“Kiwis First” – Labour Inherits Immigration Policy

In a June posting I predicted that the Labour Party’s promises to slash the numbers of migrants to New Zealand had already been trumped (excuse the expression) by policy changes introduced under the National-led Government.  That appears to have come true.

NZ Residence Programme

Radio New Zealand article from the end of October disclosed that the number of applications lodged for Skilled Migrant Residence in April – September 2017 were nearly 50% less than for the same period in 2016.  It suggested that if the trend continued, overall Residence approvals would be likely to fall to about 29,000 for the current financial year (to June 2018).  This would far exceed the sort of cut Labour originally suggested it would like to see in “long term migrants”, and would even warm the hearts of New Zealand First supporters from the Kiwi heartland.

Note that almost all of the shrinkage so far took place before Election Day.  It was a reaction to both the upward adjustment of the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) points threshold in October 2016, and the announcement in April 2017 of the changes to SMC and Essential Skills Work Instructions which the Government intended to roll out at the end of August.

This is not good news, though.  The Government Residence Programme, which is set every few years, was recently recalibrated to direct the acquisition of 85-95,000 approvals over the 2 years to June 2018.  This is something of a reduction from previous periods, but the NZRP target range has remained reasonably steady for about 15 years.  And it has not been met on a number of occasions since 2010.  If the above prediction is correct, then there will be a major shortfall by the middle of next year too.  About 60% of the Programme is to be filled by Skilled Migrant and Business Residence applications.  These are meant to attract skills, investment capital and entrepreneurial talent.  Most commentators agree that we need more of these inputs for New Zealand to remain sustainable in the long term, but we are looking down the barrel of a drought of these people and funds.

So Labour has drawn back from proposing major changes to the SMC points system.  Even if it had planned to make new policy, I believe that there would have been significant push-back from the real policymakers – the analysts and bureaucrats of the Ministry of Business, Immigration and Employment who have been working solidly on adjustments to the SMC settings since mid-2016.  They are justified in urging Government to “wait and see” the effects of the major changes to SMC Residence and Work Visa Instructions which only came into effect at the end of August.

Students and Low-Salaried Workers

Instead, Labour’s Election Manifesto on Immigration focuses on the tide of students who have historically gained rights to Work Visas in relatively low-end jobs as a pathway to Residence.  For example, they propose to remove the ability to get a post-study “Job Search Visa” (as we used to call it) for anyone qualifying below bachelor’s degree level.  In recent immigration mythology, the foreign student population has become one of the folk devils responsible for most of the pressures on our infrastructure and way of life – from house prices to Auckland’s traffic woes.

But it remains to be seen whether the new Government will have the political will to keep reducing the attractiveness of studying in New Zealand as a means to living here long-term.  For one thing, export education earns lots of tax dollars – money that Labour needs in order to fund its expansive plans for social housing, erasing child poverty and so on.  For another, powerful interest groups such as Federated Farmers and the Restaurant Association have already campaigned vigorously to protect the ability of relatively low-paid migrant employees to get Work Visas – because those major sectors of the economy are unsustainable without them.  And, despite the repeated mantra of, “Study does not guarantee Residence”, the fact is that people from all over the world want to find ways to come to a ‘Western’ country to live.  Whether Government likes it or not, New Zealand must compete for those tax dollars, and as a small-fry player too.  If we become too unattractive, they will go to Australia, Canada or the US.

The Coalition has a tenuous hold on power, and faces a vigorous and motivated Opposition.  If Labour wants a second term, it will have to compromise both with its xenophobic partner (NZ First) and with industry and business groups who are also voters and who influence opinion.

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It’s Getting Harder! – Common Immigration Challenges

Discussions with senior staff at Immigration New Zealand have confirmed what we’d assumed, that over the last year there has been increasing media and political pressure on INZ to decline or reject applications where they can.

Consequently, we have experienced our busiest year ever, as we are asked to help sort out mistakes by applicants and employers which have led to challenges and declines by INZ.

Common reasons for challenge or decline by INZ are:

  • Failure by the employer to provide current evidence of attempts to recruit NZers for every employer-based work visa application.
  • Failure by the employer to ensure that the position description is comparable with the tasks in ANZSCO. (Click on the link, insert the job title in the Search field, and check that the tasks identified are substantially similar to your PD).
  • Failure by the applicant to acknowledge past convictions.
  • Failure by applicant to account for change in relationship status e.g. single to partner
  • Failure to complete ALL the fields in an application. If a field is not applicable, show N/A and/or rule a line through it. The case officer can’t assume that it does not apply.
  • Claiming points in a skilled residence application (SMC) for qualifications which are not recognised, or work experience without evidence, or that is not relevant to the position.
  • Attempting to argue with INZ who have challenged an application. INZ must make their decision based on verifiable evidence provided with the application. Just because you think a position is skilled, does not mean it meets ‘skilled’ criteria as identified in ANZSCO [see above].

Sometimes, a poorly prepared application or one which has been lodged under the wrong category has to be withdrawn so that a replacement can be submitted. This requires close liaison with INZ to ensure that the applicant does not become an overstayer when the current visa expires during the process.

Although professional help in preparing an application may seem expensive, attempting to fix one which has been challenged or declined will be much more so, especially, if your lawyer or adviser has to defer other work to meet your deadline.

He said, “It’s only a work visa, how hard can it be?” Well, in my opinion, because work visas are seen by media and government as taking jobs from Kiwis, work visa applications are the 2nd most challenging category of immigration.

Posted in Business, Immigration Appeals, Immigration Industry, Immigration Problems, Immigration Visas | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Special Visas for Victims of Domestic Violence – The Challenges

According to the Family Violence Death Review Committee, between 2009 and 2015, 194 people died as a result of family violence. That is an average of 28 deaths per year, almost half of which were the result of intimate partner violence.[1] It is disturbing to read these statistics in 2017, not least because it is about New Zealand. Clearly, domestic violence remains an ugly undercurrent of New Zealand society.

Recognising the need to protect victims of domestic violence in migrant communities, a few years ago Immigration New Zealand established two special visa categories:

  • Special Work Visas for Victims of Domestic Violence; and
  • Residence Category for Victims of Domestic Violence.

However, the protection afforded to these victims is undermined somewhat by the restrictions built into the application process. This includes the limitations around eligibility, the need to provide documentary evidence of domestic violence, and the very short duration of the temporary work visa.

On the issue of eligibility, only temporary visa holders who are the partners (or ex-partners) of New Zealand citizens or residents can qualify for these visas. And so if the abusive partner also happens to be a temporary visa holder, then the victim cannot apply for these visas.

The victim must also be able to prove that domestic violence occurred. This can be almost impossible given the very limited types of evidence accepted by Immigration New Zealand, including:[2]

  • a Final Protection Order;
  • a relevant conviction;
  • a complaint of domestic violence investigated and accepted by the New Zealand Police; or
  • a statutory declaration from the victim and two other professionals confirming that domestic violence occurred.

Getting this evidence is arguably the most challenging part of the visa application process. This is because the list above assumes that, a) the victim is able to easily document the abuse they have suffered, and / or b) that they have access to resources – whether it is their own personal finances or from not-for-profit organisations – to secure that evidence. Even something as seemingly simple as securing statutory declarations from two professionals can be a very demoralising exercise for victims, given the policy restrictions in place. Not only is there a prescribed list of ‘competent persons’ who can give this evidence, the two people assisting with the statutory declarations “must [also] be unrelated professionally”[3]. And so by Immigration New Zealand’s own example, “they cannot be a doctor and nurse from the same practice”[4]. The visa application process therefore risks re-traumatising already traumatised victims through this overly prescriptive list of acceptable evidence.

Compounding all of this is the limited duration of the special work visa. If granted, the work visa is only valid for 6 months. It can only be extended (for a further limited period of up to 9 months) if the victim goes on to apply for the special residence visa. And that application is not without its challenges either.

To be approved under the Residence Category for Victims of Domestic Violence, the victim must be able to prove that, owing to financial incapacity or social stigma, they are unable to return to their home country. Therefore, not everyone who secures a special work visa will be eligible for a special residence visa.

And so whilst there is value in the current special visa categories for victims of domestic violence, more can be done to make the application process less traumatic and more accessible.

Where to go for help or information:

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[1]           Family Violence Death Review Committee Fifth Report Data: January 2009 to December 2015 (2017) at 18 and 19.

[2]           Immigration New Zealand Operational Manual, at Instructions WI7.5 for work visas and S4.5.5 for residence visas.

[3]           Immigration New Zealand Operational Manual, at Instructions WI7.10(b) for work visas and S4.5.6(b) for residence visas.

[4]           As above.

Posted in Immigration Appeals, Immigration Problems, Immigration Visas, Practice of Law, Refugees | 2 Comments

Success Story: Dutch Dredging

As a maritime nation, New Zealand is reliant on the free and efficient movement of vessels to, within and from our harbours. Without regular and ongoing maintenance, silting decreases the draught available to ships, while the development of larger vessels requires greater depth for ships to operate. Maintaining the capacity of our harbours is critical to the promotion of trade and our export industries.

Late last year, five of New Zealand’s major port companies, PrimePort Timaru, Napier, Taranaki, Lyttleton and Tauranga signed a 10 year deal with a long standing and reputable overseas based dredging company called Dutch Dredging B.V. (Dutch Dredging), to share the dredging services around the country. The contract for this deal was signed in the presence of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and the Dutch and New Zealand Ministers of Economic Affairs, Henk Kamp and Steven Joyce, as reported by Stuff in its article published on 8 November 2016.

The contract meant Dutch Dredging was to deploy one of its trailing suction hopper dredgers called ‘Albatros’ to New Zealand for the work required. This was to be permanently stationed in New Zealand over the term of the contract.

As dredgers need to be manned by local seamen, that meant suitably qualified New Zealand citizens and resident seamen will be required to operate them. More jobs for New Zealanders!

However, dredges come in different types for different purposes and can have harmful effects on the marine and aquatic environment.  It was therefore critical for Dutch Dredging to ensure that Albatros is operated by qualified engineers with specialised knowledge and experience.

Dutch Dredging believed it would be appropriate to send their Dutch employees, a Master and a Chief Engineer, to New Zealand for a short stint and for a specific purpose, i.e. to handover the initial work required, provide training by transferring their skills and knowledge to local seamen, and travel to New Zealand to provide other special assistance on an as-needed basis. Dutch Dredging was to continue to employ them directly. No New Zealand based employer was involved.

Dutch Dredging knocked on our doors and sought our professional assistance. They needed work visas for the two men so they could readily land in New Zealand on a set date before the arrival of Albatros.  We arranged for multiple entry, Specific Purpose Work Visas to allow them to come and go on an as-needed basis and perform the work required.

The preparation for their visa applications was a challenging exercise. But the application process via the online portal was rather well done, without seeking the assistance of visa application centres and having to send in their original passports. Within a matter of three working days, we managed to get their visas through. It was a swift process handled amicably by immigration officers based in London.

These men are due to arrive in New Zealand mid-September 2017 for the specific work they have been assigned to do.  They bring a wealth of specialised skills and knowledge to New Zealand.

Dutch Dredging have expressed their delight at the speed with which the visas were issued, and for the explanation of the visa conditions and what their employees can expect of the arrivals process.

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Introduction to Roxanne Whyte

We love it when a plan comes together. The final piece of the puzzle is now in place. Laurent Law went through a number of changes in the last few months. It all started with a new office and a different way of operating which is more client and result focused. In the process we appointed new staff to ensure that we could deliver for our clients and now the welcoming team is in place as well.

Roxanne Whyte joined the team as Office Administrator on 8 August. Roxanne grew up in Malawi, Africa. Her exposure to a multi-cultural environment prepared her well for her adventures all over the world. She soon discovered her love for people, culture and travel and moved to Cape Town, South Africa. She completed a BA degree in Fashion Design and then moved on to London and finally found her zone in Auckland, New Zealand. Roxanne always wanted to settle in New Zealand and we are delighted that she chose Laurent Law to advance her career in customer service.

Roxanne worked as a Front of House for the prestigious law firm Mishcon de Reya in London before moving to New Zealand. This was a great opportunity for her to advance her administration skills and people knowledge and to understand how to serve customers better. Her love for people has always been the driving force behind her decision to cultivate a people approach in everything she does.

Roxanne is enthusiastic and hardworking with a flair for customer service and you will meet her in the front office or as the voice on the other side of the line when you require our help. Roxanne would love to meet you and guide you to one of our very knowledgeable Solicitors or Senior Immigration Consultant. Don’t hesitate. Make contact now. Your immigration dreams are important to us.

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Introduction to Jacqui Lee

How fortunate are we at Laurent Law to have the honour of introducing two experienced Staff Solicitors in one month? The business is rapidly expanding, and to be able to satisfy all our client needs we had to expand our staff complement.

Jacqui Lee joined us on 17 July and we are over the moon to have her on board. Jacqui and her family migrated to New Zealand from South Korea in 1996. We do not believe that it is coincidental that this was the same year that Laurent Law was established. We like to plan things well in advance. The family settled in West Auckland where she completed her primary, intermediate and high school education.

She graduated from the University of Auckland in 2009 with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and completed her Professional Legal Studies in 2010, shortly after which she was admitted to the bar. During the course of her Professional Studies she joined a city based law firm as a law clerk, working side by side with an immigration lawyer. This is where she realised her calling.

Jacqui moved on to a leading immigration consultancy as a Legal Analyst and gained comprehensive knowledge and skills in the immigration field. During this period she also gained a Level 7 qualification in immigration advice which allowed her to practice as a licensed immigration adviser.

From here Jacqui moved on to a law firm where she continued her immigration work as a solicitor. She joined a well established firm on the North Shore as an Immigration Solicitor and worked alongside an experienced immigration specialist where she acquired detailed knowledge of immigration legislation and processes, and refined her skills with a wide variety of client work in this field.

Jacqui has seven years of experience having dealt with all areas of immigration law including but not limited to partnership based applications, skilled migrant applications, section 61 requests, seeking special directions and representing clients in humanitarian and residence appeals. She has a wealth of knowledge in this ever-changing field, which has become her passion.

Jacqui is a valued member of our immigration team and we look forward to a long and prosperous working relationship with her. We are confident that our clients will enjoy her approach to life and work and that they will depend on her for valued advise and guidance.

Make an appointment to meet Jacqui and entrust your immigration related matters to her.

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Introduction to Dew James

Dew James joined the Laurent Law family on 3 July 2017 and we are ecstatic to have her on board.

Dew migrated to New Zealand from Malaysia in 2002 and she called the Far North home for the first few years. She graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours. Along the way she received several scholarships and even became a Law Tutor.

She has experience in all areas of Immigration and Refugee Law and specialised in  family-based applications and appeals up until now. Her extensive experience with special visas for victims of domestic violence demonstrates the value that she will add to the firm repertoire. Her exposure has also enabled her to gain valuable experience with residence and humanitarian appeals as well as section 61 and Ministerial requests involving rights of the child.

Dew is very keen to continue to practice in this very demanding yet rewarding area of law. We welcome her to the firm and already know that she will make a valuable contribution to our lives and to the lives of our clients.

Dew has the following to say as an introduction: “A client’s best interest is second only to a lawyer’s duty as an Officer of the Court. Therefore, my role as your legal representative is to provide objective advice and pragmatic options that will best serve your immigration pathway in New Zealand.”

We invite you to make an appointment to meet Dew so she can be your guide on your way to realising your dream of living and working in this beautiful country full of promise and hope.

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