CTV News interview

May 29, 2014

Interview with CanterburyTV news today about immigration, the rebuild and what the effects of cutting work visas might be. 

We’re right in the heart of Christchurch providing advice to rebuild employers and workers every day. Immigration has become a key issue, but mostly because people are being scared by misused statistics and partial information often confusing permanent and temporary migration.

Work visas holders are here only because we need them and cannot find NZ workers to do jobs that need skills and years of experience – apprenticeships are vital for local youth, but unemployment for men here is down to 2% and to rebuild we need mostly experienced experts overseeing a smaller number of trainees.

Training in many areas has really taken off because of the overseas experts helping our local tradespeople in giving those with an aptitude tuition and oversight. You can’t train an electrician, plumber or stonemason overnight, but because of the work visa holders many young New Zealanders are beginning careers now that will help this country into the future long after those visas have expired.

Mike Bell

Migrant advocate, Licensed Immigration Adviser


Cutting immigration – where to start?

May 26, 2014

Politicians are talking about cutting immigration using figures which relate to people coming for 1 year or more – the Permanent and Long Term arrivals produced by statistics NZ.

From these stats it is clear numbers have changed since last year due to:

  • 16,151 less NZ citizens leaving the country;
  • 3,267 more NZ citizens arriving in NZ; and
  • 9,954 non NZ citizens arriving.

So roughly 66% of the change was the movement of NZ citizens, 18% was an increase in the number of Australians coming to NZ and 15% was ‘everyone else’.

As a point of interest the only aspect of immigration which is not carefully controlled or managed by the NZ government relates to Australians – citizens and permanent residents can simply get on a plane and are automatically handed residence visas at the border.

This year there was an increase of 5,391 Australian citizens coming to NZ, a rise of 34%. I wonder how many of the 15% ‘other’ were permanent residents of Australia, the stats do not show this.

By comparison looking at the other countries there were:

  • 1,186 more Indian citizens;
  • 736 more Chinese citizens;
  • 662 more German citizens;
  • 402 more US citizens;
  • 262 more South African citizens; and
  • 16 more UK citizens.

Blind statistics
Using these statistics however does not give detail on why people came to NZ or how long they planned to stay – we only know they intended to stay for a year or more.

My last post looked at residents only – those you could argue who are most likely to buy a house – asking which of these the politicians would cut.

Perhaps it would be better to look at all of the visas issued last year which would be likely to be for a year or more to compare more closely with the figures being used by politicians.

Looking through the immigration department statistics on visas issued in 2012/13:

  • 14.6% were residence visas – arguably the most likely to buy a house as they stay permanently. Of those 11,291 were the partners and children of New Zealand citizens and residents.
  • 21.3% were foreign fee paying students who paid around $1 billion to study here last year, spending around $848 million on accommodation etc.
  • 19% were young people on a 1 year working holiday visa, these were required to bring collectively at least $210 million into the country to spend.
  • 17% were skilled workers (temporary and permanent) where employers had proved they could not find NZ workers to do the job offered (paying taxes, filling skill gaps, creating jobs and training NZ citizens).
  • Another 10% were partners (of visa holders or NZ citizens) on temporary visas.

That’s a total of 82.4%.

The remaining visas went to refugees (1%), children studying at school (3.3%), parents of visa holders (1.7%) etc.

scaremongeringIf numbers are going to be cut where will the politicians start I wonder?

Where do you think the cuts should be?

Mike Bell

Migrant advocate, Licensed Immigration Adviser



Cutting immigration?

May 20, 2014

Cutting immigration has become a key election issue on both sides of the political spectrum.

Labour leader David Cunliffe has recently been reported on the NBR website indicating Labour would slash the net migration flow from 40,000 — which he claims is overheating the property market — to between 5000 and 15,000.

So what would this mean?

Net migration
There are different measures of migration and Mr Cunliffe would be talking about Permanent and Long Term migration, or the New Zealand Residence Programme as both average just under 40,000. As we’re talking about the housing market it would make sense to look at how this would impact on residence visas issued.

On average just under 40,000 people come to live in New Zealand permanently every year. These are made up of four main streams – using 2012/13 figures roughly these are:

  • 51% – skilled workers, entrepreneurs and investors
  • 29% – the foreign-born children and partners of New Zealand citizens and residents
  • 11% – the parents of migrants
  • 8%   – humanitarian and pacific quotas

So if immigration was cut, who would still get through? Are we just talking about foreign workers? The following is a view of  the idea of these cuts using actual immigration figures from 2012/13:

5,000 places
I guess the individuals getting first option would be those NZ legally has to take under agreements and treaties – around 2,200 people.

Second option would presumably go to the children of NZ citizens and residents – around 1,200 places.

There would sadly only be just under 1,500 places for the foreign-born partners of kiwis with 85% (around 8,500) losing out.

This would leave no spaces for skilled workers or investors. I am guessing parents of migrants and other humanitarian cases we are not legally required to take would be at the back of the queue, no space for them either.

15,000 places
Expanding the number of places to 15,000 would enable all of the children and partners of NZ citizens and residents to get through – phew!

There would be space for around 883 skilled workers and their families (assuming the current rate of 1.65 people per application continues). Parents and other humanitarian cases would presumably lose out.

The effect of this change
I won’t go into how this policy might affect NZ, I’ll leave that to your discussion, but I’ll pose some questions:

  • Will it be an incentive for kiwis to return to NZ if their families are not allowed to come too?
  • Will reducing skilled migration by 92% affect skill shortages and NZ business?
  • Will this affect the ability of NZ to support an ageing population?



Certainly food for thought. The migrant quota has been in place for many years (i.e. under Labour and National governments) providing benefit to NZ quietly year by year with balanced and controlled migration.

Mike Bell

Migrant advocate, Licensed Immigration Adviser

Migrants accessing health care in New Zealand

November 30, 2013

Getting information about what healthcare migrants can access in New Zealand is a bit of a problem which is starting to cause issues – I saw the following article in the paper today:

Migrants ‘clogging’ hospital

Christchurch Hospital’s emergency department (ED) is the busiest it has ever been and foreign rebuild workers have been pinpointed as the likely main cause.

Migrant workers with illnesses as minor as colds are “clogging up” ED because they are not enrolling with GPs in Christchurch, a business leader says.

The city’s health sector is calling for the workers to enrol at medical practices to take pressure off the hospital.

You can read the whole article here

Christchurch rebuild

This is not a new problem at all, I’ve seen these issues in Christchurch since 2006 when move2nz launched our migrant centre as a dedicated resource to help skilled migrants.

Now working as a licensed immigration adviser in the centre of Christchurch with rebuild workers every day I see this problem close up. This problem is growing more apparent simply because of the number of people coming in to help with the rebuild.

Rebuild workers fall into two main groups:

  1. Young people on Working Holiday Visas
    These generally cover only a year and the workers are required to hold medical and comprehensive hospitalisation insurance for the length of their stay.

    The exception is the UK scheme where the visa can be for up to 23 months and no medical insurance is required because there is a reciprocal agreement between New Zealand and the UK.

  2. Skilled workers on work visas
    These visas can be for up to three years although many (especially for lower skilled job like truck and digger drivers, and scaffolders) are just for one year.

So how do these workers access healthcare and what differences are there between them?


Many rebuild workers are in hard physical jobs where accidents can happen. Luckily New Zealand has an accident compensation scheme: ACC.

This is a ‘no fault’ universal accident insurance scheme which covers treatment costs for accidental injuries whether you are a citizen or just a visitor, whether you had an accident at work or cycling up in the hills.

Anyone having an accident can access hospital so there is no difference between our two groups except that as ‘part charges’ may apply medical insurance could be useful.

One thing to be aware of however is that while ACC covers injury-related treatment it does not cover repatriation expenses. It is a good idea to have comprehensive travel insurance to cover this.

Warning: Check the small-print on your medical insurance. This year a migrant who had come to me for immigration advice sadly died in a climbing accident. Due to a technicality in his medical insurance the company refused to fly his body home (on the basis he hadn’t been resident in the UK for six months before he took out the policy).

Make sure you don’t encounter the same problem by checking the small-print on your policy.

In an emergency dial 111 and ask for an ambulance

Public healthcare

This falls into two areas and there can be important differences for migrants:

  1. General Practitioner (GP)
    These handle all general medical and wellness issues and should be your first port of call if you are unwell. Registering with a GP is recommended, you can search for  a GP near you using the interactive map.
  2. Hospital Care
    There is a strong drive to keep hospitals free to stop them getting bogged down and for this reason before heading to a hospital you should try:

Importantly there can be costs accessing any medical services.

Free Public Health Care
For those who qualify for free public health care you can access:

  • free public hospital treatment
  • free treatment at public hospital 24-hour accident and emergency (A&E) clinics
  • subsidies on prescription items
  • subsidised fees for visits to GPs.
  • subsidised fees for specialist care (such as physiotherapists) when referred by a GP for an accident case
  • free or subsidised health care if suffering from acute or chronic medical conditions
  • no charge for most laboratory tests and x-rays, except at privately operated clinics
  • no charge for public health care during pregnancy and childbirth
  • no charge for GP referrals to a public hospital for treatment
  • subsidies for children under six for visits to the doctor and prescriptions (most visits to the doctor  and prescribed medicines for small children are free)
  • free breast screening for women aged between 45 and 69.

Your can check your eligibility for free healthcare – if you have a work visa lasting at least two years for example or come from the UK or Australia you are covered.

The Problem

The real problems here then are that:

  • Many migrants do not register with a GP and do not know where to go for medical help, for this reason they end up at the hospital which doesn’t have the resources to cope.
    • Solution:
      Register with a GP and follow the links in this article to find out more about health services in Christchurch. Go to the appropriate medical service if you need care, leaving the hospital as a last resort.
  • Some people on Working Holiday Visas do not have the comprehensive medical insurance they are required to have, making them vulnerable to mishap.
    • Solution:
      Make sure you have comprehensive medical insurance and check the small-print to make sure you are covered right through your stay in New Zealand, not just the first 6 months. Repatriation in case of serious mishap is an important inclusion.
  • There is a small group that fall outside health provisions: people on a one year work visa. This group do not have access to free healthcare and often do not have medical insurance. This makes them highly vulnerable and often they will not realise until something goes wrong. People in this situation can end up with large and unexpected medical bills.
    • Solution:
      Take out comprehensive medical insurance!

So if you are in Christchurch get searching for a GP near you and register. Find out where your local medical services are (there is a handy interactive map here including GPs and pharmacies) and take care of yourself.

If you are having difficulties access medical care let us know by posting about your experiences below ;o).

Mike Bell

Mike is architect of migrant community move2nz.com, a migrant advocate, and a qualified and licensed immigration adviser.


Useful links for Christchurch:

Hospital jobs elude migrants

November 10, 2013

An interesting article in the news today regarding changes to job opportunities for migrant doctors in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s immigration system is intended to bring in key staff to fill skill-gaps. Of course skill gaps change as the New Zealand government create training opportunities to meet these.

In this ever-changing landscape it is important for anyone thinking of coming to New Zealand to have solid information on how badly their skills are needed as well as training or registration requirements.

Medical jobs have always been in demand – they make up half of the Long Term Skill Shortage List – but this article just goes to show that nothing should be relied upon.

Hospital jobs elude migrants

Immigration officials will consider removing general practitioners from a skills shortage list as newly qualified immigrant doctors struggle to find jobs in hospitals.

Despite being New Zealand citizens and passing English and clinical competency exams, migrant doctors say they are being locked out of work.

Their concerns come on top of young Kiwi doctors struggling to find jobs in Auckland on graduation, as revealed last week in the Herald on Sunday.

Doctors from non-western countries must pass a New Zealand Registration Examination (NZREX) and work for a year under observation before they can be registered. Morella Lascurain, an NZREX-qualified doctor who runs a private health centre in Auckland, said the NZREX pathway had become a dead-end street.

She knows of at least 22 doctors from African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries who had passed the exam but were unable to find work as house officers. One of those included an ophthalmologist with 20 years’ experience.

Read the rest of the article on the New Zealand Herald here.

Any medical staff thinking of coming to New Zealand to look for work will need to check carefully that there is demand for their skills and find out what the registration requirements are to work here..

A good place to start checking are the District Health Boards throughout New Zealand. These usually have good HR staff and can give you good feedback on where they are struggling to find key staff .

Mike Bell

Mike is architect of migrant community move2nz.com, a migrant advocate, and a qualified and licensed immigration adviser.

Too fat to live in NZ?

July 27, 2013

Mike BellIt’s been a while since I wrote a blog but spotted this it today’s Press newspaper.

I often get asked about medical issues affecting immigration applications – especially grey areas like obesity. While most immigration requirements are quite clear this is can be a very uncertain area.

This article is intended to help migrants prepare for success ;o).


Too fat to live here?

A medically obese South African man has been told he is too fat for New Zealand, despite losing 30 kilograms since he moved to Christchurch six years ago.Albert Buitenhuis and his wife, Marthie, are now facing deportation after their work visas were declined because of his 130kg weight.

Immigration authorities cited the demands his obesity could place on New Zealand health services.


Immigration medicals
When you are making immigration applications you will be asked for a medical for any visa which will take you over 12 months in New Zealand. This is to test if you have an acceptable standard of health.

What they’re actually looking at is any likely cost to New Zealand. If you are applying for residence this is classified as $41,000 over the next five years (A4.10.2).

The process is:

  1. Case officer
    your application goes in to the department and is allocated out to a case officer. As they are not medically trained they send any medical issue to an external expert to be assessed
  2. Medical assessor
    This expert checks the papers and makes a decision on how much you are likely to cost NZ. The important point is that they can only go by the papers provided as they will never meet you
  3. Decision
    The case then goes back to the case-officer who makes a decision on your application

If you do have a medical condition (or your children will need educational support at school due to a learning difficulty or condition) it is vital to:

  • Provide as much documentary evidence as possible; and
  • clearly quantify any cost

If you have not provided clear evidence about the costs of your condition the medical assessor has to make a judgement call on your long term prognosis – they will be looking at the next 5 years.

You do not want that because the medical assessor has limited information. Much better to give them reports from experts who have examined you to ensure the medical assessor has really good information. This also means you have a reasonable idea of your chances of success before you lodge the application which is vital.

This is an area where it can be a good idea to get a professional opinion, calling on previous case knowledge to give you a sound idea of whether you are likely to be successful.

Please take medical issues seriously. Any application submitted to the immigration department (whether entered by you or with professional help) that includes a medical issue (or even the possibility of one) should leave nothing to chance.

Careful research and preparation to ensure the medical assessor has everything they need to agree you have an acceptable standard of health is a minimum.

If you find through this research that you may not have an acceptable standard of health at least you will know the risk you are taking before you start out.

Mike Bell

Mike is architect of migrant community move2nz.com, a migrant advocate, and a qualified and licensed immigration adviser.

Freedom in the Press? Nope

February 21, 2013

After jumping up and down about what the damage being caused by cuts to skilled migration in New Zealand since mid-2009 I noticed the following article in The Press this week:

Govt denies limiting skilled worker entry

The Government has tightened the screws on skilled migration aggravating the nation’s skills shortage for political reasons, an Auckland immigration consultant says.


Aha I thought. Someone has finally got a member of the press to show interest. I have been trying to do this for years, sending article after article about this very subject to journalists only to have them ignored. So I posted a reply which went into a little extra detail about this decline in the number of migrants.

I was pretty surprised to see that my reply was blocked by The Press moderators.

So I posted again to mention my post had been blocked.

Predictably that post was blocked too, so I have posted my original item below with links to the published articles:

My tuppence

I agree, immigration is a tool to fill skill shortages, to create jobs for New Zealanders and create prosperity. Properly managed immigration should not create competition with New Zealanders for jobs and I am delighted to see an increasing number of New Zealanders being trained to meet NZ’s needs.

Skilled permanent migration is effectively by invitation only meaning that the New Zealand government has complete control and this is at it should be. Through the last few years successive Ministers have confirmed the economic benefit brought to New Zealand through immigration.

Since 2009 I have been commentating on the Skilled Migrant Category which makes up 60% of all residents coming in to New Zealand. This is the stream used by highly skilled workers. Strangely while other residence streams have stayed fairly stable over the past four years the number of applications granted under theskilled category have dropped and dropped and dropped.

On 29 July 2011 I was so concerned about this continuing drop that I wrote to the Minister of Immigration (then Jonathan Coleman) to express my disquiet. In my letter I mentioned:

“As immigration department statistics confirm, from January 2010 the number of applications selected from the pool under the SMC [Skilled Migrant Category] each fortnight fell from an average of 705 in the year to December 2009 to an average of 556 in the year to December 2010.”

In a published article on 16 Apr, 2010 I wrote:

“The Minister appears to be concentrating on attracting investors rather than skilled workers, forgetting the massive economic benefit (levies, taxes and billions added directly into local Kiwi businesses) skilled workers bring.”

“This of course is a double ‘whammy’ for New Zealand – as we advised the Minister back in November 2008 when he took office – because not only is the country going to miss out on what is likely to be in the region of $2.5 billion each year because of his decisions, but New Zealand businesses are now realising there is a serious shortage of skilled workers. The damage this will cause to New Zealand’s economic recovery can only be guessed at, but I believe it will be huge and long lasting.”

“It’s frustrating as hell but a realisation of what we have been warning of since 2008 is slowly growing. Whether mainstream NZ will understand the source of this damage remains to be seen.”

In a published article on 30 March 2012 I wrote

“This year (although the quotas have been now spread over 3 years) the department is heading for a shortfall of 8,442 (based on departmental statistics to February 2012) or 33.8% on the Skilled Migrant Category.”

Now in February 2013 we are half-way through what has been made into a three year quota period. Bearing in mind that the quota for these highly skilled and experienced workers sits at between 45,000 and 50,000 per year we are currently on track to miss the minimum quota by nearly 22,000.

Since 2010 I have been wondering aloud in articles published online how the decisions to cut skilled migration would affect New Zealand, how businesses would be affected by rising skill shortages and how much economic damage these decisions would cause.

Only the final question remains to be answered as the skill shortages are really starting to bite. I guess we will never know the full cost of the choices made to cut skilled migration by politicians – the cost to New Zealand workers and businesses – but whatever the figure is we know it will be measured in billions of dollars.

Mike Bell
licensed immigration adviser
architect of migrant community website move2nz.com

Brash supports hiring illegal migrants?!

January 21, 2013

This week we saw an bizarre call from Don Brash, a man who has been a “centre-right”‘ politician (leader of New Zealand’s National Party while in opposition, and the ACT party) and also Governor of New Zealand’s Reserve Bank.

According to media reports Mr Brash said

“I want local and central government to show more urgency on the rebuild of Christchurch and if that means taking a lenient attitude toward people whose immigration status might not be up to scratch, in the peculiar situation which Christchurch faces, I would be all in favour of that,”

Looking at Mr Brash’s comments I am struck by two questions:

  1. What does Mr Brash know of the rebuild from his vantage point 1,000 kilometres away?
  2. What does Mr Brash know about New Zealand’s immigration system and the potential effects of his idea?

The answer to both questions is clearly “not much”.

The rebuild speed

The amount of work to be done in Canterbury and Christchurch is certainly immense. After nearly 1,000 buildings large and small have been demolished there is still quite a way to go. I look out at this every day as Christchurch is my home and I work in the CBD, but what I see are people working incredible hours – New Zealanders and people coming from around the world to do amazing things.

Hiring illegal immigrants is hardly likely to speed up Gerry Brownlee or improve anything at all.

Yes it would be nice if it could all be finished tomorrow, but those of us who live on planet earth know we are here for the long-haul. Personally I prefer quality work which will last (and perhaps one or two buildings which aren’t tilt-slab construction) over ‘get it over quickly’.

New Zealand’s immigration system

New Zealand has a highly robust immigration system which has served this country well, ensuring that migrants coming to New Zealand add more to this country than they take from it. The last census for example in 2006 confirmed that migrants added $3.3 billion profit to the New Zealand economy after all costs.

Our immigration system ensures people coming to work here are healthy, can speak English, are of good character and have skills New Zealand really needs.

What does this say about illegal immigrants?

Some skilled migrants can unexpectedly and unfortunately become unlawful in New Zealand (and a good part of my work is in restoring skilled workers to lawful status) but in my experience these migrants play by the rules. If they can provide a good reason why they should be allowed to stay they are allowed to regain legal status by trained immigration officials who weigh all aspects of the case before making a decision.

Mr Brash’s idea would remove this protection for New Zealand, hamstringing officials and forcing them to turn a blind eye to people likely to cause loss.

Pros and Cons

I guess in fairness we should weigh the pros and cons of Mr Brash’s “idea”:

Cons – this would

  • completely undermine New Zealand’s immigration system, put in place to protect this nation;
  • encourage many more people to come to New Zealand illegally;
  • discourage highly skilled migrants from coming here to help with the rebuild;
  • reduce the number of jobs available to New Zealanders;
  • reduce training options for New Zealand workers;
  • reduce the quality of work being carried out;
  • increase health and safety risks as well as ACC costs to the New Zealand taxpayer;
  • undermine employment laws and protection for employees;
  • reduce the amount of tax being paid to the New Zealand government;
  • reduce wages in the region for semi and skilled workers;
  • increase the cost to the New Zealand taxpayer who would pick up the tab for health, police and other costs;
  • create breeding grounds for the exploitation of foreign workers;
  • welcome an underclass of people into Christchurch who put nothing into the system but take from it.

Pros – this would

  • increase profits for a small number of companies, CEOs and shareholders.


Christchurch needs highly skilled and experienced workers to train locals and work in jobs there are no locals available to fill. The rebuild is going well and things are coming together. Yes we could do with better planning and drive at the top, but hiring illegal migrants is hardly like to affect this.

Our current immigration system is providing a huge economic boost to not only the rebuild but the country as a whole and will continue to do so if left alone.

There may have been whispers of illegal workers in Christchurch, but as a licensed immigration adviser based right in the heart of the Garden City I have seen no sign of this.

What I have seen is a majority of employers doing a great job shadowed by a tiny minority of employers trying to manipulate the system to increase profits.

Taking this into consideration I believe the only way to read Brash’s call is that either he is a fool with no idea of what he is saying, or this is a ‘dog-whistle’ for his private agenda, raising fears about immigration. As Mr Brash has shown in the past that ‘dog-whistle’ politics is a specialty I question the motives behind this call which clearly are not in New Zealand’s best interests.

New Work Visa Requirement for Canterbury Employers

January 15, 2013

Employers in Canterbury hiring migrants should be aware of a rule change notified by Immigration New Zealand (INZ), an additional requirement on employers hiring foreign workers to be implemented from 28 January 2013.

Hiring workers who do not have New Zealand citizenship or a residence class visa is relatively straight-forward, however to ensure New Zealand jobs and wages are protected there are a number of checks to be made first.

For example, when offering work for occupations not listed by the immigration department as being ‘in shortage’ employers must be able to show they have made a genuine effort to recruit New Zealand workers first.

January 2013 changes
Previously it has been a useful step in the process of hiring foreign workers to check with Work and Income who undertake a labour market test for the immigration department to ensure there are no suitable or trainable New Zealanders before visa applications are granted.

In addition to current requirements which include advertising vacancies to check there are no suitable or trainable New Zealanders before offering work to applicants requiring a Work Visa this change will make it mandatory for employers in the Canterbury, Selwyn and Waimakiriri regions to register most vacancies with the new Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub (CSEH).

Exceptions to this rule include the most highly skilled occupations and those already listed by the immigration department on the Long Term, Immediate or Canterbury Skill Shortage Lists.

Occupations are categorised into five ‘skill levels’ by the immigration department and this requirement affects any offer of work for an occupation classified at skill level 3,4 or 5 – the majority of occupations. As examples these occupations include:

  • Level 3: welders, secretaries and motor mechanics;
  • Level 4: truck drivers, clerical workers and receptionists;
  • Level 5: Labourers, hospitality and retail workers.

CSEH is a joint initiative by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, the Ministry of Social Development and the Tertiary Education Commission intended to link employers with job seekers more quickly.

Details of this change can be found on the INZ website here: Visa rule helps streamline process for employers and ensures Kiwis first in line for jobs

I hope this move will speed up processing, but am concerned.

When labour market testing through Work and Income was introduced in 2008/09 processing times for Work Visas significantly increased (from as little as one day to as much as 70 working days).

The system has now settled down very well and over recent months the Work Visa applications I have lodged with the Christchurch immigration office have been processed in between one and three working days.

Hopefully the CSEH will be fully resourced so that it can keep up with the workload and heavy demand so that it does not slow what is currently a good process down.


– site architect, move2nz.com
– licensed immigration adviser, New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services

Canterbury Skills Shortage List

January 12, 2013

This article from move2nz is a little out of date now, relating to a November 2012 change, but is worth adding here as it affects a large number of people I see every day in Christchurch.

The idea of the Canterbury Skills Shortage List (CSSL) is to highlight occupations in which Canterbury employers are struggling to find skilled and experienced staff.

It is one of three Essential Skills In Demand lists, the others of which are the Immediate Skill Shortage List and the Long Term Skill Shortage List.

As the Canterbury rebuild progresses the kind of skills needed will change and the list is reviewed and updated every three months to keep up with this. Initially skills most in demand were in engineering, surveying and planning, but following the November update there is clearly an increasing need for trades staff with the following additions:

  • Solid Plasterer (333212)
  • Painting Trades Worker (332211)
  • Wall and Floor Tiler (333411)
  • Fibrous Plasterer (333211)
  • Brick layer (333111)
  • Carpenter (331212)
  • Roof Tiler (333311)
  • Joiner (331213)
  • Glazier (333111)
  • Floor Finisher (332111)
  • Stonemason (331112)
  • Drainlayer (334113)
  • Carpenter and Joiner (331211)

I have certainly seen a lot more trades workers coming through and have been busy all month advising people about requirements, helping them get all of the paperwork they need and putting together their Work Visa applications.

How does this affect me?

There is a ‘New Zealanders first’ process in New Zealand meaning that foreign workers can only be considered for jobs if there are no NZ citizens and residents available. Getting good information on your employability before getting on a plane is very important – imagine arriving only to find that there are dozens of unemployed people in your field meaning your chances of getting hired are close to nil.

The CSSL helps to create some certainty as it flags occupations where there is a real shortage of local workers. Not only does it mean that if your occupation is on the list and you meet the requirements (see below) you are very likely to find work, it also means you should not face the usual barriers in getting a Work Visa.

The main barrier in getting a Work Visa is the Labour Market Test – basically any employer wanting to hire you has to prove they have made a genuine effort to check for New Zealanders before offering you the job – for example by advertising the role, checking with the unemployment office (Work and Income) and providing evidence any kiwis who applied were unsuitable. This can add a lot of paperwork to your Work Visa application, delays for you as an applicant, and increases costs for the employer.

The good news is that if your occupation is on the CSSL and you are suitably qualified (see below) the employer should not need to check for New Zealanders first before offering you a job – making the whole process more transparent, predictable and safer.

Qualified and experienced

Before assuming you can use the CSSL to get work in Canterbury it is vital to check that Immigration New Zealand consider you to be ‘skilled’. This is a specific definition which relates to your occupation and also your ability to work in that occupation.

The information you need is held in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations or ANZSCO. This defines:

  1. The skill rating of each occupation – between 5(low) and 1 (high); and
  2. How experienced you need to be to do the job competently.

The example I always use is brain surgery: yes it’s a skilled job, but they won’t let me do it without the right qualification. Luckily for most occupations a number of years experience can be substituted for formal qualifications.

For example for ‘Joiner’ the requirement in New Zealand is:

  • NZ Register Level 4 qualification (for example a trade apprenticeship); or
  • At least three years of relevant experience.

It is important to confirm at this stage that the second point refers to relevant work experience you can prove as you will need to include that proof with your application.

All of the requirements for the CSSL are shown in a downloadable PDF you can find hereand may need to be looked up on the ANZSCO website. Just type the reference code (for example 331213 for ‘Joiner’) in the search box and click on the resulting link. You’ll see the ANZSCO requirement under “Indicative Skill Level”.

Watch for additional requirements
It is important to note that some of the occupations listed on the CSSL have additional requirements above those listed in ANZSCO.

For example Glazier (333111) starts with the ANZSCO requirement (which is the same as for joiner) but then adds:

… AND evidence that the work will be done under the supervision of an appropriately Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) who is licensed to supervise relevant Restricted Building Work (RBW) OR that the duties of the Glazier will not include RBW.

Knowing what these requirements are in advance is important so that you won’t be caught out and declined a visa application.

Work Visas

You have probably noted that I have been talking about the CSSL in respect of Work Visas rather than residency. That’s because the CSSL only helps with applications for temporary Work Visas. It doesn’t give you any additional benefit for residency beyond helping you get a skilled job in New Zealand.

Once you have a Work Visa you may well be able to apply for residency if that’s what you want to do, but be aware the requirements are more strict and you will need ongoing employment, not just a short term contract.

I hope this information is useful and will help many people assess their eligibility before looking for work in New Zealand.

Mike Bell

– site architect, move2nz.com
– licensed immigration adviser, New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services

This article was posted in the move2nz.com December 2012 newsletter and is reproduced here by permission.