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Immigration Blog

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Posts with tag: Visa pass mark

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.

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


Is the Skilled Migrant pass mark set to increase?

Posted by Iain on Oct. 4, 2019, 3:20 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Of late, and very publicly, the Immigration Department has been blaming the blow out in Skilled Migrant Resident Visa processing times to a surge in demand and a massive inflow of applications.  

I cannot help thinking that they are softening up the Minister of Immigration to increase to the skilled migrant pass mark from 160 to give themselves some breathing space to process the ever increasing backlogs that they have created. 

The reality is that there is no evidence to support the claim of significant increase in Resident Visa applications flowing into the system over the past 12 months but there is plenty of evidence that the restructuring that the Department has been undertaking over the past 12 months has been rushed and is disastrous. It has led to scores of newly employed, inexperienced and poorly trained immigration officers sitting in judgement on complex visa applications beyond their ability and capability to process. This is the single greatest factor that has led to the slowdown in decision making (we see the evidence every day).

It is this uncomfortable fact that the department does not want to concede but which I have little doubt has contributed to the blow out from 4 to 6 months to process most residency applications this time last year to more like 10 to 12 months today. The queues just keep getting longer.

The number of skilled migrant resident cases sitting waiting for a decision has now reached a point where there are 15,000 people waiting for decisions on their (largely) skilled residence visa applications. This is an increase of roughly 10,000 people over this time last year. INZ blames demand.

It would be easy to conclude that a points pass mark increase is warranted to slow down the inflow when you consider how many people are sitting waiting for the Visa to be processed.

Is there any evidence though of a surge in skilled migrant residence applications being filed?

Short answer is no - until early August. ‘Demand’ (being the number of people chasing the finite number of places available each year) seems to be fairly consistent over the past decade or so.

Our analysis based on the numbers below shows demand each year over the past decade is very consistent — it fluctuates but there’s no obvious evidence of any spike in demand.

People with applications receipted for processing were

2009/10  30,700

2010/11  23,500 

2011/12  23,400 

2012/13  24,000 

2013/14  24,000

2014/15  28,000

2015/16  32,800

2016/17  27,200

2017/18  21,500

2018/19  26,400

 Interestingly, the two months of August and September 2019 saw the number of applications receipted into the system for processing jump to an astonishing 7000. It is very hard to pin down where these have come from because extrapolate those two months out to the end of the 12-month period and those two months of receipts would suggest there will be 42,000 odd lining up for a resident visa.

Given average decline rates of resident visa applications, the final number of Resident Visas issued will be much lower and likely be closer to 34,000 — which is still a lot higher than the existing ’target’. For reasons I won’t explain here I predict a significant increase in decline rates over the coming months.’

INZ increased ‘pool’ selections to around 630 Expressions of Interest - note not people - from 550 each fortnight back in March, and the Resident Visas applications that will have followed, would absolutely contribute to the 7000 people added through August and September, but does not begin to explain the sudden and massive increase in people being receipted into INZ’s system.

Increased selection numbers and a 30% lower annual target of skilled migrants cannot begin to explain the massive increase in either the alleged surge nor the time it takes INZ to process these visas.

These historical data illustrate no significant increase in applications flowing INZ’s way over the past year— the reason INZ has so many cases on hand waiting for a decision seems to be better explained by INZ’s inability to process them.

The two month August-September 2019 snapshot of 7000 new ‘people’ sitting in the system presents an interesting ‘blip’ and I cannot explain why there has been such a significant jump. I suspect it is more administrative than some sudden surge in demand.

Those two months however might still be reason for INZ to suggest to the Minister that to get on top of the ’delays’ in processing, a pass mark increase from 160 might be nice. For the Department perhaps to save a little embarrassment, certainly not the employers and the economy of NZ.

After all, the Minister and the Government would likely prefer to sell the line that it is time for a ‘bit of a breather’ so they have decided on a ‘modest’ increase in selection point to 180 or more…as demand for places is outstripping the target’ Even if it isn’t strictly true.

Thinking about the political ‘optics’ blaming increased demand would always be preferable to this Government than admitting that under its watch the Immigration Department has descended into chaos following its recent restructuring requiring the employment in New Zealand of legions of new immigration officers who are quite clearly not equipped with the knowledge to process cases as quickly as in previous years.

What Minister would want to admit the ongoing INZ restructuring is the real cause of applications piling up? After all the work flow ‘in’ has not increased until 8 weeks ago, yet INZ is only now allocating (most) skilled Migrant Category cases received in December 2018! There was no increase in demand last year based on INZ’s data.

If there is a pass mark increase, the markets will freak and we know how easy it is to turn the migrant tap off and how much harder it is to turn it back on.

If, as Minister of Immigration Lees-Galloway keeps saying (as did his National Party predecessor before him) ‘it isn’t a numbers game, it’s a quality game’, then the pass mark should stay where it is and INZ should be told to pull its delivery socks up. Such a decision also has political risks for the Minister of course if (when?) the Department doesn’t.

It should not be forgotten when thinking about this speculative piece, we are heading into an election year next. Our Deputy Prime Minister (‘Mr 5-7%’ of the popular vote) is one who will be reaching for the well-worn speech he dusts off every three years proclaiming we let in too many migrants in order to secure another three years of influencing our nations policies. A selection point increase now with the associated ‘look, we are cutting back’ message would surely play well to his old, white base and boost his re-election chances in 2020….

And the Labour Party, which currently only governs at that politician’s pleasure is unlikely to want to deny him given he is the difference between them ruling or observing from the side lines.

What is clear to me is that demand is not driving up processing times — it’s INZ’s failure to be able to deliver decision making at the same rate it historically has. How they manipulate that and how the Politicians weight up the political and economic risks will determine whether the skilled migrant pass mark is going to be increased.

I’d say the risk they’ll put it up to save embarrassment is increasing by the day.

I am not saying the pass mark will increase. I am saying I can see the Department agitating for it and politicians thinking blaming ‘migrant demand’ for the situation created by internal departmental chaos, sounds a whole lot better than taking responsibility for the processing chaos created under their and the bureaucracy’s ‘leadership’.

Until next week 

Iain MacLeod

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Take Me Home, Country Road

Posted by Myer on July 20, 2018, 8:16 p.m. in Australia

And the place where you belong, contrary to what the song would indicate, is not West Virginia, but Geelong, Adelaide, Hobart or any other part of Australia that is “regional”.

Recent changes to Australia’s skilled migration program is going to have the effect of placing more of you on country roads than ever before.

Figures just released evidence that Australia accepted approximately 162,000 permanent migrants in 2017/18, down from about 183,000 the year before, and well below the 190,000-a-year quota. Net migration was 240,000 but this includes those who are not only arriving as permanent residents but those on visas allowing a stay of 12 months or more, which is a fair number of people to accommodate in terms of accommodation, transportation, healthcare facilities and education facilities.

We also learned this week that Australia’s population is set to reach 25 million in August 2018 some 24 years earlier than predicted in 2002.

Australia’s larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from congestion, infrastructure that cannot support a growing population, rising property prices (although having said that, at time of writing property prices in Melbourne and Sydney are forecast to decrease by 1 – 2%) and in the context of these issues migration to the larger cities is said to be adding to the burden.

Yet on the other hand, Australia has a shortage of skilled people in regional areas. Regional areas would constitute some of the smaller cities in Australia such as Adelaide and Hobart as well as anywhere outside of the metropolitan areas of Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Perth to name a few.

Since late 2016, job vacancy growth in regional areas has outstripped vacancy growth in our largest cities. According to the latest Internet Vacancy Index released by the Australian Government, vacancies in regions have grown by 20 per cent since February 2016 compared to only a 10 per cent increase in our largest cities.

These growing vacancies are occurring across a range of job opportunities. 

This is the context in which some of Australia’s recent policy changes have taken place aimed at reducing the number of migrants destined for Australia’s major cities and encouraging migration to smaller cities and towns. These changes include:

  1. A more restricted list of occupations that is available for nomination by an employer for permanent residence for those with jobs in non-regional areas (metropolitan areas)
  2. An increase in the pass mark for general skilled migration visas (points tested visas that do not require offers of employment) from 60 to 65 points on 1 July of this year. This may not sound like a significant increase however as state sponsorship for the regionally sponsored 489 visa is worth 10 points and state sponsorship for the non-regionally sponsored 190 visa is worth 5 points there is an added incentive for many more people to seek regional state sponsorship.
  3. A greater number of state governments listing more occupations available for subclass 489 visas only
  4. The addition of the regional occupation list which stipulates that certain occupations can only be sponsored by state governments for 489 visa applications.
  5. A number of positions normally available for independent 189 applications has been made available to those New Zealand citizens living in Australia for a period of five years more, earning a threshold income and paying tax although this type of change really just means swapping profiles of applicants from skilled migrants overseas without job offers to Kiwi’s who are onshore with job offers and paying tax.

As most of these changes have occurred in the months April– July 2018 they are to soon to have caused the reduction in permanent migrants in 2017/18, from 183,000 to 162,000 and their effects both in terms of the annual quota of permanent migrants as well as the effects on diverging migrant flows from metropolitan to regional areas is yet to be felt. 

In fact it may take some time before the true effects of these changes are felt because of transitional provisions available to those on work visas in Australia at the time these changes came into effect. Those on temporary 457 visas still have a greater number of occupations to transition to permanent residence and it could be as much as 4 years before the full effect of the changes take place.

It’s therefore ironic that we are having a debate about migration numbers in the context of some of the harshest changes to immigration policy that I have seen in the last nine years.

It is, however, overdue that we should have an informed debate about population size and whether the vision for Australia is a “big” Australia, or “sustainable” one as some of the terms that politicians have been bandying about and to then design in immigration policy designed to meet that target. Instead of what we have been doing the past is to come up with an arbitrary annual quota because in the absence of a formal population policy, Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy.

For the foreseeable future I expect that there will be more Van der Merwes, Singhs and Lees found enjoying the country lifestyle of Australia.

- Myer Lipschitz, Managing Partner (Melbourne Office)


The Numbers Don't Lie

Posted by Iain on June 22, 2018, 1:18 p.m. in Immigration

Back in February I predicted that in the current immigration year (1 July 2017–30 June 2018) New Zealand would undershoot its target of skilled migrants by many thousands of people. I was quietly scoffed at by some, but it seems I was right. As we approach the end of the current immigration year, the Government has approved 9,352 resident visa applications. Statistically, each Skilled Migrant resident visa application covers around 2.1 people, so of their stated target of 27,000, the Government has badly undershot that by around 8,000 people, or roughly 35%. I’d call that a big fat failure at a time when the economy continues to create thousands of skilled jobs each and every month and we need every skilled migrant we can get to come and live here. Demand to move here is as strong, if not stronger, than ever. 

I explained in a previous post why the Government of the day increased the pass mark (points required for residence) in October 2016 from 100 to 160 for those with jobs to come to. It had little if nothing to do with ‘raising the quality’ of applicants as the spin doctors and politicians argued so much as blocking the residence pathway the Government had promised to tens of thousands of international students that were completing their studies and taking the government up on its offer of a work visa and then residence. The sheer numbers (it was around 100,000) put at risk sinking the skilled migrant ship, and rather than ‘fess up’ and admit they made a residence pathway offer they simply couldn’t deliver to so many, the Government had to find a way of getting rid of those tens of thousands. The solution was neat if not cruel – push the pass mark up to a level where your average recent 24-year-old University graduate, even with skilled employment in NZ, could not reach. 

That ‘problem’ had its solution but that does not explain why the pass mark has not been allowed lately to settle back to where it mathematically wants to be – which by my calculation is around 120. If the government is undershooting its own target (they used to call it a quota) why, when we need every skilled migrant we can find, when the construction industry alone is reported to be short of 40,000 skilled workers, is the pass mark being held artificially high keeping out around 8000 badly needed people?

I’d suggest the answer is in part a Government comprising three political parties that campaigned last year to a greater or lesser extent on cutting migrant numbers. One was so stupid (but not as stupid as the 7% of voters that believed them) as to promise once in power they would cut migration by ‘80%’. One, the Greens, were a bit all over the place but wanted fewer numbers and the third, the Labour Party, never disavowed the mainstream media that thought when they campaigned on cutting migrant numbers by 20,000 – 30,000, they were talking about cutting places for international students, not skilled migrants.

It would be politically difficult, if not impossible now to let the pass mark fall to where it naturally wants to be so their own target of 27,000 visa approvals could be met. They’d be crucified in the media for their contradictory positions – they acknowledge today that we need thousands of skilled workers to come to the country and help us but at the same time they promised their base that they’d cut the numbers….  Oh, the webs politicians weave!

The reality is, and I suspect against their own better economic judgement because the major party in the troika only got 33% of the vote and are only governing at the pleasure of ‘Mr anti-migrant 7%’, the Leader of NZ First and bizarrely our Deputy PM, being the timid and weak bunch they are, they will not stand up to him because they know they’d risk losing their grip on power.

I cannot see them having the guts to let the pass mark fall any time soon and will wait long enough to hope the people that voted for them and the other two parties might think a lower pass mark that allows us to fill the 27,000 places is a good thing for the economy. When that might happen is anyone’s guess.

Across the ditch in Australia, real cuts in skilled migrant numbers have also recently been confirmed by their statistics despite denials they have been doing so.

Australia will undershoot their own target of 190,000 resident visas by tens of thousands this immigration year. While the Australian economy isn’t as healthy as the NZ one and we are creating in NZ half the number of jobs each month as Australia, despite their economy being six times the size of ours, they too need the skills their artificially high pass marks are keeping out.

We have been advising those we consult with for many months now, that where mathematically (based on the number of applicants chasing a finite quota of places for each nominated occupation), the points required for most skilled occupations should be 60 i.e. the minimum possible, most are in fact at 75 points and are clearly being held artificially high.

This cut is further evidenced in the fact that around 2000 Expressions of Interest need to be selected each round to achieve their annual quota (or ‘ceiling’ as the Politicians now refer to it). They have for most of this year been selecting 300 per selection round. If you are not selecting 1700 EOIs each draw when that is what historically you did to to achieve your annual intake, and tell me that is not a ‘cut’, I say you need to look in the Concise Oxford Dictionary on what the definition of a cut is.

It is true that some of the annual 190,000 places have been taken up by New Zealanders living in Australia because after years of pressure by our Government, that lot finally decided to offer a pathway to PR of Australia for some New Zealanders who had been living and contributing to Australia for a number of years. That doesn’t explain the massive cut in EOI selections however.

Securing a pathway to Australian residence is critical for many because Kiwis are treated as third class citizens in Australia and do not enjoy all the same benefits and advantages of others living there permanently.  Or, it is often pointed out, the tens of thousands of Australians moving to and living in NZ who from the day they get off the plane enjoy practically everything Kiwis enjoy in terms of access to education, health and social security.

As always, we have politicians both sides of the Tasman Sea letting the politics of immigration get in the way of good economic policy. 

In Australia, I genuinely believe it is because Aussies are, to be polite, more politically ‘sensitive’ to migrants than we are in NZ, which if you believe migrant surveys is more tolerant and welcoming for the most part. They also have a political system where single issue parties or even a single politician can decide which party governs and which does not.

In NZ, we suffer these lies and half-truths because neither of the biggest parties can ever get to the 48% of the votes they need to govern alone (owing to the quirks of our voting system 48% would get you into power with a majority of seats and none seem able to get to more than 45%) and they require a minor party to prop them up. In NZ that tends to be our one small party (‘Mr 7%’ who is currently polling 3%) that campaigns every three years on slashing migrants numbers – and given they never fight for it in coalition negotiations, seemingly lying about it – but it is they who hold the balance of power.

So, we find ourselves on both sides of the Tasman Sea with skilled migrant numbers being slashed at a time when both Governments try and tell us they have done no such thing. And both economies need every single skilled migrant both countries can attract.

To them I say, the numbers don’t lie. 

If you believe skilled migrants are, if not good for the economy and society, then at least needed, let the pass marks fall to where they naturally want to be based on the annual quotas/targets/ceilings and give the businesses of both NZ and Australia the skilled workers so many are screaming out for. 

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod, Southern Man

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Danger in the Pool

Posted by Iain on Nov. 24, 2017, 4:27 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the water after the Skilled Migrant changes earlier this year in both New Zealand and Australia, it seems that you might need to think again.

Both countries allow applicants to file Expressions of Interest and enter their skilled migrant pools – in Australia you need a minimum of 60 points and in New Zealand, 160, (we give more points to qualifications and work experience but the type of person with those scores will be very similar). In both countries the immigration year begins on 1 July.

New Zealand targets 27,000 skilled migrants per year with a variance of 10%. Between the start of the immigration year and 3 November, New Zealand approved and issued around 4,100 resident visas. If you annualise that you’ll see that it will barely reach 50% of the stated target. That is not to tell the whole story however. We had clearly signalled that there would be no pool ‘draws’ for six weeks through to late August as the new system was reset. This saw three draws skipped. 

It may be that numbers recover in the months to come but given the difficulties I have written about so often about the disconnect between the visa process and the labour market (employers want work visas but Government won’t give work visas without jobs for the most part), the jury is out on whether New Zealand will reach its self-declared quotas this year.

I see no prospect of pass mark increases.

The question is whether we will see it fall. If so when the politicians will let it as unemployment continues to fall rapidly in NZ. It is now down to 4.6% which effectively means if you want to work there is a job with your name on it.

We are continuing to find that in the significant majority of cases our English speaking and experienced clients are finding jobs in 8-10 weeks. If all migrants are doing the same then I think that there is a chance the pass marks may not need to fall and the next few months will confirm that.

Over in Australia things have taken a bizarre turn in recent times.

The Aussies, never ones for originality, took the NZ skilled migrant system – Expressions of Interest (EOI), a pool, selection and invitation, modified it and I believe are seeing the first signs of it falling apart.

Historically to meet their own skilled migrant quotas (which are not national quotas like NZ where you compete against everyone chasing one of those 27,000 places, but occupation quotas – you compete against those in the same ‘nominated occupation’ as you).

Historically, the Australians needed to select 2000 EOIs each selection period. They have cut that in half since July 1. Inexplicably or with an arrogance that one might suggest is misplaced, they feel no obligation it seems to ever explain what they are doing, nor why. The implications of cuts to the numbers being selected means more people are fighting for fewer places and that pushes up pass marks.

One might speculate they might be doing this to push applicants toward state sponsorship. It would be nice to know.

In Australia, each State or territory has its own ‘in demand’ occupation lists so there is the possibility the Federal Government is in effect abandoning their own national occupation targets and devolving the decision on which skilled migrants get into Australia to the various  States. If they are it makes some sense. I’ve never understood how some bureaucrat in Canberra can possibly know how many Primary School Teachers, Electrical Engineers or Software Developers the economy needs over the next year.

State sponsorship has the advantage of creating greater certainty for our clients as the pass mark for those with state sponsorship is fixed at 60.

Further, the Australian Government recently decided, again without explanation, not to do a pool draw. This has huge implications on many levels. We have at least one client in the pool (after racing the clock to get him to that point following a Herculean effort by our team in Melbourne) who turns 40 any day now. At that point, while he will still secure a Permanent Resident Visa, it won’t be the ‘live wherever you wish’ visa, but a State Sponsorship visa which requires him to have an ‘intention’ to settle, or at least spend two years in that state. He doesn’t have to live there, the law on that is clear, but he is expected to ‘give it a go’ (whatever that means).

If the Australian Government does not offer greater certainty to applicants they’ll lose people they say they need as more and more choose countries where a plan offers greater certainty.

We also suspect that Australia is suffering a flood of fraudulent or at least mischievous EOIs. Whereas in NZ you pay to file an EOI, in Australia you don’t. I have always thought this invited frivolous applications. When there is no skin in the game there is nothing stopping people filling as many EOIs as they like.

If they claim the pass mark they must be selected. Equally stupidly, unlike NZ, being selected from the pool leads to an automatic and guaranteed Invitation to Apply for residence. We believe that this is the reason that the pass mark for Accountants for example shot up to 85 points despite the annual quota of places being doubled this immigration year. The pass mark at the end of the previous immigration year was 70-75. When you double the supply of places unless there is an unprecedented increase in demand (which there has not been) the pass mark should have fallen, not gone up. That strongly suggests people are filing frivolous applications. And why not? It’s free!

I hope the Aussies learn from NZ some of the lessons of running a pool system. Charge to get into it. Don’t automatically invite everyone that you select. Carry out credibility assessments. Invite them when things look credible. They’d cut down on the fraudulent and plain stupid applications if people had to pay the $500 odd that you pay to file an EOI in NZ and while credibility checks in NZ still result in large numbers of applicants being declined, our system isn’t broken.

Australia’s is. While they don’t tend to take advice off Kiwis they might want to do so on this occasion.

If they don’t, skilled migrants will continue to look elsewhere when Australia’s slowly falling unemployment rates and an improving job market for skills suggests they need these skills sets.

But hey, they’re Aussies, and since when have you been able to tell an Aussie they might not be doing something right?

Until next week...


Want Residence? Maybe You Don't Need Qualifications

Posted by Iain on May 13, 2017, 11:57 a.m. in Government

A week after receiving the new points that attach to the various skilled migrant criteria in August 2017 (and both modelling and testing in the field on over 150 consultations so far in South Africa and SE Asia this past week), it is very interesting who wins and who loses from these changes.

Clearly, owing to the new salary thresholds attaching to skilled job offers, those with entry level jobs (international graduates studying in NZ by and large) are clear losers unless the role they secure is highly skilled (think many Engineering, IT, Technical and Trades roles).

Those with more entry level and ‘white collar’ or hospitality/restaurant/tourism jobs will lose owing salaries for those sorts of occupations coming in under the new threshold of $48,800. I’m thinking Chefs, Bar staff, banking, insurance, marketing, sales, Secretaries/PAs and many of the roles in what is known as Part C of Appendix 6 (list of occupations deemed to be skilled) in the rule book.

What has been very interesting to me is how many people I am meeting who will qualify after August 14 who do not qualify today.

With the pass mark at 160 most people today require qualifications – trade, technical or academic representing 2-4 years of study.

However, come August 14, even at 160 points, many people with no (or low level) qualifications, will qualify but will usually require a job offer outside of Auckland.

Anyone aged between, say 30 and 45 years old that has ten years of skilled work experience and a skilled job outside of Auckland now scores at least 160 points. I have seen many people in this situation this week.

That leads me to ponder something I read last week in the paper Immigration Department officials sent to the Government in which they said they believe that these points ‘spreads’ would deliver the government their target of 27,000. I was sceptical of that and to some extent I still am given the sheer numbers of international graduates that have been swamping the SMC pool in recent years, who are now going to struggle to qualify but there might be something to it.

That has led me to conclude the pressure on Government to drop the pass mark to achieve its targets might not be as great as it was nor the need to do so in the short term so great.

That reinforces my belief that there will be no pass mark fall before the election in September – the Government won’t wish to be accused of not going tough on immigration (even though they really haven’t). 

As mentioned in previous blogs the media swallowed the ‘toughening and cutting’ line hook, line and sinker even though Government hasn’t (and has no intention of) cutting a single visa from the NZ Residence programme.

And what does all of this tell you?

International graduates from NZ institutions were a problem that needed to be dealt with. They were the ‘problem’ for the Government and the new points and salary thresholds has eliminated the problem.

What we will see over the next few months is a return to the historic profile of skilled migrant NZ traditionally sought – those aged 30-45 won’t need qualifications to get in.

If you have any questions about your eligibility -use theis link to order an assessment of your options: http://www.immagine-immigration.com/assessments/full-assessment/

 

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


When will the Skilled Migrant pass mark drop (and why)?

Posted by Iain on Feb. 10, 2017, 3:18 p.m. in Immigration

A few people have asked me recently why I believe the skilled migrant pass mark will fall from 160.

The short answer is because it needs to.

My analysis can be found in the maths of the passmark calculations and a little bit of faith that the New Zealand Government is both serious and committed to issuing 27,000 resident visas under this category, which it continues to publicly state is its target.

Historically, for New Zealand to issue 27,000 resident visas in any 12 month period, they have had to select around 700 Expressions of interest each fortnight from the ‘pool’. Each EOI accounts for a little over 2 people. So, they select 700 EOIs covering say 1450 people every two weeks, and they do it 25 times a year (they skip one pool draw around Christmas/New Year). If all those selected were approved and granted Resident Visas that would mean around 35,250 resident visas issued in any 12 month period.

Which in turn tells you that more EOIs must be selected than are needed to fill the annual quota because many get no further than selection (they over claim or misclaim points and are either declined or thrown back into the pool by INZ following their selection as a result - it happens a lot). If they are lucky they will be invited to apply for residence based on a claim that looks credible but turns out not to be. 

Of those invited to apply for residence, we know something like 40% will never be offered or granted a resident visa and will be declined. 

There are many reasons for this - applicants often cannot satisfy INZ that the evidence to back their points claim is genuine, relevant, material or verifiable - each being a reason to knock points off - and decline. Furthermore, many people who had the pass mark at selection but did not have a job offer subsequently declined the offer of a job search work visa when INZ decided not to grant them residence at the end of the process. Finally INZ often makes poor decisions and it is they and not the applicant that gets things wrong.

So many more EOIs have to be selected because of the very high (some might suggest scandalously so) rejection rate.

Since the automatic pass mark increased to 160 from 140 back in October last year, each pool draw has seen around 350/360 EOIs selected each fortnight. This is simply because there are far fewer EOIs in the pool with 160 point claims.

So, extrapolating those selection numbers out to the numbers you might expect will be approved, it all points not to 27,000 resident visas being issued, but more like 15,000. Way below target.

I have little doubt there will be those in the pool that might, whilst swimming around, be able to legitimately claim additional points (you can edit your claim whilst in the pool). This may lead to higher numbers being selected. In recent weeks there was one draw for example where around 400 EOIs were selected. So, there is evidence of people ‘upping’ their points while in the pool.

Equally however as more people try and squeeze out more points, even more will be rejected following selection because they are not eligible for those points. We are seeing more and more of this when people come to see us.

If this whole process was objective and based purely on numbers the pass mark simply has to fall at least back to 140.

My best estimate of the earliest this will be allowed to happen is the end of April but I expect it will be later.

I have written before that it is clear the pass mark was shunted so high to ‘flush’ the pool of, in particular, large and increasing numbers of young, inexperienced, international graduates in New Zealand with (on the face of it) skilled job offers. Many thousands of graduates that did what our government, in partnership with local education institutions and their crooked offshore education agents sold them, came here, did courses that lead to a work visa as part of the deal when they finished their course and who - naturally - wanted residence. So they found or bought ‘skilled’ job offers to get them to into the pool with what they expected would be the pass mark. 

Increasingly they dominated ‘selectees’ from the pool through 2015 and 2016 and Government decided (correctly in my view) had to be removed because they were starting to crowd out what the system calls ‘higher quality’ migrants. 

So the pass mark was pushed up high enough that they would never be selected. 

An EOI stays in the pool for six months and if not selected, it lapses. Six months from the pass mark increasing to 160 is the end of April. By then thousands of these mainly young, often Indian graduates will have been flushed out of the system. Objective of the Government achieved (without looking like they had stabbed their international student customers in the back).

My pick for when the pass mark will be allowed to drop won’t be the end of April, it will be when the new skilled migrant criteria are released. We are told to expect these in July.

These new rules are going to make it far more difficult for recent graduates to get the points required - they’ll likely get less points for their age and their jobs often wont pay enough to meet the new definition of ‘skilled’ employment.

So, if it were purely maths driving the process the pass mark would fall now as the annual target is not going to be met at current selection levels.

Given however the Government has to dig themselves out of a hole they created by offering this (well intentioned but naive) study to work to residence pathway, coupled with this being an election year, is where my scepticism tempers my maths.

If the government is willing to box its corner, acknowledging the mismatch between the jobs being created here and the availability of locals to fill these vacancies, then we need at least 27,000 skilled migrants, their spouses and children every year and they will drop the pass mark in July when their new rules come out.

If they are really bold it could be as early as the end of April but being bold, being politicians and this being an election year tends to rule out anything resembling boldness. Especially when it comes to being ‘pro’ immigration. 

If they are looking a bit shaky in the polls my bet is they will let the pass mark fall quietly just after the election in September.

Here at IMMagine we have been able - even at 160 points - to give virtually all of our clients a solution that will get them residence or keep them here till the pass marks fall.

For others trying to negotiate this complex process on their own, this is for you.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


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