Posts Tagged ‘immigration minister’

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 third of New Zealand migrants on benefits?

March 7, 2012

Yesterday Nathan Guy, New Zealand’s new Minister for Immigration, stated in an interview with TV One’s breakfast show that a third of migrants in New Zealand are claiming a benefit.

I just don’t know where to start with this one. I had been hoping to stay on a positive footing with this new Minister…

Actually I can’t imagine (beyond outright racism) what an Immigration Minister could have done to cause more damage to his portfolio.

It lookslike Mr. Guy has single-handedly:

  • undermined the entire immigration department (which delivers a multi-billion dollar profit to NZ every year); and
  • tried his hardest to scare off as many globally mobile skilled workers as possible.

What makes this statement incredible is that:

  1. The majority (85%) of migrants arriving in NZ each year aren’t eligible to claim any kind of benefit as they are on temporary visas: temporary workers, students etc.
  2. Of the other migrants – the ones who would gain residency:
    • 60% are not eligible to claim for benefits for the first two years (skilled/business stream);
    • 31% are family sponsored meaning that if they claim benefits during the first five years of being in NZ the money is reclaimed from their sponsor

That leaves just 1% of migrants coming into the country (9% of residents) who can claim benefits during the first two years of being in New Zealand.

It should be mentioned that this group enter New Zealand through the humanitarian stream, many as refugees which effectively form New Zealand’s international good work.

Employment
Migrants generally cannot get in to New Zealand without a job offer and because of this rates of migrant employment are very high.

Benefit to New Zealand
The immigration department applies a strict set of rules against each application which are aimed at encouraging gain for New Zealand while protecting this country from loss.

For this system to work is must provide a greater benefit to New Zealand than it costs. The latest government research provided in its International Migration Outlook for 2009/10 confirmed that for 2005/06 (the last time gain was fully calculated by government) immigration delivered $8.1 billion into the New Zealand economy that year.

The report confirms that while the New Zealand population of 3.1 million people had contributed $2.83 billion to the economy that year the migrant population of 927,000 (i.e. all of the migrants including new and those who had been here for many years) had contributed a much greater $3.28 billion.

This clearly confirms that the immigration system, which has not significantly changed since 2006, is working extremely well in providing New Zealand with people who continue throughout their lives to contribute to the economy rather than a mass who claim benefits and drain the system.

I have written to the Immigration Minister to ask about these statements and will update once I hear back.

Mike
move2nz.com

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

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