Written by New Zealand Immigration Expert - Professor PAUL SPOONLEY
Professor Paul Spoonley is Pro Vice-Chancellor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University.
As the election campaign kicked off, it appeared that immigration would be one of the defining talking points. But has it been that important?
Earlier polls showed that conservative voters put immigration as one of their top three issues of concern, while left-of-centre put it as number five. But the Stuff.co.nz/Massey Election Survey saw respondents identify health and housing issues as the top two concerns; immigration appeared at number six.
New Zealanders appear relatively positive about the impacts of immigration in general. A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment survey last year found that 73 per cent saw immigration as good for the country. There is a qualifier in this; in the Stuff.co.nz/Massey survey just over half of respondents felt the numbers arriving are too high.
And they are high. After the Global Financial Crisis, the permanent arrivals dropped to 82,000 in 2010. They hit 100,000 in 2014 for the first time and have grown every year since (+15,000 more in 2015, +10,000 more in 2016). Year on year, month on month, the arrival numbers – and the net migration gain – have increased.
Several aspects are worth noting. The arrival and departure of New Zealanders is one issue. Currently, there is a net loss of about 1300 (more New Zealanders leave than arrive). If there is an uptick in the Australian economy, as some indicators are beginning to show, then this net loss might grow.
But it is the non-New Zealand immigration that dominates media coverage. The overall net gain is currently 72,300, but it is 73,600 for non-New Zealand arrivals and departures. And work visas account for more than one-third of these arrivals, a significant growth since last year.
Where immigrants come from is another focus of attention. For the first time, the 2013 census underlined the fact that Asia is now the dominant source of immigrants with one-third of all overseas-born New Zealanders from Asia, compared to 27 per cent from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
This might change again. This year has shown a drop in arrivals from India and a significant increase in United Kingdom arrivals (a post-Brexit effect?).
It is little wonder that, given the public concern about the numbers, that political parties have moved to demonstrate that they will reduce immigration levels. The justifications vary – to relieve pressure on infrastructure, especially in Auckland; to reduce distortion in the housing or labour markets; or to promote social cohesion. After all, half of respondents in the Stuff.co.nz/Massey survey said immigrants should "learn to do things the Kiwi way".
But in the wake of these policy announcements, employers and industry representatives have made it clear that dramatic reductions would impact on labour and skill availability and economic viability. This highlights one of the conundrums facing societies like New Zealand. Statistics show that fertility has now gone sub-replacement and this, combined with a rapidly ageing population, is putting downward pressure on the size of New Zealand's working-age population.
Employer surveys underline this with reports about skills shortages growing. This combination of demographic and labour supply pressures means that immigration becomes an important consideration in terms of population or labour market composition.
Reducing immigrant numbers or changing the conditions of approval have significant, often negative, implications. But then there are pressures on infrastructure and the anxiety felt about the arrival of large numbers of immigrants, especially those who are culturally or visibly different.
Several things need to happen. It is important to align immigrant approvals with labour market demand. The scrutiny of employer requests and practices is one aspect. There needs to be thresholds and criteria, although salary levels are not the answer.
Redirecting immigrants away from Auckland and to the regions is another important consideration – although those regions need to have employment options and to be welcoming.
The anxiety about national identity is rather more difficult to address, especially when it gets mixed up with defensible economic concerns. New Zealand has yet to see the levels of anxiety seen in other countries – the feeling of being "strangers in their own land", in the words of American sociologist Arlie Hochschild.
Last year, in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index, New Zealand was ranked number one in terms of both tolerance towards minorities and towards immigrants. But typically around half of those surveyed tend to say that more should be done to ensure that immigrants understand and practice the "Kiwi way".
There has not been much in the current election campaign to address social cohesion. Campaigning around immigration has focused on reducing the numbers arriving which, if anything, does the complete opposite.
Immigration New Zealand officials are being investigated for granting visas and residency to family and friends, a Herald investigation has found. The agency confirmed that four have been dismissed and two had resigned while under investigation for conflicts of interest.
INZ received 208 allegations of staff fraud and corruption over the past five years, of which 48 were substantiated. Ten investigations are under way. The Herald understands some visa officers had issued visas to family members and friends, including one senior official who had allegedly instructed staff to approve a residence visa for her partner.
Acting general manager Peter Elms said the agency received 53 allegations relating to staff fraud, corruption and dishonesty this year. This was up from 23 allegations last year and 34 in the 2014/15 year.
"A total of 43 investigations have been completed with seven cases substantiated, the remaining 10 allegations are still being investigated," Elms said. "Five of the seven substantiated cases had conflict of interest elements to them involving personal associations with clients, family and extended family members." Elms said the allegations ranged from "comparatively minor breaches to very serious ones".
Of the substantiated allegations, four staff faced dismissals and others were issued warnings. Two resigned before relevant investigations were complete.
INZ staff must declare any conflicts of interest, including perceived or potential ones, upon joining and record those which arise during their employment in a Conflict of Interest Register. "Failure to disclose or appropriately manage a conflict of interest could amount to serious misconduct and may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal," Elms added.
He said the agency took all allegations of conflicts of interest extremely seriously. "Behaviour that undermines the integrity of the immigration system and reputation of the organisation will not be tolerated," Elms said. "While substantiated cases of conflicts of interest are extremely rare, it is nonetheless very disappointing."
A former staff member, who spoke to the Herald on the condition of anonymity, said one of the cases involved a "relatively high-ranking officer" who allegedly instructed staff to grant a residence visa for a partner. "[A visa officer] was told to keep quiet and just issue the residence visa label into her passport on the spot," the ex-staffer said. "This person will be eligible for citizenship at some stage and this is just plain wrong." The officer had also allegedly helped the partner obtain one or two work visas while an investigation into conflicts of interest were ongoing.
"Staff were told this was to allow for the processing of the residence application." The ex-staffer said the agency had requested the names of all those who were aware of the case "in case of a leak".
When asked for comments on the case, an agency spokesman said: "INZ does not comment on individual employment matters so is unable to confirm any details on the case."
INZ employs 1900 staff worldwide, who make 800,000 visa decisions each year. The agency said the issue of adhering to its conflict of interest policy and code of conduct is formally raised with staff at least twice a year during performance reviews.
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An Auckland woman has been fined $7000 after the Immigration Advisors Authority (IAA) found she provided unlicensed immigration advice to the Chinese community through a radio show.
The woman, of Sea Consultants and Investments Limited, was convicted for providing immigration advice when she was neither licensed, nor exempt from the requirement to hold a licence.
A second charge related to holding herself out as an immigration adviser, knowing she was not licensed or exempt. She was first convicted in 2014 on the charges before appealing, which resulted in the matter going back to the Auckland District Court.
Following being sentenced for a second time, she appealed to the High Court for permanent name suppression and a discharge without conviction. That appeal was declined on Wednesday.
She then applied for interim name suppression.
IAA registrar Catherine Albiston said the woman had unlawfully broadcast her radio show to the local Chinese community, "many of whom could have been vulnerable to poor immigration advice".
"This conviction should send a clear message that the IAA takes non-compliance with the New Zealand immigration adviser licensing requirements very seriously," she said.
The Government has made decisions on proposals announced in April to change the settings for temporary migrant workers under the Essential Skills policy.
The changes will support already announced changes to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) residence policy and strike the right balance between ensuring New Zealanders are at the front of the queue for jobs and preserving access to the temporary migrant labour necessary for New Zealand’s continued economic growth.
The changes follow a consultation exercise and include:
The changes will be introduced on 28 August this year, at the same time as the changes to the SMC.
Detailed information about the application of these policy changes will be available within the next fortnight. That information will be published on the INZ website and will include how the remuneration threshold will be calculated, implications for family members of workers in lower-skilled roles, and how the stand-down period will be applied.
Questions and answersWhy are we introducing remuneration bands and what will they be?Remuneration is an excellent proxy for skills and the introduction of remuneration bands will complement the qualifications and occupation framework (ANZSCO). The bands are:-
How will employers be able to source the labour they need under the proposals?Immigration policy is premised on a New Zealanders first approach and employers are required to ensure they are doing all they can to train and employ New Zealanders. However, these changes are not designed to reduce the number of migrants coming in on temporary work visas. Where there are genuine skills shortages, employers will still be able to recruit temporary migrant workers, as long as they can demonstrate there are not New Zealanders available to do the job.
Why has three years been chosen as the maximum duration for lower-skilled Essential Skills work visas?A maximum duration of three years provides a balance between giving lower-skilled Essential Skills visa holders the opportunity to transition to a higher skilled Essential Skills visa or obtain residence, while also ensuring that migrants with no pathway to residence do not become well-settled in New Zealand. It also provides employers with time to recruit new staff or upskill existing staff to fill the role.
How will the decision to limit lower-skilled Essential Skills visa holders to a maximum initial three-year period affect people already here?The change will not be applied retrospectively for lower-skilled Essential Skills workers already in New Zealand. The three year maximum duration will start from the date their next lower-skilled Essential Skills visa is granted after the introduction of the changes to the Essential Skills policy.
Why are you restricting the ability of partners and children of lower-skilled migrant workers to come here?The changes are designed to ensure that lower-skilled migrants are clear about their future prospects in New Zealand. Lower skilled Essential Skills workers will take up employment in New Zealand with a full understanding that they will only be able to bring their family to New Zealand as a short-term visitor, unless they meet visa requirements in their own right. Removing eligibility for open work visas for partners of lower-skilled Essential Skills visa holders will potentially provide more opportunities for local workers to take on those roles. While some lower-skilled Essential Skills visa holders could be discouraged from coming to New Zealand it is not expected to reduce the numbers of principal Essential Skills applicants.
Will the change affect families already here?Families of lower-skilled Essential Skills visa holders already in New Zealand will be able to remain here for the duration that the Essential Skills visa holder remains legally in New Zealand.
Sponsorship no longer allowed by a person whose deportation liability has been suspended:
Since the introduction of the Immigration Act 2009 (the Act), immigration instructions have specified that a person who is liable for deportation is not eligible to sponsor a temporary or residence visa. The generic residence and generic temporary instructions have been amended to also prevent people whose deportation liability has been suspended under section 172 of the Act from being an eligible sponsor.
Support for partners and children by people who are liable for deportation or whose deportation liability has been suspended:
Under both temporary and residence instructions, visa applications for partners or children of New Zealand citizens or residents must be supported by an eligible partner or parent. Immigration instructions have been amended so that:
partners or parents who are liable for deportation are not eligible to support either residence or temporary visas,
partners or parents whose deportation liability has been suspended will not be able to support residence class visas,
partners or parents whose deportation liability has been suspended will only be able to support temporary applications if the person they are supporting already holds a temporary visa based on the relationship.
For example, John’s deportation liability is suspended. His wife Mary already holds a partnership work visa based on their relationship. Mary can be granted further partnership work visas, however, she cannot be granted residence based on her partnership to John. If Mary did not hold a partnership work visa at the time John’s deportation liability was suspended, she could not be granted one until his deportation liability is cancelled.
The Government seems likely to back down on changes to immigration law due to come into effect next month.
The proposed changes to the skilled migrant visa would set a minimum median annual income of $48,859 for jobs that are currently considered "skilled" and make migrants leave for at least a year after three years of working.
Several regional employers and the Canterbury Mayoral Forum have pleaded with the government to reconsider the changes, and they seem to have made some ground.
Sources have told Stuff the Government are now actively considering not implementing the new rules after negative feedback from the regions.
"We've been consulting on some propositions we put out a few months ago and will be making final decisions about that before too long," English said. "The whole purpose here is to get the skills we need in a growing economy that's creating 10,000 jobs a month. We need people to build the infrastructure, build the houses, to work in our growing export industries, and so our policy will make sure we will get the skills we need. We're listening to what's being said. We're well aware of the strong demand for jobs, and we will take that into account when finalising the policy."
The changes, announced in April by Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, were sold as something of a crackdown. Woodhouse said they were intended to help manage "the number and improving the quality of migrants coming to New Zealand". Public consultation on the changes ended in May but it appears lobbying has continued from business groups around the country.
The Canterbury Mayoral Forum asked in June for the Government to reconsider the changes, asking for more than just "Auckland issues" to be considered. "Measures designed to manage Auckland issues do not well serve our region, businesses or communities," the ten mayors said in a letter.
The region was "completely dependent" on migrant labour filling skills shortages, Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said. The Government's proposal includes a one-off "pathway to residence" for 4000 temporary migrant workers in the South Island. Canterbury's mayors wanted to take that approach further.
Immigration has become a hot button issue in the election, with both Labour and New Zealand First calling for drastic reductions in the number of migrants. The Green Party also called for a reduction, before backing down and apologising for contributing to a "xenophobic" moment.
Immigration New Zealand’s new Complaints and Feedback Policy and Process is now in effect.
Customers can use a new online form to submit a complaint, make a suggestion or provide feedback via here.
Representatives can lodge a complaint ‘on behalf of’ their clients via the online form. All complaints will be acknowledged, registered and categorised by the Central Feedback Team.
Data on complaints will be collected and used as a source of learning. The new Central Feedback Team will provide a quality assurance function for complaint responses. The new policy includes a clear definition of a complaint and which complaints will be accepted into the process. Complaints and feedback may, for example, be about:
Due to the transition from the previous process where no timeframe was stipulated, INZ has agreed that complaints about issues greater than six months in the past need to be submitted by 19 December 2017, six months after our policy and process came into effect. After that, historic complaints will not be accepted.
Many people heard about changes to Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa. However, they may not know about upcoming changes to Essential Skills Work Visa which will also be implemented by the end of August this year.
New Essential Skills Work Visa will introduce remuneration thresholds to determine skill levels and associated visa conditions. There are three categories.
1. Higher-Skilled Essential Skill Work Visa
Applicants would get a work visa up to five years.
Their ANZSCO skill level can be any level but must earn at least $35.24 per hour. Visas will be available for partners and dependent children.
2. Mid-Skilled Essential Skill Work Visa
Applicants would get a work visa up to three years.
It will be only for ANZSCO skill level of 1, 2 & 3.
However, the applicants must earn $23.49 per hour.
Visas will be available for partners and dependent children.
3. Lower-Skilled Essential Skill Work Visa.
Applicants would get a work visa up to one year.
Their skills will be ANZSCO skill level of 4 or 5 earning below $35.24 per hour.
No visas will be available for their partners and dependent children unless they qualify in their own right.
It means the partners of Low-Skilled Essential Skill Work Visa holder would be no longer eligible for Partners of a Worker Work Visa or a Partner of a Worker Visitor Visa. They would be able to come to NZ if they meet the requirements of a visa in their own right. A partner would be able to work in NZ if they applied for an Essential Skill Work Visa and satisfied the labour market test.
The similar approach to the children of Low-Skilled Essential Skill Work Visa holder. The children would no longer be eligible for a student visa which would give them domestic students status. It means they would be able to come to NZ only if they meet the requirements of a visa in their own right. They would be able to study in NZ, if they applied for, and were granted, a student visa as international students.
Once Low-Skilled Essential Skill Work Visa holders have reached a maximum duration allowed on a lower skilled Essential Skills Work Visa which would be up to one year, there would be a stand down period of one year before they are eligible for another Lower Skilled Essential Skill Work Visa.
Immigration NZ previously announced that new SMC (Skilled Migrant Category) Resident Visa Criteria would be in place before 14 August 2017.
However, the implementation of the revised Skilled Migrant Category has now been moved from 14 August to the end of August 2017.
As a government approved full licensed immigration adviser, we will be advised as soon as the specific date of implementation is confirmed and Immigration Trust will announce here.