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What is INZ afraid of?

Posted by Iain on July 24, 2020, 1:27 p.m. in Immigration New Zealand

The plot thickens.

Just what is going on with the processing of skilled migrant cases?

I received pushback this week from a senior Immigration Manager demonstrating one thing these people clearly do not appreciate is being questioned or held to account.

A problem I suggested in return might be easily solved if they publicised accurate and timely information on their website. They do not. Why?

We have learned under various applications made under the Official Information Act that:

1.      On July 2 INZ actually only had 427 skilled migrant resident (SMC) visa cases that met their priority processing criteria (high salary or occupational registration). I had been told there was 900 at the same time by a senior manager who should have known the number.

2.      INZ appears to have around 70 case officers assigned to process skilled migrant (points) cases and residence from work/talent visas.

3.      There is a priority queue within the priority queue (used for training up inexperienced officers and ‘efficiency improvements’ - translation -  meeting kpis and not looking completely useless)

4.      There is 14,000 SMC applications (covering around 28,000-30,000 people) sitting in the queue to be processed at the time of writing

5.      No Expressions of Interest are being selected - we were told during lockdown ‘no boots on the ground’ was the reason. The boots have been back on the ground now for around six weeks but still no pool draws. I am advised there’s around 3000 EOIs sitting in the pool currently. No invitations to apply for residence have been made for three months - so there’s little no new work adding to the queue.

6.      The Government has a target of around 25,000 resident visa approvals between Jan 2020 and June 2021.

7.      At IMMagine we have had four residence cases over the past week or so where we have been advised the case officer is happy with the evidence and arguments and moved to an internal INZ second person (quality and accuracy) check for sign off and the application has been sent back to the case officer because the more experienced officer has found fault with the first officer’s assessment. This is unprecedented in our experience. The officer training doesn’t seem to be going that well.

8.      The (now former) Minister of Immigration has as recently as ten days ago advised publicly that both priority and non priority queues are moving. The last non-priority case allocated for processing was receipted on 20 December 2018 (not 2019). Snails also technically move - doesn’t mean they will get anywhere any time soon…

What does all this mean to those waiting and wondering what is happening with their applications?

There is more people in the system than places available under the programme but only by the 10% variance allowed for. That hardly supports the notion that ‘demand’ for places is outstripping the ‘supply’ as the Minister and senior bureaucrats keep telling the world is the reason for the queue not getting shorter.

INZ Managers either do not know what is happening on their watch, how many cases representing priority and non-priroty are sitting in their queue or they are not telling the truth about it. I don’t think they are lying.

On the face of it when senior managers tasked with overseeing the ‘queue’ cannot advise us how many cases meet priority criteria and their Head Office Managers confirm that teachers and health care workers are being prioritised for training purposes, you know you’ve got a problem.

I don’t know how the number of officers is split between SMC processing and Residence from Work (I couldn’t get a straight answer) but given there’s probably 10 SMC cases for every one of the latter, that suggests there should be roughly 60 immigration officers processing the priority cases.

If there really was only 427 SMC priority cases sitting in the queue on 2 July as the Government advised under an OIA request, that means each officer would get roughly 7 cases. Seven! I also don’t know how long it would take an officer to process a case but let’s be generous and say, eight hours. That suggests the queue should be pretty much gone within a week.

So why, contrary to the Government’s statements that both queues are moving is there no evidence of it among the advising community which handle something like 40% - 50% of all cases in the system? The reports I am receiving are consistent - none of the corporate advising community is seeing any non priority cases being allocated for processing beyond a small number that have been ‘escalated’ through a strange process called EVE. I was told by a Visa Operations Manager these numbers are ‘very small’ and ‘rare’.

So what exactly are the case officers doing all day?

They can’t all be cutting their teeth on teacher applications.

Why can’t INZ (and the Government) just be honest with us all?

Are they hiding something because this maths and the experience of our industry just does not add up?

I am not suggesting there’s wholesale lying going on but the only other explanation is the government and the senior management of INZ do not know what is really happening in the branches and on the ground. I am not sure which is worse.

Senior managers can whine at those of us pushing for answers about what the numbers really are or they could get their act together and publish the real numbers. Don’t they want to know how they are performing?

I am calling on INZ to publish (accurately and I’d suggest weekly) in one place on their website:

1.       The number of SMC cases sitting in their yet to be allocated queue

2.       The number of residence from work cases sitting in the queue

3.       The number of priority cases within that number (1) above

4.       The number of priority SMC cases approved and declined weekly

5.       The number of non-priority SMC cases approved and declined weekly

How hard could that be? If we had those five simple metrics we could all stop firing off OIA requests tying up time of low level functionaries in Wellington who I know are often being asked the same question multiple times.

Wouldn’t it be in everyone’s interest, not least the Government's, to provide this snapshot each week when it is the government and INZ trying to convince the world, against all the evidence that the problem is demand for visas exceeding the supply of them?

What are they all so afraid of?

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

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Teacher Shortage Reaches Crisis Point

Posted by Iain on Nov. 17, 2017, 1:13 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

Auckland is running out of teachers and if you believe the noises coming out of many Principals, now might be the best time, ever, to consider New Zealand if you are a degree qualified teacher with excellent English.

Vacancies are now running at a record high of 287 today for primary level. I am not sure what it is at High school but I’d be surprised if it was much lower.

What is driving the shortage?

Three major factors have been identified including population growth, fewer teachers in training and high local house prices making the rest of New Zealand look far more attractive and young teachers who are heading south.

In the state education system teachers are paid based on their qualifications and there is no account taken of the significant differences in the cost of living between Auckland and the rest of the country.

Furthermore, trainee numbers fell from 13,615 in 2013 to 9750 in 2015.

Only this week local Principals were calling on the new Government to urgently state their position on the previous Government’s promise to offer a $7000 grant to teachers moving to New Zealand from overseas and a $17,500 bonus to any teacher that sticks in an Auckland post for three years.

The new government simply says it expects to announce a ‘package of measures’ before Christmas. Unfortunately, if the schools don’t have teachers in place now for first term 2018 Christmas for many it will be too late. Class sizes may increase in some primary schools to more than 30 children which no one believes is acceptable.

Typically, those in charge show a bias toward teachers from the UK and INZ is teaming up with the Ministry of Education to target those teachers from there that have expressed an interest in a move to NZ.

NZQA and the Education Council are also looking to fast track the registration process but again show their bias toward teachers from the UK, Ireland, Canada and Fiji.

I can never understand what South Africa, Singapore and the rest of the English speaking world did wrong to be constantly ignored in these recruitment drives. If the recent experience of the NZ Police in encouraging British Bobbies to move to New Zealand is any measure, the authorities should be careful where they go looking. 

Many of several hundred policeman who were encouraged to come over to fill vacancies never settled and many packed up and went home. Last week the Police Association all but labelled the effort a dismal failure. The Brits couldn’t hack it in many instances. Having been promised ‘lifestyle and climate’ many weren’t ready to face what can at times be serious crime or lonely existences out in the regions. The fact is for Brits New Zealand tends to be a lifestyle choice and if things get a bit tough they can just jump on a plane and head home. 

You’ll find the South African teachers stick it out – they have to – home doesn’t want them back. Singaporean teachers are generally very well suited to the classroom in New Zealand although they too can be a bit quick to head home if things get a bit tough.

Teachers used to Singaporean teaching methods can sometimes struggle in New Zealand initially but the more broad minded among them do very well. 

Surely, we want teachers that can represent the increasingly diverse New Zealand that we find ourselves in? Why this constant focus on British teachers escapes me. We aren’t a colony any more!

I am really happy that at least one Auckland school has offered a client of ours who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo a job – he will be a fine addition to the school team. He comes to New Zealand via South Africa, is fluent in English and hasn’t put his hand out for any assistance from the Government. He turned down a job outside of Auckland when the school was too slow to provide us with the information required for his work visa. We have another client from Singapore doing very well having been offered a maths teacher role sight unseen.

We have more South African teachers on their way.

Solving the acute shortage of teachers will require the bureaucrats to expand their cultural horizons a bit if they aren’t to have a lot of classes in 2018 without a teacher standing up in front of them.

A week in South Africa and most schools could fill every vacancy they have got with fluent English speaking, culturally compatible (as compatible as any Brit)  and highly motivated educators itching for to get out of South Africa by Christmas...

Until next week


Teacher Shortages Starting to Bite

Posted by Iain on July 15, 2016, 3:28 p.m. in Education

One of the unexpected consequences of Auckland's house price values and population increase in the past few years is an emerging shortage of teachers.

It is, by all accounts, really starting to bite.

Population growth has meant the government has set aside more money for construction of additional schools, classrooms and teachers particularly in, but not limited to Auckland.

The problem schools face is that many of our own local graduates are accepting jobs outside of Auckland, where on a teacher's salary they can afford to get into the housing market, something which is only going to be a dream for many young and single teachers if they stay in our neck of the woods. 

Operating a national pay scale, it matters not where a Teacher is employed in the public sector (which accounts for over 95% of all schools) but how qualified they are. So an Auckland based teacher who begins on an annual salary of around %55 000 earns the same as the teacher at the other end of the country where the cost of living is significantly lower. Average house prices in Auckland are around $900 000. The average house price across the rest of New Zealand is around $500 000. You get the picture.

Until a few years ago we were advising most teachers that get to work as a teacher without a Residence Visa or that precious work visa was possible but usually took many months to secure roles. We had a few coming through but we advised most to be very cautious and realistic about the barriers and the time frames they could expect and the uncertainties of achieving the residence dream if they were teaching.

Most schools (still) prefer locally trained teachers so ironically there has been a relative shortage of experienced teachers for a number of years; but it was the schools rather than the usual 'chicken and egg' situation surrounding jobs and work visas as the cause.

As a company, IMMagine has until recently advised our pre-primary, high/secondary and tertiary level teachers to use Australia as the 'back door' to New Zealand. We have been able to secure NZ Resident Visas off the back of Australian Permanent Residence Visas for a number of teachers. This means when they get off the plane they have full work rights and the schools will talk to them and if not offer them full time and permanent roles then perhaps as 'relief teachers'. If they cannot find anything then they could go and do whatever else they needed to in terms of work to put food on the table.

We have this year however had two high school teachers (one from Singapore and one from South Africa) secure full time and permanent teaching roles without visiting New Zealand (both got jobs in Auckland).

We are now representing a teacher from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who has been denied a visa to take up a job offered at an Auckland High School. The position he was offered was eventually filled locally after many months but the school has another vacancy going unfilled all year they have offered him.

Many schools are now reporting fewer than 5 applicants per vacancy advertised. 

How times have changed. Only four years or so ago the Ministry of Education was putting off those from overseas making enquiries about coming over as they said there were fewer teachers leaving the profession (caused by, it was believed, the global financial crisis where higher perceptions of job insecurity meant many were staying in their jobs rather than moving on).

This doesn't mean desperate school principals are standing at the Auckland Airport arrivals hall with some "Teachers Wanted!" signs, but this increasing shortage is real and presents opportunities for some teachers where few existed even 2-3 years ago.

We will likely not stop advising our clients to use the Australian 'back door' pathway as landing here with a Resident Visa trumps even a job offer and the whole NZ visa process to negotiate if a teacher finds a job. It is all about minimising risk and there is no substitute for the certainty of the Resident Visa in the hand!

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod
Southern Man 


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