It's just a thought...
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Posted by Iain on Nov. 15, 2019, 2:29 p.m. in Education
Spending a lot of time in Hong Kong and Singapore of late, a common question has emerged in my consultations.
When I explain to those who seek residency of New Zealand under the Skilled Migrant Category that they will need a skilled job, first, in order to secure enough points and that overwhelmingly demands for around 97% of clients that they resign their jobs and head off to New Zealand only to be confronted by a very real ‘chicken and egg’ situation (no work Visa means no job but no job means no work Visa), the blood usually drains out of their faces. The truth is most people, unless incredibly committed, are simply not going to resign their jobs, fly away without their family and try their luck in the labour market no matter how employable I believe they are (although right now however we are representing over 350 families who will).
As a consequence, I often get asked the question "What if I come and study in New Zealand as a pathway to residence?’ What is very clear to me is that in markets like Singapore and Hong Kong more than a few (unlicensed) education agents, push this line hard. It is a very seductive message (and keeps the cash flowing for the agent) but I'm not always convinced it is good advice.
I believe the advice is often given because in many cases it suits the person giving the advice rather than the migrant seeking a pathway towards residence.
If the holder of a Student Visa is studying toward a Bachelor degree or postgraduate qualification, they have 20 hours per week (and more during summer holidays) of work rights while they are studying and for the most part once they've completed their studies they are given a three-year Work Visa.
Those studying a research (thesis) based Masters degree or PhD have unlimited work rights while they are studying.
I think a lot of agents and immigration adviser/lawyers sell those advantage as if it is some silver bullet in terms of dealing with the ‘chicken and egg’ situation.
They seem to be incredibly active in the Indian and Asian markets despite two or three years ago the then National Party led government, as I have written about before, stabbing tens of thousands of, mainly Indian, international students in the back by changing who could get a work Visa at the end of the study. For many years in an effort to boost the export education industry, tens of thousands of youngsters were encouraged to come to New Zealand to study relatively low level and frankly garbage 12 month diplomas, not because of the knowledge they gained but because at the end of it they could get a Work Visa. I always believe this was borderline fraudulent on the part of the government and the private sector because the reality was most of those youngsters could not get the “skilled" job they needed in order to secure the points to remain in the country.
Interestingly, when the minimum level of qualification to obtain the Work Visa at the end of the study was increased to Bachelor degree there has been no significant drop off in the number of student visas been granted. This either means the world rates our education system incredibly highly (arguably, it should) or the government dangling the ‘carrot’ of a work Visa as the pathway to permanent residency at the end of the study, remains an incredibly strong incentive.
There are certainly pros and cons.
In the pro column:
1. Work rights while studying does offset the not in significant cost of study in New Zealand;
2. Knowledge is always a good thing and if you can get that while experiencing a different culture and environment that can be an end in itself;
3. New Zealand universities generally offer a high standard of education (Auckland University for example is consistently ranked in the top 100 in the world);
4. A three year open work Visa at the end of the study does buy a lot of time to secure skilled employment.
5. A work visa in hand absolutely does speed up the process of securing employment for some
6. A qualification can of course, be an end in itself.
1. It is very expensive. A Bachelor degree is going to cost a non-resident something in the order of NZ$25,000 – $30,000 per year and most degrees will be three or four years long;
2. Living in New Zealand is not cheap and unless you have a benefactor bankrolling you with limited work rights you're either going to get into debt or your parents are going to fork out a lot of money;
3. It's all very well to have 20+ hours of work rights every week but full-time study is never easy at that level and squeezing in at least half a job can be very taxing;
4. A student Visa is a temporary Visa. The graduate Work Visa granted at the end of the three years is also a temporary Visa. Every day on a temporary Visa is one more day for a government to change the residence or other immigration rules and looking three plus years into the future is potentially a risky game to play;
5. That open Work Visa is no guarantee of skilled employment.
It is that last point which concerns me more than anything else for those choosing the study, to work, to residence, option.
Just because someone has a New Zealand Bachelor degree (or higher) does not mean the job that they get will be skilled in order to secure residence.
In particular those studying the soft subjects which don't qualify you for a particular ‘skilled’ occupation in my view should be avoided.
I think if someone is going to go down this pathway they need to study something which is going to give them, at entry level, skilled employment – I'm thinking engineering, IT, teaching, food technology and the like. Graduating with majors in Marketing, Business, Tourism or Hospitality is generally a waste of time because if you are young and you don't come to New Zealand with middle to senior level experience already, the entry level job you get on that work Visa is highly unlikely to be skilled enough to secure the points needed for residence.
For those who already have undergraduate degrees from abroad I will sometimes recommend if they do end up preferring this ‘study first’ option, to consider an MBA. It has a number of advantages - not least that you gain 20 additional points over a bachelor degree. While studying an MBA, there's going to be a lot of networking opportunities opening up and networking can often lead to jobs.
If you have a (foreign) Bachelor and a NZ MBA then there's a reasonable probability that the job you get is going to be skilled, but even that is no guarantee. There are plenty of international students who have come to New Zealand over the past decade and completed Masters degrees that cannot find skilled employment because they simply don't have the relevant work experience to get it.
Part of me says the three year graduate Work Visa option is a little more honest than the previous government's policy because three years is a long time and even if somebody graduated in New Zealand and took up a job that is not skilled enough to get residency, they may have enough time to get promoted to a position that is skilled.
The advice I tend to give most of the people that ask me about this option is that it should be Plan B. If you speak fluent English, you are a good cultural fit, you have skilled work experience already and you are resilient with a few dollars in your pocket (quite a few) then you are employable in the current market for the most part.
We are representing at any given time around 370 families all of whom need skilled jobs to get sufficient points to stay long term in New Zealand.
In the past year I think there might have been ten clients who came to New Zealand that did not find employment or did not get the right type of job. That suggests we are fairly good judges of who is likely to succeed and fail in the current labour market and although it is frightening prospect for most people to resign a job, jump on a plane and come to New Zealand and deal with ‘the chicken and egg’ it is still a quicker, cheaper more certain pathway to residency for the majority.
Not for the faint hearted and I sometimes think it is the less confident (or less well researched or advised) that end up going down what they perceive to be an easier pathway, of studying first.
Posted by Iain on Jan. 25, 2019, 3:04 p.m. in Work Visa
This week I’ve been part of a group of Advisers pulling together a submission to take to government on the proposed changes to work visa policy.
I am never quite sure whether it is worthwhile making submissions to an ideologically driven government that has certain ideas in its political head not supported by any real evidence but I've decided to chip in anyway given the importance of this issue.
What is really disturbing about the proposals is they seem to be predicated on the misguided belief that there is rampant exploitation of migrants in the labour market and therefore employers look likely to be forced to apply for accreditation with the government before any work visas can be filed. In essence, prove you are a good employer. Accreditation effectively means the government trusts that employer to do what is right by New Zealand, New Zealanders and any migrants they might be allowed to employ. On paper it's not a bad idea but in 30 years of dealing with immigration matters a good idea given to a bunch of bureaucrats to operationalise normally ends in tears.
I would make two very strong points to government.
Show us the evidence that migrant exploitation in the local labour market is so rampant it requires an overhaul of rules that seem to have served New Zealand's interests without leading to exploitation of migrants pretty well for 30 years. Show us the evidence!
I am not suggesting there aren't isolated issues but my advice to the government would be to focus on those industries including hospitality, farming, tourism and aged care. Do not make it harder for the vast majority of employers to fill vacancies in a labour market where we are creating thousands of jobs a month more than we can fill locally.
One of my suggestions as part of the submission process is that the government knows full well which industries and what sorts of businesses see isolated issues with ripping off of migrants. Surely, rather than taking the sledgehammer to the walnut and imposing an onerous process on the 95% of employers who act with honour and integrity, government should come down hard on, or perhaps create a separate work visa process for those industries where some credible independent evidence of exploitation might be proven.
The reality is any employer looking to support a work visa application today is required to present a lot of information about their workplace practices, employment history, financial viability and sustainability. Compliance checks I would argue are already rigorous enough to act as a disincentive to those employers who might be inclined to either rip off the system or a migrant.
Although it is lost on governments of our current persuasion, adding a disincentive to the significant majority of good employers who appreciate that the only real asset any of them have is their staff, is insane and an absolute overreaction.
The second point is that the immigration department is great on overpromising and under delivering. No doubt they will sweet talk the government on their ability to process all of this in a timely manner which will keep employers happy, protect vulnerable migrants and deliver on the government’s misplaced obsession about protecting migrants from exploitation. B-S they will.
Most branches of Immigration New Zealand today are quoting eight weeks before a work visa is even allocated for processing and another 6 to 8 weeks to process the actual visa. Before any of IMMagine's clients freak out the overwhelming majority are processed far more quickly than that because we know which phone numbers to call.
There is no way if these processing times become entrenched, or added to, because employers will have to file separate accreditation applications before a work Visa can be filed, that employers are going to employ migrants in the numbers they are today.
New Zealand's unemployment rate today is 3.8%. One of the discussion points that came out of this week’s meeting of Advisers, is that of the 110,000 odd people who are seeking work (apparently) the majority are basically unemployable. Interestingly this is not just because they lack the skills to fill the jobs being created but primarily because of mental health or substance abuse issues.
What is clear is that skilled unemployment in New Zealand is effectively zero if not negative. We are still 40,000 construction industry workers short if you can believe the government. We are still several thousand Teachers short.
Why does the government want to make it harder for Schools to employ teachers or small construction companies to employ carpenters, plumbers and electricians?
The proposals start to look a lot like what Australia does which has led to a very rapid decrease in the number of employers being willing to play the work visa game and which impacts directly on the economic growth and future prosperity of Australia. Like New Zealand, Australia has a low unemployment rate and this was trending down even when work visas were trending up. There is almost no link between the two. We should not make the same mistake.
In the discussion paper the Minister, without quoting or providing any evidence to back it up is of the belief that there is "some evidence" that migrants displace local workers. It is worth noting the same discussion paper also quoted international studies which state the exact opposite but why let a few facts get in the way of ideology?
Again, to the Minister if he might be reading this, show us the evidence. I have never in 30 years of practicing as an immigration adviser come across a single employer who does not want to employ a New Zealander first. There is also no evidence I am aware of, given our rigorous and wide ranging legal and other protections, that migrants are pushing down local salaries or incomes.
The current Government cabinet is full of Ministers who are either ex union officials or people who have never run their own business. They are well-intentioned people who do not understand the realities of making sure that there is one dollar more in the bank account at the end of the week than there was the beginning. They seem to be people who believe that all employers see their staff as chattels to be used and abused without understanding that without those workers the boss doesn't have a business.
I know I am going to receive a flood of emails now from current and potential clients asking me if New Zealand is closing the door to skilled workers. To them I would like to say no, that is not the intention, however as they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The immigration system is full of moving parts. Every time you tinker with or change wholesale one part of immigration policy it affects some other part of the system in a way most of the bureaucrats and politicians simply don't understand or cannot predict. Typically, in this discussion paper, there is no acknowledgement of that. Further illustration to me, if any was required of an obvious lack of understanding, on the predictable impacts these proposals will almost certainly have on the skilled migrant category if they go through. If we now create further disincentives for employers to employ migrant workers then the government will continue to undershoot its skilled migrant residency targets which are already 30% below what the government claims they want.
The government is already, rightly, coming under severe political and polling pressure for promising to build 100,000 "affordable" houses in its first 10 years in office. Anyone with three brain cells knew it was either a lie or they were on drugs when they came up with the policy. They said they would build 1000 in the first year. So far they haven't delivered a third of that. Although there are a number of reasons why it's not possible, one of the most significant is that employers simply cannot find enough skilled workers locally to fill these roles. They rely on migrants. If the government is going to make it harder by creating disincentives to those employers to recruit and employ migrants there'll be even less houses built than the government promised. And they might just end up with one term and power.
The fact that we need skilled migrants and we let employers effectively determine who gets in by making the migrant find skilled work, making the process more complex, onerous and time-consuming for the employer when the overwhelming majority of them demonstrably value all their staff equally, whether migrant or local, seems to be lost on these politicians and shows how out of touch they really are.
Until Next Week
Posted by Iain on April 27, 2018, 1:02 p.m. in Immigration
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece explaining that INZ now uses an ‘effective hourly rate’ to determine remuneration when deciding if a job is skilled or not under the Skilled Migrant Category. To be skilled, the effective hourly rate must be $24.29 to get ‘points’ for a skilled job. However, under the Work to Residence/Accredited Employer pathway, there is also a need to establish an effective hourly rate.
Strangely (or not depending on your day job), INZ approaches what is in effect the same question with two different processes.
As the new skilled migrant policy is now a few months old, we are starting to get a better idea of how INZ is interpreting this ‘effective hourly rate’ instruction which, on the face of it, seems pretty straightforward. As usual in the world of visas and bureaucrats, it is anything but.
This is owing to the fundamental reality that out here in the real world, employment contracts are not standardised and most people are not paid on the basis of an effective hourly rate but by salary or wages.
Both now must be broken down into this ‘effective hourly rate’ to determine points for skilled employment.
Employment agreements/contracts in NZ must confirm the hours an employee might, is expected to or will work (so there are three variables to begin with). To cover the possibility/probability (two more variables) that from time to time or regularly or never, (three more variables) these hours might vary; most employment agreements will say something along the lines of ‘hours of work will be 40 per week and any other such hours as might be required from time to time’. This outlines what is expected but covers the possibility that more might be necessary.
I can’t remember from my schoolboy maths what the possible total number of outcomes these variable might lead to, but it is a big number of possible permutations INZ has to deal with in deciding how many hours someone has, or wil work.
How does INZ deal with that in terms of breaking it all down to an effective hourly rate?
Not very well, is the short answer. As it turns out, it depends which office is processing it (and likely which officer) and which category of visa it is - skilled migrant or residence form work (for an accredited employer).
As it turns out, the applicants pay cycle is being used - even though you’ll find no reference to this is the ‘rule’ book.
INZ can, if it looks like there is any chance of the hours being variable and the possibility exists that the hours are not fixed, (and an officer can request evidence of actual hours worked) will attempt to calculate the hours per week. If, say, the applicant is paid monthly and in one week of that month they work an additional 5 hours, then the total hours worked in the entire month will be added up and divided across that month to give an average weekly number of hours. That will naturally then reduce the overall effective hourly rate but not by very much.
However, if the applicant is paid weekly and five additional hours are worked over the month, then the effective hourly rate reduces far more because the pay-cycle used to calculate the hourly rate is shorter i.e. one week. So this person is assessed as working 45 hours per week. The one on the monthly pay cycle is assessed as being paid 41.25 hours per week (assuming INZ works on a four week month)
How bizarre is that?
You could then have two employees doing an identical job in the same company - both are earning say $25 per hour. One is on a monthly pay cycle and works an extra five hours every month. The second also works an additional five hours a month but is paid weekly. The second one now has a job that will no longer be deemed to be skilled because once calculated, their average earnings falls below the minimum threshold to be skilled, but the first is fine. Both work the same job for the same company doing the same hours for the same gross hourly wage but the outcome is that one is granted a Resident Visa and the other isn’t...
The clear lesson here is if you are in a job where you might, from time to time, work a bit of overtime and you don’t earn significantly more than $24.29 per hour, ask your employer to put you on a monthly pay cycle.
If you are on a Talent (Work) Visa and working for an accredited employer things are a little different but INZ is, as usual, not being definitive nor helpful about how they might calculate those hourly rates.
When assessing the Resident Visa claim following 24 months in work for an accredited employer, INZ has suggested they calculats hourly rates by taking the annual amount paid, dividing that by 52 weeks and then by the hours worked as per the contract. The minimum hourly rate required to achieve the minimum salary threshold is NZD$26.45 per hour based on a 40 hour week over 52 weeks. Thus, someone being paid $55,000 (being the current minimum annual gross salary) but working 41 hours or more per week would not qualify for their Resident Visa.
There is, however, no similar clause in the 'rule book' to that in the Skilled Migrant Category in terms of how to deal with any additional hours that might be required to be worked contained in the employment agreement when calculating additional hours.
INZ has vaguely suggested that they may request evidence of actual hours worked at Residence stage for a Work to Residence applicant, and then add the total actual hours worked across the entire period (2 years) and divide that by 104 (being 52 weeks x 2) to determine the actual hourly rate.
So two different divisions of INZ are tasked with calculating remuneration and both apply different assessment measures to establish effectively the same thing.
I don’t know how I still have any hair.
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod, Southern Man
Posted by Iain on April 20, 2018, 4:19 p.m. in Immigration
Sources have confirmed that Cabinet recently signed off on changes to the Accredited Employer/Work to Residence Policy. Details are yet to be made public but will follow soon enough.
Accreditation has historically been given to employers who are able to demonstrate - amongst other things - that they are worthy of this trusted status with the Immigration Department. Trusted to do the right thing by New Zealand and New Zealanders, which includes recruiting locally where possible, training and upskilling, offering opportunities to those already working at the companies, having solid Human Resource processes and practices, being financially stable and have had no issues in terms of employment disputes, problems with unions, workers’ rights and so on.
This policy was created a few years’ ago to provide a Work to Residence pathway for people with jobs that in recent times paid a minimum of $55,000.00 per annum. The idea behind it being that there are those who come to New Zealand and find work who make a very valuable economic contribution to that company and the country but who may never get enough ‘points’ to qualify for Residence under the Skilled Migrant Category or whose jobs are not defined as “skilled” under the points system. It was meant to compliment the Skilled Migrant Category objectives and appears to my mind to have worked well.
Accreditation has been a great tool for companies that have ongoing recruitment needs that cannot be satisfied locally. There is no labour market test attached to the resulting talent Visa applications which means employers haven’t needed to keep proving they cannot find staff in NZ but made a genuine effort to do so. In an extremely tight labour market where thousands more jobs are being created each month than there are people to fill them, offering this work to residence pathway is one way to help a company retain staff.
From the migrants perspective this Talent visa - which is a 30 month work visa - allows them to apply for a resident visa after 24 months. Partners and children are also granted temporary work and student visas and so receive access to the same care I receive and their school age children are treated as domestic students in terms of cost of education (paid for out of their taxes for the most part).
It is potentially a really good option for a lot of companies in a country where we simply don’t have enough people to fill the jobs being created while at the same time offering a more certain pathway to residence for those willing to commit and prove their value over that two years.
Around a year ago, I had an interesting conversation with the then Manager of the Business Migration Branch, the unit of Immigration that assess Employer Accreditation applications. I was asked if I’d seen any increased interest or activity in the market in respect of employers wanting to know about accreditation. I confirmed that I had not but it seemed fairly obvious to me, given the pass mark for Skilled Migrants had recently increased so dramatically, that employers in an increasingly candidate-short local labour market would turn to other avenues to secure the services of non-Resident staff in order for their businesses to keep expanding and growing. So I was expecting to see an increase. I added that we were encouraging more and more companies to consider accreditation, especially to find a solution for those clients already on the ground in New Zealand on Essential Skills Work Visas, who were perhaps 10–20 points short of the new pass mark of 160. A few took us up on the suggested advice, most rolled over and went back to sleep.
The Branch Manager expressed some concern that perhaps his unit would be overwhelmed with applications from employers to get this special status and suggested it was already starting to happen. I asked what the problem with that would be given this pathway was created as an alternative to the Skilled Migrant Category. It has its place in the market and does potentially provide New Zealand employers with a solution to a local labour market where we are increasingly finding companies advertising for roles and literally getting no local applicants whatsoever.
In typical Immigration New Zealand fashion, however, it was viewed a little differently it seems. The Manager suggested it could be abused. ‘Abuse’ in this context meaning too many employers, shut out of the skilled migrant pace through the massive increase in pass marks in late 2016, might look to it as a way to help secure the long term services of very good and capable migrants because it offered a pathway to residence for their employee and they were all but guaranteed to have the services of someone for around 30 months. Earth to INZ - not everyone is out to rort the system!
Furthermore, it does appear to me that when INZ policy people decide (or are ordered) to change one part of the visa machine, they often don’t appreciate, or to be fair because they don’t work out here in the ‘real’ world, appreciate the degree to which the market will react to that and try and find a solution elsewhere if a problem, such as where labour and skills shortages are very real and worsening, exists.
We had already seen some changes last year to the evidence employers had to present to secure accreditation status from what had historically been required. This change required employers to demonstrate that they had advertised the roles they were looking to fill later as accredited employers, including the salary that they were willing to pay for that role. Ordinarily employers in NZ don’t advertise salaries. I’ve never understood why.
Our information is that the minimum salary threshold to get a Talent Visa is about to be increased significantly and while we do not know yet to what level, it is reasonable to assume it will be less than $76,000.00 because as soon as someone is offered $76,000.00, the Skilled Migrant pathway and points system opens up to them (because if you are earning that much in NZ your job is automatically deemed to be skilled). We are picking somewhere between $65,000.00 and $70,000.00.
No doubt there will be one or two surprises in whatever Cabinet has signed off and when I consider that so much of policy seems to be set based on the misguided belief that people are out to rort the system, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some additional criteria perhaps such as adding a requirement around the number of employees a company must have in order to become an eligible accredited employer. That is pure speculation on my part I should add.
With all Immigration policy changes, there are unintended consequences. With employers now having to advertise the salary in their job adverts before they can apply for accreditation, it is reasonable to conclude that the impact of those changes last year might simply be to push up local wages and create a musical chairs situation where local employees in that occupation will go and apply for jobs with a company down the road, having seen the ad online, and apply for it because of a higher salary. That doesn’t increase the number of people in the labour market. I’m not suggesting that was the motivation for that change but those of us who live in a world where market forces are real, that would be an obvious outcome. If the new minimum salary became, say $70,000 then you imagine how that will go down in a company when the migrant worker is now earning say, $70,000.00 in the same role as a New Zealander who might only be earning $58,000.00. You’d not be surprised if all the staff doing that same job alsodemanded the higher salary - I certainly would. Will that financial reality put a break on companies expanding and growing? Will companies simply decide not look offshore to fill the roles given the minimum salary might be higher than the market would usually pay in NZ? If so who does that help?
I also understand that people who are currently in New Zealand on Talent Visas should not expect the higher salary threshold to apply to them, whatever it might be. The new rule will not be retrospective. If, however, they change from one accredited employer to another before they file their resident visa, they will have to meet the new minimum salary threshold with the new employer.
When we know more, we will let you know.
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod, Southern Man
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...
Posted by Iain on Nov. 25, 2016, 3:52 p.m. in Immigration
Around nine months ago my colleague Paul sat with an Electrician (I’ll call him Peter, but that’s not his real name) in South Africa and outlined to him and his wife a carefully constructed strategy to get his family to New Zealand within about three months; with electrical registration in hand and with great job prospects. This strategy was tried and true with many other tradesmen down the years.
As we do, a fee was quoted to 'project manage' everything, from the electrical registration in NZ, visitor visas to work visas to resident visas. We advised that, based on our experience we should be able to do all of that and have the whole visa process completed by the end of this year, but more likely around October.
They went away and thought about it. They decided to shop around to see if they could get a better price. They found one (it isn’t hard; there’s always someone cheaper than us). This Auckland based consultancy quoted roughly half what we did. According to Peter, he was told if he paid the entire fee upfront, then the company would discount the price by 20%. When he tried to tie them up on the offer they apparently denied offering the discount. The full fee was handed over nonetheless.
Not being a man of great means and like so many South Africans staring down the barrel of an exchange rate of ten Rand to the NZ Dollar made the call to go with this other agency.
That was in March this year.
Fast forward to last week. He had been here over seven months, had a job on day one but still didn’t even have a work visa; let alone a resident visa.
He arrived in New Zealand around eight months ago. The pass mark then was 100 with a job offer and he’d easily have scored that before the pass mark was increased to 160 in October and now he doesn’t (but we have a solution to that as well).
He got the first job he applied for the day after he landed. Unfortunately, he says he wasn’t told he’d need registration here in NZ with the local electrical workers Registration Board before he left South Africa. Three months after he landed here, still unemployed, he had secured it. By then, his visitor visa was expiring so a new one had to be filed. He was advised to present medicals and a police clearance.
Unfortunately his medical showed high blood pressure (par for the course for stressed out migrants, especially from South Africa) and a further delay was incurred while INZ doctors decided whether or not he was healthy enough for NZ for a further short term stay. At the same time his two criminal convictions (relatively minor in his mind but not to the immigration system) then meant further delay while INZ decided if he met the temporary entry character standard for a Visitor Visa.
In the end the visitor visa was issued and now that he had his registration in NZ with the Electrical Workers registration Board he could file his work visa.
For reasons best known to his agent, they filed a work to residence visa which created two immediate hurdles - he now had to meet a residence standard of health and the residence standard of character. What many people don’t understand is the health and character tests for short term temporary work visas are a lower test than long term temporary work and resident visas.
So there were further delays.
The most amazing thing about all this (but is testimony to the critical shortage of tradesmen in NZ) is that the employer kept the job offer open.
Earlier this week, Peter came to see me. I assessed the situation, scratched my head over how things had spun so badly out of control and came to the conclusion that the cheaper agency appeared to have badly mishandled the entire case.
Within two working hours of my intervening through my Relationship Manager (INZ has provided us with an amazingly proactive service oriented officer to work with agencies like ours) Peter had his work visa and the character waiver holding everything up was granted. Within 36 hours of that, his wife and daughter’s visas had also been approved. He hasn’t seen them for nine months.
This is less a story about the professionalism of IMMagine and the unprofessionalism of others but more about false economies and how not looking at the "big picture" financial costs and the cost of delays if you don’t choose the right service provider (or try this on your own).
If Peter had retained us back in February this year we would have told him to stay put in South Africa for about three months, keep earning his salary, we’d sort out his NZ registration with the Board and then he would fly to NZ to get his job. We knew he’d find work very quickly. Within 2-4 weeks all things being equal of finding work he’d have his work visa. His wife and daughter could have joined him about four weeks later.
So looking at the rough numbers - sitting in NZ unemployed for probably five months longer than he needed to be - cost him lost wages of around $30,000 (ZAR300,000). Maintaining a home in South Africa while spending precious dollars living here would have added several thousand dollars on top. More than that perhaps, he has been without his wife and daughter now for about five months longer than he needed to be and there is no price you can put on that (but his tears this week did serve as an uncomfortable reminder).
Our fee was twice what those that he retained were charging. However, had he looked at the bigger financial picture he’d have quickly realised that using us for his process would in the end have cost him in the order of $25,000 (ZAR250,000) less than what it has.
And he is but one. We come across these stories all the time. If people have never heard of us that’s one thing but when people consult with us in many of the markets we operate in we know we lose customers to the cheap and nasty operators (who have no choice but to compete on price).
Our fees allow us to do just what I did for Peter. I could drop everything else because we are ‘boutique’ not ‘volume’ operators, focus on sorting his life out over a number of hours, use my contacts inside INZ, leverage the reputation IMMagine enjoys with INZ for high value and well presented applications and effect a solution so he could starting work and earning a salary on Monday - four days after he came to IMMagine for help.
Even more than that I had promised him when I sat down with him earlier this week I’d do everything in my power to reunite him with his wife and daughter in time for Christmas.
The moral of this story? You get what you pay for. Never more so than with immigration advice.
I see it all the time - in trying to save money we end up by spending a whole lot more.
A quick P.S. - I am off to Singapore shortly for a seminar tomorrow, Kuala Lumpur (4 December) and Hong Kong (10 December). For those of you in those countries this is your last opportunity for 2017 to come and hear what we have to say about how we can help you make NZ your new home; perhaps in 2017. If you wish to register you can click here.
Until next week.
Posted by Iain on Oct. 28, 2016, 4:46 p.m. in Immigration
Over the next few months - if not years - there will be some otherwise skilled migrants who won’t be able to achieve the 160 point pass mark even if they were to work for say 12 or 24 months in a job outside of Auckland.
What solutions can we offer them?
I am very conscious that the Skilled Migrant rules will likely change in the middle of 2017, but I am equally confident that here at IMMagine we have a good handle on the direction of those changes, even though we don’t yet know the detail and won’t till the rules are released.
We have a very small number of clients, principally aged over 50 and without any trade or academic qualifications who are still looking for a pathway up this visa ‘mountain’. Without wishing to digress for those tradesmen and artisans under 45 with no formal qualifications we should be able to get them all to NZ using the Australian residence visa process. Something we commonly do now.
One of the ‘NZ direct’ solutions is through a work to residence pathway and finding work and convincing a New Zealand employer to become ‘accredited’ with INZ.
Accreditation is a status given to an employer that allows them to effectively bring in anyone they wish on 30 month ‘Talent Visas' (Work Visas by any other name) without needing to prove they cannot find a local - so long as the salary is at least $55,000 gross per annum, or higher.
No need for it to be in an area of skill shortage, it doesn’t even need to be skilled, but rather INZ needs to be satisfied of a number of key points about the business before they will grant accreditation. The business must be (to quote the policy):
On the face of it this looks quite straight forward but as always, the devil is not only in the detail but the attitude of INZ and the officer processing the accreditation application.
This category was really set up with the aim of assisting larger employers with an ongoing need to bring in talent, rather than for smaller businesses to keep 'one off' but very valuable staff. It does not however exclude the smaller employers like the three man automotive workshop, the bakery or the small IT company. The aim and objective is clear – to make global skills available to ‘trusted’ local businesses – and it is not for INZ to decide which business is ‘better’ than others if the above four criteria are met; nor which applicants or roles come with a greater economic need.
I suspect, however, as more employers now apply for accreditation owing to the tightening of criteria under the Skilled Migrant Category and a seemingly never ending tightening in the availability of local candidates for roles, INZ could try and make it difficult. So, yet again, strong and persuasive advocacy will no doubt be called for and we are well positioned to help companies to secure this status.
For the migrant, their Talent Visa will be granted for 30 months and after two years of working for 'an' (not necessarily ‘the’) accredited employer they can then apply for residence. It is not a points system and there are no quotas nor pass mark. They do, however, have to demonstrate they are still healthy (along with partners and children) and their character remains good. They will also have to prove they earned at least $55,000 by way of salary over the two years. Note: salary, not income.
With the ramping up of pass marks for skilled migrants two weeks ago coupled with the sort of changes we strongly suspect are coming next year, having an Immigration Adviser who is not only expert in the detail but creative in arguing some very vague sounding criteria is going to take on even more importance than it ever has.
From here on under the skilled migrant category, it is not only a case of the survival of the most employable but it might just also be the survival of those with the smartest Immigration Adviser.
Work to residence options are no different. I am expecting push back from INZ on these applications but the rules are the rules and whether the company is large or small or needs to bring in ten workers or one; it is not a value judgement for officials.
Finding alternative pathways up this seeming every higher and steep mountain is what we do very well with 26 plus years’ experience under our belts.
Work to residence on a Talent Visa is just one of those strategies that might be the difference between raising your children in New Zealand or somewhere else.
Until next week.
Letters from New Zealand
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