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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.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) are forcefully clamping down on those people that have or are suspected to have used an unlicensed immigration advisers to assist with the preparation of their visa application, this is most notable in India where there has been a significant increase in visa declines especially for spouses of student visa holders.

The issue seems to stem from the many thousands of education agents who can legally advise students and assist with their student visa applications, however unless they are licensed, of which only a handful are,they are not permitted to provide advise or assistance to any accompanying family members. Unfortunately many of the agents are offering to assist the family members by providing advice to complete the applications but trying to hide this by not declaring their provision of assistance on the application forms, which is a legal requirement.

As per section 9 of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007, INZ will not accept applications from unlicensed advisers, but equally INZ requires all applicants to make a truthful declaration on their form. These agents advise the applicants to use their own contact details in the application form and declaring in the forms not to have received any immigration advice with their cases . So not only have applicants taken advice from an unlicensed adviser they have also made a false declaration on their form, which creates an immediate and potential insurmountable character issue for the applicant, most likely to result in the application being declined.

Recently INZ Delhi has declined many partnership applications which were lodged subsequent to approval of student visas to the spouses of these applicants. During the applicant interview, INZ has been asking these applicants whether they took help from any adviser to fill the forms and preparing the documentation for their applications. This becomes a catch 22 for the applicants as if they say no and INZ believe they have then they will have lied in the interview, and if they say yes then INZ will take issue they lied on the form. Most of these applications are being declined on character grounds. Under section 342 of the immigration Act 2009, it is an offence to provide false and misleading information in support of any application or a request for a visa or entry permission.

It is a timely reminder to all potential migrants to New Zealand, and especially those in India, to take a more cautious approach towards their future and being more diligent as to whom they engage with to represent or advise on their immigration requirements. To date these unlicensed advisers/agents have managed to avoid any legal action against them since they are not representing the clients in any formal capacity however, it is the client whose future remains at stake and they are often oblivious of the nature of the risk they undertake by involving unauthorised people in their cases and being complicit in trying to mislead INZ.

The current licensing scheme is under review and we expect the Immigration Advisers Authority will be taking greater steps to clamp down on overseas unlicensed advisers. In the interim it is applicant’s responsibility to make sure they only use licensed advisers in support for their applications.

In order to give New Zealand immigration advice a person must be licensed by the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA), unless they are exempt from being licensed. Exempt people include New Zealand lawyers, Citizens Advice Bureau workers and education agents who are based offshore and who can offer advice only on student visas. Except for these exempt people it does not matter where a person is located in the world – if they are giving New Zealand immigration advice they are required by law to be licensed.

The licensing of advisers was introduced in 2008 in response to Government and public concerns that migrants were being exploited by unscrupulous operators and losing large sums of money. The Pathways Managing Director Richard Howard was Chairman of the industry association, the NZAMI, at this time and was at the forefront of leading the transition of the industry to becoming regulated. Some 220 advisers were initially licensed based on their industry experience and knowledge and this number gradually grew to about 500 advisers in 2012. In 2013 the Graduate Certificate in New Zealand Immigration Advice qualification was introduced and this then became the requisite requirement for advisers to become licensed. This Certificate was a 6 month full time or one year part time qualification undertaken online by the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.

Demand for places on the Certificate course has always exceeded the number of places available and as a result the number of licensed advisers has now grown to over 800 – with some 570 based in New Zealand and 230 offshore (including 100 in Australia). The industry is dominated by sole practitioners and very small and diverse businesses, with variable business practices, and this group makes up about 80% of the industry. There are only three significant immigration businesses which have 6 or more Licensed Immigration Advisers (including Pathways!).

The adviser industry has been concerned for some time that the Certificate qualification was too superficial and not sufficiently comprehensive and challenging to prepare graduates for the complexities and real life situations that full time advisers see on a daily basis. As a consequence of these concerns, which were acknowledged by the IAA, a new qualification the Graduate Diploma in New Zealand Immigration Advice, will begin in 2016 replacing the existing Certificate qualification. The Diploma will also be undertaken online through the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic however it will be a one year full time, or two year part time, course. Pathways’ Richard Howard is a member of the IAA steering committee advising on the formulation and content of the new Diploma qualification.

Graduates of the new Diploma qualification will only be eligible to hold a Provisional Immigration Advisers license which requires that they be supervised by a full license holder. After two years of provisional licencing and supervision the person can apply for their full Immigration Advisers License. The challenge will be whether sufficient full license holders will put themselves forward for the required supervision roles.

In addition to these qualification and licensing changes the IAA is also introducing more specific requirements for the continuing professional development of immigration advisers which will promote more active and directed learning activities for all advisers.
Pathways welcomes the higher standards now being required for immigration advisers to become licensed. We expect these changes will eventually effect a slowdown in the rate of advisers becoming licensed and see new graduates being more “job ready” than what is presently the case.

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.