Posts Tagged ‘skilled migrant’

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:


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.


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%).

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


Ignoring history

May 31, 2014

The Labour Party, in the lead up to this years’ election, is proposing to cut immigration to help reduce the rapidly rising cost of housing as covered in the Press today and echoed by Phil Twyford on The Nation this morning.

“Labour’s proposal would, in part, see the “points system” under which skilled migrants get entry to New Zealand tweaked in response to net migration flows.”

So what’s wrong with this policy?

Well there are quite a few problems, but the main one is that doesn’t work.

A few issues
Some of the main issues with this have been identified in todays’ article, for example that the Permanent and Long Term Migration figures being used cover everyone coming in for a year or more (working holidaymakers, students, temporary workers and residents), the vast majority of which would have no intention of buying a house here.

When Labour talks about the “points system” what they mean is a system used in assessing applications under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) of New Zealand’s Residence Programme. Points are awarded for age, work experience, qualifications with weighting towards having skilled employment here, especially if this is in an area of long term skill shortage.

There are a number of problems with using the SMC to manage immigration like this such as:

  • Time lag
    It takes on average between 8 and 12 months for an application to go through this process, longer if the person is offshore. Any changes will take a very long time to have an effect.
  • Numbers
    If Labour is planning to use this immigration route to manage immigration by 25,000 to 35,000 there is a problem – only 18,156 visas were granted through this stream last year. A cut could easily see the entire stream canned.

    While some people might think that would be a good idea, remember that NZ is in an international battle for skills, trying to attract top migrants here to fill skill gaps. We’re not talking about gaps which can be met by training a few I.T. graduates as the article suggests, we’re talking about attracting qualified professionals who already have years of experience.

    I was talking to a Christchurch employer recently who confirmed for every highly skilled foreign worker (usually with 10+ years of experience) they employed they could employ and train at least 2 New Zealanders.

  • Incentive
    So under this policy SMC points will move around in an unpredictable way. Is it an incentive for migrants to have to pay $2,320 to enter a system where the goal posts are continually moving? We need more transparency in immigration, not less.

Ignoring history
Finally there is one major problem with this policy – it doesn’t work. We know it doesn’t work because it hasn’t.

Successive changes were made by government in January 2010, June 2011 and January 2013 to make the SMC points system harder to get through, as a result visas granted have dropped by 32.78% compared to 2008/09. The effect of this has been nearly 32,000 less people allowed residence visas under SMC during the past five years.

What effect has this had on Auckland house prices? Why would further cuts have a different effect?

Interestingly during the same period (25 July 2011) “residential property development” was added by the government to the list of acceptable investment types for wealthy overseas investors to apply for visas here. Just sayin’.


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

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

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:

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 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.

site architect,

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?


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