Posts Tagged ‘immigration changes’

Minister’s competence called in to question

May 22, 2012

Press Release: Move2NZ

On behalf of Tammy Bell, owner of popular migrant community website move2nz.com. A transcript of Breakfast TV’s interview with Nathan Guy on 6/3/12 is also presented below.

Nathan Guy’s competency as Immigration Minister is being questioned after data received from the Official Information Act confirmed that Guy’s inflammatory claims that a ‘third of migrants were on benefits’ were wildly misinterpreted and bore no relation to official statistics.

On March 6th the new Immigration Minister Nathan Guy was interviewed on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme to discuss the government’s plans to favour wealthy migrants. This interview has gained importance as Mr Guy has since confirmed that this conversation was the official launch of new government policy.

During the interview the Minister confirmed

“…. those [immigrants] that have been coming in previously have been very reliant on benefits. Even though they have had to have a job offer, in a lot of cases we have found that after a study we have done on the first 18 months that a third of them have ended up requiring a benefit.”

The Minister went on to say that

“Hard working taxpayers in New Zealand need to know that their money is being well invested, not spent on people sitting around on benefits”.

At a time when the government’s welfare reforms are creating pressure to reduce the number of people dependent on benefits these comments naturally caused anger and resentment to be directed towards migrants.

The Minister’s comments were unusual in that they appeared to undermine the immigration department’s long term goal of attracting high value migrants to invest their money and skills into New Zealand.

Tammy Bell, owner of popular migrant community website move2nz.com commented

“The Minister’s comments have caused alarm with many prospective migrants, who are likely to take their valuable skills elsewhere if they believe there is a one-in-three chance of being on benefits within 18 months. Considering immigration adds between $1.9 billion and $3 billion each year to our economy, his comments were extremely damaging”.

Information used by Mr Guy was taken from the Department of Labour’s Long Term Immigration Survey (LISNZ) which followed 5,144 migrants who took up residency in New Zealand between November 2004 and October 2005. Data was collected at 6 months, 18 months and 36 months after arrival.

However the LISNZ confirms in its summarised May 2009 report entitled ‘New Faces, New Futures, New Zealand’ that:

“less than 2% [of migrants surveyed] had received a core benefit”.

Responding to a request lodged by Bell under the OIA about his comments on “migrants claiming benefits, Mr Guy responded:

“only 66% of migrants who obtained residence through the Sibling and Adult Child Category reported having a job when surveyed 18 months after taking up permanent residence in New Zealand.”

Bell says she was deeply surprised by this revelation.

“How can the Minister confuse ‘not being in paid work’ with ‘claiming a benefit’? I can’t imagine what more an Immigration Minister could have done to damage New Zealand’s international reputation as a migrant destination”.

The Sibling and Adult Child Category accounted for just 2.5% of residence applications approved in the year to October 2005, however the Minister’s televised statement appeared to relate to all migrants coming to New Zealand.

“Even if a third of this small group wasn’t in full time work, where is the cost to the taxpayer?” Bell asks. “Migrants can’t claim benefits in the first two years after receiving residency and even if they did their family sponsor would be liable to pay every cent back to the government”.

Official forms signed by the sponsors of family migrants applying to come to New Zealand include a declaration that they promise to provide financial support and an acknowledgement that any costs to the government will be repaid by the sponsor or they will face enforcement and court action

The LISNZ survey confirms that of these family members not in full-time work 14% were retired, 33% were caring for dependents, and 29% were studying.

While the Minister has focussed on employment data collected 18 months into the LISNZ survey, final reports confirm that nearly 10% more of the family group were employed by the end of the study, than at the beginning. The majority of family members not in work were found to be studying or looking after dependents, not ‘requiring benefits’ as the Minister has claimed.

On May 16th, in a move presented to save government $40 million per year, Nathan Guy closed the Sibling and Adult Child categories on the basis that they did not generate “sufficient economic benefit for New Zealand”.

This move has drawn criticism and court action from migrant groups angry that changes were introduced with just three days’ notice.

According to Bell, these family members are vital to the successful settlement of high value migrants being actively attracted to New Zealand by the immigration department.

“The family category added security, supporting highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs employing Kiwis, helping them continue to add to our economy”.

Department of Labour reports have previously confirmed that 24% of migrants intending to stay permanently leave with a major cause being lack of family support.

The immigration department is funded from migrant fees. Immigration policies introduced in January 2010 effectively cut the number of skilled workers by nearly a third, leading to a record deficit for the department calculated to reach $44 million by June this year.

Mr Guy has admitted that migrant families will be split apart by the changes he has introduced which will enable his department to recoup losses caused by the decision to significantly reduce immigration numbers, however the Minister has not offered any explanation of why his television comments were incorrect.

Summary points:

  •  The Minister stated that a third of migrants claim benefits within 18 months.
  • Less than 2% of migrants from the study actually received benefits.
  • Migrants not in work were confirmed to be retired, caring for dependents or studying.
  • The Minister has used this as a reason to close the Sibling and Adult Child categories.
  • Experts claim this will reduce New Zealand’s appeal for high value migrants.
  • Immigration adds between $1.9 billion and $3 billion net of costs to New Zealand’s economy each year.

Transcript of Breakfast TV interview with Nathan Guy, 6/3/12

Petra Bagust: You’re with Breakfast, the time is 6:56. Ah we’re going to talk about immigration now, are wealthy  immigrants more welcome in New Zealand. If we take the government’s plans at face value it appears the answer is ‘yes’. Immigration changes will be aimed at reducing the number of unskilled migrants who struggle to get jobs and end up on the benefit. But are they fair? Immigration Minister Nathan Guy joins me now. Good Morning Mr. Guy.

Nathan Guy: Morning Petra, how are you?

Petra Bagust: Well thank you. Why do these changes need to be made?

Nathan Guy: Well what we have found Petra is that those that have been coming in previously have been very reliant on benefits. Even though they have had to have a job offer in a lot of cases we have found that after a study we have done on the first 18 months that a third of them have ended up requiring a benefit. We want to refocus this to ensure that those that are coming in have a decent income stream with them or via their sponsor and that they can perform in our modern day economy.

Petra Bagust: Alright. As it has been suggested does it in essence create an immigration system that favours the wealthy?

Nathan Guy: Well, we make no bones about that. We want to ensure that those that are coming in to our economy can hold down a job and ensure that they perform in our economy. Hard working taxpayers in New Zealand need to know that their money is being well invested, not spent on people sitting around on benefits, and you will know that the government is talking about big welfare reform plans this year, and these changes very much line up with those.

Petra: Alright. We want to talk about high income workers. What is the definition of ‘high income’ here?

Nathan Guy: Well we’re working through what those definitions will mean and I’ll announce those in due course. In essence the changes are that parents will still be able to come in, but they will need to have some financial dependence when they arrive and that will be savings that they will bring in, or indeed they’ll have cash-flow from their sponsor. And those adult children and siblings category, that will change and they will be required to apply through the Skilled Migrant Category.

Petra Bagust: So the balance I guess is between saving money, there is an estimated $40 million dollars going to be saved, and also the success of people immigrating to New Zealand and settling here. I guess some families will be split apart because of this new legislation.

Nathan Guy: That may happen, but of course they still have the option of replying through the Skilled Migrant Category. Parents still have the option of coming in to New Zealand if they have a sponsor and if they have that financial backing that I talked about before. So I make no apologies, this government is focused on driving the economy forward. Where possible we want migrants coming that are going to perform in our modern day economy.

Petra Bagust: Nathan Guy, Immigration Minister, thanks for joining us this morning.

Nathan Guy: Thank you.

Corin Dann: Look I’ve got no doubt the government is trying to tweak things here to make the system a bit better, but what I don’t like is this perception that somehow migrants are coming in here and sitting around and going on benefits. I’m sure there are some instances, but let’s face it, who drives your cabs? Who serves you at the supermarket counter? I don’t know about you but most of the immigrants that I come across are working in tough jobs, doing the jobs that a lot of kiwis don’t want to do frankly.

Petra Bagust: It is an interesting little can of worms and we’re talk about again to get back to us again if you have got feedback about this issue.

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A letter to the Immigration Minister

July 29, 2011

Dr. Jonathan Coleman, Immigration MinisterIn move2nz’s July newsletter I pointed out some of the dramatic changes I had noticed in the selection of applications made by the department under the Skilled Migrant Category and promised to explain more.

Below is a copy of a letter I sent to the Minister of Immigration Dr. Jonathan Coleman on July 20th which fully explains my concerns. I’ll let you know what I get back.


Dear Dr. Coleman,

Re: Skilled Migrant Category

I have a number of questions relating to selections of applications made under the Skilled Migrant Category of New Zealand’s Residence programme and, rather than speculating on reasons behind perceived policies and changes, I would be very grateful if you could provide information on the following.

Most recent selections

I notice from the immigration department website statistics that the number of applications selected from the pool on 13 July 2011 (764) was significantly higher than the averages seen through 2009/10 and 2010/11 (604 and 561 respectively). In fact this was the largest selection made since 6 May 2009.

1. Can you advise why the number of applications selected has increased?

2. Can you confirm if this marks a move from policy applied since January 2010 to select approximately 550 applications each fortnight?

Within each selection made there is a majority percentage which claim points for a suitable job or job offer in New Zealand. I note that for the two most recent selections (made from the pool on 30 June 2011 and 13 July 2011) 91% of the applications included claim points for employment marking a significant increase in a percentage measure which has been largely unchanged for some time (certainly between 1 January 2009 and 15 June 2011 the average percentage of applications in each selection falling into this group was 71%).

3. Can you confirm if there is any specific reason why such a high number of applications selected over the past month include points for New Zealand employment?

4. Can you confirm if this percentage marks a change in policy or practice relating to the Skilled Migrant Category?

5.Can you confirm if this percentage is expected to be maintained or increase?

Within each selection made there is also a majority percentage of applicants making their application from within New Zealand (onshore) rather than outside New Zealand (offshore).

I note that the three most recent selections (made from the pool on 15 June 2011, 30 June 2011 and 13 July 2011) have included the highest percentages of applications made onshore since at least 1 January 2009 – increasing through 81%, 82% and 86% respectively.

Again this marks an increase in a percentage measure which has been largely unchanged for some time (between 1 January 2009 and 15 June 2011 the average percentage of applications in each selection falling into this group was also 71%).

6. Can you confirm why such a high percentage of applications made from within New Zealand were selected over the past 6 weeks?

7. Can you confirm if these selections mark a change in policy or practice relating to the Skilled Migrant Category?

8. Can you confirm if this percentage is expected to be maintained or increase in future SMC selections?

Applications selected under the SMC

As immigration department statistics confirm, from January 2010 the number of applications selected from the pool under the SMC 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. Numbers through the first half of 2011 have risen slightly to an average of 562. I also understand that the SMC quota has been reduced from 27,000 – 30,000 to 25,000 – 27,000.

9. Can you advise why the SMC quota was reduced from 27,000 – 30,000 down to 25,000 – 27,000, a drop of 10% of the maximum number?

10. Are any further changes to the SMC quota planned?

11. Are any changes to the SMC selection criteria planned?

12. How has the reduction in numbers being selected since January 2010 affected those with applications in the pool claiming 10 points for a qualification in an area of absolute skill shortage?

13. How has the reduction in numbers being selected since January 2010 affected those with applications in the pool which did not claim points for offers of skilled employment or current skilled employment in New Zealand, work experience in an area of absolute skill shortage or for a qualification in an area of absolute skill shortage?

14. As the overall Residency quota (including the family reunifications and humanitarian streams) has not decreased how is this reduction of the SMC expected to affect the other streams.

15. Is there any planned change to the overall Residency quota?

Percentage of applications selected and then declined

I notice from the Immigration department statistics presented through their website that the percentage of applications accepted through the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) that are subsequently declined has continued to rise year on year, reaching 16.3 percent in 2010/11.

2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
SMC Applications declined 6.7% 8.7% 9.8% 10.4% 14.4% 16.3%

16. Can you please confirm why the percentage of applications selected under the current points system being subsequently declined is increasing year on year, almost doubling in 4 years?

17. Arguably the increase in applications which are selected and subsequently declined suggests a failure in the selection process, are any changes to policy or practice are planned to address this problem?

18. Is the percentage of selected applications which are subsequently declined likely to continue to increase as it has done for the past five years?

Statistics from the immigration website confirm that applications representing 30,665 individuals were selected in 2010/11. As I have pointed out, through the 2010/11 year the percentage of selected applications that were then declined hit 16.3% leaving just 25,666 individuals obtaining Permanent Residency through the SMC in 2010/11. If the current pattern continues further increases in the percentage of applications being declined could easily cause the department to fail to meet the minimum SMC quota.

19. With numbers approved Residency through the SMC falling to within 2.6% of the minimum quota what actions will be taken to ensure numbers do fall below the minimum quota in 2011/12?

20. Are you concerned that the number of individuals gaining Residency through the SMC is only 2.6% higher than the minimum quota?

Reduction in applications approved under the SMC

Arguably as a direct result of the combination of the reduction in SMC applications being selected each fortnight from January 2010 and the percentage increase in the number of those applications subsequently declined the number of applications approved for Permanent Residency under the SMC through 2010/11 was significantly lower than in the previous year.

According to statistics obtained from the immigration website 5,440 less SMC applicants obtained Residency through the SMC in 2010/11 compared to 2009/10, a drop of 20.4%.

21. Why has the number of skilled migrants obtaining Permanent Residence in New Zealand been reduced in this way?

22. How was this reduction expected to impact skill shortages in New Zealand and New Zealand employer’s ability to source skilled permanent foreign staff when no New Zealanders are available?

23. What impact has this reduction had on skill shortages in New Zealand and New Zealand employer’s ability to source skilled permanent foreign staff when no New Zealanders are available?

24. Do you consider that long term skill shortages in New Zealand are being effectively met through the SMC?

25. Do you have any intention of adjusting the number of temporary work visas to balance the reduction made in the SMC?

26. Is this cut to skilled migration through the SMC expected to continue or increase?

Thank you for your assistance with these questions, I appreciate your assistance in clarifying these matters.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Bell

New Zealand: Big Immigration Changes

July 13, 2011

After big cuts to permanent migration are we seeing a move towards temporary visas?

On Friday 8th July a series of changes to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) were announced which come in to force from July 25th.

The Skilled Migrant Category is the immigration route for skilled workers, accounting for over half of all Permanent Residents entering New Zealand.

These are pretty big changes affecting a lot of people, but appears to be a backwards step in many ways. I’ll add deeper commentary in the next www.move2nz.com newsletter, in the meantime here are some of the details:

Changes:

  • English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) qualifications will no longer meet the criteria for qualification points.
  • Applicants who are in New Zealand and hold, or have held, Study to Work visas will no longer be eligible for a SMC Job Search Visa.
  • Applicants with qualifications in an area of absolute skill shortage will no longer be able to automatically obtain residence without skilled employment.
  • Settlement and contribution criteria will be weighted towards skilled employment.
  • Partners and/or children of SMC Job Search Visas holders will no longer be automatically eligible for temporary visas related to the holder’s work visa.

What does this mean?

This appears to place additional barriers in the path of many skilled migrants, making it harder for families to stay together and concentrating on skilled employment.

As we have pointed out many times, to get skilled work the majority of migrants who gain Residency through the SMC (over 85 percent) have to risk everything by traveling to New Zealand and getting a temporary work visa.

In 2010/11 1,366 applications were selected from EOIs claiming over 140 points but without a job offer. Of these only 99 were in already in New Zealand and able to interview for vacancies. These changes appear to block a whole load of migrants with skills New Zealand really needs, making them more vulnerable with less certainty. Even settlement criteria – basically how likely you are or have proved you to settle happily in New Zealand – is now secondary to the job offer.

move2nz has been campaigning for greater security and transparency for migrants for years now. I would like to see pre-qualified migrants who have skills NZ really needs awarded Residency before they leave their home country so that they have a greater ability to be able to calculate and manage their migration risks. Sadly this policy appears to be moving in exactly the opposite direction.


Qualifications

Currently recognised qualifications attract 50 – 55 points under the SMC, but that it about to change. From July 25th qualifications between levels 3 and 6 (including trades and practical qualifications) will lose 10 points, attracting only 40 points.

Qualification points

Qualifications between levels 7 and 8 (bachelor degrees and some National Diplomas) will be unchanged, still attracting 50 points. Qualifications at levels 9 and 10 (Masters degrees and PhDs) which currently attract 55 points get an extra 5 now, moving up to 60 points.

Links:

Commentary
Again sadly this appears to be a backwards step. Previously a wider range of points were awarded making it easier for those with the highest qualifications.

This however lead to lower numbers of highly skilled workers with trades and practical hands-on professional qualifications coming through the system. Instead a large number of academics were encouraged into the country, many then finding that they were unable to find or retain work in their chosen field.

While New Zealand does need migrants with top qualifications arguably there is a strong need right now is for workers to help with the Canterbury rebuild and in areas such as IT where in my experience most people have a diploma and then build experience and value through working.

Again this places additional barriers in the way of workers with diplomas suggesting that the NZ government may be intending to try and channel more skilled workers towards temporary visas only.

This to my mind would be a huge mistake as most workers who come here for temporary work are only putting up with the low wages, costs, increased vulnerability and all the issues of dragging their family to another country because of their dream of permanent status. Take this away and I think there will be a lot less applicants.

I sincerely hope that transparency will increase so that if this is the case people know the score before they start, rather than getting stuck in limbo like so many others – that will be the subject of my next post.