“Too Qualified to Live in NZ”?

A recent NZ Herald article highlights some of the nonsensical policy, and how it is being applied, in the immigration sphere.  I suppose I shouldn’t complain – it’s the sort of madness which people come to lawyers to protect them from.  I mention this news article partly because I was asked to contribute some of the background comment on the case.

The situation: a talented Indian IT specialist had a BCom (that is, not in IT) but a Masters in Information Technology (Computer Applications).  He applied for Skilled Migrant Residence without a job offer, but he claimed points for matching the criteria on New Zealand’s Long Term Skills Shortage List (“LTSSL”) for an IT Professional.  To meet the LTSSL requirements you only need to have a Bachelor’s degree in IT, so he was clearly more than qualified on that score.

As noted on our website, Skilled Migrant is a points system.  His application was declined because he didn’t score enough points.  First of all, he couldn’t be awarded LTSSL Bonus Points for the Masters degree.  This is because it was not a Bachelor’s degree in IT, as specified on the LTSSL.  Little matter that it was a more senior degree – it did not match the LTSSL description exactly.  Now, Immigration New Zealand felt that it had no choice in this – it had to apply the Policy as it is written.  This however ignores the fact that it could have been possible to interpret the LTSSL listing as implying that a higher qualification would meet the criteria.  This way of looking at it would in fact be more in line with the intent of that part of the policy which says:

The aim of providing bonus points . . . is to recognise that New Zealand’s short and longer term economic development can be facilitated by those with skills in demand in New Zealand.

For INZ to use this part of the policy in the way it did actually undermines the very reason why the Skilled Migrant category exists – to attract the brightest and best.  If it is not clear that it should be interpreted in a positive rather than a restrictive fashion, then it needs to be rewritten so that visa officers are not able to read it down, for whatever reasons they may have for doing so.

Secondly, he lost points because his work experience in India was not in a “comparable labour market”.  There is a limited list of Comparable Labour Markets.  Most of them are European countries, the US and a scattering of Middle Eastern states.  The implication is that other countries don’t match the high standards set by New Zealand and those countries worthy to be counted as comparable to New Zealand.  IMHO, the Comparable Labour Market list is outdated and, quite frankly, demonstrates a prejudice, even racism, against a large slice of the planet.  A comment from the Vice-Chairman of NZAMI points out that India is in fact ahead of New Zealand in the IT field.  Why then would we refuse to recognise the work skills that he acquired while working there?  Again, Immigration New Zealand had to follow the rules, and in this instance its excuse was more valid because the policy is unambiguous about the recognition of work experience gained in comparable labour markets.  One still has to ask what the Government hopes to achieve by this narrow-sighted approach to assessing Skilled Migrant applications.

I mentioned that this applicant didn’t have a New Zealand job offer.  If he had – and no doubt he wouldn’t have had much trouble getting one – then this scramble after points would not have been an issue.  As set out in a recent post, having a job offer is really an essential component of applying under the Skilled Migrant category.  Having one attracts a lot of points, and this is clearly a policy setting in order to encourage people to be able to support themselves and contribute to the NZ economy as soon as they get Residence.  Making an application in the first place without a job offer in your pocket is a bit like buying a Lotto ticket – you can enter the game, but your chances of winning are probably not very high at the end of the day.

About Simon Laurent, Lawyer

Principal of LaurentLaw Barristers & Solicitors. NZ immigration law specialist.
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1 Response to “Too Qualified to Live in NZ”?

  1. I agree with your views. I am a New Zealand citizen, having come from India based on “Skilled Migrant Category” (as it then was, sometimes in 2001 to 2002/2003 – my wife being a qualified accountant and she present works in the field of accounts, though had to struggle a lot over here to get into the field of accounting. I am a lawyer – and as an aside, with my “warped” sense of humour, I do tell people that “Lawyers and Mother-in-Laws” (mostly in that order) are not welcome anywhere else in the world. After all that, I re-qualified over here in NZ, also did my “Legal Executive Diploma” (though it was not compulsory for me to do it, but I wanted to better understand the actual working of law offices and get a proper handle on the procedural matters as well). Guess what, I was teaching/tutoring “four papers” of the same course (NZLS Legal Executive Diploma) for Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, right here in Auckland. Mostly, my students seemed quite happy with me and the outputs and the results showed in the overall performance. Anyways, to cut the long story short – I cannot get a “full time permanent” job as a “tutor” as my application got rejected (for Tauranga position) within half-an-hour practically (I was told that the HR Department did not even know as they did not read – that I was a tutor in Auckland for the same institution, carrying more workload than a full time permanent employee in Tauranga). I had left India and a very well-established practice (and then my position as a district cadre judge) as I could not reconcile myself with ongoing corrupt practices around me, got fade-up with fighting against those all the time and being a “square peg in the round hole” or vice-versa. The result is, I had to work all the odd jobs – which I am happy doing if it is an “honest” job. I did not compromise with the “State Government” in India wanting the judges to be acting against a particular minority community (it is another long story, but I am talking about State of Gujarat post-Godhra riots situation). Then, whenever I applied for a position in law (even as a Legal Assistant or a WP Operator or Legal Executive), I would only get rejection. Got enrolled as a solicitor and barrister in May 2011. Right now, got a small opening in a boutique law firm (thank God for them at least trying to understand what I had to offer and making me part of their small team). The point is, I had worked for Debt Collection Company and did point out a serious anomaly in their compliance procedures and pointed that out by way of an email (as is expected when they “train” you and “talk” to you about compliance, procedures, following the law etc.). What I got as a reward, an insult-filled dressing down over the top from my immediate Team Leader. Now, after all that, when I am in law firm working as a Legal Executive and having applied for my first Practising Certificate (and in NZ, the certificates have been granted to people charged and tried for “rape” etc. and also people like Mr Barry Hart and Ms Devina Murray had been having practising certificates), my application is “kept pending” as my ex-employer “the Debt Collection Company” which talks only about “Compliance/Fair Play/People Matter” etc. and do not walk the same talk, is not willing to “provide a reference” and my “character” is not being judged by NZLS only on that basis. Even while getting enrolled as a Barrister and Solicitor in NZ, one requires a “Character Certificate” from NZLS. I had applied for one with one Barrister Sole being one of my character referees and another Fiji-Indian gentleman who has been a “Justice of Peace” in New Zealand from around 1972 onwards, if I am not mistaken, who has got a very good reputation as a JP and as a human being. Guess what, I was told by NZLS local office lady handling my file that the “Fiji Indian” guy was not a “person of repute” as he was only running a “garage” and was “owner of a business”. When I asked her as to whether she had read everything properly, she affirmed, only to realise that she did not read that he was a Justice of Peace. So I had to ask, a bit annoyed and therefore sarcastically that “if NZ does not consider their Justices of Peace as persons of repute, whom do you think I shall be approaching?” – she then apologised and my application was processed. The point is, NZ is racist, not so overtly but covertly and people like me face it day in and day out. If we protest and try to stand up against those types of discriminations, we are then “branded” and not touched even by a pole fearing that this person is a “nuisance”. On one hand, NZ expects to get squeaky-clean people with a lot of talent and wedded to ethics, morality and professionalism. I have all these qualities much more than what is prescribed by NZLS – I have never done anything wrong as such in my whole life and I can provide cogent evidence – if I provide references from the country of my birth, even from ex-High Court judges etc., those are not considered valid as they can be “generated” due to “relationship” etc. The whole gamut and facade created when we immigrated to this beautiful islands with mostly good people living around (and that is why we call it a home and love it unconditionally, I am writing this to point out the things which are not right only) – that this country and its authorities are “wanting everyone to realise their potential” and is the “best choice for immigrating” is a bloody myth – the realities are otherwise. I will advise that young man with the Master’s degree in computing (IT) to go somewhere else where he will be valued for what he is and what he can bring – such as Canada or Australia – NOT New Zealand. I too am thinking of “crossing the ditch” after doing everything right and being always on the right side of the law.


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