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Is Pathways available to assist me with my visa queries during the lockdown?

Although our physical offices are now closed we remain open for business and 100% committed to our clients and anyone who requires visa assistance at this time. We are pleased to confirm Pathways has the technology in place for all our Licensed Immigration Advisers to work from home and we are now doing so – and if you continue to telephone and email as normal you will not notice any difference in our availability and in our ability to receive and respond promptly to any of your communications.

Is INZ still accepting and processing visa applications?

INZ is still very much open for business however their staff too are also affected by the lockdown which means that they are working with a greatly reduced capacity at the moment. Applications can still be made through the online visa platform and processing will be prioritised based on urgency and applicant profile – as this may relate to an essential service role. Visa applications for essential workers who are urgently required to support the fight against Covid-19 are given highest priority and Section 61 requests for those who have become unlawful are also being given priority. Other applications will be queued in the order received so there is a benefit to still making a visa application now to ensure a place in the queue for when normal processing resumes.

My visa application has already been lodged with INZ. Will be application continue to be processed?

The INZ Branches have closed and any paper-based applications, such as Skilled Migrant residence, are not able to be progressed further until the Branches re-open. However some INZ staff are able to work from home and are able to continue to process online visa applications such as temporary visa and partnership residence applications.

My visa has expired and I am now unlawful, what should I do?

If you are unlawful you should urgently seek advice on submitting a Section 61 request to regain your lawful status. INZ have stated that priority is being given to Section 61 requests at this time. For anyone who is unlawful it is always in their interests to make every endeavour to recover their lawful status sooner rather than later.

I am a New Zealand resident and I received a deportation liability notice, what should I do?

If you have received a deportation liability notice from Immigration New Zealand you should urgently seek professional advice.

If your deportation liability has been previously suspended you do not need to do anything further, you will need to ensure to comply with the suspension terms stated in the notice.  If your deportation liability is not suspended then you have 28 calendar days to submit an appeal to the IPT against deportation liability. There is no extension on the timeframe to appeal regardless of the lockdown, if the appeal opportunity lapses then you will be deported.

If you have received a letter from INZ resolutions with a questionnaire you are strongly recommended to write to them requesting an extension until 2 weeks after lockdown ends, and strongly encouraged to seek specialised professional advice.

I am a temporary visa holder and I received a deportation liability notice, what should I do?

It is our strongest recommendation that anyone facing deportation liability has a specialised adviser or lawyer represent them as there are very serious consequences if deportation proceeds, and these are very complex matters.

There are no options for extension of any of the timeframes provided for response and appeal.  You will have 14 calendar days to give good reasons to INZ compliance to consider cancelling your deportation liability, and 28 calendar days for appeal.  The appeal timeframe is not paused while waiting on INZ compliance to make a decision. There is no extension on the timeframe to appeal regardless of the lockdown, if the appeal opportunity lapses then you will be deported.

My resident visa application was declined and I want to appeal, what should I do?

The 42 day deadline begins from when the decision is received.  There are no options for extension of any of the timeframes provided to appeal regardless of the lockdown, if the appeal opportunity lapses then there is no way to later recover this.

Here at Pathways our team includes specialised advisers who work on these matters and who are available to assist you.

Will my appeal still be considered in the lockdown?

Most appeal considerations are on hold during lockdown and will continue afterwards.  There are limited exceptions with some oral hearings which the IPT has contacted directly and these are being directed by the IPT on a case by case basis – if you have no such contact from the IPT then this will not apply to you.

Will my appeal be decided in lockdown?

Most appeal considerations are on hold during lockdown and will continue afterwards.  There are limited exceptions with some oral hearings which the IPT has contacted directly and these are being directed by the IPT on a case by case basis – if you have no such contact from the IPT then this will not apply to you.

My temporary (work, student, visitor, limited) visa expires before 2 April, what do I do?

You must urgently submit a new visa application online for the appropriate visa to suit your circumstances. In most cases this will be to submit a new application of the same visa type as your current visa. While your new visa may not be immediately processed you will be issued an interim visa to maintain your lawful status through until when your new visa application is decided. Our view is that INZ are very likely to be sympathetic to the situation of all visa holders in New Zealand due to the current travel restrictions.

My temporary (work, student, visitor, limited) visa expires between 2 April and 9 July, what do I do?

Your visa will be automatically extended to 25 September 2020 on the same conditions as your current visa and you are not required to undertake any action. Confirmation of the visa extension will be emailed to you by INZ and you should follow up with INZ if you do not get this email before your visa expires.

I want to apply for a longer term visa beyond 25 September what can I do?

INZ’s online application system is still operational and new applications can still be submitted. The processing timeframes maybe longer than usual as priority is being given to applications for “essential workers” and Section 61 requests.

I need to vary the conditions of my visa (such as to change employers) – what can I do?

A VOC application is usually a hard copy application and cannot be submitted during the lockdown period. INZ are currently working on a process to facilitate these applications to be made online or by email. We will update this page as soon as this process is announced.

I have a work visa and are either working less than, or being paid for less than, 30 hours a week which is the minimum requirement of my visa – will this be a problem for me?

Usually the requirement would be for you to work, and to be paid for, the work hours set out in your employment agreement but given the unprecedented circumstances, and the government enforced restrictions, our view is that it would be unfair and unreasonable for this situation to be held against you and recommend no action is required at this time but to review this situation every few weeks.

I am a work visa holder and lost my job, what should I do?

Under normal circumstances you and or your employer would be required to inform INZ about this change in circumstance. However these are far from normal circumstances and we believe the government and INZ will be working on interim measures and processes that will be applied to this, and similar situations, to ensure visa holders are not unfairly compromised by something which is completely outside of their, and their employers, control. We recommend no action at this time except to regularly check back to our website or the INZ website for further updates for updates. In the meantime you could seek alternative employment and be prepared to make a new work visa or variation of conditions application.

We understand the government is considering the possibility of allowing work visa holders who have lost their jobs (& possibly other visa holders) flexibility so that they can work in much needed horticultural roles. An announcement may be made soon – please watch this website or the INZ website for any changes.

I have submitted a skilled migrant residence application – will this still be processed during the lockdown?

We are aware that some Immigration Officers are  able to work from home such as those undertaking certain online applications such as partnership applications and which do not require hard copy paper documents. As SMC applications are paper based these applications and supporting documentation must remain at the INZ offices. Consequently we understand that SMC applications, and other paper-based applications such as Investor, Entrepreneur, Parent Retirement, PRV and Variation of Conditions applications, will not be able to be progressed until the lockdown is over and all Immigration Officers have returned to work.

I was issued a Potentially Prejudicial Information (PPI) letter on an application and the deadline for response is during the lockdown, what should I do?

You should attempt to make contact with your immigration case officer to see if it is still appropriate or possible for you to provide your response or obtain an extension to the deadline. Our understanding that due to the current lockdown an extension of time for a response is likely to be granted in the interest of fairness. In some cases where the case officer is working, and you have everything required to make a response, it could be in your best interest to make the response now and receive the application decision.

I have been offered a job in an essential work role and need to change my existing visa, or apply for a new visa, before I can begin work. How can I do this?

There is the ability to escalate a work visa application for an essential skills worker. Please contact Pathways to learn about this process and requirements.

I am a work visa holder and my employer wants to know if they can obtain the Government wage subsidy for me and if this will affect my visa?

All New Zealand employers who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 are eligible to apply for the Wage Subsidy. To qualify a business must:

  • be registered and operating in New Zealand
  • have employees who are legally working in New Zealand
  • have experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month, when compared with the same month last year, and that decline is related to COVID-19
  • have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
  • retain the employees named in the application for the period of the subsidy.

Those who have a New Zealand work visa or a condition on their New Zealand temporary visa that allows them to work in New Zealand, come under the definition of legally working in New Zealand.

I am a work visa holder, can my employer force me to take my leave in this time?

An employer, whether they are using the Wage Subsidy Scheme or not, cannot unlawfully compel an employee to use their leave entitlements. However, your employer may require you to take annual leave, including because of temporary workplace closure due to COVID-19, provided they have first consulted with you and provided 14 days notice before the annual leave is to be taken.

I am a work visa holder can my employer deny me my leave in this time (including sick leave if I am sick)?

Employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave, after each 12 months of continuous employment for their employer.

Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to  allow an employee to take the leave to which they are entitled. However, with regard to when you take leave, your employer may decline a request for annual leave if they are able to provide a genuine business reason for declining.

The Government is working on arrangements for those in essential work who require sick leave due to COVID-19.

Are there any exceptions to the travel ban for people who are not New Zealand citizens or permanent residents?

INZ have announced immigration instructions to allow people not included, or excepted under the current travel ban, to be granted a visa or a Variation of Conditions to travel to New Zealand. You can request travel to New Zealand for the following reasons:

  • essential health worker
  • other essential worker
  • Tongan or Samoan national requiring essential travel to New Zealand
  • partner or dependent child of student or work visa holder
  • partner or dependent child of a New Zealand citizen or resident
  • Australian citizen or permanent resident that normally resides in New Zealand
  • humanitarian

Please contact Pathways if you would like to discuss the process and the requirements for making a travel request.

I am a healthcare worker on a temporary visa. Are there any changes I should be aware of?

INZ have communicated that Immigration Instructions will soon be issued which change temporary work visa settings to support the health sector response to managing COVID-19.

International Students currently employed in healthcare roles (including aged residential care) will now be able to work full-time for three months in order to support the public health response to COVID-19. Normally students are only permitted to work up to 20 hours/week and full-time only during holiday periods.

‘Lower skilled’ temporary healthcare workers that are currently in New Zealand can now work in New Zealand for an additional 12 months before they are subject to the stand down period.

Despite the current COVID-19 Level 4 Alert, the timeframes for lodgement of appeals to the Immigration and Protect Tribunal (IPT) have not changed. The nationwide lockdown means that though appeal deadlines remain the same, the IPT’s physical office is closed.

Appeals can be sent via email to [email protected]. The IPT will consider the date received as the date the completed appeal form is received by email, provided the form is signed and payment details for the lodgement fee ($700) are included. The IPT has advised that hard copies of all documents can be sent when services are operating again. Submissions and evidence on new appeals can be provided later when the offices re-open.

Submissions and evidence on active appeals are to be sent to the same email address as above. If you have an IPT hearing in the coming weeks, it will be adjourned unless you are specifically contacted and told otherwise.

Appeal against a declined residence decision

If your residence visa application to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has been declined, and you wish to appeal, IPT must receive your appeal no more than 42 days from the date on which INZ notified you of its decision.

If you are considering lodging an appeal on the basis of a declined resident visa application, it is critical to be aware that an INZ residence decision can only be appealed if you believe:

a. the Immigration New Zealand decision is wrong because you do satisfy the residence instructions in place when you applied for your visa, and/or

b. you have special circumstances that mean the Minister of Immigration should make an exception to those instructions. See section 187(4) of the Immigration Act 2009 to find out more about “special circumstances”.

Understanding whether or not you can reasonably make one of these arguments, and knowing how to do so, can require specialised knowledge. As an appellant, you are permitted to represent yourself in IPT proceedings. However, given the technical expertise and advocacy skills necessary, we recommend representation by either an experienced immigration lawyer, or a licensed immigration adviser.

Appeal against deportation on humanitarian grounds (non-resident) – unlawful appellants

 If you have unlawful status (e.g. because your visa expired or interim visa lapsed) in New Zealand and wish to appeal to the IPT, you should make sure to meet the applicable appeal deadline for your situation. Depending on your circumstances, different timeframes apply. If you are unlawful because you no longer have a valid visa, you have 42 days in which to lodge your appeal. If you have been served a Deportation Liability Notice, your window in which to appeal is only 28 days.

In any case, for your appeal to succeed, you must show the Tribunal that:

a. there are exceptional humanitarian circumstances that would make it unjust or unduly harsh to deport you from New Zealand, and

b. letting you stay in New Zealand would not be against the public interest.

As with residence visa appeals, if you are a non-resident appealing against deportation, you are permitted to represent yourself, but given the complexities of immigration law, and the severe personal consequences of a failed appeal, we highly recommend that you seek representation. This is our recommendation for any IPT proceedings you may choose to bring, including Deportation Appeal by a Resident/Permanent Resident, Refugee and Protection Status Appeal, or a Deportation Appeal (Cancelled Refugee and/or Protection Status).

If you would like to enquire about making an appeal, or have any questions related to this blog post, please contact Pathways NZ to discuss your options with one of our Licensed Immigration Advisers. All of our staff are working from home during the lockdown, and remain contactable by email and phone.

Details on the process for lodging a residence visa appeal, including the necessary form, are available on the IPT webpage.

New Zealand Courts and Tribunals are currently operating with limited capacity. Details of closures and restricted access can be found here.

An epidemic notice has been issued under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, in effect from Thursday 2 April 2020. This means temporary visa holders whose visas were due to expire between 1 April 2020 and 9 July 2020, will receive an automatic visa extension.

Pathways’ physical offices are now closed, but our immigration advisers will still be available to assist with your visa matters and enquiries.

All Pathways’ staff are now working from home as per our Government’s directive. However you will not notice any change as all telephone calls and emails will be received and responded to exactly as they would be normally. Visa enquiries and visa application work and lodgements will also continue as normal. The only difference is that our Hamilton and Wellington offices are not open to the public but, if you must deliver documents, please telephone and suitable arrangements will be made.

The whole world is impacted by the recent outbreak of COVID-19 and our top priority is the health and wellbeing of our wonderful country and especially of all of our staff and clients.

These changes will not compromise our ability to continue to deliver the high quality, trusted and expert immigration services for which Pathways is reputed. Most of our work, including visa applications, is able to be undertaken by phone, video conference and email and it is not actually necessary to meet in person (although in normal circumstances this is always our preference).

Our hearts and thoughts are with those people and businesses that have been affected by this worldwide outbreak and we strongly urge everyone in New Zealand to follow the Government guidelines to do what they can to minimise the impact to our country.

Stay safe and look after yourself and those around you, in particular those who are most vulnerable. 

More information about coronavirus, including how to self-isolate, is available on the Ministry of Health website.

Residence Visa applicants face continued wait times, as Immigration New Zealand (INZ) struggles to get through lodged applications. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of clear Government direction on aspects of immigration policy, and this uncertainty is likely to persist until after this year’s election.

Three years ago, there were about 150,000 people in New Zealand on all types of work visas and about 50,000 people a year were being approved for residence. Today there are almost 300,000 people – six percent of New Zealand’s population – now holding work visas and only 35,000 people a year are being approved for residence.

The number of people, under all categories, who can be approved for residence is determined by the New Zealand Residence Programme which is the name the Government gives to the number of people able to be approved for residence in any period. The most recent Residence Programme ran for the 18-month period ending 31 December 2019 and allowed for between 50,000 and 60,000 people to be approved for residence during that timeframe.

The Government has yet to decide on the Residence Programme numbers from the beginning of 2020 and this has left Immigration New Zealand in the difficult position of having to manage its residence application processing without any Government guidance or targets. This Government indecision is likely an outcome of the competing (and perhaps discordant) priorities within the coalition Government, intensified by election year politicking. However, even if a new Residence Programme is introduced in the near future, the number of residence approvals is highly unlikely to see an increase over the previous Programme number. In all likelihood, the number will be the same or reduced.

It is an understandable consequence of the high number of people now holding work visas, that a greater number of people can now qualify for residence and have lodged their residence applications. This has resulted in a greater number of mainly Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) and Residence-from-work (RFW) residence applications in the queue. This increase in residence applications, together with the limitations imposed by the previous Residence Programme, and now the lack of any Programme, has rendered INZ unable to process residence applications in a timely and transparent manner.

Late last year, media reports (extrapolating from INZ figures) stated that the number of days it took for 75 percent of resident visas to be processed had increased by 76 days. This was despite INZ hiring 177 more staff. High staff turnover and the diverting of Immigration Officers away from residence processing to undertake the increased volume and urgency associated with work visa applications (at historically high levels), has not helped to relieve the significant pressure on residence visa processing times.

The outcome is that there are SMC applications lodged in December 2018 that are still waiting for allocation to an Immigration Officer and, at the end of January 2020, there were some 25,600 people with SMC applications and over 4,100 people with RFW applications in the residence queue. This number of people, in just these two residence categories, is sufficient to almost fill the expected annual Residence Programme from applications already on hand – and yet even more residence applications are being lodged daily.

INZ will have received a high, and increasing, level of enquiries from frustrated and anxious applicants regarding what is happening with their application and, in response, INZ has now published new criteria for which residence applications will prioritised for processing:

  1. SMC applications with job offers, with priority given to applicants:
    a. with a pay rate equivalent to $51.00 per hour or more
    b. who have jobs for which Immigration Instructions require occupational registration
  2. All business categories (Investor & Entrepreneur)
  3. RFW (Talent/ Accredited Employer, Religious Worker, Long Term Skills Shortage), with priority given to applicants:
    a. with a pay rate equivalent to $51.00 per hour or more
    b. who have jobs for which Immigration Instructions require occupational registration

Family category applications also now have particular criteria for being prioritised.

In essence, the now published priority criteria simply puts on paper what has actually been happening in practice over the past six months as INZ has been grappling with how to manage the increased application numbers in the absence of any clear Government directive. We do not see that much will now change in regard to processing times for most applications except for the increased transparency, and the heightened expectations of those applicants who can meet the priority criteria.

It should be appreciated that the updated priority criteria will neither reduce the current backlog nor will it defuse the fundamental tensions in the immigration system. These tensions have yet to fully play out and we see the above changes as, very much, an interim measure while INZ and the Government decide on more long term and definitive solutions to manage residence numbers and application processing.

In the meantime, if you meet the eligibility criteria for a Residence Visa, applying now will at least place your application in the queue for processing. Once in the queue, immigration instructions in effect at the time you submitted your application will continue to apply to that application. This can afford some measure of protection against the yet-to-be-announced changes to immigration policy and the uncertainty and indecision symptomatic of an election year.

If you wish to apply for a Residence Visa and would like to discuss your options, contact Pathways NZ to speak with a licensed immigration adviser.

The immigration Minister announced today the Government has decided to reopen the Parent resident visa category in early February 2020 with new requirements. The first selection is scheduled for May 2020. In the meantime, the category will temporarily close from today, 7 October 2019. This means that INZ will not accept expressions of interest (EOIs) from this date.

When the category reopens, 1,000 residence places will be available annually under the category.

Other changes from the current Parent resident visa criteria include:

  • Tier Two of the category will be removed
  • the settlement funds and the guaranteed lifetime income financial eligibility criteria will be removed
  • the new financial requirements for the Parent resident visa can only be met through the income of the sponsor and their partner. Here are the new financial requirements based on a median salary of NZ$53,040:
Expected income thresholds
1 sponsor for 1 parent NZD $106,080 2 times the median salary
1 sponsor for 2 parents NZD $159,120 3 times the median salary
Sponsor and partner  for 1 parent NZD $159,120 3 times the median salary
Sponsor and partner for 2 parents NZD $212,160 4 times the median salary
Guaranteed lifetime income of 1 applicant or for a couple Not available in new parent category
Settlement funds Not available in new parent category
  • sponsors will be required to provide evidence of their annual income through Inland Revenue tax statements, and that they’ve met it for two out of the three years before the application is lodged, and
  • the sponsorship period will be formally aligned with the New Zealand Superannuation residency eligibility requirement.

 Existing EOIs in the queue under the Parent Category

People with EOIs in the system will be emailed to inform them of the changes and invited to either update their EOI or withdraw it. People who withdraw their EOI will be eligible for a fee refund.

When the Parent Category reopens, EOIs will be selected in date order based on the date INZ originally received them (regardless of whether they were submitted under Tier One or Tier Two).

It is estimated that more than 5000 EOI’s are sitting in the pool with the likelihood that at least 80-90% of these will not qualify under the new rules, and will be a bitter pill to swallow considering many have been waiting for such a long period of time. The offer of a refund will be little consolation for the loss of the opportunity of family reunification.

Today’s announcement bears the hallmarks of the challenges face by a coalition government. It has been clear for some time that the Labour party is family orientated and wanted to reopen the category but will have received significant push back with NZ First who effectively pressured the previous National Government into placing a temporary hold on the category in the first place. Increasing the required minimum salary for sponsors to the levels announced will no doubt have been at the direction of or to appease NZ First to ensure the numbers of eligible applicants was as low as possible, their compromise in allowing the category to reopen. There has already been significant condemnation sighting the elitist and unfair nature of the changes, this could certainly not bode well for Labour within the all important migrant electorate in the coming election year.

Conversely for those that do qualify, there will be great relief that there is now light at the end of the tunnel and they can finally make future plans for their parents, the uncertainty of the last 3 years has left so many families in limbo. What isn’t quantifiable is how many highly skilled migrants has New Zealand lost over the last 3 years whilst the category was closed. either those already working in New Zealand that have decided to leave or those who chose not to come at all. At least there is now clarity for all to make informed decisions for their families futures.

If you wish to find out more about this category and your potential eligibility please do not hesitate to get in contact with me [email protected]

Becoming a Residential Care Officer is one possible pathway to live and work in New Zealand.

An offer of employment as a Residential Care Officer may make you eligible to apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa – subject to an employer demonstrating that they have tried to recruit New Zealanders for the position and have been unsuccessful.

Employment as a Residential Care Officer could also allow you to claim points under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident Visa – provided you have sufficient total points to meet the requirements of this points-based resident visa.

What is a Residential Care Officer?

Residential Care Officer is one of the jobs listed by the Australia & New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). The ANZSCO lists the jobs recognized by Immigration New Zealand for visa application purposes. The ANZSCO also lists the Skill Level of each job, which is important information for deciding which visa types an applicant may qualify for. A Residential Care Officer role has a Skill Level of 2.

According to the ANZSCO description, a Residential Care Officer “[p]rovides care and supervision for children or disabled persons in group housing or institutional care.” The ANZSCO also lists the tasks a Residential Care Officer performs as follows:

  • assessing clients’ needs and planning, developing and implementing educational, training and support programs
  • interviewing clients and assessing the nature and extent of difficulties
  • monitoring and reporting on the progress of clients
  • referring clients to agencies that can provide additional help
  • supporting families and providing education and care for children and disabled persons in adult service units, group housing and government institutions

 

How do you know if you are a Residential Care Officer?

Meeting the standards required of an ANZSCO occupation is not dependant on your job title. Your official job title might be “Residential Care Officer” on your employment contract, but that does not necessarily mean you meet the ANZSCO requirements of the role. Conversely, though your official job title might be completely different from “Residential Care Officer”, you may still meet the ANZSCO requirements. More important than your job title, and even more important than your written job description, are the tasks and duties that you actually perform in your role and how these are able to be evidenced.

Unlike other roles in the care sector, Residential Care Officers are not primarily engaged in looking after the day to day needs of patients and clients. Instead they have strategic and long-term oversight of client care. In this way, Residential Care Officer roles differ from roles like that of Personal Care Assistant, Nursing Support Worker or Aged or Disabled Carer, and carry a higher ANZSCO Skill Level. However, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has shown a tendency to assume roles in the fields of care and welfare, are primarily about personal caregiving. This is why it is important to provide very credible and well-documented evidence in support of an application, proving that you routinely perform the relevant ANZSCO tasks, as core components of your daily work. Recent decisions of the Immigration & Protection Tribunal (IPT) confirm the critical importance of evidence that specifically addresses the Residential Care Officer tasks listed by the ANZSCO.

If you currently work, or plan to work, as a Residential Care Officer, there are a number of immigration pathways to New Zealand potentially available to you. Before making an application it is strongly advised that you seek the guidance of a licensed immigration advisor. Contact Pathways NZ for more detailed information and a free preliminary assessment.

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.