Posts

The New Zealand Government’s new KiwiBuild scheme will see changes to immigration settings in order to help the construction and housing sector to attract overseas skilled workers.

The government’s response to New Zealand’s shortage of affordable housing is the new KiwiBuild scheme which will see the construction of 100,000 starter homes for first home buyers over the next ten years, with half of those new houses earmarked for the Auckland region.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) projected in late 2017 that there could be a potential shortfall of approximately 30,000 workers to meet increasing demand in housing and infrastructure, with this number likely to rise as a result of the KiwiBuild initiative. The shortage affects all skills categories in the construction sector but particular growth is expected in the demand for plumbers, electricians, builders, civil engineers and project managers.

The proposed changes, which are expected to come in to force late 2018 or early 2019, include three key components.

The first is a dedicated KiwiBuild Skills Shortage List. This list will identify specific roles for which the immigration process will be streamlined. The list will expand on the innovations introduced in the Canterbury Skills Shortage List, which was brought in after the Christchurch earthquake to help with the city’s rebuild.

For roles included on the KiwiBuild Skills Shortage List, an employer may not need to prove to Immigration New Zealand that they have made a genuine attempt to employ a New Zealand citizen or resident visa holder for the position.

The second component of the change will provide advantages for companies who have proven standards as good employers in the construction sector. Employer accreditation or pre-approval should see faster processing and greater simplicity in visa applications.

Employers will be able to benefit from this streamlined process if they reach high standards of health and safety, have good business practices and can demonstrate good employment conditions, pay, training, skills development and pastoral care.

For employers who comply with the pre-approval criteria this will offer greater opportunities to plan their workforce and hire overseas workers to meet the expected demand.

During periods of skills shortage there is often concern around the risk of exploitation of migrant workers through lower wages and poor working conditions. The third component of the proposed changes will put in place steps to minimise that risk by introducing specific requirements for labour hire companies, establishing a mandatory accreditation scheme to cover third party arrangements.

This Immigration New Zealand accreditation is likely to require labour hire companies to pay workers at least the market rate and offer terms and conditions equivalent to the hire company’s other employees, as well as ensuring equity across all employees’ terms and conditions. The accreditation may also see hire companies having to meet the upfront costs of worker recruitment.

Hire companies will also likely be responsible for ensuring that contracted third parties uphold good practices in the workplace.  Failure to comply with this and any of the new proposed changes could mean that Immigration New Zealand could cancel the hire company’s accreditation and the benefits that go with it.

The Government may also consider the option that work visas issued under the KiwiBuild Skills Shortage list may have more flexible conditions and could, for example, require the worker just to work in their specific role and not restrict the worker to a particular employer or location.

Recruiting to meet periods of high demand and maintaining legal and ethical obligations in employing migrant staff can be complex. We recommend that employers begin this process with the benefit of professional advice and assistance on visa matters from an experienced Licenced Immigration Adviser or Immigration Lawyer.

The Pathways New Zealand team will be monitoring progress on these proposals and will confirm the final details of the changes once they are announced.

During June the Government opened up consultation on proposed changes to post-study work visa categories. Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway intends that the proposed changes will help eliminate or reduce migrant exploitation and will encourage international students to study higher quality courses and courses which will lead to employment roles in the areas which New Zealand needs.

If introduced, the proposed changes would see the removal of the post-study employer-assisted 2 year work visa and the introduction of a three-year post-study open work visa for degree level 7 and higher qualifications. All students studying below Level 7 would only be entitled to a one-year post-study open work visa and only if their qualification required at least 2 years of study. In addition, visa eligibility for accompanying families of students would be tightened with only partners and children of students studying level 8 or 9 qualifications in an area of long term skill shortage being entitled to partner work, and dependent child student, visas.

The Government is right to focus on student worker and migrant exploitation as such exploitation is now endemic in New Zealand – however the proposed changes, in our view, would do little to remedy this situation. The pathway many international students take to study in New Zealand is fraught with exploitation, largely due to dishonest Education Agents not acting in the best interests of their student clients and misleading students as to their course and future visa entitlements. Agents often enrol students in low level and inappropriate courses, and at particular institutions, based on the commissions they can earn and with little regard to the student’s best interests and long term future. This is where many problems begin and the Government must now look closely at requiring all student visa advisers to be licensed and regulated by the Immigration Advisers Authority.

Once a student has completed their course and gained their post-study work visa, they currently face the challenge of obtaining employment relevant to their qualification within a 12 month period. For many such visa holders, securing relevant employment can also create a pathway to residency. This pressure to find suitable employment to extend their visa can often lead to a person being forced to take up an employment role on terms dictated by the employer and which have little regard to New Zealand employment law. Currently, the only practical option for a migrant worker in an exploitative situation like this is to find new employment and then to change their visa to this new employment. However, the reality is that very often in these situations the visa holder is unable to find new employment and has no choice but to remain being exploited in their existing role. Additionally, migrants are often fearful of reporting unscrupulous employers to Immigration New Zealand as this will directly impact their work situation and can lead to losing their job and work visa and place them in a very difficult situation having no job and no visa to allow work. These people and their families have invested many tens of thousands of dollars in their education in New Zealand and need to work to repay this debt.

If the Government is serious about stamping out migrant exploitation it must introduce more effective processes to identify exploitative employers and take proactive action against these employers. A constructive first step would be to introduce a suitable interim “visa solution” for visa holders who were being exploited so they can be more willing to speak out and to provide key employer information without having the worry of their own visa situation to protect.

While the proposal for a 3 year open work visa after graduation will take initial pressure off the requirement to obtain employment for visa purposes the potential effect will be that many of these visa holders will resort to self-employment (eg; Uber drivers) and undertaking cash work as there is no immediate compunction on them to enter into lawful, documented, employment. In fact there is a real prospect that their visa situation will directly lead to greater exploitation due to the lack of oversight of what they will be doing and what any employer is requiring of them.

The pressure will go on again when it comes to the end of the open work visa term when the visa holder does require a particular employment role to support a new work visa or a residence application. Due to the extended passing of time to get to this juncture the likelihood is that these people will be subjected to, and open to, a much greater level of potential exploitation that what otherwise would be the case.

In addition the 3 year work visa will provide the time and opportunity for visa holders to pursue other avenues to stay in New Zealand including establishing their own businesses and forming partnership relationships, and to focus on these avenues to obtain residence. We do not believe these outcomes provide the best benefit to New Zealand and do not make use of their New Zealand qualifications.

Our view is that is that consideration should be given to the introduction of a work-to-residence pathway for student graduates. This could work similar to the existing WTR schemes whereby an applicant must work in a certain job for 2 years and can then directly apply for residence. This scheme would operate like an internship and would encourage both graduate students and employers to invest in a longer term employment relationship – and would see graduate students appropriately motivated to progress their careers rather than sitting around for 3 years until they have to do something.

It would be naive to believe that many international students coming to study here are not significantly motivated by the prospect of working in New Zealand and gaining residence in the future. Of the two main student markets, India and China, the vast majority choose New Zealand to study because of the prospect to pathway to residence. This motivation of immigration policy settings cannot be downplayed or ignored as without it the international education industry, New Zealand’s 5th biggest export earner,  will stall and likely retreat.

The reality of this situation must be accepted, and students should be encouraged by policy settings to study in the courses that will lead to employment in roles which will benefit New Zealand and which will deliver the residence outcome to the student. Any changes to the existing post-study visas should therefore seek to protect students from exploitation, whilst enabling and pro-actively encouraging them to seek career focused employment roles which are in demand in New Zealand and which can advance their future residence eligibility. This begins with the student choosing better-quality and focused courses which can then lead to better quality student outcomes and employment prospects.

There is nothing at all wrong with the existence of a study-to-residence pathway. Such a pathway enables relatively young, New Zealand qualified people who have good English and local friends and connections, and who have already assimilated to New Zealand, to build upon this very sound foundation and to become the New Zealanders of the future. We just need the immigration settings that will first attract the students we want, and which will protect them from exploitation, and then encourage them to stay and to provide the skills New Zealand needs so we can realise this future together. Our view is that the proposed policy changes correctly identify the issues but are very much formulated in reaction to the current situation and do not recognise the consequences of what the changes will promulgate. Our preference is for more forward thinking and constructive policies that will deliver the preferred long term outcomes for the benefit of New Zealand, and of the student.

Whilst there is no requirement for a migrant to use the services of an immigration adviser they can benefit significantly from the advice and expertise of an experienced and reputable adviser.

The first and most reliable way to choose an adviser is by referral from someone who has previously used and recommended the adviser. Approximately 80% of Pathways new clients are referred to us.

Advisers must be licensed and maintain a current license (renewed annual) from the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA). The IAA website maintains a searchable list of advisers. The website can be used to find an adviser and/or verify that the person you are thinking of engaging with is suitably licensed and eligible to represent you.

Each adviser has their own unique 9 digit license number. The first 4 numbers signify the year that the adviser first became licensed, this therefore becomes an immediate reference to the level of experience that person has. As licensing was introduced in 2008 the most experienced advisers numbers will begin with 2008 as do 3 of the advisers at Pathways.

Given the level of experience can be indicated by the adviser’s license number it should also be established the size of the organisation that the adviser works for and the depth of experience within the company. A relatively new adviser maybe working in a company of 5+ advisers where there is significant combined experience and structured supervision and governance. In addition a robust company infrastructure will ensure that an advisers business can continue to function seamlessly if the adviser is absent. There should always be someone who can be contacted and who is knowledgeable about your application. At Pathways we have 11 advisers who combined have over 80 years of New Zealand immigration experience as well as experienced support staff.

Look beyond the website – in this day and age it is very easy to create a great website that can create the impression of professionalism and experience. It’s really important to dig under the surface and establish just how experienced the person is, not only general experience but have they got the actual relevant experience to understand and assist with your specific requirements.

Is the adviser a member of a credible professional industry body – NZAMI (New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment) is the main professional body an adviser is most likely to be a member of.

The public profile of the adviser within the industry. Are they involved with industry reference groups?
Pathways director Richard Howard is regularly invited to participate on industry reference groups –he is currently on the panel overseeing the development of the new adviser qualification and regularly meets with INZ senior executives to provide industry feedback.

Do they present at industry seminars?
Several of Pathways advisers have been invited to present at NZAMI adviser professional development seminars, most recently Anthony Callaghan presented on deportation liability for residents convicted of offences after residence granted, and Charlotte Summers presented on Domestic Violence Matters and Immigration Law.

Ultimately once you’ve established that the person has the credentials to manage your requirements do you think you can work with them? You may be working with that person for a number of months so above all you have to feel confident that you can trust each other and work together as a team to achieve your goal.

INZ have a number of visa options for individuals to join or accompany their partners in New Zealand for either temporary or permanent stays. What constitutes a partnership and how does Immigration New Zealand (INZ) assess applications of this type?

To be eligible to make a partnership based application applicants must provide suitable evidence they are living together in a genuine and stable partnership relationship. Relationships can be heterosexual or same sex (gay/lesbian), transsexuals are also recognised.

To be considered “genuine and stable” from an immigration perspective, the relationship must have been entered into with the intention of being maintained on a long term and exclusive basis and also be deemed by INZ as a relationship which is likely to endure. INZ do not require that a couple be married or in a civil union. Evidence of marriage may contribute to evidencing that the relationship is genuine (but not always!). We recognise that marriage is sometimes required of couples before they can live together due to their own cultural, moral and/or religious reasons and in such cases the couple may consider it personally necessary to first marry in order that they can commence living together.

Each relationship is unique, however INZ’s criteria and rules apply to all. INZ place the responsibility on the applicant to provide suitable documentary evidence to support their application. Key factors that have a bearing on whether a couple are living together in a genuine and stable relationship include:-

  • The duration of the relationship
  • Sharing a common residence and having no other separate place to live
  • The level of financial dependence and interdependence
  • The level of commitment to a shared life together
  • Children from the relationship
  • Public recognition of the relationship
  • The couple’s respective previous immigration history including the couple’s respective previous declarations to INZ or sponsorships

Satisfying INZ that a couple are living together in a genuine and stable partnership which is likely to endure certainly requires compelling evidence. Partnership based visa applications for couples who have been living together only a short while and for those who have lived together for many years are alike in one way: each immigration application requires forward planning, and especially guidance on the relationship evidential documentation – all of which are important to achieve a successful outcome for a partnership based application. A poorly constructed application which lacks appropriate and complete documentation may result in processing delays or, in the worst case, a decline decision.

Partners of New Zealand citizens or residence visa holders can be eligible for a work visa. Such work visas, called open work visas, allow the holder to work for any employer(s) and/or to be self-employed. Once a couple have been living together for at least 12 months the partner can be eligible to apply for residence.

Partners of New Zealand Work Visa holders may also be eligible for a work visa of their own. This open work visa will be issued for the same duration as of their partner’s work visa. Similarly partners of International Students studying in New Zealand may be eligible for either a work visa or visitor visa. However this option is only possible if the student partner is studying a particular type and/or level of qualification in New Zealand.

If you are not living together with your partner at the time of making an application, but can evidence having previously lived together for a reasonable period of time and there is a reasonable explanation for your separation, then you may still be eligible for a partnership visa. However if you are not living together, or have not previously lived together for any period of time, then you will need to look at alternative visa options. It is possible to obtain a visitor visa to come to New Zealand initially to be with a partner and then later extend this visa to achieve the required “living together” period sufficient to then satisfy the requirements for a partnership work visa. There is no fixed period a couple must be living together to support a partnership based temporary visa application however our view is that a couple should be living together for at least 4-6 months before making such an application.

Partnership applications can be challenging and require careful forward planning, and advice from a professional experienced adviser can be of great help especially in regard to what documents are best to evidence the relationship.