Archive for January, 2012

Buying your way into New Zealand?

January 26, 2012

Kim Dotcom

Kim Dotcom

A huge story in New Zealand right now is the arrest of Kim Dotcom, a wealthy investor who is being held on charges of reproducing and distributing infringing copies of copyright works – including movies, television programmes, music, software and books.

It’s a big story which has many facets, but in terms of immigration there are a couple of points of interest to me:

1) Dotcom was allowed into the country despite serious previous criminal convictions

I don’t have an issue with taking a decision on previous convictions, especially as full details were given to the immigration officials making the decision and the German system had wiped them anyway.

However in this case the immigration department has created a situation where they have drawn accusations of allowing Dotcom to buy his way past the good character test. Initially he was declined but somehow passed the good character test after paying $10 million to the NZ government. This looks even more shabby when  another government department had decided to block Dotcom from buying land because in their opinion he failed the good character test.

We won’t even get into the revelations that Kim has  diabetes, a slipped disc and hypertension but apparently had no problem with medicals.

The Immigration Minister knew about the decision but was not involved, however the Prime Minister John Key has come out in defence of the decision saying:

“I think because they deemed under the clean slate legislation he effectively didn’t have a record and he wasn’t trying to hide anything, those convictions were a long time ago, so they let him through,” he said.

The idea that admitting your crimes should confirm good character is a little difficult to swallow as is the inconsistency shown in these decisions.

Political support for Dotcom after he splashed cash around is extremely worrying. The government has already reduced the English Language requirements for investors (they only need an IELTS score of 4 now) moving away from concentrating on skilled workers to encouraging investors, and this could be a worrying sign that they are willing to bend the rules more if the right amount of money is on offer.

2) John Banks, then Auckland Mayor, provided Dotcom with immigration advice.

It transpired through the reporting that John Banks, then Mayor of Auckland, had admitted to giving Dotcom immigration advice in relation to his Residence application.

As Mayor of Auckland Mr. Banks may not have been aware that in providing immigration advice he would have been committing a serious criminal offence punishable by up to 7 years in prison – arguably more than Kim .com will face in the USA.

A perfect example of a much needed piece of legislation that was very poorly written and implemented (the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007) was introduced in 2008 that prohibits anyone not licensed or exempt from providing immigration advice.

Mr. Banks is not registered as a licensed immigration adviser and does not appear to fall into any of the classifications of an exempt person as Mayor (although bizarrely as an MP he does as if this somehow gives him magical information on immigration law and policy).

Move2NZ as an independent migration commentator has written to the Immigration Advisers Authority to ask what their response to this will be. Their reply has been that they are thinking about it and will respond next week. Hmmm.

We’ll see what the IAA does/says and what other tidbits of information come out about this case in days to come.



Racism, sexism or just failing skilled migrants?

January 18, 2012

Here’s an interesting story that has come up in the Herald:

Female mechanic claims sexism

A qualified mechanic says she is being rejected by employers because of her ethnicity and gender.

Indian migrant Rushika Patel, 30, faces deportation if she cannot find work in the next six months.

Patel graduated in July last year with a degree in automotive engineering and has lost count of the jobs she has since missed out on.

The Glenfield resident says she is being rejected because she is an Indian woman trying to enter a male-dominated industry.

What do you think about this?

This story to me highlights a deep unfairness in the New Zealand Immigration system. Not the kind of whinging “life’s not fair” many would expect, more a case that good people acting in good faith have not been given a fair go.

Here’s how I view this problem being created:

  • NZ decides it needs qualified mechanics but does not have enough;
  • The skills is officially added to the Immigration department’s Immediate Skill Shortage List for all areas of NZ;
  • The immigration department encourages people from overseas to come to NZ to fill these shortages;
  • People come confident that their skills are needed, paying fees and levies to the government, bringing all of their wealth to NZ and investing their futures here;
  • Many people arriving discover the disconnect between immigration requirements and employer needs – realising that although immigration accepted their qualifications NZ employers will not;
  • If the person’s skills are not recognised they must then  pay international fees (in this case $60,000) to gain NZ qualifications on the understanding that they can then get work;
  • Applicants rightly assume that only recognised qualifications accepted by industry would ever be used in these circumstances and so confidently pay the fees and also tens of thousands to support themselves while they study;
  • Once qualified the person can only work (in this case) as a mechanic. They can’t start a business, claim benefits or work in any other field. While unemployed and looking for work they have no source of income or assistance from NZ;
  • After all of this if they don’t find a job within 12 months they can be deported.

Now flick this around and imagine that you as a New Zealander were being encouraged by the UK or USA to come and work on the basis that you and your family might be able to stay permanently.

When you arrive you are told your qualifications aren’t good enough and you’ll have to pay $60,000 to up-skill. Then you are put on a course which will give you a qualification employers will not accept.

How would you feel if at the end of this process you were deported back to NZ having been effectively stripped of all of your savings? I’d call that unfair but that is exactly what is happening here.

Unfortunately the facts are not widely understood by mainstream New Zealanders – most people view migrants as taking limited jobs rather than filling gaps, helping employers grow and creating additional jobs for kiwis.

If this system was set up correctly it would ensure that:

  • New Zealand gets the skilled workers we need to fill shortages and create jobs;
  • There is good and transparent information to help people make good decisions before setting out to NZ on issues like qualifications, skill shortages, employability and chances of success.

This would create a situation where NZ gets what it needs and migrants are able to make informed decisions.

Unfortunately the current system is not delivering. It is becoming less and less transparent, bureaucracy has increased, errors and inconsistencies have crept in (such as people are being charged tens of thousands of dollars in international tuition fees to take courses which are not accepted by employers) and many migrants are being stripped of savings and sent packing.

Is this how kiwis want New Zealand to be? A honey trap for highly skilled workers?

Or do we want a system that delivers huge economic and cultural benefit to the country. In 2006 the same number of migrants currently in the quotas contributed $8.1 billion to New Zealand’s economy. Think about that – without increasing the number of migrants how many jobs could be created? How many struggling businesses supported?

In this situation a family has received poor information which has lead them into a situation where they could lose all they have worked for through no fault of their own. Fairness should be a cornerstone of immigration policy ensuring that people are given all of the information they need when they need it to make informed decisions.

When there is a risk they should know what that risk is and what their chances of success are just as any kiwi heading overseas would want.

I would argue that these unfair situations hurt New Zealand and should be corrected to make sure that our immigration system provides exactly the workers our employers need but cannot find locally.

Is that too much to ask?

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