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.