Category Archives: Immigration basic facts

Immigration laws for New Zealand can be a complex subject, but we give you useful updates on everything you need to know

How to prepare for your appointment with an immigration lawyer

How to prepare for your appointment with a New Zealand immigration lawyerIf you’ve booked or are planning to book an appointment with an immigration lawyer in New Zealand, it can be hard to know what the process is, and what you need to bring.

Firstly, if you are yet to book your appointment, it’s best to check that you really do need an immigration lawyer. If you’re unsure, check out our article: immigration adviser vs immigration lawyer – whose help do you need?

We understand that immigration cases and New Zealand visa applications are expensive.

We want to make sure you get cost-effective and timely advice during your appointment. We’ve compiled a list of what you need to prepare before your appointment with a New Zealand immigration lawyer to make sure you get the most out of it.

Preparing for an immigration law appointment

For all appointments, bring:

  • Your visa (a photocopy is fine)
  • The date of your last police clearance check
  • The date you supplied your medical and x-ray certificates to Immigration New Zealand.

We strongly recommend preparing a list of any questions you might like to ask on the day. It is also helpful if you write a brief summary of your situation covering everything you think we may need to know. It is in your best interest to be honest and upfront about your situation with your immigration lawyer so that missed information doesn’t trip you up later on.

How to prepare for your appointment with a New Zealand immigration lawyer

You are welcome to bring a support person(s) and/or a translator if you struggle with English. Please keep in mind, however, that you will be discussing highly personal matters, so you need to trust this person to keep your information confidential.

There is no need to arrive early before your appointment, but do arrive on time. If you need tp change your appointment or are running late, please let us know as early as possible.

Other documentation required for your appointment is dependent on your reasons for going to an immigration lawyer in New Zealand.

How to prepare for your appointment with a New Zealand immigration lawyer

If you are applying for a New Zealand residence or New Zealand work visa, you will need to bring:

  • Photocopies of your offer of employment and, if possible, contract and job description
  • Background information about your employer, including:
    • The size of the company
    • How many employees it has
    • Whether it has supported work/residence visas in the past
  • Photocopies of any qualifications
  • Work experience references, and/or details of your prior work experience including dates of employment and descriptions of the tasks you performed
  • Copies of any correspondence from Immigration New Zealand relating to previous applications.

If you are wishing for help or intervention on a case you have filed, you need to bring:

  • A timeline of events, and any evidence to support this
  • A copy of the application documentation (especially in the case of an unsuccessful New Zealand visa application)

Copies of letters from Immigration New Zealand that detail the problems with the case.How to prepare for your appointment with a New Zealand immigration lawyer

Perhaps you have prepared your own case or visa application and just want:

  • A review of your application to ensure you have everything covered
  • A review of your documentation to ensure it meets the right visa criteria, and that you have everything you need
  • An assessment of whether your case is strong enough.

In this case, we recommend our 90-minute immigration clinic appointment. This appointment has a set fee and is the most cost-effective way to ensure your application is as strong as it can be, saving you the risk of spending time and money on an unsuccessful application.

You can book or find out more about our 90-minute immigration clinic appointment here.

How to prepare for your appointment with a New Zealand immigration lawyer

If you are an employer in the process of hiring a migrant employee(s), you must bring:

  • Copies of any advertisements for the position
  • A draft of the employment agreement and job description.

For more information about hiring migrant employees, check out our Employer Resources section, and our Employer Checklist. You can also view more about our business services here.

How to prepare for your appointment with a New Zealand immigration lawyer

If you are a migrant and already have an employment or skilled migrant visa, but feel you are being exploited by your employer, you will need to bring:

  • A copy of your contract
  • Evidence of exploitation. If this is on your phone (i.e., text messages or voice mail) you are welcome to simply bring that. If you don’t have evidence, please write a detailed timeline of the events that took place.

We understand that this is a very difficult situation, as your New Zealand visa can depend on your employer complying with New Zealand law. We take these situations very seriously, and we are legally required to keep your information private, so you can be sure that anything discussed with us won’t be shared. If you are unsure whether you are being exploited in your place of work, you can find out more about your rights as an employee here.

How to prepare for your appointment with a New Zealand immigration lawyer

After your first appointment, you can expect to have gained:

  • An understanding of your current legal position
  • An understanding of the application process and your chances of securing the type of visa you want
  • An understanding of any weaknesses in your case and whether they can be strengthened
  • A strategy for your application to ensure best chance of success.

We will provide you with a written Terms of Engagement that will map out the work we intend to undertake, as well as an estimate of fees, how long it is likely to take to receive a decision, and, finally, our terms and conditions.

As each case is hugely different from the next, we do not charge a set rate for case appointments (except for our 90-minute immigration clinic appointment). However, the first half hour of the initial appointment is free, which should give us enough time understand the situation and estimate costs, and allow you to decide whether you wish to proceed.

Find out more about our process here.

Aaron Martin, principal lawyer of NZIL, has been working as an immigration lawyer in New Zealand for over 20 years. In this time he has worked with many clients with a wide range of situations – from New Zealand visa applications to deportation. If you’d like to hear some of our client’s success stories, check out our client testimonials here.

If you have any other questions about your specific case, or what you may need to do to prepare for your case, please do not hesitate to contact the office either through our website, or by emailing questions@nzil.co.nz, or calling +64 (0) 9 869 2952.

New Travel Rules For New Zealand

New travel rules for tourists NZ

The New Zealand Government has introduced a new travel requirement for some visitors and transit passengers. It’s called the NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) and travellers need to request theirs via the official mobile app or website.

What is the NZeTA?

NZeTA logo
The NZeTA is a new border security measure being introduced by the New Zealand Government on 1 October 2019. Some travellers who are eligible to travel to New Zealand without a visa will now be required to hold an NZeTA before their travel to New Zealand.

The NZeTA is not a visa and doesn’t guarantee entry to New Zealand. On arrival in New Zealand, travellers must still meet all existing entry requirements, such as holding an onward travel ticket, being a bona fide visitor and being in good health.

Who needs an NZeTA?

You are required to hold an NZeTA before travelling to New Zealand if you are:
• Travelling on a passport from a visa waiver country.
• An Australian permanent resident.
• A cruise ship passenger, regardless of nationality.
If you are a cruise ship passenger from a visa required country, you can visit New Zealand using an NZeTA, but you must be travelling both to and from New Zealand on the cruise ship.

Do visitors in transit also need an NZeTA?
Travellers from visa waiver or transit visa waiver countries who are in transit through New Zealand are required to hold an NZeTA from 1 October 2019, even if New Zealand is not
their final destination.

Who does not need an NZeTA?
New Zealand and Australian passport holders and travellers who hold a valid New Zealand visa do not need an NZeTA.

Where to go for more information
To learn more about the NZeTA and to see the full list of eligible countries, visit immigration.govt.nz/nzeta or ask your travel agent.

What is the IVL?
The International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) is a way for you to contribute directly to the tourism infrastructure you use and help protect the natural environment you enjoy during your stay in New Zealand. Most visitors also need to pay the IVL which is payable at the same time you request your NZeTA.

When should travellers request their NZeTA and pay their IVL?
You should request your NZeTA well in advance of your trip to New Zealand. It can take up to 72 hours for an NZeTA request to be processed.
From July 2019 you can request your NZeTA and pay your IVL at immigration.govt.nz/NZeTA. The NZeTA is only required for travel from 1 October 2019, when it becomes mandatory.
If you do not hold an NZeTA when you check in for your flight or cruise, you will not be allowed to board. You may be able to request an NZeTA upon check in, but if Immigration New Zealand (INZ) cannot process the request in time, or if your request is refused, then you will not be allowed to board.

Check out the Immigration New Zealand website for more information.

Visit immigration.govt.nz/nzeta to find out if you need one.

Read our thoughts on the changes in our recent article: New electronic transport authority: a recipe for chaos and confusion?

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.

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.

All you need to know about migrant worker rights in NZ

There has been a lot in the news recently about migrant employee exploitation, and there seems to be some common themes. As most migrant’s visas are tied to an employer they can often feel trapped, unable to report issues as their lives in New Zealand depend on the linked employer. So what kind of exploitation are migrant workers facing? And more importantly, what can they – even better, our Government – do about it?  We talk to the experts to find out.

Migrant workers in New Zealand face several unique challenges. To find out more we spoke with Aaron Martin of NZIL, employment lawyer Mark Donovan, and Anu Kaloti, founding member of the Migrant Workers Association. All work in areas that help migrants with issues of employment, and all have successfully dealt with many cases of exploitation.

Most major issues that migrant workers face involve exploitation. This usually means the employer is denying the employee their basic rights and entitlements. All New Zealand workers, whether residents or migrants, are entitled to certain rights. Read the full list of rights (in a variety of languages) here:

Employers must include these basic rights and entitlements in their written contract with an employee. But the rights aren’t always put into practice. A migrant on a work visa who wants to live in New Zealand relies on their employer to comply with the rules. Often visas restrict migrants to one particular employer, so a migrant’s fate may be dependent on that sole employer doing the right thing.

 

Migrants are particularly vulnerable to exploitation because if a migrant employee is dismissed or their employer is identified as non-compliant, the migrant’s visa can be revoked. Kaloti often hears of employers threatening migrant workers with “if you don’t do XYZ we’ll get your visa cancelled or report you to Immigration”. She specifies that it is not uncommon for migrants to be verbally and even physically abused.

So, what are the common issues migrant workers face? And what can they do?

1. Wages

Employers must pay migrants a wage specified by the salary band linked to their visa. This wage must be clearly stated on a written employment agreement that has been signed by both parties. Unfortunately, some employers are finding ways around this.

Kaloti explains that often the employer will deposit the correct pay into the employee’s account “so the paper trail is perfect”, only to later demand a portion of that pay be given back. Often this is justified by claiming the employee was in debt to previous loans or training costs. The paper trail is kept clean by asking for the payment in cash or as a bank transfer to a friend or colleague’s account that is then paid back to the employer.

Another common example is hiring migrants under a “two-for-one deal”. Kaloti and the Migrant Workers Association are currently working through such a case with a married couple. The wife is employed by an IT company, which has enabled her to get a work visa. But her employment is on the condition that her husband works for her employer’s other business, an orchard. The wife is receiving the correct salary specified by her visa conditions; the husband, however, doesn’t get paid at all.

If an employee raises these kinds of issues in a public arena, it usually just causes them more grief. “Getting a third party involved can be like putting a fox in a hen house,” Martin says. The Labour Inspectorate works directly with Immigration New Zealand. So, if you report your employer for wage exploitation and you’re in the process of applying for a visa, your case can be denied on the grounds of having a non-compliant employer. This is why, as Martin advises, employees in this situation “usually just shut up and carry on”.

2. Leave and breaks

There are many reports of migrant staff working unpaid overtime or being denied leave or rest breaks. It is easy for an employer to specify the correct hours on a contract, then fail to monitor overtime and keep correct records. Sometimes this can be credited to an overly “relaxed” approach on the employer’s part, but often cases are of a less innocent nature.

Employees can work double the time recorded by an employer but be forced to sign false records in fear of losing their job. Then, if they raise a dispute, the evidence is against them. Employees being denied leave and break entitlements have similar problems providing proof.

If there’s no evidence, it’s can be hard to put together a case. But Mark Donovan offers some reassurance: “Immigration New Zealand and the Labour Inspectorate are alert to the risks around these issues with migrant employers. If the evidence of the employee is only their word and the employer cannot produce any evidence to contradict them, they’re still often likely to be believed as they are putting their life in New Zealand on the line.”

3. Business sold or liquidated

Complications arise for an employee when a business their visa is tied to is sold or liquidated. Sometimes, depending on the conditions of the visa, an employee can apply for a variation. If not, the migrant must submit a completely new visa application.

If the employer has another business, they can offer the employee a new position or a transfer. Martin, having worked on at least four such cases, believes this is an easy fix. If you’re working under an Essential Skills visa, provided the role and the location don’t change, it is likely you will be able to simply apply for a variation. If the role is different or in a new location, Martin says: “Effectively the Work Visa holder has to find another job – but they’re still in a situation of being tied to that employer.”

If a business is getting liquidated, an employee can be out of work without any notice. In some cases, and legally in all cases where a business is sold, notice will be given as specified in the terms of the contract. Immigration New Zealand won’t enforce immediate deportation, but it is imperative employees contact them as soon as they know they’re facing unemployment. Immigration New Zealand can issue a Visitor Visa, which will give the employee up to nine months to find more work.

Unfortunately, many employers don’t want to hire a migrant on a Visitor Visa or an open visa that is due to expire. It can be hard to find an employer willing to work through the gamut of a work visa application, especially if it is only for a short-term role. While it is legal to look for work on a Visitor Visa, it is not legal to actively work. Both parties must be mindful that if a visa’s conditions are not honoured, there can be serious legal implications.

4. Unfair dismissal

Unfair dismissal includes failing to follow a fair and reasonable process, giving less notice than is stated on a written agreement, or failing to provide an adequate reason for dismissal.

Where there is an unfair dismissal, legal action can be taken provided the employee raises a personal grievance with their employer within 90 days of being dismissed. Often disputes of this nature are resolved between the parties in a confidential meeting convened by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, known as a “mediation”.

Although often straightforward, unfair dismissal cases still can pose a difficult situation for migrant employees. While waiting for a mediation date, or for their case to be considered by the Employment Relations Authority, they will lose their main source of income and no longer meet the visa criteria that keeps them in the country. In a lot of cases, the employer will also unlawfully hold onto the final pay owed to the employee. If the employer has enforced an instant dismissal, or is withholding payout entitlements, the employee is left with no means to pay their rent and basic living costs.

5. Dismissal within the 90-day trial period

Employment agreements can specify a trial period of 90 days or less that allows the employer to dismiss an employee within this period if they aren’t suited to the role. The trial period can be a fairly daunting time for any new worker. For migrants with work visas tied to their employer, it’s not just a job they might lose – it’s their future, and their family’s future, in New Zealand.

This is a hard issue to resolve, as the employer is within their legal rights to dismiss the employee within the period stated on the employment agreement, provided they meet the legal tests for imposing such a trial period. As Martin says: “If you’re dismissed within the 90-day trial period, there’s no way around it other than getting a new job with a new visa or obtaining a Visitor Visa.”

Donovan says that the condition attaching an employer to a work visa is creating many of these issues: “It allows the employer to say ‘Aha! You’re mine!’ and the employee is stuck, even if their wages aren’t getting paid.” Employees avoid seeking legal help or even joining a union from fear of losing their employer and the right to live and work in New Zealand.

Kaloti believes that to reduce exploitation, all work visas should be open. “Tying work visas to an employer is too harsh,” she says.

Martin disagrees that all work visas should be open, but strongly believes most exploitation could be remedied with a simple policy change. “When a migrant raises an issue or needs to leave their job due to exploitation, instead of issuing a Visitor Visa we should give them a 6-month open work visa so at least they can apply for other jobs on a better footing,” he says. A Visitor Visa gives a migrant more time in the country, but they can’t legally work. And the application process for a new work visa once they’ve found an employer can take some time. “The government says it’s trying to protect migrants from exploitation,” says Martin, “but they sadly don’t give a hell of a lot to assist people in those circumstances.”

It’s important that migrant employees know they have the same rights as a resident employee. If you’re a migrant employee and a dispute happens at work, the Citizens Advice Bureau is a good place to start for free advice. They will likely refer you to the Labour Inspectorate or, if it is a personal grievance, the Employment Relations Authority. Alternatively, an employment or immigration lawyer can provide individual support and legal advice.

Kaloti believes that more and more migrants are beginning to speak out about exploitation. Workers who are concerned about jeopardising their visa if they seek legal help could consider a union for support and advice. Kaloti recommends migrants join a union relative to their area of work or one of several unions specific to migrants such as the Migrant Workers Association of Aotearoa, Migrant Action Trust, or the Indian Workers Association.

For more information about resolving workplace issues, check out this Employment New Zealand resource page

If you need help with an Employment or work related issue, contact Mark Donovan here

If you need help with an immigration related issue, contact NZIL here

For a list of work unions available in New Zealand, have a look on the Trade Unions of New Zealand web page here.

Bureaucratic insanity, the Immigration law that caused over-staying…

The introduction of interim visas was a welcomed change, but a major flaw in the process resulted in many people illegally overstaying in New Zealand, despite legitimately trying to follow the law. Recent changes have amended, but not without leaving a number of serious implications for migrants.

Immigration New Zealand’s own processes around Interim Visas have been increasing the number of over-stayers in New Zealand. Thank fully, Immigration New Zealand changed their policy on the 27th of August to address this issue.

Interim visas are what Australians sensibly call “bridging visas”. If Immigration New Zealand can’t make a decision on a new visa application before the applicant’s existing visa expires, it can issue an electronic interim visa to allow the applicant to stay in the country until the decision is made.

Prior to the introduction of interim visas, if your existing visa expired and Immigration New Zealand hadn’t decided on your application for a new one, you became an over-stayer. So Immigration New Zealand’s own timeliness in decision-making (or lack of timeliness) contributed to creating a pool of over-stayers.

Interim visas were intended to stop that problem. But there was a fundamental flaw in their operation: they expired the day after a decision was made on an application.

If you made a new application on 1 June, and your existing visa expired 1 July, the interim visa would start 2 July to allow you to stay here lawfully until a decision was made. But if Immigration New Zealand declined the new application after 1 July, your interim visa would end one day after that decision, making you an over-stayer.

That one day became crucial to many: you could use it to apply for reconsideration of the decline decision, or to reapply for the same visa.

Applications for reconsideration, however, required you to submit your passport to Immigration New Zealand along with the request for reconsideration. If your passport was held by Immigration New Zealand when the decision to decline the visa was made, you often wouldn’t get it back until three working days later. That meant you were unlawful in New Zealand, and being unlawful meant you lost the right of reconsideration.

Even if you had your passport, if the decision to decline your application was made late in the day on a Friday, by Monday when Immigration New Zealand opened to receive a reconsideration application, you were unlawful in New Zealand and therefore not allowed to apply for reconsideration.

This bureaucratic insanity meant many people legitimately trying to follow the law ended up illegally in New Zealand.

Even when people in this situation decided to leave New Zealand, the practical reality of packing up a life meant they would have a period of over-staying. This would then prejudice their ability to obtain visas offshore in order to return to New Zealand.

Think of all the things you need to do when moving countries: if you have rented a house, you need to give notice in accordance with the tenancy agreement. If you are in a job, you need to give notice in accordance with your employment agreement. You have to close bank accounts, sell cars, and sell personal possessions. You need to arrange accommodation back in your home country – which you may have not lived in sometimes for five years or more. All these things simply can’t be done in 24 hours.

For people who complied with the law, moved back overseas, and applied for a visa to re-enter, Immigration New Zealand would often consider any period of unlawful presence in New Zealand as a basis for claiming the applicant was non-compliant with visa rules and therefore should not be permitted to re-enter New Zealand. This decision was made for people who did not intend, want, or deliberately become over-stayers.

Finally, Immigration New Zealand has followed the Australian model and now the interim visa expires 21 days after a decision is made. This permits a practical window of opportunity for people to challenge a decision that may be incorrectly made. Or, alternatively, it gives them a realistic and practical period of time to leave New Zealand.

It is unfortunate that the change comes after so many people have had their immigration history destroyed by poor policy.

Worried about deportation? Have a look at our deportation page here.

If you have questions regarding the Interim Visa or any other recent policy changes, please contact us here.

For more migrant information and resources, have a look here.

Why NZ needs skilled migrants

NZ needs skilled migrants

Immigration is a hot topic in the news, stories highlighting an increase in migrant workers often brings a backlash from the public as there is a perception that skilled migrants are taking opportunities for lower pay that could be filled by a local workforce.

 So why does New Zealand have to recruit workers from overseas?

Immigration New Zealand’s website currently lists over 60 areas that immediately need skilled workers. These include IT, agriculture, education, the health sector, and trade and construction.

If the job is not in an area of skill shortage, and the visa applicant is not qualified as detailed in that list, current visa criteria requires companies to make significant attempts to fill vacancies with New Zealanders. And it goes without saying that companies would prefer to hire locally. As prominent immigration lawyer Aaron Martin says: “Why on earth would an employer go through the paperwork of a visa application process if they don’t have to?”

But, as the lengthy list of shortages shows, there just aren’t enough Kiwis with the required training and experience to fill the gaps. Talent is the single most important factor in the future prosperity of many industries, in fact the lack of available talent will be the greatest restriction in their growth.

Even in areas facing skill shortages, hires can take months or more. Catherine Clarke of Roam Creative, a leading digital product and innovation agency, told us: “It can take at least two to three months to fill a vacancy. Roam has been recruiting continually all year to fill roles including testers, designers, developers, and product managers. With perseverance and a strong employer brand, we’ve been lucky enough to source some amazing talent recently, but it is challenging as there simply aren’t enough skilled local candidates to cope with the growth of the IT industry in New Zealand.”

Roam recently set up an office in Sydney, but shortage of IT personnel is a problem there, too. With difficulty filling roles in New Zealand, and even stricter immigration laws in Australia, Clarke knows the vacancies won’t be filled quickly.

Crop production is another area on the immediate skill shortage list. Pedro Wylaars, National General Manager of Zealandia, has over 220 staff working to grow and supply millions of plants to commercial growers and garden centre businesses across the country. The company is always advertising for staff, and it struggles even to fill roles that offer on-the-job training.

It’s also a challenge for Zealandia to find New Zealanders with relevant tertiary qualifications. “The universities in New Zealand can’t fill up the horticulture papers,” says Wylaars. “And most of those students end up switching over to the agricultural sciences anyway.”

Wylaars says that if they couldn’t take on staff from other countries, they’d be “in big trouble”.

But aren’t migrants taking jobs from Kiwis who need work?

Both Roam and Zealandia are in industries on the skills shortage list, and are lucky enough to be able to recruit from overseas. But some people think these jobs should go to unemployed Kiwis.

Martin says this is a misconception of the realities of operating a business. “Some New Zealanders have a myopic view of the needs of New Zealand employers who are (often) trying to compete internationally” he says. “Some think ‘being a Kiwi’ is a qualification in itself that should put them first in terms of candidate selection”

Martin believes that employers should be able to choose staff who are the best fit for their company, with the best skills and the highest expertise. “If you miss out on a job to someone from overseas, it means you were not the best-qualified person, and you need to get out and upskill yourself. The best-skilled people get the jobs – it’s that simple”.

What benefits do migrants bring to jobs? 

It’s not just skills, training, and experience that migrants bring to roles; it’s a whole different ethos. Drive, ambition, energy, and a willingness to continuously upskill come as part of the package.

Martin credits this to one simple reason: “When you uproot yourself and family, and say good bye to your friends, your professional networks, and the comfort of a labour market that understands your skills, and you drop yourself into a completely foreign country, there’s no room for failure.”

Most migrant employees come from countries where there are several billion people. With intense competition for jobs and employment it’s necessary to adopt a strong work ethic to make yourself shine. New Zealand employers find this incredibly attractive. “It’s not a one-way equation,” says Martin. “It’s not as if migrants are the only ones benefitting – we actually get something that we need, too. It’s a two-way exchange. We get the benefit of their skill and experience. We get an opportunity to learn new things and that knowledge transfer benefits business and local employees.”

 Migrants also bring valuable diversity to the workplace. Roam, which creates apps and digital solutions across a variety of industries, finds this hugely beneficial. “Every product we build is designed with the user in mind. Migrants have been so valuable in bringing new insight and different perspectives when it comes to designing products for the user, which gives our Product teams a broader understanding of users on a global scale, empowering us to design products for the global market.”

The skills and experience migrants bring can also help take businesses up to another level. Wylaars experienced this first-hand when he employed an overseas candidate who is recognised globally as one of the top five in their field. “We thought we were already doing a pretty good job,” says Wylaars. “But this new employee has taken us two or three rungs further up the ladder – we’re now getting global attention for some our new techniques and processes.”

What benefits do migrants have on the economy?

Clarke says that areas experiencing skill shortages, such as IT, have become “candidate-driven job markets” where locals can demand high salaries. “In some cases, IT salaries have been driven up because of this,” she says.

High salaries obviously impact employers, with the cost usually passed onto clients. But the claim that migrant labour dampens wages is not the reality of employers experience.

Clarke states: “Our employees are hired for their expertise and their value to the business. Whether they were hired locally or overseas, this is irrelevant. It’s neither fair, nor sustainable to offer migrants lower pay as they’ll just move on to another job”.

International employees use their previous connections with overseas companies to help businesses grow, as well as create new businesses. This helps our overall economic growth. Migrants bring innovative concepts, methods and different perspectives with them from overseas.

“When you look at the net gain on economic activity of New Zealanders versus migrants, migrants perform well as their draw on publicly funds services is often low,” Martin says.

Migrants are less likely to claim benefits and, contrary to popular belief, actually create more jobs, mostly due to supply and demand. “As more migrants come into to the country we begin to see more smaller businesses established,” says Martin. “Migrants are often entrepreneurial and seek economic freedom and control over their own destiny by being self-employed. These new Kiwis create vital economic activity for our country.”

Looking for Immigration advice? If you have a concern about your visa or would like to speak to our expert immigration team for support with a migrant employee application, get in touch today.

Immigration Law changes NZ September update

Immigration Law changes NZ September 2018 update

What are the implications of the new visa changes for immigrants and employers?

The changes to the Skilled Migrant points system and work visa rules announced in April 2017 have now been implemented.

*Editors note: this article was originally Published In September 2017, since then Immigration NZ have amended the visa pay thresholds twice more. Therefore, we have updated the figures in this article to reflect the figures as of the 26th of November 2018.

Continue reading Immigration Law changes NZ September update