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The Truth, The Whole Truth & Nothing But The Truth

Posted by Iain on Aug. 8, 2015, 8:22 a.m. in Visitor Visa

I am sure that you were always told by your parents to tell the truth. As the old line goes, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear by being honest and truthful. Right?

What happens however when one rule contradicts a second that you must comply with later in order to win the game – and you have to comply with both to get what you need?

Should you lie to achieve the aim of the second if the first stops you achieving the outcome the second rule requires?

What am I talking about?

Most skilled migrants need jobs to achieve the stated aims of the Government residence programme. To get jobs, employers demand that a candidate be in New Zealand. That means getting permission to enter New Zealand either before you travel or at the border.

Only trouble with that is Visitor Visa rules are not compatible with Residence Visa rules.

Many people are being stopped at the airport on arrival and if they say they are on holiday but also intend looking for work (because they are interested in the skilled migrant residence programme and with the job have enough points, they now risk being turned around, given a visa that does not allow them to change their status or they get a normal visa.

My team and I have been wrestling for some weeks now over what to advise those clients who need job offers to secure their skilled migrant visa points who can travel to New Zealand without a visa, but to enter the country must get a visa at the border. Although this is not exclusively a South African issue we are in particular concerned about South Africans...

This condundrum has arisen because about 10% of our South African clients are now being stopped at Auckland airport on arrival and questioned on the purpose of their visit.

If they tell the truth – that they are in the country both on holiday and to check the place out as a possible settlement destination (all of our clients - if they can secure skilled employment - meet the points threshold for a resident visa) then recent history tells us telling the truth can get some into trouble.

It all depends which officer stops them and questions them at the airport - not the rule, but how the rule is applied and by whom.

Most are given ‘normal’ visas which allow them to change their status to a work visa once the job is secured. Others are given limited visas which allow them entry but if they get the job they then have to leave the country and return home to apply for their work visa offshore. I am even hearing of people (not our clients; thank goodness) being turned around at the airport and denied entry.

The only thing they all have in common are their South African passports. Thereafter, it is random – no pattern to who is stopped, who gets a normal visa and who gets the limited visa. The outcomes are consistently inconsistent. The outcome is determined by an immigration officer and how they feel.

Therein lies the dilemma.

If 90% of South Africans entering New Zealand are granted ‘normal’ visas that allow a change of status, why are we seriously considering advising all to apply for Visitor Visas before they travel? If 90% don’t have a problem and 10% do, isn’t this creating an additional cost and bureaucratic burden for all when only 10% have a problem?

I guess it depends on whether you turn out to be one of the 10%.

For the record it is perfectly legal to enter New Zealand as a ‘tourist’ and if you decide you wish to stay longer or even permanently or had even entered wanting to stay subject to finding a skilled job and you find a skilled employment, you are allowed to change your status. Given the significant majority of work visas are issued within New Zealand this clearly happens a lot.

I have met with everyone from Immigration New Zealand’s head of global border security in recent weeks to try and come to some agreement on resolving this issue and eliminate the risk for those 10% highly skilled ‘wannabe’ migrants who are hassled at the airport or to get some agreement that all of our clients coming over will be granted ‘normal’ visitor visas subject to demonstrating that they are not a risk to the country.

You might think that is easy when you can demonstrate that the number of our South African clients who have overstayed their visas is as far as we know – zero.

So if our clients tell the truth at the border about their intentions, some officials at the airport hold it against them. Some don’t. These officials are the same ones employed by the Government that is encouraging skilled migration and demanding that the majority secure work.

In trying to meet the Governments permanent residence rules, the client can be damned if they tell the truth and damned if they don’t at the border.

After three weeks of discussions the outcome I always expected happened a few days ago.

The Government suggested all of our clients should apply for these Visitor Visas offshore before they travel BUT they would not guarantee the client that on arrival at the border in New Zealand they would be granted a visa that would allow them to apply for a work visa onshore. That of course completely defeats the purpose of applying for the visitor visa offshore in the first place because once such applicants find jobs (and in the case of our clients about 98% do) they have to leave the country, apply for a work visa and return a few weeks later.

In the end this refusal to come up with a solution that is geared toward my low risk clients and to manage them as a subset of some greater perceived risk is incredibly disappointing but hardly surprising. If there is one thing Immigration New Zealand is not very good at it is holding the system to account and demanding consistency of outcomes whereby similar applicants with very similar circumstances be treated the same and should be able to reasonably expect the same outcome.

It leaves me concluding that it is not always smart to tell the whole truth. Applying for visas before a South African travels isn’t going to solve any problems. 

Forcing visa applicants to be less than completely truthful in order to give the Government what they want in terms of the Residence Programme is a nonsensical and stupid way of dealing with risk.

However for the time being it seems to be just what Immigration New Zealand is demanding.

The discussions continue.

Until next week.


P.S. There's still time to enter our competition which runs until the 23rd of August - submit your photo and you could win $1500 in cash and 2 luxury nights for two at the Azur Lodge in Queenstown. To enter, click here: http://www.justimmagine.com/competition


South Africa's Slow Train Crash

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. 

Robochickens perhaps? 

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


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


The Importance (?) Of English

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

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man- Letter from New Zealand


Spin Doctoring...

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).


Essential Skills Work Visas Explained

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:

  • That they are suitably qualified by training and/or experience to undertake the job on offer
  • That the employer has made a genuine attempt to recruit for the role within the local labour market and has established that a shortage exists for the position

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...

Paul Janssen


How Licensing Fails Migrants...

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.

Off to South Africa Monday for three seminars across the Republic For further details. Click here for details.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - 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


Let's Rip Up The Rule Book!

Posted by Iain on Jan. 23, 2014, 3:58 p.m. in Immigration

“If you hadn’t been representing the client, the visa would never have been approved”. These words from a Branch Manager to me this week when I refused to give up on a Visitor Visa application that one of her staff wanted to effectively decline.

Nice validation of the value we offer clients but it became unpleasant, frustrating and oh so avoidable.

The client, a Philippine national living in Singapore needed a Visitor Visa so he could fly to New Zealand, explore employment opportunities and if successful in finding skilled employment allow us to file applications for Work and Resident Visas for him and his family.

We took him on as a client because, with an offer of skilled employment, he will meet all the criteria for skilled migrant residency.

But, as we so often do, we ran into the conflict between the aim and intent of Visitor, Work and Resident Visas and to boot, we ended up with an officer with a subjective view of residence policy rather than an objective one.

To get jobs, overwhelmingly clients need to be in New Zealand. It isn’t the law, it is a reality imposed on migrants by employers. In the mind of the employer why would they offer someone work they have never met, who may not be all that serious, who has not demonstrated they are linguistically and culturally compatible and who is worth employing? Instead of demanding employers fit in with the Immigration Department there is an argument the Department should fit in with employers.

This ‘Look, See and Decide’ Visa issue that has occupied several pages of this blog in recent times was seen as part of the solution to this gap between employers and potential skilled migrants. The trouble is most immigration officers either are not aware of the memo that recognised the solution or have conveniently chosen to forget it.

This Visitor Visa is supposed to be given to someone who can satisfy the Department that they do not present an unacceptable risk of overstaying their visa in New Zealand if they do not find employment; who we have demonstrated have more than sufficient funds to support themselves on their trip (and then some usually); who have demonstrated they are employable in skilled positions and who are usually travelling alone, leaving their family behind (what greater incentive could there be for leaving if the client cannot find employment?).

How frustrating then to be told by the case officer my client is not skilled enough (his occupation is on the skilled occupation list), that he does not have recognised qualifications (doesn’t need them, with a skilled job in NZ he has enough points without needing any qualifications); is not in an occupation on the skills shortage list (skilled migrants don’t need to be and 90% are not….) and that my client is a risk of not leaving New Zealand. 

While, eventually a visa would be granted it was of a type that would not, under any circumstances allow him to change his status. So as I explained to all the higher powers involved in this drama inside the Department, the applicant needs to be able to change to a Work Visa as and when he finds employment in New Zealand.

Me being me, I went to the case officer’s Branch Manager and when she started circling the wagons around her staff, I went to the Regional Manager.

This week they reversed their decision and gave him a ‘normal’ Visitor Visa. He has no idea of the emails, the phone calls, the arguments – if he did, he’d probably have thought he was not as welcome in NZ as the Immigration Department’s website told him he is.

What continues to frustrate me is that the Immigration Department officials think they have the right to make up rules that do not exist and to subjectively sit in judgement on applicants that tick all the policy boxes.

To be told this week that in the view of the officer and the Branch Manager the client would not add much to New Zealand was nothing short of an outrage. As I pointed out officers do not write the rules - they implement them. This client’s occupation appears on the list of occupations that will lead to residency irrespective of what the officer, me or anyone else might think about whether his skills are good for New Zealand or not.

At the same time my colleague Paul is battling a separate bunch of immigration officers over a question of whether non-custodial parent consent is required for a 17 year old to leave South Africa. South African law says that ‘children’ aged 17 can make their own choices – custody effectively no longer applies. The NZ Immigration Department is demanding a witnessed statement from the non-custodial parent (who lives in another country) giving his permission for his son to move to New Zealand.  Paul has presented sensible legal argument (sitting up till 10pm preparing it) why this is absurd and not Government policy but he is being met with a brick wall. Yet another example of the Department making up rules on the hoof and not applying the rules in their own rule book.

And herein lies the sort of challenge we face as Advisers every day. There is, we sometime have to remind ourselves, a rule book and there are immigration officers who apply their own rules based on their own world views and opinions. 

Hardly a way to ensure consistent, fair and transparent processes for applicants.

Of course this is in part what keeps us in business and we are grateful to an extent for this chaos.  Unfortunately it causes a lot of unnecessary and avoidable stress for clients at a time when the Department should be working with us, experts in immigration law and process, to limit it.

They speak of us being ‘trusted partners’ when it is clear they do not trust our judgment at all. So we got the visa but only it seems because I am like a dog with a bone. As I explained to the Branch Manager over coffee, to decline the visa would have been to suggest I had got it wrong in advising the client to move forward with a visa application and residence and while we are not infallible our success rate suggests overwhelmingly we are very good at picking those that meet Government criteria and those who do not. 

And if the Department wants to challenge that expertise and experience they need to have very very good arguments ready.  Simply deciding someone might not be ‘very good for New Zealand’ is not part of their job description and we will continue to hold them accountable.

 

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man 


What does 2014 hold for NZ?

Posted by Iain on Jan. 17, 2014, 11:43 a.m. in New Zealand Economy

Happy New Year to all our regular Southern Man Letters from New Zealand readers.

The team is back in the office, tanned and relaxed (that lasted about two days!) and looking forward to an extra busy year. For us it is going to be a year of firsts – we are now dipping our toes in the Hong Kong and Indonesian markets. Across the Tasman Sea our Australian colleagues are heading to Botswana, Greece and Turkey to test the migrant waters there.

And what of New Zealand in 2014? How are the tea leaves looking?

If you can believe the various surveyors and economic forecasters we are in for a very good year and several beyond this. A few key points in recently released surveys show:

  • Business confidence is at a 20 year high
  • All sectors of the economy are growing – manufacturing, agriculture, services and tourism are all showing strong growth
  • All regions of New Zealand are in positive growth and confidence territory (spreading out from Auckland and Christchurch which dominated 2013)
  • ‘Own business’ confidence is running at multi year highs and this suggests GDP growth of at least 3.5% this year
  • Retail sales through Christmas were up 7% on the year before and have continued through the early part of January
  • Skills shortages are starting to bite (told you!!!!) - especially in the construction and IT sectors – everyone from Architects, Civil Engineers, Quantity Surveyors and Planners through to related trades workers. In ICT some are now calling the shortages ‘dire’ which might be a slight exaggeration but these shortages are going to be biting across most sectors within the next six months in my view .
  • Unemployment which currently stands at 6.2% is predicted to fall to 5.5% by years end and 4.5% by the end of 2015. It is worth noting that once unemployment gets down to 5% in New Zealand you’ll not be able to find a Secretary to do your word processing……or find someone to make you a cup of coffee. It is also worth reminding readers that skilled migrants seldom compete with the unemployed 6.2% - they tend to be un-skilled or semi-skilled.
  • Inflation is expected to remain subdued overall at around 1% but dog with rabies crazy in housing. There continues to be a chronic shortage of new housing supply meaning house values  are expected to continue their seemingly relentless increase by around 10% this year (higher in Auckland and Christchurch). This is feeding through into higher rental prices also.
  • Interest rates are predicted to increase by 25 base points each quarter for the next 5 quarters (starting March). The word is the economy is robust enough with exports booming even with a high exchange rate to offset any inflationary build up. I’d be expecting floating mortgage rates to be around 6.5% - 7% by years end.

Short of any major external shocks things are looking overwhelmingly positive. No one is talking about an overheating economy or boom times but there is a real and broad based momentum that has been building across all sectors and all regions.

This, I suspect, will embolden the New Zealand Government to continue with high skilled migrant pass marks and forcing a majority (note, not all….) of would be migrants to come and find jobs in order to have certainty of residency approval.

Those employers unwilling to recruit form the ranks of those offshore or who refuse to travel overseas to interview and recruit are within the next few months going to be staring into a very shallow pool of local talent. This will have an upward movement on incomes (we are already seeing it in construction and IT in particular).

While no one who reads this who thinks they may make a move this year should take getting work for granted, there is no doubt that 2014 for the vast majority of you will be a year of greater employment opportunities. Through 2013 we saw average times for most clients to find jobs here get down to a few weeks rather than a few months as it was through 2011-2012. If you are fluent in English, skilled, do your research on demand in the labour market for your skills set and are willing to get on a plane and get here, chances are you’ll find work within 4-6 weeks.

As we reported in December the Government has closed the Long Term Business Visa or self-employed pathway to residence while they think about a new ‘improved’ visa class for Entrepreneurs which they hope to launch in April. We have been offered an outline of the new criteria which we have agreed will remain confidential but what we can say without breaking those confidences is that the new criteria is less a pathway for the self-employed to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency to a move to focus on greater job creation and export related businesses as priority for approval. For the first time the amount of funds invested comes with a minimum and the more invested the higher the chances of success. In essence what we will gain is effectively a new sub-class of Investor – lower investment thresholds than those who apply to many looking to secure residence under the Investor Categories but a much higher threshold than historically in place for the self-employed. As always there will be winners and there will be losers.

Skilled Migrant Category also underwent its standard three year review during 2013 and I expect we may see changes this year. My own view is the changes will be minor (why change a formula that appears to be working?). My only two suggestions to Government were that we should be more prescriptive in regard to English language as the Australians are (better your English the higher your points) and I would also be re-instating points for those with capital they can transfer to New Zealand. Although it is proven that those with more money find it easier to settle I cannot see the Government taking me up on this suggestion; they might on the English language however. We shall see.

I head overseas today for the first round of seminars for 2014 and will be in Singapore this weekend, Jakarta next weekend and Kuala Lumpur the following. The seminar in Jakarta is now fully booked.

My colleague Paul will also be in South Africa in early February kicking for our first round of seminars there.

It is going to be a big, exciting and nerve wracking year for some of you as you pack up and join us here in New Zealand. For some 2013 was the moving year and 2014 will become the year of return to some sort of normality. For others 2014 will be the year of the ‘big decision’ to migrate or not. Wherever you are on that spectrum the Immagine team and I wish you every happiness and success for the year.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man – Letter from New Zealand


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