Category Archives: Blog

We keep you posted on New Zealand immigration law updates, visa changes and immigration policy resolutions

Help with difficult cases

New Zealand immigration lawyer client testimony for residence visa

Aaron described the steps we would take, how the case would go, and what could happen. He used “we” instead of “I”, emphasising to me how genuine and helpful he was. He was with me by my side.

 I came to New Zealand in 2010 to study a Bachelor of IT. I chose New Zealand because the education system is similar to my home country. I also wanted to come here for the environment and lifestyle, and because my father’s friends spoke highly of it. Friends who have gone to other countries experienced a lot of discrimination, but here I have not experienced racism at all. It’s very safe to practise Islam in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, in 2016, a very serious case was put against me. I was falsely accused of taking advantage of personal data. I worked with a lawyer who successfully cleared the case, but I was left with a criminal conviction. My New Zealand visa was due for renewal in 2017 – if I applied for residency, the conviction could mean I wouldn’t get it. Worse, I could be deported.

I was frightened, and I couldn’t find anyone to help me or give me direction. I went to two different lawyers but no one could give me any hope. All they said was: “This isn’t going to go well for you.”

Then I came across New Zealand Immigration Law on Google. I emailed Aaron and he invited me to meet with him.

Aaron reviewed my situation and told me there was a high possibility he could resolve the issue, but it was going to be a long case. Right from the start he mapped everything out for me. He described the steps we would take, how the case would go, and what could happen. He used “we” instead of “I”, emphasising to me how genuine and helpful he was. He was with me by my side. I opened my file with him on the same day because I genuinely trusted him.

After more than a year of battle, I finally heard great news from New Zealand Immigration: I was allowed to stay in New Zealand legally and not get deported. This was all possible because of Aaron’s helpful hand, expertise, and vast knowledge on New Zealand immigration matters. Everything he said at the start happened just the way he said it would.

Aaron was so professional, and he helped me with a lot of things. If I hadn’t found him, I would have given up. I would have stayed without a plan for a visa and probably just had to leave.

I can’t thank Aaron enough for helping me out and getting a positive outcome from Immigration New Zealand. I am really grateful to him and Junior, who kept communicating updates with me.

ASIF AMAN

Residency Visa

If you need help with a difficult situation, contact our team now.

What you should know before you visit New Zealand

What you should know before you visit New ZealandSo, you’re thinking of coming to Nuw Zulund? Choice. We’ll be heaps stoked to see ya.

If that makes no sense, this article is for you. We’ve covered as much as we can about our big-little country to give you a heads up (before you visit New Zealand) on what you’re about to get yourself into .

You may know we’re a small country in the pacific, and we get the occasional mention from John Oliver. But there’s probably lots of things you don’t know about us. We’re often forgotten about on world maps, so we don’t really blame you.

If you have spotted us on a map, you’ll know we consist of two (and a half) islands.

Contrary to belief, we are not part of Australia. Nor can you walk there on a low tide.

We have a population of 4.794 million people, spread somewhat unevenly across 268,021 km2. Population is particularly dense around the city of Auckland.

The climate is good, as is the coffee, and we kinda do all know each other. We have a pretty relaxed attitude to most things (except rugby). Our speed limits are slow, but our sunburn comes on fast (not sure who put that hole in the ozone layer but it’s a bit inconvenient). And we don’t tip at restaurants.

So, what else do you need to know before you visit New Zealand? Read on.

Food

What do Kiwis eat? The typical New Zealand diet isn’t just hokey pokey ice cream and pāua fritters (ok, maybe in summer). We’re also famous for Pineapple Lumps, lamingtons, feijoas, kūmara, pavlova, mānuka honey, and the highly regarded kina (although it’s a bit of an acquired taste … and texture). Make sure you try some of these specialities while you’re here.

Thanks to our rich soils, nationwide close proximity to the ocean, and good climate, we are also spoilt with high-quality grass-fed meats, seafood, dairy products, and flavourful fruit and vegetables.

You’ll be able to find a weekly farmers market near most towns. These will give you a chance to experience all of the above as well as artisan products – bread, olive oils, honey, and so on.

When dining out, you’ll generally find most types of cuisine. New Zealand food is generally a mixture of various international influences, predominantly western – with a kiwi twist, of course. There isn’t a huge fine-dining presence, but you will find cuisine of every nationality and dietary requirement. If you are a carnivore, you must try a hot mince pie, which can be found almost anywhere that sells food (or petrol).

Hāngi is a traditional Māori method of cooking food in an “umu”, or earth oven. Layered trays of meat and vegetables are placed inside the umu atop some very hot rocks, then covered with wet cloth and soil before being left to steam for around 4 hours. A hāngi is as much an experience as it is a “mean feed”. There’s usually lots of people of all ages, and everyone has a part to play. If you get a chance to go to a hāngi on your visit to New Zealand, we definitely recommend it.

Language We have three official languages in New Zealand: English, Te Reo (or Māori language), and sign language. English (pronounced “Inglush”) is the most widely used.

Accent Apparently New Zealanders have the world’s sexiest accent. Don’t worry – we’re as confused as you are. As Damien Barr has previously advised: “Anyone attempting to speak Kiwi [needs to] simply swap ‘e’ with ‘i’”. So ‘eggs’ become ‘iggs’, and so on. This can often get us in a bit of strife – say, if one was to say “there was six on the deck”, or “he may be dead”, as shown by Flight of the Conchords.

Nature New Zealand is known for its beautiful natural resources, which we love. We’re a small country, so most places have access to several different natural environments. The furthest place inland (from the beach) is only 120 km away, and even that has a river. We’ve got some great bushy reserves, too.

We also love our native animals. The ocean has an abundance of beautiful creatures – whales, dolphins, penguins, etc. And don’t get us started on our birds. We have heaps of choice birds.

If you visit New Zealand, it’s imperative our natural resources are respected. Don’t touch the wildlife, take only photos, leave only footprints, and be aware of any places deemed “tapu” (or sacred) by Māori.

Dress New Zealanders are a casual bunch. Of course, we dress up for special occasions, such as meeting the Prime Minister – provided you haven’t just bumped into her at the shops. Business men and women dress quite corporate, and a very fancy event may require a tuxedo, but don’t be alarmed if you see someone wearing pyjamas to the supermarket (not everyone condones this). Also, bare feet are usually an acceptable form of footwear (this does not mean we are hobbits).

Speaking of Hobbits, Middle Earth is not just west of Wellington. We are not hobbits (some of us are quite tall), and if you go to Milford Sound, you shall pass (if you wish). But if you’re looking for your LOTR fix, you can visit the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata and the land of Mordor in Tongariro National Park.

Politics Jacinda Ardern. Need we say more?

LOTR, Jacinda Ardern, and our sexy accent is not all we’re famous for. OK, no need to bring up the sheep thing – we’re past that. We were first to allow women to vote, split the atom, climb Mount Everest, walk on Antarctica, and bungy jump. We invented the aeroplane, jogging, and the jet unit. We created lamingtons, pavlova, and beef Wellington. We’re also the homeland of Bruce McLaren, Sam Neill, Lorde, Stephen Adams, Sandro Kopp, Jean Batten, Taika Waititi, Rachel Hunter, Burt Munro, and more …. the list is long!

And finally …

Rugby Which we don’t need to really explain; you’ll hear all about it when you get here.

So if you’re ready to dip your bare-footed toes into the pacific waters of New Zealand, explore the land lurking under the long white cloud or try decipher the yarns of Aotearoa-eans, we welcome you, with wide-open sunburnt arms. The kettle’s on already.

And if you get here and fall in love with the place (or just our sexy accent) then pop on down to the NZIL office and we’ll jog you through the journey. Kai pai.

Parent Visa delay: a cynical political tactic to win votes…

 Parent Visa delay:  A cynical political tactic to win votes… Recently, Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway, refused to shed any further light on when the future of the Parent Visa Category will be decided – leaving over 5,000 parents of migrants and their New Zealand based families stuck in limbo for two years.

Aaron Martin shares his thoughts regarding the lack of closure, and his belief that this is merely a manipulation tactic to steer migrant votes at the end of the term.

In January we wrote an article regarding the Parent Visa category and the benefits it could bring to the country. The article was written in response to circulating headlines, hinting that a decision to the previously frozen category was close to being made.

Four months later, we are no further ahead.

Migrants are often used unfairly in political point scoring by both sides of the political spectrum, either to scare voters to oppose migration or in areas of high migrant communities to win votes.

Yesterday, it was reported that Immigration Minister, Iain Lees Galloway, refuses to shed any more light on when this decision might be made – leaving over 5,000 parents of migrants and their New Zealand based families stuck in limbo for two years.

Galloway did however say that the decision would be made before the end of the current government term – the final months of next year.

The visa category, which allows parents of migrants with 3+ years permanent New Zealand residency to also reside in the country, was put under a moratorium by the previous government in October 2016.

On Wednesday, the Education and Workforce Select Committee was advised that there were more than 5000 “expressions of interest” from parents wishing to reunite with their New Zealand based families. A single application could represent both parents, meaning the numbers of those in limbo would be significantly higher. Many of them would have already been well on their way through what was certain to be a successful application, before the moratorium was placed, pulling the rug from under their feet.

This does not show the “empathetic Government”, as promised by our current PM.

It shows the Labour Party stringing a carrot, ready to be dangled in front of voters at the end of their term.

It is simply cynical manipulation of recent migrants, hoping that their votes for Labour could lead to the favourable adjustment of the policy.

It’s a similar tactic deployed by the Australian Labour party, who recently announced a generous change to their Parent Visa policies, in order to win over the large migrant communities in Sydney – seats which are hotly contested.

The evidence from past election campaigns predicts that National are likely to match the promise… making migrants (yet again) a political football in the re-election game.

If you need help with visa or any other immigration law issues please do not hesitate to contact the team at NZIL.

Employer accreditation – avoid the log jam and act now

Employers act now: New Zealand Immigration is making changes to the Migrant Work Visa Category

The Government is proposing changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas. These include introducing a new framework for assessing all employer-assisted temporary work visas, and compulsory employer accreditation for those hiring from overseas.

These changes will affect all businesses who wish to employ migrant workers, particularly across the hospitality, construction, and IT industries.

One of the most notable changes to the policy is the legal requirement for all businesses to be accredited before making a migrant hire. The intent is to streamline the visa process, allowing for an employer-led work-visa system, and to decrease migrant exploitation.

While this may ultimately benefit both workers and employers, the process for accreditation isn’t a quick one.

The sudden surge in businesses needing accreditation, coupled with Immigration New Zealand’s current backlog of work (and resulting snail-paced turn-around) is, as RNZ reports, set to “compound existing delays to hiring foreign labour”.

For employers who don’t already understand the system, the accreditation requirement will simply make the process more complicated.

Becoming accredited means that businesses must prove their “trustworthiness” across several areas. There will be several different types of accreditation, but all businesses will have to show evidence of:

  • compliance with labour laws
  • high-practice human resource processes and policies
  • financial stability
  • commitment to increasing worker benefits and pay.
  • Commitment to training and hiring local workers

For roles other than those above a certain wage threshold (above $78,000pa) or on a regional shortage list, labour market testing will also be required. This is to show the company has made an honest attempt to recruit locally.

Employers will also need to prove they have training systems in place to transfer knowledge from migrant workers to local staff, as well as systems to avoid their business becoming reliant on migrant workers.

Then, of course, will be the migrant’s own visa application process.

Now is the time to act. Businesses that want to make a migrant hire in the next 24 months must begin the process now, to avoid the inevitable visa-application log jam.

For more details on these changes, see our article “Employer-Assisted Work Visa Changes Proposed By Government”.

If you would like advice on how your business can become an accredited employer before the changes, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

If you’d like to read about a client who has gone through the employer accreditation process, check out their story here.

 

How to get a New Zealand work visa

­­­­­­­­­How to get a New Zealand Work VisaIf you’re a skilled migrant applying for a New Zealand work visa, you may feel like the process is a job in itself. Navigating all of the visa requirements, conditions, documentation, evidence, categories, and costs can seem a daunting task.

We’ve made this checklist for you as an overview of the process of applying for a skilled migrant visa. However, we recommend you seek assistance from a licensed immigration practitioner when preparing your visa application form.

You can apply for a temporary working visa in New Zealand if you:

  • Have a job offer from a New Zealand employer
  • Are coming for a specific work-related purpose or event
  • Have a partner already in New Zealand, and you want to join them and work
  • Want to get on a working holiday (if you’re between 18 and 30), or
  • Have completed higher level qualifications in New Zealand and want to work.

Visas that lead to permanent residence include the accredited employer, long-term skill shortage, entrepreneur work, Pacific access category, and religious worker visas. All visas are available for people who are 55 years old or younger.

If you want to apply for a work visa you will have to provide either evidence of a current full-time job or a job offer and be registered if your profession demands it. You can do this here.

Before you apply

  1. Make sure your job meets the minimum wage and salary threshold. These thresholds were changed in November 2018, so make sure you check our comprehensive list of the changes here.
  2. Check the ANZSCO code and skill level of the job; and check if the job is on a shortage list.
  3. Gather the employer’s documentation including the fully signed contract, you may also need the employer to show evidence that the job was advertised to the local market and could not be filled by an adequate candidate depending on whether Shortage List requirements are met.
  4. Have proof of your identity (with a valid passport and a photo of a yourself taken within the last six months) and good character (with police certificates from countries you’ve lived in for more than five years since you turned 17). You may also need to provide information about your health, by getting medical certificates or a chest x-ray from a doctor approved by Immigration New Zealand (INZ). All documents not in English, should be translated to English by a professional translator. An immigration adviser and/or immigration lawyer can help you navigate the process. If you are not sure who to ask, read our article Immigration adviser vs immigration lawyer – whose help do you need?
  5. Set up a New Zealand Government RealMe account to upload your digital documents for the online application.

Submitting the visa application

  1. Give your application the best chance of success by getting it checked by a licensed practitioner. Our 90-minute clinic (with immigration lawyer Aaron Martin) is the best way to ensure your New Zealand work visa application is approved.
  2. Submit your paper resident application within six months on the form provided by INZ. Fees and processing times will depend on your location and nationality. You can send your application by post or courier.
  3. If necessary, INZ may ask you for more information to grant you a fair chance to obtain your New Zealand work visa. INZ will let you know about your visa status as soon as it’s decided.

After getting the visa

  1. Once you have your work visa, apply for a tax record number, which you can do through the IRD. You’ll have to give this number to your employer once you have it and use it for all your tax matters.
  2. Be aware of your rights as an employee. Check out our article for all you need to know about migrant worker rights in New Zealand.

Once you have all of the above sorted, you will be well on your way to living and working as a skilled migrant in New Zealand.

The application process for a skilled migrant work visa is very expensive. To ensure the best chance of success we recommend you seek professional advice. Our 90-minute Immigration Clinic appointment is an excellent resource that is designed to help make sure you have all you need to succeed in your application. With over 22 years of experience as an immigration lawyer, Aaron can quickly check your application and let you know if you meet the requirements and have all the appropriate documentation. This can save you thousands of dollars.

Find out more about our 90-minute Immigration Clinic here.

If you’d like help with your skilled migrant visa application, or have any other queries, you can contact the office here.

 

Employer-assisted work visa changes proposed by Government

At the end of last year, the Government released a consultation paper for changes to the employer-assisted work visa. This is the class of work visa issued when the applicant has an offer of employment and the employer proves they cannot find a local to do the job. 

These changes will make it more complicated for an employer to recruit a skilled migrant if they don’t understand the new requirements. Employers in Hospitality, construction and IT services need to prepare themselves now, if they plan to recruit from the skilled migrant pool in the next 24 months.

Changes aim to create an employer-led simplified work visa system. Currently there are six work visa categories: essential skills, approval in principle, talent (accredited employer), work to residence – long term skill shortage list, and Silver Fern visas. The new framework will replace this multitude of application types, rules, and processes with a single pathway.

Conceptually the proposal amalgamates and transforms elements of the original six categories such as visa approval in principle, accredited employer processes, and labour market testing requirements.

Under the new proposals, no labour market testing would be needed for jobs that meet a higher pay threshold. This is similar to the current system of work-to-residence visas issued on the basis of an applicant having a job with accredited employers.

Labour market tests also would not be required for higher-skilled roles that are on regional skill shortage lists. As part of the proposals, new regional lists will be released in mid 2019. These are intended to be better tailored to the needs of the regions than is currently the case.

The new framework has three key parts:
1. The employer check

Employers who want to recruit staff from overseas will have to gain accreditation with Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

The accreditation process pre-clears an employer in terms of satisfying INZ that the employer:

  • is compliant with labour laws
  • has high-practice HR processes and policies and is financially stable to offer employment
  • has a commitment to increasing worker benefits/pay.

Employers will need to present evidence of financial performance, have a commitment to training and up-skilling, and show they put upward pressure on wages and conditions.

The type of accreditation will depend on the needs of the employer. The “standard” accreditation will last for 12 months and is intended for employers who wish to hire expatriate workers without offering a pathway to residence. The “premium” accreditation is for those who wish to offer a pathway to residence through employment with the company.

Obtaining accreditation (of whatever type) will be mandatory for all employers. Those who employ six or more expatriate workers within a 12-month period will be made to seek “premium” accreditation. For employers who employ five or fewer expat workers in a 12-month period, “premium” accreditation will be voluntarily.

2. The job check

This is the labour market test stage of the work visa process. Labour market tests will not be required for jobs above a certain wage threshold or on a regional skill shortage list.

All other roles will undergo labour market testing, where the employer will have to satisfy INZ they have made genuine attempts to recruit locally. But the proposal to increase the wage for the work-to-residence pathway for “premium” accredited employers to $78,000 or $37.50 per hour does seem high.

Given the restrictive nature of the requirements currently in force for the skilled migrant residence visa, the Government will need to ensure it does not create a “hole” whereby valuable workers cannot transition over to residence from work because of pay rate alone.

Employers will need to demonstrate they have training systems to achieve knowledge transfer from migrant workers to local staff and also show there are systems in place to avoid their business becoming dependent on migrant workers.

The expectations of bureaucracies can often be at odds with the reality of private-sector business in this area.

3. The migrant check

This is the actual visa application.

There is a suggestion that capability checks (the assessment of whether the visa applicant is suitably qualified to perform the job) should be undertaken by the employer. My intuitive response is that this is unlikely to happen, given concern within INZ about the potential for abuse.

INZ needs to understand that except for situations where there is abuse and collusion to commit a fraud in the border control area, businesses only hire people they believe can do the work and after they have conducted appropriate checks to ensure that is the case.

Of course, these checks may still result in mistakes being made and an employer hiring someone who has oversold their ability. But the 90-day trial under current employment law and the facilitation of visitor visas to those who are dismissed within that 90 days protects the integrity of the system in these cases.

A warning to employers to become accredited before it is too late.

If accreditation is mandatory, there will be a significant influx of applications into INZ. Businesses will want their applications processed quickly so they can recruit the talent they need in their organisation.

But INZ has had a large budgetary shortfall and is unable to process its current applications quickly due to high volumes. It does not have the resources to deal with more work.

This change represents a resource issue that will need to be addressed to make the process workable for employers, especially if the Government wants this process to be “employer-led”.

I advise any employer who knows that they will be recruiting skilled migrants to apply to become accredited now under the existing system and avoid the backlog at INZ that will come once the new visa criteria and processes are in place.

If you’d like to read more of Aaron’s thoughts on the Employer Assisted Work Visa, check out our previous blog: Employer assisted visas: addressing the unwritten trade-off…

If you’d like to discuss any of your immigration or visa concerns, get in touch with us here.

Immigration adviser vs immigration lawyer – whose help do you need?

If you are planning on migrating to New Zealand, or are currently living here on a visa but are looking for help, where can you get the right guidance? New Zealand has laws and regulations in place that specify who can legally give immigration advice, as to protect those that seek it. In your search for assistance, you’re likely to come across both immigration advisers and immigration lawyers, who are both qualified to legally provide advice. But what’s the difference between the two? And which is right for your case? In this article, we discuss the differences so you can choose the help you need. 

Navigating New Zealand’s immigration system can be difficult. And knowing your future in New Zealand relies on getting the paperwork right makes the entire process much more fraught. You need the assistance that ensures you have the best chance of success.

In New Zealand, there are several different options for immigration advice, depending on your needs. If you have only a minor query and are already residing in New Zealand, you may be able to get the help you need free of charge from the Citizens Advice Bureau or a Community Law Centre. These organisations will also be able to refer you to the correct help if your situation is more involved.

If you already know you require more help (i.e., you need guidance in finding and applying for the right visa, settling in New Zealand, or assessing your situation if your visa has expired or been declined) New Zealand law permits that only a licensed practitioner can assist you. A licensed practitioner could be either an immigration adviser (also known as an immigration consultant) or an immigration lawyer.

So, how do you know which practitioner is best suited for you? There are several elements to consider.

  • What is your case?

Both an immigration lawyer and an adviser can help you with finding and applying for the right visa, settling in New Zealand, or assessing your situation if your visa has expired, or been cancelled or declined.

For situations that are complex, or for those that require an appeal to the High Court or legal expertise, an immigration lawyer is a better option. An immigration lawyer has the legal authority to represent you in court, which will save you the hassle, time, and money of hiring a third party.

With an immigration lawyer you can have the benefit of having just one person with a deep understanding of your specific case assist you through the whole process. This is crucial if cases are complicated, or if you have limited time to appeal. If issues arise further down the line, you can call on the same immigration lawyer for help, again saving you the time and money of explaining all relevant past events. One example of such an issue arising is when established migrants receive a Deportation Liability Notice connected to employment issues.

An immigration lawyer can also be more helpful for those looking at applying for an Investment Visa. If you want to make an investment in New Zealand for the purpose of gaining a visa, you will be dealing with large sums of money ­– NZD$3 million or more. It is essential in this case that you get advice from a legal professional as there are specifics on where and what these investments can go into. You will also gain added security in knowing your investment is in safe hands. New Zealand Immigration Law has several trusted financial advisers we can refer clients to.

An immigration lawyer is also more suitable if you need a waiver (e.g., a medical or a character waiver) or if you are a business wishing to become an Accredited Employer. Both of these applications require a large amount of evidential documentation, and it can be difficult to know exactly what evidence will suffice. You don’t want to go through the arduous process of preparing an application and paying for it, to then find out you missed something or haven’t proved your eligibility. This is not only incredibly time-consuming and frustrating but also very expensive. An immigration lawyer understands the application process in depth and is likely to be able to assess quickly whether your case will be successful as well as to ascertain what evidence you need to provide.

When your life in New Zealand or your business is at stake, you need someone who can deal with the situation quickly and thoroughly. If your visa is due to expire, if you are faced with deportation, or if you are an employer who needs to make a quick hire of many international employees, you will probably be faced with a fast turnaround. The speed with which an experienced immigration lawyer can work through the system is a huge advantage in dealing with these cases.

Aaron Martin, Principal Lawyer at New Zealand Immigration Law, has successfully helped many in these situations. One client who required a fast hire of multiple international employees says of Aaron’s legal help: “[Aaron] was able to put [potential migrant employees] at ease… not only as a result of his knowledge and expertise but also because of his extraordinary manner. He treated our clients not as cases but as individuals by sitting down with each and every employee and simply listening to their stories.”

  • How much qualification experience does the person advising me have?

The level of experience and knowledge that both immigration lawyers and immigration advisers hold is an important part of deciding who is best suited to your immigration needs.

The Immigration Advisers Licensing Act that regulates the standards of advisers was put into practise in 2007. This means advisers have been officially practising to a legal standard for only 11 years. The immigration adviser’s license requires one year of study and is required to be renewed annually to ensure their knowledge is relevant and up to date.

An immigration lawyer, on the other hand, must complete at least four years of study at university level in order to legally provide immigration advice. Immigration lawyers have been officially able to provide this advice long before the immigration advisers Act came into play in 2007. This in itself means the experience of a lawyer usually exceeds that of an adviser.

Aaron, for example, has worked in immigration law for over 22 years. His legal background combined with his two decades of experience has resulted in a broad and comprehensive knowledge, as well as the ability to assess and prepare cases quickly and at a very high standard.

Aaron has worked on complicated cases such as deportation, medical and character waivers, and business accreditations for clients both in New Zealand and overseas. One client of Aaron’s, Shareena, sought his advice when applying for visas for herself and her husband, who is an incomplete paraplegic requiring a wheelchair. The online process of trying to figure out their eligibility was, in Shareena’s words, “very, very stressful” and incomprehensive. While the case was being worked on, Shareena discovered she was diabetic, meaning they now had to apply for two medical waivers for their skilled migrant visas. Shareena says: “Aaron adapted quickly and supported us by saying ‘this is what we’re going to do’ and ‘these are the steps we need to take’, and in general assured us that what we were doing was right”.

  • How much will it cost?

Last – but most certainly not least – is the obvious question of cost. If you are lucky enough to find a “not-for-profit” immigration service provider, please ensure that they are a legitimate and legal source of advice.

Currently, New Zealand has no set threshold on how much an immigration adviser or lawyer should or can charge for their services. Both lawyers and advisers vary in price, often aligned with how much experience they have. Prices for an adviser can range from $150 for a consultation, to an excess of $5,000 for a full visa service. For an immigration lawyer, prices also vary, usually in accordance with the service required.

If you have already prepared your own case (or feel that you can), and just want someone to review your documentation and give advice on whether your case is strong enough, these fees may seem exorbitant. This is why New Zealand Immigration Law offers immigration clinic appointments at a set rate of $425, which covers 90 minutes of concise assistance from our principal lawyer, Aaron Martin. Advisory firms generally charge by the hour for any services, and costs can quickly escalate. Some firms advise that a general appointment fee could range between $500 and $750.

If you require more than 90 minutes of help, a lawyer may be the cheaper option regardless, as a lawyer’s level of experience will mean they can help you faster, and get it right the first time. Aaron has saved many people the time, money, and heartbreak that can ensue with the wrong – or no – help.

We understand the financial and emotional strain the immigration process entails for all. Choosing the right assistance – be it an immigration adviser, immigration lawyer, or someone else – will be one of the most important decisions you need to make in your immigration journey.

If you’d like to book a 90-minute immigration clinic appointment, you can do so here.

If you are interested in finding out more about immigration advisers, check out the Immigration Advisers Authority website.

If you need help with deportation, waivers, investment visas, or have another case to discuss please contact the office here.

Is it time for a new work visa category?

Is it time to create a new work visa NZNew Zealand is part of a global shortage of skilled workers. At the same time, there are thousands of skilled migrant contractors in the worldwide talent pool, that Kiwi employers can’t hire. Immigration law expert, Aaron Martin, believes an ideal solution to the issue would be to introduce a new visa category that enables skilled migrants to work as contractors not linked to a single employer.

 

Giving New Zealand flexibility to grow: a visa idea…

Aaron Martin of New Zealand Immigration Law understands “the nature of work is evolving with the constant changes in technology”. Employment is no longer as straightforward as it once was: fewer people are working for long durations with a single employer, and more people are taking up contracts that allow them flexibility with projects and clients, as well as places and times of work. The 9-5, Monday to Friday workweek is becoming less prevalent, and “agile” and remote working is becoming the norm.

Is it fair then, to expect our immigration policies to remain stagnant? The shift in work style is moving almost as rapidly as the advancement of technology. To get ahead, New Zealand is going to need a bit of help.

Both Martin and Lynn Crean, an IT-focused recruitment professional at Role recruitment, believe we need a new visa category to fit this new style of working. They believe a visa category for contractors would not only provide access to a wider range of skilled workers – allowing New Zealand to get up to speed in the digital arena – but offer better protection for migrant employees. They also emphasise a vast range of potential economic benefits for employers and New Zealand alike.

 

Benefits to New Zealand employers

A visa for contractors would bring several benefits for New Zealand employers. If employers were able to fill roles facing skill shortages with international candidates on a short-term contract there would be less admin, increased flexibility and choice, and, importantly, economic gains through value for money and future-proofing. Even companies interested in longer-term employees would see benefit, as this would, as Martin states “allow them to assess skill suitability and fit within the business before committing to a permanent hire.”

The ability to employ staff to suit the ebbs and flows of labour markets, or for projects that only require a short-term solution, is inarguably a huge benefit on its own. This goes for both low and high-skilled shortages, as the ability to hire for a specific project helps manage staffing costs associated with keeping up with these waves.

The nature of the visa would also mean getting more “bang-for-your-buck”. As Crean explains, contractors are hired on a higher rate, so they need to hit the ground running immediately. “This also means work gets done and deliverables and outcomes are easier to measure,” she says. “Companies can better manage their cashflow through controlling costs and working with the requirements of the business.”

Financially speaking, that’s not the only benefit. Being able to hire skilled migrants on a short-term basis, to either train existing staff or create innovative solutions and products (such as apps for large non-digital companies), is an effective way to keep up with global trends.

This is especially true in the arena of digital transformation, or “DX”. From a global point of view, New Zealand is seen as “quite open innovatively” but desperately behind when it comes to talent. Places such as Argentina, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom are streets ahead in terms of DX, and have adopted a heavy e-commerce economy. New Zealand talent simply can’t keep up with the skills and experience in these areas. Keeping up with these trends would keep us on the global playing field and allow us to work with the strong sense of innovation many New Zealanders value.

Digital transformation is global, and the skills New Zealand needs are also in high demand worldwide. This is potentially where the contractors’ visa would hold most value, as highly skilled candidates value flexibility. Martin explains that “employers would be able to connect with a wider professional network of candidates who want contract roles as opposed to permanent positions”, bringing huge amounts of opportunity to our country.

 

Benefits for migrants

Flexibility in terms of changing jobs isn’t just a benefit for migrants who have freedom of choice due to their sought-after skill set. It would also offer greater protection for migrants in compromising situations. Martin has previously discussed the overwhelming rate of exploitation against migrant workers in New Zealand. His belief is that a contractors’ visa could be a very effective solution to end this.

As discussed more deeply in his article All You Need to Know about Migrant Worker Rights in NZ, the same closed conditions that come with most visas to protect migrants are also making them extremely vulnerable. These conditions bind migrant workers to a specific employer, role, and location in order to hold a visa and live in the country. Unfortunately, the fear of being deported is being used by employers to manipulate workers, or is preventing them from reaching out. “The least free labour market place is in fact that of expatriate workers,” says Martin. “They cannot take their labour and move to another employer for better conditions or treatment because of the restrictions created by the immigration process.”

A free labour market is one that accommodates people who want flexible work arrangements in terms of hours, days, and locations. It is only natural to allow for more freedom for our valued migrant employees.

 

Benefits for New Zealand

You don’t have to look far to see that the nature of work is changing. More employees are benefiting from flexible places of work and times of work, and from not being held to one client or position. Contracting or freelancing is becoming more viable and popular among workers and employers. Globally, this freedom is quickly becoming the norm. Many companies, especially those that are larger or internationally recognised, are adopting this style of working. Going forward, it will be necessary to enable migrant workers to operate in a similar fashion, even if only to maintain a feeling of equality.

Many New Zealand companies are lagging in this area. As Crean explains, traditional business models, although still successful here, “would struggle to survive anywhere else in the world”. She uses e-commerce as a prime example. Amazon, the multibillion-dollar online marketplace, has viable competitors all over the world. “We have nothing even close to being structured like that logistically. Not even the niches.”

There’s no doubt that the ability to compete in the e-commerce sector would have a hugely positive impact for New Zealand’s economy. And we know that to get up to speed with other countries in this area we need to bring in talent who are already fluent in the industry. Short-term contracts could make for faster penetration of such markets – even if it these temporary hires were just to train existing staff or create strategies for moving forward. E-commerce is just one component of the digital era and Crean says New Zealand is “desperately behind”. We need to make some changes to keep up with the global rate of digital transformation and future-proof the country.

Martin understands why Immigration New Zealand (INZ) may have some concerns about the prospect of a contractors’ visa. It would mean there was no employer to hold accountable for breaches of immigration and labour laws. It would also increase the potential for non-residents to evade tax and leave the country. Martin believes, however, that introducing a short-term contractors visa would make INZ’s processes somewhat easier – if done correctly. The rules for a contractor worker visa would have to address these issues by stipulating that contracts have enforceable provisions.

He suggests:

  • The rate of pay to be at market. This will require INZ have access to good information from the employer sector and professional bodies.
  • As the visa holder would be a captured contractor, the contract’s provisions should mirror provisions relating to rest and breaks.
  • Like all contractors, hours of work should be flexible – if a contractor wishes to work 60 hours or over weekends in order to finish the work and contract early, they should be able to do this. This will mean the visa holder can complete the work sooner. The visa conditions should stipulate that if the contract ends sooner, the visa also expires. This would be reinforced by the exiting provisions of the Immigration Act, which creates a deportation liability in the event the basis on which the visa was issued no longer exists.

And furthermore, in terms of tax:

  • The conditions of the visa should also relate to tax compliance. Pay-day filing for contractors would assist in that regard, as would information sharing between Inland Revenue and INZ.
  • Tax compliance should be reviewed as part of renewal processes or applications.
  • Exit permissions could only be granted at the border if a tax certificate confirming compliance with tax payments was presented before boarding an outbound aircraft. Exit permissions of this type are not unusual.

To add further benefit, Crean believes that this visa category would help INZ pinpoint, define, and articulate the specific skill shortages and roles that need to be filled.

Martin and Crean believe that the benefits of a short-term contractors’ visa far outweigh the possible problems. The issues that may arise are likely to be easier dealt with than many of the problems we are facing now. Increased opportunities for New Zealand businesses, the chance to better protect migrant workers, and the considerable economic potential for the country as a whole, in Martin’s eyes, make this an easy decision.

If you’ve got questions about your visa, or would like to talk to Aaron, check out our migrant resources page here.

Migrant parent health insurance requirements would reduce taxpayer risk

Migrant parent health insurance requirements would reduce taxpayer risk

Recent headlines have announced that the New Zealand Government is close to making a decision on whether or not they will reopen the parent visa category. This decision will provide much needed clarity to the almost 6,000 people who have been waiting in anticipation since the category closed in 2016.

This article discusses the apprehension of some around the reopening of this category, and the positives associated with allowing migrant’s parents to make New Zealand their home.

The parent visa category, which may be reopened soon, is criticised as too costly to the taxpayer. But perhaps the problem lies in the policy settings that permit access to welfare and health services.

Pundits expect the Government will soon make a decision on whether to reopen the parent visa category.

The category, which allowed parents to join their adult children in New Zealand if they were a resident or citizen, was closed in late 2016 to clear a backlog of applications. Almost 6000 people have been in limbo for over two years at different stages in the process.

This decision will be tough for the Government, and tough for the Minister of Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway.

The Minister knows there is a portion of the community who have migrated here and contributed to the country but feel unsettled because of separation from their parents.

When the child migrated those parents were probably young, healthy, and safe. But as decades pass and the children see their parents age, they instinctively want to protect and look after them. The parents are often alone without support in their home country, so the children want their parents here to make sure they are looked after.

There is also benefit for these migrants in having their parents with them in New Zealand. The parents can often provide substantial support to children juggling commitments to their own children and new careers, along with the pressures of settling in a new country.

On the flip-side, the Minister knows that old age brings a significant draw on Government systems, particularly health, disability services, and age care. And parents without English language ability require further support to be able to access health and social services.

The Minister also has a coalition partner with a vocal opposition to the parent category. If he reopens the category, he will have to “give that barking dog a bone”.

It seems right we should permit entry to those who had applied but were then put into limbo. They had a legitimate expectation of an outcome, and applied based on set and publicised criteria.

But some have called for the parent category to be closed based on anecdotal evidence of children bringing parents here and then leaving New Zealand taxpayers to look after them while they go overseas to presumably pursue economic opportunities.

This stance focuses on the costs of parental migration. There is a danger of seeing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Migrating parents do have value. As well as an economic benefit they also provide a social benefit that in my view has not been adequately researched or quantified. It is a significant benefit to society when grandparents can look after grandchildren and allow the parents of those grandchildren to work to improve the lot of the family unit. Migrating parents can add capital to their child’s endeavours toward buying a house or starting a business. This is economic development of a family that should be encouraged.

Many people complain that migrating parents cost too much to the taxpayer. But maybe the problem is the policy settings that permit access to welfare and health services?

The current Immigration Act already permits imposition of conditions on residence. Yet successive National and Labour Governments have refused to use it to require the holding of health insurance. And they have refused to permit Government hospitals to invoice those who have migrated under the parent category and who could afford such insurance.

Why? These actions would surely address the issues highlighted by critics of this policy.

We could also easily control access to state pensions when there is no record of beneficial investment or payment of tax. All it would take is some policy tweaks.

Why won’t the Government address the issues using mechanisms already available under the Immigration Act, and by adjusting other policy settings in health and welfare? Mankind put a man on the moon over half a century ago so don’t tell me this would be too hard!

 

If you have other questions regarding New Zealand Immigration Law, you can check out our Migrant Resource page here, or contact the office here.

New construction shortage list, unlikely to alleviate skill shortage…

New construction shortage list, unlikely to alleviate skill shortage…

The Government recently established the new Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List (CISSL) to address the ongoing problem of short supply of construction workers in New Zealand. But the new list scheme is likely to be too rigid to be effective, and will put off the very migrant workers it claims to encourage.

The CISSL came into effect December 2018. It’s intended to increase the available skill base of construction workers so the Government can make good on its construction and infrastructure commitments, including the KiwiBuild project. It replaces and cancels the Canterbury Skill Shortage List and absorbs various construction roles from the Immediate Skill Shortage List.

The main drawback of the list is that it is overly prescriptive, with unduly specific qualification requirements.

In the new scheme, employers recruiting migrant workers to positions on the list will no longer need to show they have advertised the role locally in order for a work visa to be issued if:

  1. The duties of the job substantially match the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) description of the role
  2. The visa applicant has the qualifications and/or experience as stated on the list for that occupation
  3. The job is located in the region specified on the list.

For example, an employer looking to hire a stonemason will not have to advertise the role if the position description substantially matches INZ’s description for that job; the applicant has a qualification comparable to a New Zealand Level 4 qualification with a credit or knowledge requirement of the New Zealand Certificate in Capstone Masonry; and the job is in the Auckland region, the Upper North Island, or Canterbury.

However, if the role was in New Plymouth the employer would have to advertise the job locally before they could get a work visa for a new employee. And if the position was in Auckland but the visa applicant did not have the qualification, the employer would also have to advertise the role.

The qualification requirements add a new layer of messy complication to an already arduous visa assessment process. To obtain a visa, an applicant must now have an overseas qualification comparable to a New Zealand qualification. For example, a carpenter from overseas must show their qualification compares to a New Zealand Certificate in Carpentry (Level 4). Equivalence will be determined by a New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) assessment of the overseas qualification. (The only exception is if the qualification is on an INZ list of those exempt from NZQA assessment.)

This NZQA assessment process will add time and cost to work visa applications. But it will provide a nice secondary income stream from the migration process directly to another government agency. In the old days this was known as “jobs for the boys”.

More frustratingly, the qualification requirements assume that overseas qualifications will have the same structure or content as New Zealand qualifications.

Take, for example, an employer who wants to hire a migrant to be a Site Foreman (Project Builder) in Canterbury. The visa applicant’s overseas qualification will need to be comparable to a New Zealand bachelor degree or a qualification that has the equivalent of 360 credits. Additionally, the qualification will have to have a major comparable to a New Zealand major in quantity survey in or construction economics.

How many New Zealand site foreman currently building in Canterbury have a bachelor degree with a major in quantity surveying or construction economics? And how many overseas qualifications in the building sector are going to be at bachelor level, with these specified majors?

If the Government was serious about addressing skill shortages in these particular sectors, the qualification requirement would reflect what matters most: the experience and ability of the applicant to perform the work. That is not measured by an academic qualification. Most employers in the sector are more concerned with the level of experience a candidate has and the competency that reflects.

In the occupations associated with the trades there is also a repeated emphasis on the applicant obtaining licensed building practitioner (LBP) status. Why would a migrant worker want to acquire LBP status and take on the personal liability under the Building Act for his or her employer’s projects?

Additionally, some positions on the list require that the applicant already has New Zealand experience. That seems curious. It indicates that for those roles the list cannot be used for first-time work visa applicants. Was the list intended to benefit only those renewing existing visas who are already working in a position on the list?

I believe the list’s overly specific qualification requirements are all about achieving a coalition-Government compromise. The list allows the Minister to appear to be doing something to address skill shortage issues but also panders to New Zealand First’s desire to limit immigration by introducing rules so restrictive many won’t be able to or won’t want to take advantage of it.

The list reeks of a solution developed by office workers with pointed leather shoes parked under a comfortable desk on a cold Wellington day. Perhaps if they had allowed those in hard hats and steel-capped safety boots to create the scheme it would identify in a more practical manner the skills (that is, the experience) employers need on the ground. Perhaps the result might not be so flaccid.

If you have any questions about these changes, or need help with another immigration issue, get in touch with us here.