Tag Archives: immigration news

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.

 

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.

Increase in work visa thresholds will only add to skilled labour crisis

New Zealand Work Visa

The skilled-labour crisis is about to get worse, thanks to increases in minimum wage rates for skilled migrant workers.

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, demonstrating the insanity of pay rate being a proxy for skill.

In a free labour market, supply and demand are supposed to determine wage/salary rates. But in the labour market for migrant workers, the Government is directly influencing wages under the guise of pay being a proxy for skill level.

The metric is artificial and arbitrary. It’s designed to make things easier for bureaucrats to manage but has become an overly complex system with unintended and major consequences for migrant employees and employers alike.

Implications for employers:

The new thresholds will increase pressure on staffing costs for employers in the healthcare, trade, and hospitality sectors if they wish to keep migrants whose wage/salary sits below these thresholds.

Recently some healthcare workers managed to get a pay increase to $24.65 – partly based on the pay parity case brought by care worker Kristine Bartlett. This put some migrants in the healthcare sector within reach of residence.

The threshold increases mean this residence is no longer a realistic reality. This could mean a loss of valuable human resources for employers as these workers either give up, move into other sectors, or leave the country, tired of being stuck on what seems like an endless round of work visas with no end in sight.

These issues will also impact employers in the hospitality sector. Pathways to residence for occupations in this sector that are more junior will now prove more difficult. A survey of wage rates nationally showed they varied considerably across the regions, but on average a senior chef de partie earned about $45,000, well below the cut-off level. If these valuable employees have no potential to attain residence, we will lose them.

The new thresholds will also introduce difficult pay parity issues for employers. The new wage rates that migrants require as dictated by Government policy are out of kilter with market increases across the board. Employers will not be able to simply pay migrants the extra required without also raising the wages of their local workers. How could they justify this to the local staff? Any pay disparity will engender a level of upward wage pressure for everyone. Many employers are not in a position to be able to raise wages across the board.

Implications for migrants: 

Work Visa

Immigration New Zealand uses pay rates as part of the process of determining the skill level of a job. This determines the length of visa allocated and has flow-on impact for a migrant’s ability to bring family into New Zealand under this category.

Under the new rules:

  • For skill level 1-3 occupations you will need a pay rate of $21.25 to get a three-year work visa (up from $20.65)

  • For skill level 4 and 5 occupations you will need an hourly rate of $37.50 to secure a three-year visa (up from $36.44).

For example, a chef paid $21 an hour would currently be considered mid-skilled, and get a three-year visa. If the same person applies after 26 November, they will be considered low-skilled, and only get a one-year visa.

Residence

For residence purposes, the pay rates you need to have a job classified as skilled will increase from 26 November. If you are not being paid at least $25 for a ANZSCO skill level 1-3 role, the job won’t be considered skilled for visa purposes. The skilled remuneration threshold for ANZSCO skill level 4 and 5 occupations has also increased to $37.50 per hour. So, the minimum required salary threshold will be $52,000.

What will this mean in practice? Under the current rules, a person in a skill level 3 job (which includes many trades) who is paid, say, $24.50 per hour is regarded as in skilled employment and has a chance at residence. After 26 November, they will no longer be regarded as being in skilled employment and will lose that opportunity.

In addition, under the new rules, to get bonus points for an occupation with “high remuneration” you will need an hourly rate of $50.

 Macro considerations

How do you explain to a person that when they go to bed they are regarded as in skilled employment and eligible for residence, but when they wake up the job is not regarded as skilled employment?

How do you explain to somebody that when they go to bed they are eligible for a three-year work visa because their job is regarded as mid-skilled, but when they wake up they are only eligible for a one-year work visa because now their job is regarded as low-skilled?

Furthermore, how do you explain to employers that their staff will need a pay rise if you want to keep them?

In a time where employers are crying out for skilled migrants, these changes are an arbitrary and illogical hurdle against solving our skilled worker shortage. The changes also clearly demonstrate the lack of deep-thinking around implications of arbitrary measures of “scoring eligibility” used by Immigration New Zealand.

To see the full schedule of changes, click here. 

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

Kiwibuild visa replaced with new Kiwibuild skills shortage list

Kiwibuild

The Government has scrapped its KiwiBuild Visa plan in favour of wider proposed changes to immigration settings to fix a 30,000 worker gap in construction.

The government-is trying to make the process easier for employers to recruit the staff they need to work in construction and fast track the immigration process for workers who meet the right criteria.

The proposed changes include a KiwiBuild Skills Shortages list which would set up a simplified process for employers to quickly hire overseas workers in critical roles without Immigration NZ needing to conduct a market test each time.

Continue reading Kiwibuild visa replaced with new Kiwibuild skills shortage list

Stop the cynical political point scoring- its time to address the real issues…

Principle lawyer at NZIL  Aaron Martin, weighs in on the recent comments in the media from Michael Woodhouse about a suggested amnesty for illegal construction workers.

The criticism by National Party spokesman for Immigration, Michael Woodhouse, of the current Minister for possibly looking at an amnesty is cynical political points scoring of the worst order.

Continue reading Stop the cynical political point scoring- its time to address the real issues…

Storm in a teacup

kiwibuilder

Workers in demand have always been able to be recruited offshore.

Property developers Fu Wah have been in the news lately for moves to recruit construction workers from China. The Beijing-based construction company is applying for short-term work visas for 200 workers to complete the fit-out of new luxury Auckland hotel Park Hyatt by March next year.

Continue reading Storm in a teacup

Major bureaucratic flaws in New Zealand’s immigration system

New Zealand's immigration system

Leading Auckland immigration lawyer Aaron Martin knows from extensive experience with clients exactly where the frustrations and incompetencies of the current process lie. He has some suggestions for the new Government about where its focus should be when it comes to immigration.

The Labour Party election campaign focused on positive messages. So I eagerly looked forward to an equally positive message from the new Minister of Immigration. But in an article on the Newsroom website on 1 December the Minister started on a negative: the immigration system was broken and required more money to catch those who try to shaft it.

Continue reading Major bureaucratic flaws in New Zealand’s immigration system