A Southland migrant farmer has had a visa application denied as apparently he did not meet the five-year residency agreement. But Riverton farmer Arnulfo Nanat is confused as he has lived in New Zealand with his wife and two daughters for nine years and five months, arriving in 2008. The visa with a pathway to citizenship for immigrants is due to close in 2018.
"According to the letter, it's just that I did not meet the five-year residency requirement," Nanat said.
His employer changed its business name in "2012 or 2013" and Nanat said that might have caused a problem with his application. "I've been with the same employer on the same farm the whole time."
Nanat said he had been getting advice on his application, and would be "filing for ministerial intervention".
The South Island contribution work visa was introduced in April 2017, and was designed to provide a residency pathway for migrants on long-term working visas.
Invercargill electorate MP Sarah Dowie said that she had received figures from Immigration NZ showing there had been only 1264 applications for the 4000 places available under the scheme.
Of these, 681 applications had been approved, and 225 declined.
"Eligible Southland migrants only have until May of next year to take up this residency offer," Dowie said.
Dipton dairy farmer Ronald Carbonel has been successful in obtaining the new visa. "Before I tried the skilled migrant category and had no luck with that, with this pathway I had a better chance."
Carbonel has been in New Zealand since 2008, and has worked on two different farms during his time here. His wife and daughter joined him in 2010, and his 19-month-old son was born "a New Zealand baby," he said.
Any migrants eligible for the South Island contribution visa should not hesitate to apply, Carbonel said, because it "gives a big opportunity to stay in New Zealand." "The skilled migrant category at the moment is hard because there are so many requirements for it." Dowie said the pathway was implemented "in recognition that we have a strong economy throughout the South Island and a long-term shortage of people to do the available work in many regions, including Southland."
"There are a whole lot of people in our province that have had their working visa roll over and roll over and ordinarily wouldn't meet the criteria for a skilled migrant visa." She said questions needed to be asked around why applications haven't been coming in, and why so many applicants had been denied.
The previous government did "a lot of work" to determine how many potential applicants there would be, which was how the 4000 available places was determined.
It was important to recognise the workers had been in New Zealand for a long time she said, and "the kids are in school and are Kiwi as." "They are New Zealanders at heart."
Labour and NZ First campaign promises to cut immigration was "quite concerning considering our primary sector is reliant on immigrant workers," she said.
The Southland Regional Development Strategy goal of 10,000 new residents in Southland would be impossible without a continued stream of immigrants, Dowie said. "We are going to have to look overseas and bring skilled people to our shores."
Clutha-Southland New Zealand First MP Mark Patterson said the Government recognised the need for migrants, especially in the dairy sector, where it had been difficult to recruit New Zealanders.
"We are always in support of bringing in people we need." However, "there needs to be more training of our own people".
Patterson said more support was needed from the previous government for the Lincoln University Telford Division, that "nearly had to close its gate", which was recently taken over by the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre.
The immigration cutbacks NZ First proposed was "largely targeted" at students coming to New Zealand and doing "shoddy" courses in Auckland, he said.
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