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Immigration Blog

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Immigration Blog

Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork; its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people. Understanding Australia & New Zealand at a grass-roots level is paramount to your immigration survival, and to give you a realistic view of both countries, its people and how we see the world, as well as updates about any current or imminent policy changes, subscribe to our regular blog posts by entering your details below.

Let's not squander this opportunity

Posted by Iain on Oct. 2, 2020, 1:20 p.m. in Elections

Two weeks out from our general election we continue to see pressure being brought to bear on our political leadership to acknowledge and perhaps do something about immigration policy settings and what skills should be allowed to enter the country. Too late me thinks. The silence of the major parties in addressing our skills shortages and what we want out of immigration over the next few years is deafening.

Only this week the head of NZTech echoed my recent thoughts - (slowly) rising unemployment and a commitment to spend more on tertiary education is not a short term fix to the chronic and worsening shortage of IT skills. Labour market shortages and skills shortages can be quite different beasts. Unemployment might still be 4% (and potentially slowly rising) but that does not fill vacancies for software developers, systems analysts, testers, architects and the like. In the short term there’ll be some ‘musical chairs’ as locals lose one opportunity and take up another. Overall however we are not adding to the skills pool.

Thanks to the border closure around 5000 fewer highly skilled IT workers will not be coming to NZ this year. There was, earlier this year around twice that many IT jobs being advertised each month across the country. Already medium to large employers in this sector are struggling to fill vacancies. Our Universities only produce half the graduates needed to fill the thousands of jobs being created in this sector every year. Even if a few thousand 2020 school leavers decided they’d like to enter this field and went to University in 2021 we won’t see them graduate for three years and possibly four. Even then they are going to need a few years in the real world developing and hiring their skills because employers are not looking for truckloads of junior developers, they need the six or seven years of experience most skilled migrants bring with them.

To the IT sector you could equally add Construction with calls this week from employers struggling to fill construction and project management roles - all paying six figures. Then there’s the education sector with the country still 1500 teachers short across pre, primary and secondary schools. To that we can add agriculture with over 1000 manager jobs available and unable to be filled. Companies are still screaming for tradesmen/artisans - another workforce rapidly ageing and moving toward retirement.

If we don’t import the skills, how will these sectors thrive?

When every mid leveled IT job supports 4.5 other jobs what’s the downside?

The Government recently announced a $1.6 billion increase in spending on free apprenticeships. The only problem is they are about four years too late - the critical shortage in this area has been around for 30 years. Why did it take Covid to spur the Government into action? Even if young and not so young people take up the call (and history suggests they won’t with 74% of subsidised apprentices not completing their trade certificate) the labour market is still around four years away from them being qualified.

With a very a recent and widely unreported survey showing that New Zealanders support for immigration as a positive influence on the country running at a historical high it still perplexes me why no political party has published any sort of detailed immigration policy for the Covid world in which we now live. Plenty of promises about virtually everything else but nothing about what each party’s immigration policy might look like given the upheaval of recent months.

Every three years Government undertakes a ‘first principles’ review of our major immigration policies. Parents one year. Business Investors the next. This year the turn was to be for the Skilled Migrant Policy. As far as I am aware that has not taken place. No doubt the functionaries will tell us its because of Covid disruption, a very convenient excuse for no action.  This Government wasted its first two years making a song and dance about the relatively insignificant issue of ‘migrant exploitation’. There was never any real evidence it was a significant issue, yet it tied up whatever Ministerial interest there was in this portfolio until the Minister resigned.

There could not be a better time, nor a greater need for that first principles review of the skilled migrant policy.

We should be asking ourselves if the policy is working.  How it could be improved? How we might better integrate work and visitor policy with the labour market driven skills migrant policy in which getting a job is critical to success? How does international ‘export’ education feed into the migrant flows? Should we be dishing out graduate work visas to International students? Where do the lower skilled but no less valuable occupations like aged care or teacher aids fit into our long terms needs with an ageing population?

Is the policy even working?

I’d argue that the skilled migrant pathway is net positive for New Zealand but very hard on migrants. I often describe the process as ‘Darwinian’ and the survival of the fittest - those that are successful have the linguistic skills, the cultural capital, personal resilience, the financial wherewithal and skills to pass the ‘test’. Even for them the process takes its toll and migrants get precious little credit for bringing us their skills, energy and enthusiasm. Lord knows we make it hard enough to get the best. The country gets people that not only really want to build a future here but are wanted by the labour market. On paper it works for us.

That is not to say it couldn’t be improved in terms of a process as I have written about before.

Immigration policies this election, perhaps more than any other, demanded a rethink about who we let in, why we let them in and in what quantity we let them in. So much flows from that - think about housing, how many new schools we might need to build, infrastructure planning and build, health needs, hospitals and so on. Every decision any government must make flow from the number of people it is elected to serve.

I cannot fathom a country where immigration is viewed as a positive force for good by the significant majority, a country that so overwhelmingly welcomes new migrants, but that keeps squandering the opportunity by planning an active immigration policy rather than one that is reactive.

This is yet another missed opportunity by all the major and not so major parties to articulate a long term vision of what New Zealand might look like, literally and figuratively, in 10, 20 or 30 years from today. And to then plan for it and deliver it.

Alas we continue to be caught in this three-year electoral cycle where change is incremental and at snails pace. 

All the while skills shortages will grow worse and that will hold us back as we grow our way out of this Covid induced recession.

Until next week

 

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

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Immigration policies for NZ's election

Posted by Iain on Sept. 18, 2020, 1:29 p.m. in Elections

 

A month out from possibly the most important election in decades I decided to have a look at the immigration policies of the major political parties just in case any of them might have one.

You may laugh but the reality is no major, or even minor political party for that matter, views immigration as anything more than an adjunct to everything else they want to see happening in the country. For a country with an ageing population and a rapidly changing labour market for some silly reason I keep expecting every three years that at least one party might actually not just adopt the status quo. I wouldn’t say our immigration policy settings are broken but that is not say they aren’t in need of some fine tuning.

I am doing this exercise for you because for many of you this will be your first time voting in New Zealand. Here, anyone with a resident visa aged 18 or over and who has lived here for 12 months is eligible to vote in both local and national elections. Note, there is no requirement to hold permanent residence or even citizenship to vote (how cool is that?). Nor is voting compulsory as it is in countries like Australia.

The exercise exploring what the parties were promising was complete within about five minutes.

None have anything new for this new covid world, a closed border with limited exceptions nor changing skills needs given we are now in a recession with the rest of the world….. I am not making that up. None have published any policy that suggests any change they might make beyond throw away lines and platitudes.

You might think with unemployment expected to rise to 7.5% by early next year, Government debt ballooning with the printing of billions of dollars of new money and skills shortages in large part not being alleviated by rising unemployment, that the major parties might be asking themselves if immigration might need to go in a different direction.

Apparently not.

On Labour’s website, of 18 policy categories immigration does not feature. On current polling if they aren’t governing alone they will likely be doing so with the Green Party.

Only the Green Party comes close to any sort of proposed change to the status quo - they want more refugees settled here. Fewer economic migrants and more ‘humanitarian’. At least they seem to have a direction they want to take things. Trouble for them if they get back into Parliament is they have no real power so we won’t be getting more refugees.

As Parliament’s biggest party (currently) National offers a bland statement about the importance of immigration but no detail on what it’s policies might look like. That suggest it plans no change if it leads the next Government. Unfortunately for them, they won’t be the biggest party for much longer.  Their policies, immigration or otherwise, look pretty much the same as Labour’s, but Labour has a leader with a nicer smile (and that’s all it is going to take for people to vote for her party it seems).

New Zealand First - the traditional anti-immigration party has simply confirmed they want to cut skilled migration (and always make a big deal of it every three years). This time round they want 15,000 skilled migrants per year. That represents a cut of around 10% on the existing target so hardly newsworthy or I’d suggest worth voting for if you think immigration is a bad idea.

ACT - continues the vacuous statements about immigration being ‘valuable’ (I guess that is something) and New Zealand being a nation of immigrants, but nothing in the way of policy.

The Opportunities Party - expresses the view migrants must be able to add economic value - in essence fewer lower skilled people and more skilled people (which is what we do now). They are however silent on the numbers and the mechanism for achieving it.

What is so interesting about all of this is what it says about political attitudes to migration.

Despite being a ‘nation of immigrants’ and most companies and businesses relying on imported skills and labour to some extent, political parties view immigration as a vote loser. So they don’t talk about it except NZ First. No party seems to think our policy settings need to change.

I’ve got a few suggestions (funnily enough) for them.

Operationally I’d be a little more hands on - these days it is vogue for Ministers to not get involved in operational matters but they can set the expectations.

Whichever party governs come next month should start with sorting out INZ’s IT systems if nothing else. So far $38 million has been spent over ten years but come lockdown in March, INZ ground to a halt because staff couldn’t work remotely or visas couldn’t be filed electronically. The Government has printed $50 billion of fresh money over the past four months, so I’d be directing some of this to INZ with an instruction - start again - don’t try and build an online residence processing software platform on top of your old and antiquated existing temporary visa system.

We learned recently that one of the reasons INZ couldn’t work remotely during lockdown is many of their computers still use Windows 7. I think I was 22 years old when Windows 7 was released (I am now 56). The General Manager was quoted as saying a few days ago they are going to buy a few more laptops….riiiiight, good ‘plan’….

INZ needs to abandon their stupid model of having one set of officers in one branch process one type of visa and not have knowledge of any other visa types (like we do at IMMagine). We saw the folly of that when China and India operations shut down earlier this year. All of a sudden INZ couldn’t process visitor visas any more because all of them were being processed in our Embassy in Beijing. Those officers were all sent home and were all sitting doing nothing on full pay. Still are.

I’d also suggest that the Government continue with a labour market driven ‘skilled migrant’ policy because it works in terms of only allowing in those that prove they are employable and there is little doubt being employable leads to better settlement outcomes. It makes sense to allow those who can break into the labour market stay.  However I’d reverse the order of the skilled migrant process. It has always seemed daft to me to make the very people we are looking to attract, resign jobs, jump on planes, force them to tell lies about the purpose of their visit on arrival and then make them deal with the Work Visa/Job offer ‘chicken and egg’ - you usually can’t get one without the other - then start processing a resident visa (many of which are declined). I’d be allowing applicants to file their Expression of Interest, selecting them if they are within the job offer ‘points’ of the pass mark, then invite them to apply, get them to file their decision ready resident visa application and at the end of the process give them a work visa and six months to find a job and another three to work in it - then I’d grant them and their family a resident visa. If they are successful in that job search they stay, if they aren’t, then they weren’t really needed in the labour market.

I’d also be creating a pathway to residence for people who may not be highly skilled but who are still valuable to the country. I am particularly thinking about healthcare workers like nurse aids and those that work in geriatric care but who aren’t ‘qualified’ or ‘skilled’ enough to be granted residence as skilled migrants. They might not be highly skilled but we have a shortage of these sorts of skills sets and ever increasing demand. We need an immigration policy that starts to recognise New Zealanders just do not want to do that sort of work so if we don’t import the skills and offer those people some pathway to a future here, they’ll go to another country with an equally rapidly ageing population.

In respect of the Covid response and pulling the economy out of recession as quickly as we can, I’d be opening up managed isolation to private education providers in particular Polytechnics and Universities - if they want to pay for it, fill your boots. The export education and international students are worth $5 billion to this country - or was before we shut the sector down when the border was closed.  It employed around 35,000 people most of whom will be hanging on by the tips of their fingernails right now waiting for some action from Government. Universities want the responsibility and I cannot see any reason why they cannot make it a success. Government was running our border and isolation process and we ended up with community transmission…

Alas, none of these things are likely to happen because no political party is willing to publish any detailed policy on how immigration fits into their broader economic and social planning.

If you are in New Zealand or hoping to get here, don’t worry too much about the outcome of the election on immigration policy settings.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

 

Southern Man

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Tags: politics | Elections

Skilled Migrant Backlog Explained

Posted by Iain on July 3, 2020, 12:29 p.m. in Immigration New Zealand

What is really going on with the skilled migrant category and the ever growing backlog of cases? 

Never has a queue been the subject of so much speculation and intrigue. Calls are growing louder for the government to front. To tell the truth. Hardly a day goes by without one media (mainstream or social) or another speculating on the cause of the skilled/business stream processing delays and backlogs.

I place little stock in the opinions of those on Facebook, migrant chat groups, online forums, ‘ethnic’ radio stations and even less so the MSM to actually get the answers people are looking for.

I’ve been trying for weeks to try and get a straight answer on what is really happening. I think I’ve worked it out and it is, for the most part nothing to do with ‘rising demand’.

On the one hand we have the ‘Ghost’ Minister of Immigration, using the coronavirus and the lockdown as the reason for processing delays despite the backlog and processing times being the same for the 12 months pre - lockdown as we are being told they will be post. He is either lying or just doesn’t know what is going on.

I have been engaging with a senior official on this question, who I am not going to name, nor reveal the designation of, but this person should know exactly what is going on on the ground and more importantly, is what in the media world would be called a highly reliable source.

This week I was advised that there are 14,000 skilled and business stream applications sitting in the unallocated queue, awaiting subsequent processing. This includes skilled migrant category applications (points) and those applying under the Residence from work (talent) sub streams. It covers a handful (low hundreds) of business and entrepreneur resident visa cases.

Each resident visa application historically represented 2.1 people so it means, in rough figures, there’s about 30,000 people sitting in the queue waiting for their residence to be allocated and processed, that this Government invited and encouraged to file their application.

I was advised, that when the previous residence programme ended in December 2019, INZ put it to the Minister of Immigration that unless they were advised otherwise, they’d assume the targets/quotas would be rolled over for the next 18 months. The Minister apparently responded with ‘Noted’.

That means INZ has given itself a target of 30,000 skilled and business resident visas for the period January 2020 to June 2021 to approve and issue. That’s roughly 14,000 applications over the period - the same number as the people currently sitting in the queue.

The current two year backlog only started to grow when INZ stopped allocating cases in December 2018. Prior to that it sat around 6-8 months.

Of the 14,000 cases on hand this month, only 600 are currently identified as ‘priority’, defined as those that have the principle applicant earning $51 per hour or who work in an occupation in NZ requiring statutory registration.  Even these are now taking months to be allocated.

Virtually no ‘non-priority’ cases have been allocated for processing since December 2018 despite MSM reports. Occasionally some are but we have been advised by the Residence Visa Operations Manager that such exceptions are ‘rare’ and the numbers ‘small’. One assumes statistically insignificant in the scheme of things.

As recently as this week the Minister of Immigration publicly stated that the ‘non-priority’ queue is also moving. He is, once again, either uninformed or embellishing the facts.

The bit I cannot work out and even my source cannot (or will not) clearly explain is why, when the numbers of priority applications sitting in the queue is only 600 (representing around 1,400 people) we are constantly told (officially and very publicly) that no ‘non-priority’ cases are being allocated, processed or approved by INZ.

At the same time my source tells me they are ‘on track’ to issue and approve ‘up to 30,000 resident visas’ by June 2021, but the truth is that they have only been processing the priority cases since December 2018.

The math doesn’t add up.

That’s only 40 odd cases a month being allocated. If that’s all they allocate and they approved every single one they won’t hit 30,000 resident visa approvals, they’ll hit 1400 over 18 months. That’s hardly being ‘on target’.

Even more curiously, these priority cases are spread across something like 50 case officers. They should be able to get through 600 cases in a month! And will have to to get anywhere near the target they claim to be on target to deliver.

I suspect a significant part of the answer is it is not that demand is exceeding the supply of places, as the Government and INZ has been telling us for the thick end of two years, it is, incredibly, that the department lacks the intellectual capability to process most of the cases on hand. They don’t have the knowledge and experience.

I believe that is the real reason for the increasing backlogs. A significant percentage of the case officers are not ‘fit for purpose’. I have all but been told that by my source.

We were intrigued and alarmed to learn a few months ago that within the so-called priority queue there was also an unofficial sub-priority queue covering teachers and ‘health workers’.  We couldn’t understand why there needed to be a priority queue within a priority queue. After all, all those people were on long term work visas and were not in any meaningful way in need of urgent processing. Certainly no more urgent, than say, applicants sitting on fixed term 12 month contracts (fine for a resident visa and points) and whose resident visas are not going to be allocated, processed and approved before they lose their jobs and with it, residence.

When pressed on what the justification was for a queue within a queue, my source has suggested these are, in large part, being used for training purposes because, I imagine on any visa scale of complexity a Teacher, working in NZ, is a less complex type of application for someone fresh faced, inexperienced or out of their intellectual depth to process. That's an incredible suggestion.

I think, although the source will not absolutely confirm (because this reflects pretty poorly on management as well), the real reason this backlog is growing is primarily because the managers do not believe the skills exist across the processing teams to accurately and efficiently process the cases. So the ‘easier’ ones are taking precedence. Not because they are more ‘valuable to NZ’ as INZ has told us more than once, but because they are usually less complex.

It seems then your chances of residence is now based primarily how complicated your case might look to INZ.

Adding to all of this is the fact that the previous Government cut the numbers of visas they were prepared to issue (paradoxically as the economy boomed and skills shortages worsened) and the current Government cut them even further for political reasons (to the current unofficial 30,000 people every 18 months).

The pass mark to be selected from the skilled migrant pool did not increase when both governments cut numbers as it needed to in order to not invite more people to apply for residence than there were places available. That of course, in a booming economy would have created a whole different set of issues but that is for another day (and Government policy review on the folly of a points based system in a labour market driven policy). The point is, two years ago the pass mark should have increased, or the processing backlog would inevitably grow as there is a maximum number of resident visas that can be approved.

‘Demand’ is being used now as an excuse by officials and Ministers but it is a red herring. It’s a smokescreen that no one has been able to see through. Until now.

Even with the lower target put in place by the current government the ‘backlog’ was only 6-8 months to allocate cases, so the numbers flowing into the system has not increased to the point where cases should be taking four times longer even to be allocated.

The department’s own numbers prove that is a lie.

There is now 3000 EOIs sitting in the pool. My source has confirmed that number and acknowledged that the processing ‘can’ is simply being kicked down the road. INZ doesn’t want these EOIs selected because they don’t want more cases flowing into the system because with every one that is, it makes INZ look even more hapless. And exposes the Minister and Government to more accusations they are missing in action. They aren’t chasing (another) crisis.

With INZ back at work after having to sit at home twiddling their thumbs while the rest of us were left working during lockdown, pool draws have not resumed. We were told they were stopped during lockdown because INZ wasn’t able to work.

Why hasn’t the selection resumed given INZ has been back at work for a month?

My guess is, with the shine coming off this government over border and quarantine botch ups and 8 weeks out from the election, when their (commanding) lead in the polls is falling, they will not authorise the resumption of pool draws till the election is out of the way. They are desperate to make immigration a non-issue during the election. And INZ management is not about to make themselves look any more useless than they look now by backlogs getting even worse.

INZ is never going to admit that the truth behind the backlog is a failure to have enough immigration officers with the experience, knowledge and intellectual capability to do their job. Managers clearly lack the confidence to give more than a case or two a week to these officers because they apparently believe they will make poor decisions and need a whole lot of babysitting and training.

The tens of thousands of migrants (being real people, not economic ‘widgets’) sitting in that queue, living day to day, hoping they won’t lose their job, who gave up everything to be part of this Government’s (unofficially official) programme, who were selected and invited to apply for residence by demonstrating a prima facie claim they met the criteria for approval, who have been charged $3000 plus per family by Government for the chance, are being treated with contempt.

Victims of gross political and bureaucratic mismanagement.

This is a growing scandal that the government hopes desperately to keep the lid on till after the election.

They will if we all let it.

Until next week.

Iain MacLeod

 

Southern Man

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Kia kaha

Posted by Iain on Feb. 14, 2020, 4:22 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Kia kaha.

In Maori this means "stay strong”. It is one of those terms that has found its way into every day usage in New Zealand. I love it. It speaks to where I come from and the work that I do. People everywhere are freaking out over the skilled migrant resident visa allocation and processing times, frightened by what the government might do.

At my seminars I like to paint a picture that migration is like climbing Mount Everest. It takes a lot of good planning, careful execution, patience and courage. Mental toughness is rewarded. Migration is emotional, logistically complicated and generally expensive (as in, employ a cheap mountain guide, or no mountain guide at all and your chances of summiting Mount Everest are significantly lower — indeed that decision to do it on the cheap may cost you your future).

Migrants are always tested but never more so than today in New Zealand where allocation and processing times continue to get longer and longer. I have written recently something has to give in terms of what is going on with the skilled migrant category. Foolishly the government cut the number of resident visas they wanted to approve last year but left the points pass mark at 160.

Demand is not diminishing, nor increasing (as incorrectly claimed by the Minister of Immigration recently), but by cutting numbers while keeping the pass mark the same, has led directly to these processing backlogs - most skilled migrants are going to be waiting 18 to 24 months for their residence to be allocated, processed and approved unless they work in an occupation for which they have NZ registration or are earning at least $104,000.

Backlogs in and of themselves don’t necessarily suppress demand. Having dealt with the Australian system for some years the significant majority of resident Visa applications take 18 to 24 months to process. The big difference between Australia and New Zealand however, is none of those people wanting to move to Australia have sold their houses, given up their jobs, given the dog away to their neighbour, found employment in Australia and are now sitting waiting and worrying over their Resident Visa outcome. They are all still sitting at home getting on with their lives. All the people affected by the backlog in New Zealand, are in New Zealand on work visas. They have burned plenty of bridges to be part of the Government’s residence programme (that curiously they still spend millions of dollars marketing).

These NZ migrants cannot make any long-term decisions. Many have children finishing school and wanting to go to university during the waiting period and the majority simply cannot afford to pay international fees for university. Many are having to put on hold decisions to buy houses. Some might be stuck in jobs that are not ideal but serve the residence purpose.

I find we have two kinds of clients. Those that simply suck it up, and get on and enjoy life in New Zealand having faith we know what we are doing and residence is a matter of when and not if. They appreciate the delays are not of our making. As possibly the best Advisers in the game they appreciate that all we can do is to ensure that we file decision ready applications which is what we do.

Then there is the second kind. These are the people that take it out on us. Thankfully they are a minority but it isn’t very pleasant being blamed for changes in the rules half way through the game - when we don’t write the rules. There's nothing we can do to make the government go faster but we along with the entire industry has made it very clear to the government that the current situation is unsustainable and ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

Ultimately however it is the Minister that sets the pass mark to get out of the skilled migrant pool and it is the government that sets the criteria to qualify as a migrant. As I have written about recently I have no doubt some plan is being hatched in Wellington to deal with the situation. My major concern is the solution might be politically expedient rather than economically sensible.

Every single skilled migrant requires a highly skilled job to get into New Zealand. Employers the world over prefer to employ locally simply because of the perceived or real hassle getting visas. That means the government has in that backlog people who have been able to break into the labour market, secure a job for the most part against the odds, and that says one thing and one thing very clearly - their skills were desperately needed in New Zealand by that particular employer because no employer I’ve ever dealt with will play the visa game if they can avoid it. That reality seems lost on the politicians - or they choose to ignore it for political gain.

Obviously the simplest solution is for the government to increase the number of resident visas they will issue and clear the backlog. Sell it as a good economic news story, for that is what it is. Too many jobs, not enough Kiwis to fill them.

I was thinking the other day that another solution could be to return to the multi passmark system we used to have. The way things used to work was that applicants were ranked not just on raw points total as they are today, but according to what we deem more important and valuable e.g. claiming points for a job in an occupation on a national or regional skills shortage list, or having a partner with a skilled job offer, or higher salary - the criteria themselves could be ranked. Then, at least, it is transparent.

Or consider prioritising processing in terms of the points score that people claim. The more points you claim the faster your case could be allocated. The obvious problem with that of course is people would start claiming points they are not entitled to. I would then adopt the Australian approach – a bit of a scorched Earth - if you claim it and you can't prove it you’d be declined. That would force people into getting it right up front and first time but the flip-side of that is it would require immigration officers to understand their own rules completely — and we know how bad they are at that. It is however worth considering. It would certainly force migrants to make sure they have the evidence of their points claim before filing an Expression of Interest in residence. That alone should cut down on applications that are always doomed to fail under the current system.

A simple across-the-board increase in the pass mark would obviously decrease demand for the available places but equally it's going to deprive the labour market, particularly in Auckland, of skills desperately needed that we do not produce ourselves as a country.

And that makes the simplest solution, the best. Recognise that the skilled migrant category rewards those that are able to break into a labour market that is, owing to the disconnect between employers wanting people to have work visas, but the government not wanting to grant work visas without jobs, seldom easy. The annual target of resident visas allowed to be issued should simply be increased — at least while the Government comes up with a better idea that does not hurt the economy. The government backtracked on infrastructure spending recently, perhaps they should backtrack on cutting skilled migrant numbers as well - and take the heat they will rightly get for making silly, politically motivated decisions in the first place.

If they were to do that and the economy keeps growing, then of course it creates more jobs. So arguably the problem never goes away. It’s a valid point (unless and until we can create the skills we need locally). The government should recognise that with that would come an increased demand on infrastructure, schools, roads, housing and everything else that would come with a growing population.

Well, here’s a thought — how about a population policy?

What this situation shows is it is a complex issue and you can't solve the problem unless you have an idea about how many people we want to share this land with and that demands a population policy which New Zealand has never had.

And no New Zealand government wants to have a discussion about what our ideal population might be.

So we find ourselves in a situation where the government sits on its hands when it comes to this critical issue and I continue to fear they will do something really really dumb.

Some positive news to end, however. Visitor Visas now seem to be being issued once again and we have had at least one issued this week for a South African client that was filed in mid-January. 

That's a real relief for us and our clients looking to come over and find jobs.

Remember, migration is stressful and our jobs at IMMagine exist because the process is legally complex, logistically challenging and emotionally very tough. Don't start the process if you're not up for it because there's no point getting halfway up that mountain and turning around and going back down again.  And migration is as much political for any country as it is economic so you will always be at the whim of self-serving politicians (or well-meaning but simply stupid ones) until that precious resident Visa is in your passport.

For migrants to be one of Darwin’s ‘winners’ it takes the creation of a good strategy (usually incorporating a Plan B), a steady nerve and listening to the advice that you are paying for. In our case it's normally spot on and we continue to enjoy watching over 98% of our clients come to New Zealand and find skilled jobs and go on to secure their residency.

Even if now, it is going to be a two year process.

Kia kaha. 

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


A Twig! I'm Saved!

Posted by Iain on Sept. 30, 2016, 11:18 a.m. in South Africa

I wish I could draw. As they say, a picture tells a thousand words.

If you can, picture a man floating without a life vest in the middle of a vast and empty ocean reaching out for a passing twig and saying to himself ‘I am saved!’

That’s how (as a frequent visitor and keen observer of South African society) I view the recent local Council elections in which the ruling ANC lost control of a number of major City administrations.

I think back to February this year when over 2500 people registered to attend our Johannesburg seminars on moving to New Zealand or Australia. As a result, we had to lay on four additional presentations and present six where we planned on just two in Johannesburg alone. 

That interest reflected the turmoil over the firing, replacement, firing, replacement and rehiring of a former Finance Minister in three tumultuous days causing the rand to plummet as international investors bailed out of the currency over a terrifying degree of political and economic mismanagement. That rightly put the wind up most thinking South Africans.

The DA dislodging the ANC from absolute power on a few City Councils is it seems the 'twig' tossed to the drowning man...I guess you cannot blame people for hoping for salvation when their future looks decidedly shaky.

Since I arrived here on Sunday, this is snapshot of the news stories that make it into the mainstream press:

  • The President having being resoundly slapped down by the Constitutional Court and ordered to repay millions of taxpayer rands spent on his private residence earlier this year; media reports indicate he has not yet repaid (and one suspects has no intention to).
  • Universities being torched and shut down through student protests over fee increases – as I write this a number of the country's historically top Universities including University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand have indicated they are likely to stay closed till 2017.
  • Vital infrastructure building being put off to move funds to Universities after the Government promised students no fee rises in 2016 – in at least one case, a much needed water treatment plant.
  • Train services across the country continue to be disrupted by ‘vandalism’ – a euphemism for the torching of infrastructure by those seeking to preserve vehicle taxi businesses
  • Ditto bus shelters and the buses themselves in Cape Town for the same reason
  • The country’s credit rating now one decision away from junk status by international ratings agencies
  • The loss making King Shaka International Airport in Durban is revealed as being built for the 2010 World Cup with no feasibility plan (can you imagine ever allowing such a major public project being allowed to proceed with no feasibility study?)
  • One of the local City Councils is being made virtually ungovernable one month into its mandate, it appears, by poor losing ANC Councillors. There is talk of placing it in administration.

This depressing list could go on.

This is a country where 60% of the young people have no jobs, little prospects and less hope. Where crime is rampant, corruption is deeply rooted at all levels of Government. Unemployment sits around 25% (although many people think it is much higher). The national airline, South African Airways, is flying only thanks to credit being extended by taxpayers – it cannot pay its bills out of its own income.

This is a nation of inquiries, investigations, Constitutional enquiries and rulings where getting little done but at great expense to a long suffering tax base is a national sport.

While I learned a long time ago that most people will never choose to migrate until it is too late, I remain somewhat astounded that those that can leave now, hang in. I just don’t know what they expect the future will hold.

While as human beings we naturally all prefer the security of the familiar to the insecurity of the unknown, I wonder just what it takes to shake most educated South Africans out of this lethargy.

Yesterday I met with a highly educated Zimbabwean living in South Africa. We are seeing more and more ex-Zimbabweans who were effectively forced to leave their homeland coming to see us. When we ask them why they look at us as if we are simple, their usual response is ‘we have seen it all before, this place is Zimbabwe Mark II’.

There will be many a South African who will bristle at that comparison but the parallels are stark and only a man refusing to see what is clearly in front of his face could conclude that economic salvation or rescue by a passing ship awaits.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


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