Tag Archives: Immigration law changes

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.

 

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.

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.

Post-study visa changes: November updates

News and information on NZ post-study visas
New Zealand Post-study visa changes came into full effect November 26th 2018. We cover the changes and the implications for migrants and Kiwi employers.

Changes to post-study work visas came into effect yesterday. The most significant change, as discussed in our previous article “Employer Assisted Visas: addressing the unwritten trade off” is the removal of the employer’s company name on the visa. Open visas will take its place, a positive not only for migrants but for local employers as well.

The new visa categories are:

  • A three-year post-study open work visa for those who have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification
  • A one-year post-study open work visa for those studying New Zealand Qualifications Framework level 4-6 and non-degree level 7 qualifications. An additional year is available for graduate diploma students who are working towards registration with a professional or trade body, and
  • A “time-bound” two-year post-study open work visa for students studying level 4-6 and non-degree level 7 qualifications outside Auckland (study must be completed before 2021).

To make sure current tertiary students and post-study work visa holders aren’t disadvantaged, Immigration New Zealand has also introduced the following.

  • Students who held a student visa or were in the process of applying for a student visa to study towards an eligible qualification as at 8 August 2018 can apply for a three-year post-study open work visa on completion of their qualification.
  • Students in this category who have previously had a one-year open post-study work visa can apply for a two-year post-study open work visa on completion of their qualification.
  • Those who currently hold a one-year post-study work visa can apply for a further two-year open post-study work visa.
  • Those who currently hold an Employer Assisted Work Visa can apply to vary the conditions of their visa and remove the occupation, employer, and location restrictions.

These changes will allow migrant students and graduates greater freedom to change jobs and compete on an even playing-field with local candidates. Much of the exploitation of migrants that we have seen in the news is due to the visa restrictions that tied migrants to one eligible employer in order to work and live in the country. Now that migrant workers are not dependent on one employer they are free to find a better role if work conditions and pay aren’t adequate. They will also have more freedom to move to roles more suited to their desired career.

The visa changes mean that future students will need to undertake courses of a much higher calibre to secure work rights after study. In accordance, the educational threshold for entry and the English standard of those coming to New Zealand will be higher. This is a clear benefit for employers as it will make for a greater selection of candidates with higher skill sets. The changes also mean employers do not need to be so involved in an employee’s post-study work visa process, which saves employers time and inconvenience.

All change comes with some uncertainty, but overall these changes will be of huge benefit to both migrants and local employers. Hopefully this will pave the way for other visa categories to be reviewed.

For a full list of changes, have a look at the Immigration New Zealand resource here.

If you want to talk about your post-study visa options, or have any other immigration law concerns, contact the NZIL office here.

Work visa wage rate increase

 

Information about the increased wage threshold for NZ visas coming into effect Nov 26 2018

The Government-imposed increase in wage and salary thresholds will come into effect from November 26, for both the Essential Skills Work Visa and the Skilled Migrant Residence Visa.

This increase has major implications for both migrants and employers. The inflation is based on new calculations of the “average” wage rate in relation to an increase in the cost of living.

Here is the overview of the rate changes for each visa category affected:

Hourly rates from 26 November 2018

From 26 November 2018, we are making changes to what an applicant in the Skilled Migrant Category must earn.

Threshold Between 15 January 2018 and 25 November 2018 From 26 November 2018
Threshold for skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 1-3 $24.29 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $25.00 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Threshold for skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 4-5, or which is not included in ANZSCO $36.44 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $37.50 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Threshold to earn bonus points $48.58 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $50.00 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)

 

After 26 November 2018, we are making changes to what an applicant in the Essential Skills work visa category must earn.

Threshold Between 15 January 2018 and 25 November 2018 From 26 November 2018
Threshold for mid-skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 1-3 $20.65 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $21.25 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Threshold for higher skilled employment in any occupation (including those at ANZSCO 4-5) $36.44 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $37.50 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)

 

FAQs:

What if I am a current Essential Skills work visa holder and my job does not meet the new threshold? What if I’m an employer and one of my staff hold a current visa but their wage does not meet the new threshold?

Ans: Visas that people already hold will not be affected. Changes to the income thresholds will not affect the duration or conditions of visas that have already been granted.

If you apply for, or have applied for, an Essential Skills work visa and your application was received by INZ before 26 November 2018, the old thresholds will be used to assess your application and determine your visa application. Only new applications made on or after 26 November 2018 will be assessed against the new threshold.

This may mean the conditions or visa duration of the next visa could be different. For example, a chef paid $21 an hour would currently be considered mid-skilled, as the occupation is ANZSCO level 2 and the pay is above the existing threshold of $20.65. However, if they applied for a further visa after 26 November, they would be considered low skilled, unless their pay increased to above the new threshold of $21.25.

If I am an employer who has already advertised and prepared to support an Essential Skills work visa, but the person cannot get his application in before 26 November 2018, what happens then?

Ans: If an application is received and accepted after 26 November 2018, the new thresholds will apply, even if, for example, the employment agreement has been signed prior to 26 November 2018.

What happens if I was invited to apply for the Skilled Migrant Category under the old thresholds?

Ans: We will assess your application against the thresholds in place on the date your expression of interest (EOI) was selected from the Pool, if that selection results in an invitation to apply. For example, if your EOI was selected on 21 November and you were invited to apply before 30 November, the old remuneration thresholds will apply, even though you weren’t invited to apply until after the new thresholds were introduced.

If you are concerned about your visa status based on these changes, get in touch with our team here.

Employer Assisted Visas: addressing the unwritten trade-off…

Employer Assisted Visas

Last month it was announced that changes are being made to the conditions of the Employer Assisted Work Visa. If Kiwi employers allow for it, these changes won’t only be a win for new migrant graduates, protecting them against exploitation, but for Kiwi employers as well.

Upcoming Immigration law changes in November mean holders of Employer Assisted Work Visas will no longer have to name their employer on their visa. Currently, when an employer is noted on a visa it is a condition of the visa that the holder remain in that employment with that employer for the duration of the visa.

This change will allow a new cohort of graduating international students to secure work rights for a three-year period to work for any employer.

This will give those seeking work experience relevant to their qualification a much greater chance in gaining meaningful employment that not only benefits them but also New Zealand. It will hopefully stop the gross under-utilisation of skill and talent we see where young international students who have completed good tertiary-level qualifications end up in jobs well below their skill level, often being paid very poorly.

Having a work visa that permits employment with any employer evens the playing field. These migrants can now fully participate in a free labour market and move to better positions commensurate with their skill level if new opportunities arise. This will prevent many becoming captive to unscrupulous employers who underpay for the skill level of the role being performed as some form of unwritten trade-off for supporting visa applications.

I hope this change will also encourage more New Zealand employers to consider hiring from this group of ambitious young professionals. Employers will hopefully no longer be frightened off by visa expiry dates and the perceived complexity of becoming involved in immigration matters.

If you’re wondering how this will affect your current Employer Assisted Work Visa, contact NZIL

If you’d like to read an Employer Assisted Work Visa success story, click here.

If you’d like to know other benefits of hiring a migrant, check out our last article.

For other migrant information check out our Migrant Resources.

If you’re thinking about hiring a migrant, read our Employer Checklist

Will the new KiwiBuild visa cut the mustard for migrant workers?

KiwiBuild visa changes

On the 27th of June the Government announced it is revising the KiwiBuild visa scheme and changing immigration settings to try to address New Zealand’s shortage in construction workers. But will these changes address the issues?

New Zealand as a destination is a difficult sell even for large construction companies. It takes a lot to get a builder from the UK to move to New Zealand, where the cost of living is high but the wages are not.

It’s even harder if you can’t offer that person the certainty of residence. If the potential talent that might be recruited using these schemes can’t get a residence visa, the ability of employers to attract that talent will be compromised.

Continue reading Will the new KiwiBuild visa cut the mustard for migrant workers?

Time to ask for a pay rise…

pay rise NZ

If you want to be granted a Skilled Migrant Category Residence visa in 2018 you should check your eligibility against the new Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment SMC criteria.

On the 26th of November, the MBIE updated the SMC visa and changed the remuneration (payment) threshold that will meet the eligible criteria for migrants.

Continue reading Time to ask for a pay rise…