Archive for the ‘move2nz’ Category

Final Chapter of the Vermaak Family’s story

July 6, 2014

Back in July 2012 I wrote about the Vermaak family’s plight in facing deportation.

Since that first story there has been a huge amount of silent work behind the scenes, but now it’s time for an update as a final decision has been made on their fight to stay in NZ. This update includes a brief recap of the situation.

Facing deportation

March 2012 – Work Visa Declined
Cherie had been working for the Christchurch City Council for 4 years in a skilled occupation but ran into trouble when she needed a new Police Certificate to arrive from South Africa.

With her work visa due to expire she needed this certificate to put in an application to renew her visa. Unfortunately South African certificates can take several months to arrive and the immigration department (INZ) refused to wait for this.

The decision by INZ meant that Cherie found herself in a very difficult situation very quickly. Without a valid visa she lost her job and only source of income despite backing from her Council boss. Being unlawful in New Zealand she and her two children were subject to deportation. Zelda who was 16 year old at the time was also no longer had the right to go to school.

May 2012 – First Media Story
This is where Tammy and I became aware of the situation and decided to get involved. The family was now without a source of income and, as temporary visa holders were not entitled to any kind of benefit or financial assistance. Imagine having no way get or earn money, no way to ix your situation.

In an incredibly short space of time they were in a desperate situation, being forced to sell their possessions to buy food and facing eviction from their home. When we first met the family they did not know which way to turn – running out of possessions to sell and in real danger or being thrown out onto the streets.

Thankfully the media attention generated a wave of support for the family which held off their eviction for a short time. The New Zealand public were fantastic!

I went to work to help where I could. First jobs were talking to the Ministry of Education to get Zelda back into school and asking the immigration department to hold off deportation action to give the family a little more time.

June 2012 – Facing Eviction
The amazing support generated by the New Zealand public helped for a short while but soon ran out and the family found themselves facing eviction with no money and no way to get any.

A tight Squeeze

A tight Squeeze

We couldn’t allow them to become homeless so Tammy and I opened our own home to the family of three and their cats Fluffy and Peebles.

It was a tight squeeze with our family (which included four cats), but they stayed with us for four months until they were able to get back on their feet.

October 2013 – Ministerial Intervention
Cherie had a job offer but INZ were unwilling to grant a visa so Mike took the case to Hon Kate Wilkinson, then Associate Immigration Minister. The first great break-through for Cherie and her children came when the Minister agree to Mike’s request and overturned INZ’s decision, granting Cherie a visa to work.

This involved about 500 hours of pro-bono work for the family, but put them in a position where once again Cherie could work her way out of this terrible situation. Cherie and her children have had a harrowing two years and just needed that chance. Once Cherie was able to start work she became eligible for residence again and we worked with her to lodge an application.

The Final Update
It has not been plain sailing – there have been serious ups and downs for the family – but we are thrilled to report that this week Cherie, Kyle and Zelda were granted New Zealand Residence. This means they no longer need to fear deportation and can finally have hope and security for the future.

Cherie and Mike

Cherie’s Request
Cherie has asked us to update all of the people whose support and generosity made such a difference to this family during such a difficult time.

Cherie, Kyle and Zelda wanted to thank the hundreds of people both locally and from around the world who were there for them in so many different ways. The family is now looking forward making long term plans for their new life in Christchurch New Zealand.

Tammy and I are catching up with Cherie next week for a celebratory curry :o).

I am really delighted with this result. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and this is why migrant advocates are so badly needed – to give a helping hand at the right time.

Mike Bell
Migrant advocate | Licensed Immigration Adviser


News stories

This story has been followed through the media, here are a number of the news stories written.

 

 

Ignoring History – part 2

June 2, 2014

Following on from my last post “Ignoring History“.

So the NZ Labour Party is proposing to cut immigration to help reduce the rapidly rising cost of housing. There has been a lot of confusion about how this is intended to be done – whether to cut temporary visas or residence visas for example.

Labour leader David Cunliffe is now stepping away from the more contentious comments, indicating the whole thing has been a media beat up. While to some degree this may be true I clearly remember Mr Cunliffe stating there is “open slather” on the current immigration system. So is there “open slather”?

Ignoring history
The party appears to have settled on visas being issued through the Skilled Migrant Category as the problem – people on temporary work visas generally don’t buy houses – but this ignores history.

Skilled Migrant is the largest residence stream and is managed through a points system. The Labour Party have most recently indicated they would use this points system to manage numbers on the basis that reducing numbers would reduce pressure on house prices.

I say this ignores history as over the past five years the Skilled Migrant Category has been slashed by a third. This reduction has had no apparent effect in lowering house prices.

Here is a graph of residence visas granted since 2008/09:

residence-visas

Source: Immigration New Zealand Residence programme statistics
As 2013/14 figures are only available to 4 May (307 days of the year) I have calculated a figure based on this for 365 days.

To explain the categories:

  • Skilled Migrant – skilled workers meeting a stringent points system.
  • Other business/skilled – investors, entrepreneurs etc.
  • Humanitarian – refugee quota, pacific quotas.
  • Capped family – family members of migrants (only parents can use this now).
  • Uncapped family – foreign-born partners and children of NZ citizens and residents.

Changes since 2008/09
Clearly the Skilled Migrant stream is by far the largest single stream and this is because the residence programme is designed to fill skill gaps.

While most of the streams have changed very little, numbers coming through the Skilled Migrant stream are down by 32%.  Over the past five years nearly 32,000 less people have gained residence visas through this category compared to 2008/09 levels.

Manipulating the points system

So why have these numbers fallen so far? Because government has been managing numbers using the Skilled Migrant category points system – the same tool Labour proposes to use to reduce house prices now.

Government has incrementally been raising the bar on the Skilled Migrant points system since January 2010 by reducing the types of applications accepted – at the first stage called Expressions of Interest or EOIs.

For example before January 2010 any EOI scoring 100 points or more stood a very good chance of being selected to begin the process. Since January 2010 – across 112 selections – only EOIs with bonus points relating to skills in long term shortage have been selected.

Additional changes in June 2011 and January 2013 further reduced this to the point where the only EOIs being routinely selected now are those with 140 points or a skilled job offer. All of the data is provided by the immigration department and available for analysis.

The natural result of less people entering the system has been less visas being granted: using the points system to manage numbers.

eois

Source: Immigration New Zealand
Again as 2013/14 is incomplete I have used the average for this year for the last 3 selections to go to complete a total year figure.

I am not aware of a resulting drop in the cost of housing in New Zealand.

I am aware however of a huge increase in skill shortages with 59% of employers reported as struggling to find key staff. Skill shortages directly reduce the number of jobs and training opportunities for New Zealanders while lowering wage growth and company profits – arguably one of the reasons the NZ economy has failed to pick up.

The original quotas were set at a level in 2002 for a reason and had been working very well. Since these changes were implemented government has missed minimum quota levels  by an average of over 4,600 per year (10%).

Summary
Labour’s proposal then is for more of the same to produce a different result.

Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”?

It will be interesting to see the next phase in this policy.

Mike Bell

Migrant advocate | Licensed Immigration Adviser

Fighting an unjust deportation

September 16, 2012

Cherie Vermaak - copyright Dean Kozniac, Fairfax Media

(Click for enlargement)

As our regular members will know, move2nz is a lot more than just move2nz.com and through our history we have fought many times to ensure migrants acting in good faith are given a fair go by the immigration system.

Through move2nz we have been working to highlight the kind of risks faced by migrants on temporary visas while in New Zealand to help ensure people are prepared and protected against what can be serious risks.

Despite our best efforts sometimes people can quickly find themselves in terrible situations and this is exactly what happened to the Vermaak family from South Africa.

A deportation nightmare

On 12th May 2012 we first found out about a terrible situation, reading in the Christchurch Press newspaper. A family – Cherie and children aged 16 and 19 – were in desperate fear of being deported and having to move in to a garage as they were losing their home.

We immediately contacted to offer support as we have with many others in the past and found they were long-standing members of move2nz. What was brilliant this time was that we were also able to review the immigration decision being made because Mike is now a licensed immigration adviser.

The situation

Cherie had been working in New Zealand for four years in an important and skilled job. She tried to renew her work visa in March and the immigration department (INZ) first confirmed they had everything they needed, but just two days before her visa was due to expire INZ insisted she produce a police clearance certificate from South Africa.

These certificates take months to obtain and Cherie’s licensed immigration adviser had failed to remind her to get one. INZ refused to accept a declaration that Cherie had applied for the certificate which was strange as they had let her do so before, Cherie had not been back to SA since 2007 and her previous certificates had been completely clean.

This decision not to allow a declaration created a situation where two days later Cherie found herself with no visa, unlawful in New Zealand and subject to deportation. Of course this also meant that Cherie immediately lost her job as she no longer had the legal right to work in NZ. Cherie’s 16 year old daughter also no longer had the right to go to school and was forced to stay home half-way through her year 12 studies.

The family was now without a source of income and, as temporary visa holders, were not entitled to financial assistance. When the money ran out they started selling furniture to buy food.

When Cherie needed them most I am ashamed to say that her immigration adviser of four years refused to help because Cherie could not afford to pay the fees. On her own Cherie appealed the decision and then put in another visa application as she still had a full-time offer of skilled work. Both actions were declined.

By mid May the family were in serious trouble being kicked out of their home and soon to be kicked out of New Zealand.

Saving this situation

Mike put his Licensed Immigration Adviser hat on and waded through a foot-high pile of papers to find out what had happened. I worked with the Ministry of Education to successfully get Cherie’s daughter back to school.

The Press newspaper ran a story about the Vermaak family and the Christchurch community responded with incredible generosity offering food, help with immigration costs and help with rent.

It very quickly became clear to Mike reading this file that a mistake was being made by INZ and he negotiated for time to enable Cherie, a skilled worker, to find another job. INZ offered 6 weeks and said Cherie would have to leave if she did not have a job by this time.

Bizarrely, after having made a decision which effectively lost Cherie her job, INZ reversed it and agreed she could now enter a declaration relating to her police certificate if she found another job. Mike argued successfully for an extra month to give the 17 employers Cherie had applied to time to evaluate her application, but if Cherie did not have a job offer by 30th July she would have to leave New Zealand.

A chance to stay

Our own new immigration business was opening an office on August 13th and we were in the process of advertising for an Office Manager. Cherie applied for the job and, despite a month of advertising, was the only applicant with the skills we needed so we suddenly found ourselves able to offer her employment. This complicated things a bit but we submitted a Work Visa application which met every requirement on 23rd July.

The weeks ticked by with no news until 29th August when Mike received a letter from INZ. Cherie’s application was again declined and she had to leave New Zealand immediately or be deported.

We were absolutely gutted, especially as no reason for declining was given. As we covered back in March INZ directs staff not to record the reasons for decisions on cases like this. Cherie was left with no right of appeal waiting for a deportation order to be issued which would send her and her children back to South Africa with nothing. Potentially living on the streets in South Africa was suddenly a terrifying but very real possibility.

A final roll of the dice

Mike immediately wrote a letter to the Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson asking if she would review this decision.

The minister can simply refuse to intervene and so Mike put together 8 pages of reasons why this situation was unfair to slow the deportation.

In the meantime Mike began pulling together hundreds of pages of documented proof to back this request up. It was our only chance and absolutely final hope. If the minister refused to look at the case it was all over.

On 8th September the Vermaak family were finally forced out of their home.

We couldn’t see them living on the streets and so offered space in our own home, turning move2nz’s office into a room that Cherie and her children could share. This was not ideal but the only option we had – Mike and I couldn’t have lived with ourselves if we didn’t do everything in our power to support this family.

Of course this wasn’t the first time we have been in this position – long term members will remember we opened our home to the Smith family of 4 back in June 2009, supporting them for 6 months while their appeal was heard, giving them the chance to gain residency and get back on their feet which they have successfully done.

The Ministers decision – Thursday 13th September

On Thursday the decision came. This was much quicker than we had expected and Mike was only half-way through getting the documented proof ready. After putting over 400 hours of pro-bono work into this we thought this might be the end.

What we were delighted to read was that Kate Wilkinson had overturned the INZ’s decision, granting each of the Vermaaks a 12 month visa to sort out their situation.

Mike, Cherie and Tammy - copyright Dean Kozniac, Fairfax Media

(Click for enlargement)

This is all they ever needed and we are so happy for this family. They will be staying with us for the time being, but we are now looking forward to watching them get back on their feet. As soon as Cherie has her visa she will be starting work as our Office Manager and helping us set up the New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services office to be the best immigration consultancy in New Zealand.

From a personal view this decision also means that Mike’s 100% success rate on applications and appeals is reinstated and is a fantastic result for move2nz which will continue to help supporting this family.

I hope you will join with us in wishing this brave family the very best for the future.

A few words from Mike

New Zealand’s immigration system is built to be open, fair and help attract great people who have a lot to offer this country, but sometimes migrants who are acting in good faith fall between the cracks. In cases like this the Associate Minister of Immigration Kate Wilkinson is the only ‘safety net’ to ensure decisions being made are fair and in New Zealand’s best interests.

Ms Vermaak’s case is a perfect example where decisions made by other people combined to create a situation where, though no fault of her own, a valued worker in an important job was suddenly catapulted along with her children into a nightmare of losing her job, her home and everything she had worked for years to build.

In situations like this the Associate Minister acts as a vital safety net to ensure fair and just decisions are made, upholding the integrity of what is an excellent immigration system and protecting New Zealand’s international reputation.

On receiving our cry for help Kate Wilkinson moved swiftly to get to the bottom of what had happened, recognise the terrible mistake being made, save New Zealand many thousands of dollars and end a nightmare which was likely to end with the family being returned with nothing to live on the violent streets of South Africa.

I have already written to express my appreciation and thanks for the help on this case: a big win for New Zealand. I would also like to express our thanks to The Press who alerted us to this situation and have faithfully followed this story all of the way through and also move2nz members who supported our facebook campaign.

News stories

This story has been followed through the media, here are a number of the news stories written.

Just a little more time please

July 11, 2012

On 12th May this year I noticed the headline ‘Family lives in fear of deportation‘ and read about Cherie Vermaak and her children facing deportation from New Zealand. I immediately offered my help and have recently had news, but as background hereis where is all started:

A South African family that has been “fighting an immigration battle for the past five years” is now unlawfully living in Christchurch and says imminent deportation is more frightening than sleeping on the streets.

The article went on to say that:

She could not afford to pay rent next week and had been slowly selling “everything I own” to feed her two teenage children, Kyle, 19 and Zelda, 16.

Despite “pleading” for help from agencies, the family was not eligible for Government support because they did not have residency, nor could they temporarily sleep in their car because that had also been sold.

This was someone who clearly needed help – we met for the first time on May 16th and, as soon as Tammy and I found out the circumstances of the case, we offered our help.  I’d like to thank The Press for running the story on Cherie’s situation, without this we would never had known anything about it.

Making a difference
Over the past 7 years as move2nz, Tammy and I have been able to give help in supporting people – for example our recent work with Charmain Timmons.

Our focus is on fairness and transparency in immigration. No matter how good information you give out is sometimes people fall between the cracks and end up in terrible situations. Rather than standing around ‘tut-tutting’ we take action to make a positive difference.

Immigration help
Now as a licensed immigration adviser it was great to be able to offer Cherie direct help with her immigration problems, something we previously had to rely on others for with varying degrees of success. I was pretty disgusted to find that she had been working with an adviser since she arrived in NZ, but they had walked away when the family ran out of money.

So move2nz (offering family support) and New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services (providing immigration advice on a pro-bono basis) swung into action.

The first step was looking after the family: the Press ran a brilliant story and offers of help flooded in. Kiwis are amazingly generous when they realise a hard-working mum just needs a fair-go and this help made a huge difference.

With immediate fears of being turned onto the street taken care of we contacted the Ministry of Education to get Zelda back into school.

Sorting out the immigration situation
I collected a foot-high pile of papers and spent hours working out what had happened. It was great to be able to help with this and I soon worked out the problem.

Over the years working for the council Cherie had only ever been offered a 12 month contract. Because of this she could only get a 12 month visa and never move to the safety of residence. She was in the process of applying for yet another Work Visa when she was offered a permanent contract after helping through the devastation of the Canterbury earthquakes. Finally she could apply for residency and be safe.

Unfortunately there was one problem: her police clearance certificate from South Africa didn’t turn up in time. Her application to renew her Work Visa was declined so she lost her job – no visa = no work = no money.

As we’ve been saying on move2nz for years, migrants on temporary visas are vulnerable and this case proved that very well. Over time the family’s savings got used up and they sold off all of their possessions. As temporary migrants they were not entitled to any benefit or government help meaning eventually they would become destitute and have to be deported unless Cherie could get another visa.

You’ve got six weeks
I spoke to Cherie’s immigration case-officer to explain the situation, wrote a couple of letters and explained just how useful Cherie as a skilled worker was. After some good discussion the answer back from INZ: Cherie had six weeks for Cherie to find a skilled job that matched her qualifications and experience.

This was a very slim chance for the family knowing how long it can take to get a job offer and we needed to move fast. I re-wrote Cherie’s already good CV and she worked night and day contacting employers about potential jobs. Meanwhile the media continued to run stories (see below).

The six weeks went very quickly and most of the employers Cherie had applied to were only just finishing advertising, meaning they wouldn’t interview for days or weeks. Things started to look pretty serious for the family as their deadline to get out of New Zealand loomed.

In the next installment of this story I’ll tell you what happened next ;o).

News stories:

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.

Mike

New Zealand sinks into negative migration

November 23, 2011

Statistics New Zealand’s October 2011 report on international travel and migration is out and it makes for worrying reading.

While the official report warbles happily about more tourists attracted by the Rugby World Cup it is strangely quiet on a red-hot political topic: the number of New Zealanders leaving for Australia.

Some alert journalists have picked up on this, but even the most hard-working journo simply reads the full report looking for a headline. A little effort turns up the worrying cause and implications of this unprecedented situation: where more people are leaving such a popular country than arriving.

1) New Zealanders crossing the ditch
Kiwis are leaving New Zealand in almost record numbers and the report confirms a 20% increase over last year.

Actually numbers heading to most locations around the world are down on the last couple of years but with one highly notable exception: Australia. Numbers are up by 41% on last year with 49,460 (well over half of all outbound kiwis) choosing Australia as their new permanent home.

Many migrants are worried about this and rightly asking why so many Kiwis are leaving.

What official statistics confirm is that there is a normal cycle of New Zealanders heading to and from Australia every year. While the numbers leaving right now are high what we are seeing appears to be simply a big rise in the high point of that cycle and nothing that hasn’t happened before.

So why has NZ hit negative migration for the first time?

2) Current Migrant numbers
A quick check through this year’s Statistics NZ report to October shows that international migration – people coming in and out of New Zealand from other countries – is largely unchanged since last year with just a 2% rise.

Numbers from China, Ireland and France are up (1,391, 700 and 566 respectively), while arrivals from Australia, India and Fiji are down (1,200, 838 and 241 respectively).

But this apparent stability is false simply reflecting that the huge changes quietly made in 2009 and 2010 have now had time to settle down to ‘business as usual’.

3) The real reason for negative migration
Go back a year to the October 2010 stats report and you can see what has really happened.

Imagine that the number of people coming in and out of New Zealand is a pool of water. Up to a million New Zealanders live overseas in a normal year but the pool stays nicely full despite the ebb and flow because a steady and controlled flow of migrants tops it up. Even in a year like this when large numbers leave (and in 2008 even more Kiwis left NZ) the pool doesn’t empty.

But what would happen if you made big cuts in the number of migrants?

When you hit the high point of the cycle with a lot of people leaving you run the risk of the pool running dry and that is exactly what has happened.

Very few people are aware that from 2009 the government began cutting migrant numbers, concentrating on reducing the number of highly skilled workers needed to fill New Zealand’s skill gaps.

In January 2010 the number of applications accepted by the immigration department through the Skilled Migrant residency category were slashed by 30%.

The October 2010 Statistics NZ report confirms that international immigration was down by 3,809. Not only were migrants from Europe down by 12.2% (2,812) but numbers from the UK (NZ’s biggest contributor) had fallen by 36% (3,350) from 9,183 to 5,833.

SMC applications approved and declinedGovernment reports have blamed everything from the global recession to (somehow retrospectively) the Canterbury earthquakes.

To get to the bottom of this I entered a request under the Official Information Act but got fluff and nonsense back with no solid figures or data.

What government reports never mention are the systematic, ruthless but silent cuts to the number of skilled workers being allowed into the country.

This is confirmed by the immigration department’s first ever failure to meet it’s own quota for the year to July 2011. They didn’t miss by a little, they missed by 10% or 4,263 people, and nothing has changed since.

After the first quarter of the 2012 year the immigration department is on track for even greater failure next year as shown by the graph above but according to the Minister has no intention of changing the quotas it is failing to meet!

4) Just the beginning
New Zealand is and always has been a very popular country for migrants looking for balanced family life and a clean green accessible environment to play in. Unfortunately that is changing.

I have spoken to thousands of migrants and know that lifestyle trumps high wages as a priority. However families still need sufficient income to achieve their goals of a good work/life balance, comfortable home and great recreation.

New Zealand is my home. I love it here and I would never live anywhere else, but over the past three years I have sadly watched this country change beyond all recognition.

A good a practical immigration system has been broken and twisted into something which is no longer ‘migrant friendly’. Vulnerability of migrants and immigration bureaucracy has massively increased while transparency on applications has become a thing of the past.

The New Zealand government is forcing globally mobile migrants to take their skills elsewhere as I mentioned in June with New Zealand cutting its skilled immigration programme while Australia and Canada have increased theirs.

Skilled Migration Comparison
Australia, Canada and New Zealand

Making it harder to get in and stay is one thing, but at the same time New Zealand has become less attractive to globally mobile workers.

  • Wages have dropped while the cost of living has rocketed meaning that the numbers no longer add up in New Zealand for many migrants. For example a nurse in New Zealand currently earns a little over half of what the would earn in Australia and many Australian nurses are currently striking for even better pay and conditions.
  • Changes to employment law have stripped migrants of any ability to get the rock solid offer of work they need for visas.
  • Two major draw-cards for migrants are being systematically dismantled: the amazing ACC with protection and far reaching social benefits, and the best education system in the world which is now being forced into the same tragic and dysfunctional model as the UK.
  • Even the clean, green countryside is disappearing with agricultural pollution, mining and now oil spills which are likely to be the precursor to another ‘Deepwater Horizon’ disaster as NZ allows oil companies to drill even deeper test wells without controls or safeguards.

Australia is well aware of the international battle for skills and has recently opened two new visa centres in Christchurch and Auckland.

As NZ citizens do not need a visa and (in my experience) getting a visitor’s visa for Australia  takes a travel agent a matter of seconds these centres are clearly aimed at attracting more of New Zealand’s skilled migrant population over the ditch.

With higher wages, a stronger economy, similar cost of living and better job security many migrants from western countries are now clearly finding their sums add up to Australia rather than New Zealand and Aotearoa is clearly losing the international battle for skills.

5) Christchurch Rebuild
Pushing globally mobile skilled migrants elsewhere seems crazy to me. New Zealand already has massive skill shortages in certain areas like medical, engineering and IT and this is getting worse.

By my calculations cuts to skilled migration have lost New Zealand well over a billion dollars in direct income let alone the indirect value of taxes etc.

There is also the matter of the Canterbury rebuild requiring around 8,000 people from overseas. While numbers heading permanently into Christchurch have dropped by 25.5% this is in line with government cuts and not something to worry about.

What is increasingly apparent is that these jobs will be temporary. Migrants will be expected to travel half-way around the world with their families for a few years of poor wages but without the offer of permanent status – after their contribution they will be expected to leave.

Summary
This fall into negative territory should be a warning flag to New Zealand – not only that Kiwis are leaving but that immigration has become a broken a twisted wreck, choked by bureaucracy and making it increasingly safer to go elsewhere instead. If New Zealand does not change this pattern soon it will take many years to put this right.

Move2NZ has been waving a flag for three years now to warn about this, let’s just hope that it is not already too late.

Mike
Site architect move2nz.com


Links

Please fix New Zealand’s broken immigration system

November 4, 2011

Recently Tammy put together a comparison between the different political parties immigration policies on move2nz.com for migrants in the run-up to New Zealand’s general election on the 26th November.

Many migrants can vote and need to know the difference between the parties to decide how.

National has not yet released their immigration policy but we have a fair idea of what it is from the last three years: cuts to skilled immigration, a move away from permanent residency to temporary visas and an emphasis on who can bring in cash rather than  skills.

Today I saw a piece on Labour’s recently released immigration policies (including an Immigration Ombudsman which would mean people like Charmain Timmons won’t continue to suffer as they are.

Forget politics, lets look at results and the results over the past three years have been appalling for both New Zealand and migrants interesting in coming here. I wrote a comment on the article and include it here:

Properly managed migration only brings in skills we can’t find in NZ.

It boosts our ageing population, adds $1.9 billion in direct income (plus $5.1b in indirect income) every year, helps NZ business grow and creates tens of thousands of jobs for kiwis.

Unfortunately since 2009 a reasonably effective immigration system has been quietly turned into a broken and twisted wreck. Massive new bureaucracy, delays, errors plus the loss of any transparency has seen New Zealand lose some of the best and brightest applicants to Australia and Canada.

The core of effective skilled migration is knowing where the skill shortages are. The govt is using the WINZ database rather than collecting this information and it is a false economy leaving many businesses unable to hire perfect applicants they need with the knock on effect of losing NZ employees their jobs.

The decision to slash numbers of the most highly skilled workers allowed into the country from Jan 2010 by 30% has so far lost New Zealand over $750 million – cash which would be fairly handy right now – a figure expected to rise to $1.8 billion by next year.

Minister Coleman’s choice has created huge skill shortages in certain areas such as medical, engineering and I.T. which cannot be filled by short-term training. Changes were made as recently as July to block skilled trades workers and allow in more PhDs.

NZ had a good system before the current Minister broke it. Can we have it back please?

Simply repairing this damage would help NZ businesses get the staff they need, create thousands of jobs for kiwis and bring hundreds of millions of income back into the country.

Continuing as we are sends the benefit NZ was getting to Australia.

Mike
site architect, move2nz.com

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame immigration staff who have no choice but to apply the policy they are given. I’d just like the politicians keep the good, only throw out the bad and come up with new ideas to improve the benefit New Zealand gets from immigration as well the as the experience migrants have. Is that too much to ask?

Mike

Immigration New Zealand: weird selections continue

October 26, 2011

Please note that I am not a licensed immigration adviser and the following is intended as general immigration commentary, not personal advice.

Big Skilled Migrant Selection for migrants with Work Experience

Between 45,000 and 50,000 visas are granted every year through New Zealand’s Permanent Residency programme. The Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) is the route for skilled workers and their families, making up approximately 58% of this programme.

Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for residency through the SMC go into a pool and every fortnight the immigration department pull a number of these out for processing to mee their annual quota of between 25,000 and 27,000 SMC applications approved.

In Move2NZ’s October newsletter I reported on the smallest Skilled Migrant selection made since the programme was introduced in December 2005 with just 496 applications collected for processing.

Falling numbers
From January 2007 through to May 2009 on average 774 SMC applications were selected each fortnight, but numbers have been falling since to an average of just 563 through 2011. This drop has lead to the immigration department failing to meet its quota with just 21,212 applications approved, well short of the 25,000 minimum as can be seen from the graph aside.

With the SMC being such an important part of the Residency programme this has been a major cause of the entire programme to fail in meeting targets – in 2010/11 just 40,737 applications were approved – well short of the minimum 45,000.

SMC applications approved and declinedLooking at applications over the past five years through the SMC stream you can see why this is.

The graph aside shows in blue the applications approved and in red the applications declined. Because of the significant drop in applications accepted through 2010/11 the department was never likely to meet the quota. Numbers have continued to fall since.

Government sources state that this is because of a drop in interest from migrants, however I have seen no evidence to support this and the number of applications sitting for months in the pool has risen to almost record numbers.

Although the Minister has confirmed there is no intent to reduce Residency numbers or change the current practices this process of declining numbers has continued through 2011/12.

Three months in to the year (which started on 1st July) 2011/12 numbers selected are already down 7 percent on last year, and approvals are down 11 percent. Crunching the numbers and using patterns from the past five years I believe I have generated an accurate projection of the total number of EOIs through the Skilled Migrant Category likely to be selected and approved in 2011/12.

This figure of just 19,417 applications likely to be approved is even further away from the 25,000 minimum quota.

October 5th Selection
As if the immigration department heard last newsletter’s questions the selection made on October 5th was unusual. For one thing the number of applications pulled from the pool jumped to 628 – not enough to make much of a difference over the year (unless selections of this size continue) but a rise none the less. We’ll see if this trend continues.

The second and most surprising thing about this selection was where those extra numbers came from. People reading my commentaries on this blog and move2nz will have heard me talking about the seven groups that EOIs fall into (see table below), and applicants with EOIs in group 4 (those without a job offer and claiming 15 points for work experience) will be celebrating.

Nearly 5 times the 2011 average were pulled from the pool in one go. You have to go right back to January 2007 to see anything like this ever happening before.

For so many applications without job offers to be selected gives hope to many applicants who are not able to travel to New Zealand to obtain offers of work, widening New Zealand’s pool of available talent and putting a little equality back into the process. We’ll keep watching to see if this trend continues.

Here are the numbers from the latest selection:

EOIs selected on Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Group Selection criteria Onshore Offshore Total
1 140 points or more with job offer 278 34 312
2 140 points or more without job offer 6 61 67
3 100 – 135 points with job offer 74 6 80
4 100 – 135 points with 15 points for work experience 2 167 169
5 100 – 135 points with 10 points for work experience 0 0 0
6 100 – 135 points with 10 points for qualification 0 0 0
7 100 – 135 points without bonus points 0 0 0
Total EOIs with job offers 352 40 392
Total EOIs without job offers 8 228 236
Total EOIs 360 268 628

More reports to come on what is becoming a completely unpredictable immigration system.

Mike Bell
site architect, move2nz.com

Shocking update on Charmain Timmons’ fight against deportation

October 19, 2011

Why should Charmain Timmons and her children be deported from NZ because of crimes against her? Take action and sign the petition today.

As many of you will know move2nz has been supporting Charmain Timmons and her children through a campaign including facebook and a petition to help them avoid deportation from New Zealand which has attracted 1,042 signatures.

Background
Charmain arrived in New Zealand with her husband and two young children in December 2007. Many people migrate because of a problem and sadly some bring that problem with them. Charmain’s secret was that her husband was physically and emotionally abusing her.

In February 2009 the family was granted Permanent Residency in principle but the abuse was getting worse. Charmain asked for help and found the strength to leave the relationship. She got a protection order and started trying to build her life back again, moving and eventually beginning a degree course to become a much needed social worker.

Find out more/take action
You can help, please click on the links below to find out more:
‘Like’ the Facebook campaign
Sign the petition

Charmain’s now ex-husband breached that protection order and was convicted nine times spending six weeks in prison before leaving New Zealand.

Then a bombshell – in a crazy turn of events Charmain was told that because of her husband’s convictions as the principle applicant her Residency was to be revoked. The immigration department told her she wasn’t needed in New Zealand and should leave. Charmain asked again for help, but was poorly advised leading to deportation proceedings against her. Charmain’s final hope was an appeal to the Associate Minister for Immigration, Kate Wilkinson.

In the meantime Charmain’s ex-husband has been allowed to re-enter New Zealand on a two year visitor’s visa as he now has a New Zealand born girlfriend. While Charmain is being kicked out because of these crimes against her the perpetrator is bizarrely being allowed to stay.

move2nz became involved when we saw the headline Government tried to deport bashed wife. For Charmain and her children, now little Kiwis, to be deported because of the crimes against her seemed totally unfair. As we are not licensed immigration advisers it is illegal for us to help directly by advocating for Charmain but we had to do something and so we started our campaign which has now collected 1,040 signatures.

Action since July
I have been in constant contact with Charmain for the last couple of months, exchanging over 90 emails, but there has been no news to report while the Minister reviews the appeal. Charmain and her children wait but in the meantime a government case manager has been communicating with her.

The case manager advised Charmain to start a work visa application, leave the country and then apply to re-enter New Zealand to take up work. Charmain saw that there was no guarantee of being able to get back into New Zealand and resisted this, especially while her appeal was still being heard by the Minister.

What Charmain has told me recently sent me reeling and I had to update about this incredible twist.

Punish the victim – support the abuser
First Charmain’s ex-husband breached the protection order again and told her that he had been meeting with her immigration case manager and now knew everything about her private case. The case manager in question has denied this, however Charmain’s ex-husband does appear to know all about her private dealings with the immigration department.

Then Charmain received evidence that her ex-husband had applied to the family court for custody of their children should Charmain be forced to leave New Zealand temporarily as the immigration department had pressured.

Finally she was sent papers confirming that her case manager had told her ex-husband that he could apply for Residency, and if he did receive custody the case manager could lift the deportation order on the children and issue them with Student Visas instead. The same case manager who had adamantly stated he could not do this for Charmain.

So if the children are in their mother’s care, the innocent victim of family violence, they will be deported from New Zealand with her, back to a country they barely remember because of their father’s crimes. But if their care is passed to the man who abused their mother and has served time in prison as a result, they will be allowed to stay permanently in New Zealand with him.

This situation appears to be backwards, punishing the victim of violence while supporting the abuser.

A number of questions have now been raised about the way this case is being handled and the message New Zealand is sending to the world regarding attitudes to family violence and the rights of children.

What do you think about this?
Post your comments, or sign the petition to support Charmain and her children.

Immigration advisers – scaremongering for their own financial gain

September 13, 2011

Tammy BellBy Tammy Bell
move2nz expert on Settlement and migration

Recently I have been researching Immigration Advisers, the number of migrants using them and how they promote their services. What I have seen has seriously worried me, prompting me to write this special report.

Misrepresenting risk

What I am concerned to see on many licensed immigration adviser’s websites are statements literally scaremongering for financial gain.

One of the main reasons move2nz was set up was to ensure migrants had good unbiased information from a source which didn’t have a commercial interest in them. This article is intended to stop unethical businesses pulling the wool over your eyes.

Protected migrants

Immigration adviser licensing was introduced in May 2008 to provide protection for vulnerable migrants against fraudulent, corrupt and unethical advisers. The Immigration Advisers Authority was created to license and police advisers and as part of this introduced a Code of Conduct for licensed advisers.

Now licensed advisers know about this and the IAA has been reminding them of their responsibilities – as recently as July this year sent out a reminder to all advisers:

“that a licensed adviser must not, in a false, fraudulent or deceptive manner, misrepresent or promote himself or herself, or his or her company.

“To ensure that you meet your obligations under the code, you should regularly review your advertising and company website to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate.”

What my research shows is that this message is not getting through to some licensed advisers who appear to be actively misleading potential clients to create fear and increase business.

Examples

Here are some examples taken this week from immigration adviser websites:

1) “Did you know that up to 30 to 50% of non-agent assisted online and DIY applications FAIL?”

Wrong – in 2010/11 only 13.5 percent of non-agent assisted DIY applications failed and in 2009/10 it was just 12 percent. See below how this compares to agent assisted applications, the results might surprise you.

  • Overall, 47,931 applications were lodged;
  • Using a licensed adviser:
    • 10,394 of applications used a licensed adviser (21.7%);
    • 85.5% of those were successful;
  • Not using an agent:
    • 32,058 of applications did not use an agent (66.9%);
    • 86.5% of those were successful.

So last year most people (across all streams) entered their application without the help of an agent and this group had the highest rate of success.

Now to be fair many licensed advisers specialise in dealing with complex and difficult cases and the success rate of simple cases will always be higher than for the really difficult ones. However this does raise questions about many advisers who claim a 97% or better success rate.

Permanent Residence Applications
Exempt Advisers

(Click for enlargement)

It’s pretty worrying for licensed advisers to claim a success rate that high because either they are lying or some other licensed advisers have success rates much lower than for DIY cases!

One of the issues which has been highlighted through this research is that there is another group with a much lower success rate than either DIY applicants or those using an adviser:
exempt people.

These include among others family members, lawyers, MPs and Citizen’s Advice staff. Nearly 1 in five of these applications (19.5% in 2010/11) failed and that is something that needs looking into!

2) “What the public do not have access to are the extensive Operational Manuals made available by the Immigration Services to migration consultants.”

Wrong – the Immigration department’s Operations Manual is freely available to all, you can search through it here, but you might not know that without sources of information like move2nz.

3) “At a recent meeting with Immigration New Zealand staff in Auckland one of the Branch Managers told us that 98% of Family Visa applications are incorrect, with more than half being rejected straight away because of this.”

I can’t comment on what was said in the meeting, but these details are clearly wrong as in 2010/11 over 92 percent of all applications lodged in the Family Category were approved!

  • Overall, 10,352 applications were made in the family category
  • Using a licensed adviser:
    • 1,288 of applications used a licensed adviser (12.4%)
    • 92% of those were successful
  • Not using an agent:
    • 8,210 of applications did not use an agent (79.3%)
    • 93.8% of those were successful

Again, the majority of applicants did not use a licensed adviser and those not using an adviser had a higher rate of success.

My reply to the claims being made by these advisers (and please excuse my language) is “Total BOLLOCKS”.

Getting to the truth

Searching through immigration statistics is not for everyone, but it’s something Mike and I have got used to and now do a lot. I hope what we have discovered – that some licensed immigration advisors create a false impression of your chances of a successful application to line their own pockets – will give you food for thought before parting with your hard earned cash.

Now I have to reiterate that not all licensed advisers make false claims. In my opinion there are good ones out there and on complex cases (e.g. business visas, instances where applicants have a weakness in their application that needs to be argued and situations where the immigration department has made a ruling you disagree with) it really pays to have a professional fighting your corner.

The vast majority of applicants however have simple applications – you either qualify or you don’t. Apart from checking with a professional if you are worried about something in my opinion very few of these applicants benefit from using a professional adviser as confirmed in official government statistics.

Making a difference: what can we do about this??

Seeing this rubbish being flouted on advisers websites Mike and I really wanted to do something about it – move2nz after all is about making a difference. So Mike wrote to the IAA on Sunday (11th September) to ask about this problem, worried that if licensed advisers got caught doing this they would just get a slap on the wrist and be told to correct it.

We were impressed to get a fast and clear reply back the following day confirming:

“If you have concerns about a licensed adviser and consider that they are misrepresenting themselves, their business, their clients immigration opportunities or NZ’s immigration requirements then this may be a breach of the Code of Conduct and grounds for a complaint to be referred to the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal.”

The email confirmed that the IAA do not mediate in matters like this, instead the IAA refer cases to the Disciplinary Tribunal which acts like a court to assess the problem and if necessary punish the adviser. This is a much better situation than we expected.

Following a link kindly provided by the IAA we confirmed that in fact one case has already been heard by the Tribunal. Deng, a licensed adviser, falsely claimed she had a Master of Business Administration Degree. The Adviser was found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct, her license was cancelled and she was ordered to pay $1,500.

Now this is a real result and something we would like to see more of!

Summary

The bad news is that we have uncovered licensed immigration advisers misleading the public to build fear in order to raise profits.

The good news is that we have also come to realise that there are laws in place to stop this.

You can make a difference and so can we. If you see a licensed adviser making a claim you know (or believe) to be false you know what to do – make a complaint to the IAA (just fill in the form here) and take the unethical advisers out of the industry.

I’ll be putting together complaints on all my examples (and other sites I picked up as part of my research) as soon as our September newsletter is sent out!