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Posts with tag: skills

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

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

That is the question...

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

It is causing understandable consternation among many.

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

I believe there is a relatively simple solution to that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


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


Entrepreneur Embarrassment

Posted by Iain on May 29, 2015, 3:26 p.m. in Immigration

How do you know when an immigration policy is failing miserably?

I have been looking into visa application numbers, approval, decline and withdrawal rates for the Entrepreneur work Visa category.

The policy was put in place just over a year ago in April 2014.

It has to be considered a dismal failure.

We were initially shocked by two aspects of it when it was released - how high the bar was in terms of eligibility criteria and how loopy some of the definitions were.

Those of you that have attended one of our seminars might recall this temporary class ‘self employed work visa’ is the usual pathway the self employed follow if they want to come to New Zealand and buy into or establish a business as a means of securing permanent residence. 

It is also the one we advise people to only choose if they have no other options and a very credible business plan behind them. 

This is simply because the threshold for entry is so high and getting the visa doesn’t mean you’ll eventually secure a resident visa - residence is only granted after at least two years having made good on the commitments contained in the business plan to employ a number of New Zealanders, invest a certain amount of capital (usually in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) and make a profit - all within three years.

A big ask by any measure and one that comes with considerable commercial and emotional risk.

We have learned that since the policy was released approximately 200 applications have been filed, a small number are sitting in a ‘managed queue’ gathering dust and just under 100 are under ‘active management’ (which means they have at least been looked at).

Only 35 have been approved and 50 have been declined. 

Of the 35 approved around 50% have been approved as ‘exceptions to instructions’ which means they don’t meet the rules but INZ has deemed them to have merit.

That is an extraordinarily high percentage of exceptions.

The reason is both surprising and disturbing. According to sources the bar is simply too high and the definitions make it virtually impossible to approve most applications.  

It starts with the objective of the policy which intends for these proposed businesses or investment in an existing business  ‘to contribute to economic growth by enabling experienced business people to grow or establish a high growth and innovative business with export potential in New Zealand.’

Four key criteria then in one sentence.

You have got be experienced in business. Check, but how experienced? This at least is somewhat answered in the points you claim for business experience.

The business must be ‘high growth’. Okay, but what defines that?

The business must be ‘innovative’. Yeah, but what does that mean?

The business must have export potential. Check, but to what extent?

Applicants must demonstrate all three as well as whatever being an ‘experienced business’ person might mean to an immigration officer.

To demonstrate how kooky it can be here is the definition applied to ‘innovation’ - it is a business that:

‘demonstrates a high probability of succeeding in discovering and applying new ways to produce more with the same quantity of inputs’

Say what?

You need to show that the chances of your discovering new ways to produce more with the same quantity of inputs is high?

Which means proving what everyone else does now presumably (all your competitors) and how in the future you are going to discover a new or novel way of creating more of that thing with less? The weirdest thing of all is you don't have to have made the discovery yet but show you hav a high probability of doing so!

Save me from these mad people! Please.

How completely bizarre. You have to be a future inventor of sorts. And prove what everyone else in your ‘space’ in New Zealand does now.

Well, we don’t come across too many people like that.

Clearly neither does Immigration New Zealand.

What surprises me is that they must come across some because there has been something like 16 applications approved (out of 207 applications) that they have been able to approve without being an exception to the rule book.

INZ has now been authorised to take a more flexible view of the objectives of the policy.

In doing so they are advising that so long as the business meets one of the three criteria - can be ‘innovative', can be ‘high growth’ or can demonstrate ‘export potential’ and they will consider granting the visa.

Which is pleasing but if there is still going to be decline rates of around 60% (and applicants pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of the lottery) it is hardly good policy setting. I wouldn’t mind betting here and now the decline rates will actually increase.

I am surprised they are getting any applications at all.

And who wrote this stuff? Sounds like something that came out of a conference of a bunch of nerds who have never run a business in their life.

Thankfully change is afoot. There is a review of this policy going on now and we suspect it will lead to less complex criteria expressed in a more simple way.

That at least is our hope. Until there is something intelligent on the table that we can take to market as it were in order to offer certainty to clients we cannot in good faith recommend to anyone they go down this path.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man


Cricket World Cup - Go The Kiwis!

Posted by Iain on March 27, 2015, 6:42 p.m. in New Zealand Sport

Seats have been ‘shotgunned’ on couches. The whisky is breathing. The beer fridge is full. The large piece of beef is thawing and ready to be smeared in marinade in preparation for a slow barbecue come mid day Sunday.

Why you may ask?

Where have you been the past few days? Clearly not in New Zealand or in one of Britain’s former colonies.

Sunday will be the biggest sporting event since, well, the Rugby World Cup in 2011. 

What do you mean we have had a Football World cup since then? Who cares!!??

This is our second national sport we are talking about. Cricket.

After six weeks of going through the pool games, quarter and semi finals unbeaten (despite trying hard on one or two occasions) the New Zealand cricket team have won through to the final of the tournament.

Against Australia.

The old enemy.

The arch rivals.

The sons of sheep stealers.

No New Zealand team has ever made it to the final of the Cricket World Cup. Regular semi finalists but never a final.

To say excitement here is building would be an understatement. No one is talking of anything else.

I haven’t known this level of excitement since the All Blacks made the final of the Rugby World Cup here just under four years ago.

The difference with this event is we always expect the All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup (not that they do but it is expectation we are talking about). We have only ever dreamed of our national cricket team doing the same and to come so close on so many occasions has been terribly frustrating. Somehow end up among the bridesmaids.

The Southern Man knows a little about cricket.

Our ‘boys’ have long been able to beat the big guns of world cricket on our day but over the past two years this side has developed into serious world beaters in every form of the game (it comes in three flavours which I won’t bore the American readership with here -  but think express baseball and over in two innings, normal baseball and baseball where a game can last five days……I know!! Imagine that? I like to think of the five day version as being the purest of them all). This version however only takes an afternoon and evening.

The Australians don’t lower themselves to play us all that often in international cricket but this is going to be a game of epic proportions - it might be David and Goliath in terms of the relative sizes of the populations of our two countries but these are two teams that on paper are equal in terms of talent and both full of game winners.

Most of us are still recovering from the multiple heart attacks we suffered Tuesday night as we pipped South Africa with a ball to spare in the first semi final. We have had a few days to gather ourselves. 

With Australia knocking out the Indian team last night there are plenty of tickets coming on the market for Sunday’s game. In a sign of how badly we would all love to be in Melbourne on Sunday, since Tuesday night this week every seat on every flight to Australia (there’s about 40 a day heading that way on a normal day) was sold four or five days! Extra planes have been put on but even then I know many people trying to get flights but who cannot.

This is our Superbowl. Our Football World Cup. 

A chance to add the Cricket World Cup to the cabinet alongside the Rugby World Cup. And oh how insufferable we will be for the next few years if we do!

Don’t bother calling anyone in New Zealand after 4pm Sunday - they won’t take the call. Don’t email them either because you have no show of getting an answer. You might get an answer to a text message but even then i am not so sure.

For the seven hours the game takes New Zealand will grind to a halt.

And Australia too - it is their national game after all and they are, for possibly the first time in a long time, appreciating that they might not actually be favourites against the Kiwis (they shouldn’t be surprised, we beat them in pool play). 

Given that the last team they’d like to lose to are the little upstarts from across the Tasman Sea will ratchet up the pressure just that bit more on the Aussie lads.

I’m counting the minutes. I might be in to work late Monday win or lose.

May the best team win.

Until next week - Iain Macleod

Southern Man

Tags: skills

No Profit Motive, No Competition - Equals Visa Lottery

Posted by Iain on Dec. 5, 2014, 4:53 p.m. in Immigration

What happens when an organisation has no competition, no profit motive and it is the only supplier of a service with a captive audience?

You call yourself a Government Department and you get the following true but barely imaginable story.

I won’t name the Branch of Immigration New Zealand as I hope to sort this problem out and I know the readership of the Southern Man even extends to some inside INZ. As a preamble it is worthy of note that a few years ago the Immigration Department showed some rare insight and rather wisely rebranded themselves from the ‘New Zealand Immigration Service’, to Immigration New Zealand. I guess when you wouldn’t know a service if you tripped over it, it seems a little silly to include it in your name. So they quietly dropped the ‘s’ word and now offer little pretence of service.

Even by INZ standards this story is a jaw dropper for its stupidity, cruelty and petty mindedness.

How people like this particular officer, who is famous in our circles for this attitude continues to be employed is an indictment on this department  that charges hundreds and often thousands of dollars to process visas.

I met a woman this week who wishes to join her husband in New Zealand for a few months and to try and find work with a long term plan, under the well promoted NZ government Residence programme, TO settle permanently. Her background is impeccable and both are highly employable and would settle very well, contributing skills that NZ is, according the Immigration Department, in desperate need of owing to local skill shortages (on that score INZ is actually right). Her husband is an international student studying a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology (note the name) in Auckland.

In 2013 this client applied for an open work visa to join her husband for a few months. This was, correctly, granted to her and she went and they enjoyed a few months together. In time she had to return to her home country and continue working. He has continued to study.

This year she thought she’d apply again. Nothing had changed – same husband, studying the same course in the same University, her situation had not changed (beyond being a year older) so she was naturally confident she be issued the same visa. 

What she hadn’t bargained on was a different officer.

This officer declined her visa application because her husband’s degree was not an exact match to a prescribed list of NZ ICT degrees that INZ works off.

The closest match to his Bachelor of Information and Communications Technology in New Zealand was a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technologies (you may need to read that again in order to spot the difference).

Here is the rule:

‘….partners of people granted student visas to study for a level 7 or higher qualifications in an area of absolute skill shortage as specified in the Long Term Skill Shortage List’…… 

….qualify for an open work visa (all other things being equal as indeed they were in this case).

A New Zealand Bachelor degree is Level 7.

When the client suggested that what her husband was studying was in name and substance virtually identical the officer told her to go and get a report from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (at a cost of NZ$746) which confirmed they were essentially the same thing.

The officer appeared to be serious.

INZ then applied their quality assurance processes (such as they are) and declined the application when the client, terribly confused and upset, challenged the processing officer on what the difference was between last years’ work visa application (approved) and this years (declined)? 

Everything was identical. How could one visa be approved but the following year it is declined?

The 2014 officer said ’Well, the 2013 officer must have got it wrong’.

The sad truth is as I always say at all my presentations and consultations - who you get processing your visa can be the sole determining factor on outcome. 

It is at times as if there is no rule book.

The truth is that it is in fact the 2013 officer got it 100% right – it was the 2014 officer who has got it badly wrong, shown limited intelligence and an obstructive, petty and pedantic attitude.

Quite clearly the aim and intent of the policy is to encourage international students to come, spend vast quantities of money (in this case NZ$20,000 each year for three years) and as part of the incentive to add to the export education coffers, to allow partners to join then and work.

It goes further – the stated aim of this policy is to enable those that are studying ICT (an area New Zealand only produces 50% of the graduates industry and business require) to stay on once their study is complete if they have found employment and become part of the Government’s Residence Programme.

A sensible economic strategy until you give it to a bureaucrat who pays their mortgage by turning up to work each day, who is never held accountable and gets paid irrespective of how bad they are at their job.

Confucius, had he known rampant bureaucracy and monopolistic Government practices may indeed have uttered something like, ‘one rule book and two bureaucrats assessing identical factors make for opposing outcomes…’

It is scandalous that this particular officer, who has a reputation for making these sorts of decisions is allowed to remain in a front line visa decision making role. Worse still applicants pay hard earned money and are forced to have her process their visas - no competition means this applicant cannot go down the road and get some real, consistent and sensible service.

In the private sector where competition and profit motive makes us all accountable this officer’s employment would have been terminated many poor decisions ago.

I am hopeful I can help INZ see the light over this stunning display of arrogance and stupidity and get this poor woman the visa she not only deserves but is entitled to.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man


Third Most Prosperous Country

Posted by Iain on Nov. 14, 2014, 4:04 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle

New Zealand has once again been ranked in the top three most prosperous countries in the world for 2014.

Topping the annual list this year is Norway followed by Switzerland in second place.

For what it is worth Australia came in seventh so a tidy little double for the Immagine Immigration countries of destination……

The least prosperous country this year was the Central African Republic. The United States came in 10th.

The 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index ranks 140 countries on their health and well being and so assesses factors including education, safety and security, health, economy, entrepreneurship, governance, personal freedom and social capital.

New Zealand ranked first for personal freedom, second for social capital and governance, seventh for education, tenth for safety and security, 15th for economy, 18th for entrepreneurship and 20th for health.

Not a bad effort when you are ranking 140 countries.

Translating this into the sort of lives we lead here I can explain it as reflecting our being a capitalist, socialist democracy which in other words means you have to play your part in paying your way pay but if you cannot, as my neighbour we will not leave you behind. 

That philosophy runs very deep in the DNA of virtually every New Zealander and probably explains why Australia ranks in the top ten as well given their similar (if not louder) worldview and the Scandinavian countries also rank so high.

In new Zealand this mix of free market capitalism with a dose of redistribution of wealth all happens within bounds that the vast majority of New Zealanders are comfortable with.

There is a constant tension (relaxed and good natured if it needs to be said) between the philosophies of those that want untrammelled free markets and no regulation and those that want more centralised planning and Government involvement in our lives.

When it comes to heath, education and pensions for example we are all firmly in the camp of socialising risk i.e. spreading across all taxpayers, the cost of caring and educating all.

It does solve all problems however.

If you look at youth unemployment statistics in New Zealand they can be very high and 18-24 years olds runs as high as 20% in some parts of New Zealand.

Yet only this week the Tourism sector was bemoaning the fact that they cannot get enough young people into changing beds in hotels, bar work, café waiting and the like – there is a labour shortage. They were calling on the government to allow greater numbers of under 31 year olds here on open holiday working visas (meaning they can do whatever they wish without their employers having to prove they cannot find a local to fill the vacancy). Government responded that there are currently 62,000 young people from all over the world filling these sorts of jobs when the annual target was for only 50,000 to be here.

What this demonstrates is that the alternatives to what is often lower paid work in New Zealand are simply too attractive to many young New Zealanders.

It is hard to fathom how in a country which has strong economic growth, 1600 people a week coming off welfare, over 100,000 jobs created in the past 3 years, strong growth in tourist numbers that there is not a bit more ‘stick’ with regards unemployed young people. At this point in time for example the state agencies that are tasked with assisting young people into work do not say – well you can either go to, say Queenstown or Auckland and find work or you can lose your unemployment payments. They are generally allowed to stay living where they are with no incentive built in to getting off their chuffs and working. We do have cars, trains, buses and planes here I often reflect…

In what was an extraordinary first when the NZ government recently offered up to 1000 long term unemployed a one off payment of NZ$3000 (about US$2500) to go to Christchurch where unemployment hovers around 3% and find a job they filled the places. But seriously? We have to pay people who are being paid to do nothing to get off their backsides move to a city to find work?

It is just as well we are a prosperous first world economy and a nation of very tolerant tax payers. If we weren’t things here could get quite ugly quite quickly for a lot of people, particularly the young, who may well have squandered one of the worlds best education systems but who have a mentality of the world owing them a living.

Overall we get the balance pretty much right as is reflected in this survey and once again reinforces the view of many migrants and locals alike that this really is a very special little country. Possibly the best kept secret in the world.

Speaking of which the final seminars for the year in South Africa are underway and I will be travelling to Hong Kong and Singapore in about ten days. If you know anyone that might wish to attend they can click here for details.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man


Chicken & Egg

Posted by Iain on Nov. 7, 2014, 3:25 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

I have written many times about the “chicken and egg” situation that exists for migrants trying to enter the labour market before they have a Resident Visa. That is that the employers generally demand Work Visas before they will offer jobs but the Immigration Department cannot (on the whole) give a Work Visa without that job.

It is the reason why many migrants fail in their quest to get New Zealand Residence (I hasten to add not our clients as we seem to do a pretty good job at identifying those who have all the appropriate attributes to secure employment).

I had an interesting experience this week which is worth sharing and might help employers who are willing to engage in the immigration process but who don’t want floods of applications from people not in New Zealand.

A client had applied for a job whilst in New Zealand through www.seek.co.nz.

He received a computer generated rejection on the basis that he did not have a Work Visa (it was one of the questions asked).

He then followed up with a phone call to the company and asked if they would be interested in talking to him or reviewing his CV. They suggested they would and he seemed like a very interesting and qualified candidate.

He then rang me to see if I could call the employer and explain how the immigration process worked given they were somewhat reluctant, he felt, to engage with the visa process.

I called the employer and quickly learned that contrary to the perception they might not be willing to engage the immigration process (a perception they created by their online advertising), they already employed ten migrants on various forms of temporary Work Visas.

I then called the client back, who has now had a conversation with the employer to be, which I hope leads not only to an interview, but a job offer and I will secure him the Work Visa within two or three weeks.

What would have been a more sensible approach from the company when advertising online, was to have three questions that they ask and which may trigger an automated response. These would be:

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

In this instance, had the employer done that they would have avoided getting thousands of applications from applicants who are not in New Zealand, not available for quick and easy interview and who might not be seriously committed to the process of migration, but they would have identified my client who is here, serious and available.

It continues to amaze me in this connected world how employers and recruiters still only deal in their minds with two types of potential “foreign” candidates – those who have Permanent Residency and those that do not.

There is clearly a simple way for them to further refine their criteria which both protects them from a deluge of overseas applicants but which provides them with access to potential employees who can get Work Visas who are in New Zealand.

Food for thought for all you employers out there facing increasing skills shortages.

Until next week

IMMagine New Zealand - Southern Man


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


The Daily Grind ... In Paradise

Posted by Paul on July 18, 2014, 3:36 p.m. in Immigration

For anyone who has ever been to one of the seminars we regularly hold in South Africa or Asia, they will be aware of the fact that we give a very realistic picture of what it’s like to live in New Zealand. We don’t sell the country (it sells itself) and we don’t hand out rose-tinted glasses for the show. In fact, we are pretty well known in the industry for calling a spade a spade and giving hopeful migrants a realistic view of what it’s like to live in New Zealand. 

Our world famous (in South Africa and Asia) seminars, although presented by different consultants, all carry the same message: “New Zealand isn’t paradise, but it’s pretty close”. That statement might get a few laughs but the serious point we want to get across is that New Zealand isn't perfect, it just has a lot less problems than most other countries. If you are migrating here don't expect a completely different life, just expect a better one.

Globalisation and the power of international brand media have removed many of the differences that countries used to have and created ‘comfort zones’ where people can latch on to familiar surroundings. You can now walk down pretty much any street in any city in any country and find familiar brand names, foods and corporate logos.  If you are ever stranded somewhere just look for a Starbucks, there is bound to be one nearby.

New Zealand is no different and for most migrants, there are a number of things that they will find familiar when they move here. We have many of the same international brands, drive on the same side of the road (as most) and speak English. We live in houses and apartments, we go to work and to school and we pay our taxes. 

Yet for all the similarities which may be more overt, there are a lot of subtle differences. Differences that really only become apparent when you are part of it all and differences that often catch people off guard (both good and bad).

I regularly tell my prospective clients, when we are sitting down at the initial face to face meeting, to think about life in New Zealand from the perspective of an average working day. Forget about the 'honeymoon period' which normally happens over the first few weeks/months of your arrival. Think about it in terms of the ‘daily grind’.

Unless you have a plentiful sum of available funds to make everyday a holiday for the vast majority of migrants life in New Zealand, in terms of the day to day routine, is going to be pretty much the same.

You will get up in the morning, shower, get dressed and rush through breakfast. You may also need to prepare the kids for school, pack lunches and shuttle them off on the morning family taxi run. You will likely sit in traffic or if you are more eco-conscious stand in line for a bus, ferry or train. A quick stop at Starbucks or for those who missed breakfast McDonalds, before heading to the office, factory floor, construction site or wherever your work takes you. The working day will pass and you will get back into your car and that traffic or on that particular mode of public transport to head home. There will be the evening chores, catching up on the national news which will most likely consist of the latest sports results and finally some time with the kids. Wind down the day, head to bed; wash, rinse, repeat.

Sound somewhat familiar?

It probably will be, but now let’s dig a little deeper for those subtle differences.

If you lived in South Africa your routine would probably be the same up until the time you left the front door. You would of course need to check the security gates and lock all five locks before setting the security system (custom built by the guys that developed the Star Wars program). You most likely wouldn’t have the option of public transport and traffic would take you twice maybe three times as long because no one else uses public transport either. Of course whilst in your car, your doors and windows would be fully locked and intersections would be your morning round of Russian roulette. 

You would work a full day, realising that you are one of a dwindling number of tax payers, wondering whether this job might be your last. You would head home in that same traffic with the same race through those red lights. You would arrive to do another perimeter check before going inside. Dinner and then time to catch up on the latest news, consisting of which politician has now been found funnelling millions of Rand out of Government coffers or any one of a number of stories of upward trending crime statistics. Time with the family before a last security check and then off to bed with one eye on the alarm monitor and the other on the window locks. 

If you happened to live in Singapore, Malaysia or most other parts of Asia your day would also be fairly similar to a typical day in New Zealand but with some ‘added bonuses’. You would probably leave your 33rd story apartment (because landed property is simply too expensive) quite comfortably without the security checks, but you are likely to be on that train or in the car earlier than most other people on the planet. Your work day would actually take most of the day and you would likely be back in the car or on the train/bus nearer to 9pm. Last one out of the office to make sure no one thinks you are shirking your duties. By the time you get home the kids are either already in bed or returning from their multiple after school activities, more tired than you are. You would head to bed, just in time for the alarm to go off on Saturday morning when, for quite a few of you, work would be the first chore for the weekend.

Okay so I might be exaggerating a little bit (but not much). These are the daily grinds that my clients share with me repeatedly and often cited as some of the most common reasons for people wanting to move.

Often people who attend our seminars or meet with us to discuss the potential eligibility are rightly focussed on what life will be like. Will it be the same, will it be different? How will they adjust and what can they expect. To all of them I give a pretty straight-forward answer: “Life in New Zealand, once you are settled and employed, will be pretty much the same in terms of the things you do, it will just be one heck of a lot easier”.

Life won’t be a luxury resort in a tropical paradise and it certainly won’t be an extended holiday but compared to the daily routines of people in other countries, the pace is slower, things are easier to get done, its safe and you can spend more time focussing on you and your family as opposed to working to live. Sure we New Zealander's have our daily grumbles and issues but they are, for the most part, first world problems. They are things that we can live with quite happily. 

In truth, you will never really understand it until you are here and living your own personal routine, doing your normal daily activities in this country, but the key message that we try to give people at seminars is that life in New Zealand compared to life in most other places is a lot more ‘hassle free’. 

If you are interested in finding out more or you are keen to explore what awaits you in our little slice of the globe then our seminars are a good start. We tell it like it is and you can then make up your own mind if it’s right for you. I would hasten to add that we don’t often see people walk away from a seminar disappointed.

Our own Southern Man will be in Johannesburg next week and then in Cape Town and Durban the weeks following. To register for any one of these seminars, click here.

This will be my last blog for a while as the Southern Man will be returning to the blogosphere once more next week.

Enjoy the weekend (even if you have to work for some it) - Paul Janssen

Tags: skills | migrants | lifestyle

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