchi and Saatchi?) once say that self-flattery is the lowest form of compliment?
I am not sure.
I learned this week just how good the team at Immagine really is when compared to the rest of the immigration advice industry. This week’s blog is not so much about my team as it is the abject failure of the New Zealand Government’s licensing scheme in protecting migrants from shoddy Advisers but it demonstrates I hope just how good we really are at what we do.
I long rallied against regulating this industry but have concluded that sensible regulation that is enforced can be beneficial. I didn’t need a license to build a name and a company off the back of delivering what migrants struggled to achieve without professional advice but I concede now having a license can reinforce that ‘brand’.
This business has been built on three key principles:
1. Treating clients as we would have them treat us if the roles were reversed
2. Don’t’ make promises you cannot keep
3. Offer value for money
We have now helped by our estimation over 21,000 people negotiate the residence process. Our success rate on visas filed is over 99.8% and possibly higher (but my math isn’t quite that good). Suffice it to say that if we file a Visa for someone there is very little chance it will not be granted.
I always assumed that while we are very good at what we do we were one of many. I learned this week that is not the case and we are among a tiny minority of Advisers with success rates this high.
Globally there are around 600 individually licensed immigration advisers.
I am not about to break confidences or name my source (the source is impeccable) but I have learned that if your immigration advisers/lawyer has been practicing for 5 years there is only 20 (something) on this planet who have better than a 90% visa approval rate.
To say I was shocked at this is an understatement. If among the best two dozen advisers there are any that have decline rates even approaching 10% on visa applications then it has to be concluded that the Government has allowed too many people to obtain licenses too easily and not enough is being done to lift the standard of entry into the industry or ensuring the standards of those with licenses remains high.
As a result of intense industry pressure late last year the Government announced a review of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Authority at which a number of us had levelled serious criticisms about their failure to offer much in the way of protection to so called ‘vulnerable migrants’, in large part because they were dishing out licenses to people simply unqualified and who lacked the experience to be given the responsibility. A few weeks ago the Registrar fell on his sword and resigned. I could be generous and say he will be missed but that would be untrue given migrants are, in my view, still not getting the protection the Authority was legislated to provide.
The Authority’s programme of creating a (pathetic) Immigration Advice Diploma course at the end of which ‘graduates’ are given a full licence to practice was always foolhardy and they were warned of it. Setting loose on the markets people who have no practical experience with the real world of migration laws and processes, migrants and the Immigration Department was a recipe for disaster.
And so it has now proved.
The first mistake of the Authority was having no real understanding of what good, competent and ethical Advisers like us do all day. Their focus was on making us comply with odd business practices rather than the quality of the work we do. It surely was simple enough to monitor approval rates on visa applications which in my view is the measure of the value and competence of an Adviser.
The second was to believe that graduates of their course were somehow entitled to employment and are being given licenses to practice. Who believes that graduates of any course are entitled to anything? Auckland University School of Law doesn’t promise law graduates jobs. No one promised me a job when I left Auckland University.
For some reason the Authority believed they needed to create an industry – when one already had been in existence for a quarter century and generally working well (certainly no worse) than when it was created six years ago.
As a consequence the market has been flooded by about 70 Advisers a year most of whom have no practical or real world experience. People who are sanctioned by the State to wave a license around and offer advice to those thinking of making the biggest decision they will likely ever make in their lives.
We have strongly advocated (and will continue to do so through the formal review of the Authority) that given the serious damage (financial and emotional) of getting eligibility advice wrong no one should be given a full license to practice without either working under the supervision of an fully licensed, experienced, competent and ethical Adviser for 2-3 years (law graduates in New Zealand for example cannot work on their own account for I believe three years after qualifying) or if they wish to be self-employed until they have filed a certain minimum number of visa applications across all categories, whose applications and outcomes have been closely monitored by the Immigration Department and/or the Authority and who cannot demonstrate an approval rate of at least 97% (I’d exclude refugee claims from that given they are a whole different kettle of legal fish).
There is also the issue of beefing up complaints and compliance.
In every market we work in overseas we are constantly meeting migrants who have been ripped off or poorly advised on their options by people with full licenses but who should quite simply not hold them. Particularly in South Africa and Malaysia.
The Authority clearly has real problems trying to enforce NZ law on overseas based Advisers but it is hoped once they get their house in order under new leadership they will focus every more rigorously on cleaning out those with licenses in South Africa, Malaysia, India, Philippines, China and beyond who are giving inaccurate, misleading and often woeful advice to would be New Zealanders whose visa applications are failing to be approved.
While I hesitate to compare helping people relocate and settle with selling milk powder, New Zealand enjoys a reputation globally for openness, transparency and above all quality of product and service. The national Farmer Co-op, Fonterra, got into big trouble last year in its biggest market, China, through a botulism scare in some of its infant formula product. While it turned out to be a false alarm it did serious harm to one of New Zealand’s key industries, cost the country several hundred million dollars in lost income and more than that brought into question New Zealand’s reputation for only dealing in quality and reliable products and services. While the milk powder and infant formula markets have bounced back and continue to lead the economic expansion of the economy it was a good lesson for not settling for less than 100%.
My industry is no different to all those New Zealand exporters competing around the world. As Licensed Advisers we have the power to shape futures positively or negatively. The Immigration Advisers Licensing Authority was set up not just to protect migrants from dodgy or incompetent Advisers but to help protect the reputation of New Zealand as a migrant destination and every Adviser that lets the side down by filing inadequate or incorrect visa applications lets ‘team New Zealand ‘down.
To learn this week that Immagine New Zealand probably employs 4 of perhaps two dozen people on this planet with a success rate with visa applications higher than 90% was truly a shock to me.
Our aim is 100% and probably would be if all clients were honest about everything from the get go. I can probably only expect 99.8%.
It isn’t bad even if it isn’t perfect. And it does put our team in a minority of perhaps 3% of all those with licenses.
Things have got to change and I intend continuing to be part of the charge.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
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