Kids Caught Out, Casualties of Work-to-Residence Visas

Immigration New Zealand’s extended processing delays on family visa applications are leaving vulnerable young adults in limbo.

Since the outbreak of COVID, residence visa processing at INZ has slowed to a crawl, for no plausible reason as far as I can see. One unintended consequence of taking so long to move Residence applications through the queue, is that children who were of school age when the application was lodged two years ago have now turned 18 and need to go to University. But they can only do so if they become international students and are able to afford the international study fees that Institutes charge.

What does this mean for children of skilled migrants?

In real-world terms, this means that if their parents don’t have residence when they reach 18, they are not permitted to attend university in New Zealand unless they pay $20,000 per term. If they can’t afford those international student fees, can they work? No. Because if they become financially independent or are considered not substantially dependent on their parents, they cannot be included in the family’s residence application under the current rules.

So now you have a whole cohort of teenagers who are literally sitting around at home doing nothing for two years … and counting. Two years is a long time to be out of education. Two years is also a long time to get into trouble as a teenager. Educational psychologists will tell you that it’s really hard to get kids motivated after such a long hiatus – to say nothing of the lasting psychological impact and social problems that could occur should these young adults fall in with the wrong crowd because of too much idle time and an unmet desire for stimulation.

MP Stanford takes Minister Faafoi to task

At question time in parliament on May 15th, National MP Erica Stanford asked Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi what options there were for these children, to which he replied, “I’m not sure precisely what visa they would go for. I’m sure there are many options available to them.”

This illustrates Faafoi’s stunning ignorance of his own Immigration policies. You know how many options there actually are? None, other than sitting around at home. They aren’t even allowed to volunteer without INZ causing problems! He went on to say that someone in that situation could apply for a work visa if they separated from their parents’ application.

What sort of option is that? They will no longer be covered as dependents and likely won’t be able to cover tuition on the type of earnings they would typically make with no skills or qualifications. They would have no pathway to residence and no option but to return home – potentially on their own. He might as well say, “Let them eat cake.”

As to why it’s taking so long, Faafoi claims “increased demand” and resources being diverted to processing time-consuming border exception applications, which they consider a higher priority. I’m not buying it. As I’ve commented before, the slowdown is deliberate to not blow out forecasted numbers and budgets.

What is Immigration New Zealand doing about teens lost in the system?

Nothing! Absolutely nothing. Why? It seems to me that they’re hoping that if they ignore the problem long enough, it will take care of itself. People will leave voluntarily. They want to socially re-engineer New Zealand from scratch and seem to have naively believed that returning New Zealanders from abroad would be sufficient to fill labour gaps and reduce reliance on migrants. Well, things haven’t panned out that way at all, and Government doesn’t seem to have a backup plan. Not only are they driving away skilled migrants in needed sectors like health care, but New Zealanders don’t want the jobs left vacant by migrant labour.

What should INZ be doing about these kids?

As a temporary measure, allow these young adults to go to university and not pay international student fees. Only a relatively small number of students will be affected, so it’s not going to break the bank. Alternatively, allow them to work without severing them from their family’s residence eligibility. They could potentially restrict the number of hours these applicants may work or similar.

Finally, reintroduce a separate queue for residency from work applications. They are simple to process and relatively quick for INZ to turn around. This has gone on long enough. INZ needs to get their act together before we lose the skilled migrants our economy so desperately needs.

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