All your immigration questions answered

All your immigration questions answered

Two events, one was a speech while the other was a public interaction, but the message from the Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway was essentially the same.

First was the annual conference of the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment held in Auckland on August 17, and the other was a public meeting organised by Labour MP from New Lynn Deborah Russell on August 21. Here’s what he said on several immigration issues.

Generally: We want our immigration settings to be prosperous, productive, and inclusive, where migrants are free from exploitation, can have a first-class experience here, and have good meaningful jobs. 

On exploitation of international students: We have listened to the feedback received, and the recently announced changes in the post-study work rights for international students are a testimony to that. 

On exploitation of migrant workers on work visas tied to employers: We have made some changes, and am interested in knowing the alternatives. The labour market test, accredited employers scheme is just tinkering. What I want to do is first principle review of temporary visa settings in New Zealand.

On filing criminal cases against the employers exploiting migrant workers: It will be resource intensive. And we have chosen immigration prosecution instead, such as not being able to employ migrant workers in future. But this is always up for review.     

On one size fits all approach to visas: We need to have a regional approach to skills shortage list, and a regional focus on temporary work visas. A group of ministers are working on it, and we will have some announcement soon.

On one-year stand down period after three years of stay under Essential Skills visa: While I can understand the rationale behind it, I am going to have a close look at it. This visa keeps people in constant state of readiness. Not saying I’ll get rid of it, just saying, will review it.

On humanitarian side: We are already increasing our refugee quota. We will review our pacific settings next year. Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme is a great programme, but I am looking at ways to make it even better. 

On parent-category visa: I am waiting for Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)’s advise on this. Once I get that, we will come out with proposals. I know the problem first-hand. A very good GP in Palmerston North had to return to South Africa recently because her mother couldn’t come to New Zealand to take care of her young daughter.  

On ANZSCO list of occupations: I was expecting a full review, which I have been told, can’t happen. What is possible though, is a targeted review of some occupations listed in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), as the list is over ten years old. This will solve the problem of discrepancy in salary thresholds settings for gaining residency. 

On opening the pathway of residency through construction sector: Interesting suggestion, more so, as we will be needing so many tradies to build houses. I will look into it.

On immigration officials using their discretion which sometimes seem unfair: Send me an email about such cases, I will look into these.

On regulating offshore student visa agents: We have chosen to focus on the education provider instead. 

On partnership visa: In my opinion, Immigration NZ takes a very narrow view of what is a genuine relationship. But I can see the official’s point of view as well. Generally, this is the visa of last resort, after all the other venues of securing a NZ visa have been explored. That’s why Immigration NZ is so careful with these.

On alleged racial profiling of Indians by Immigration NZ: It was just an excel sheet. There was no racial profiling of any kind there. Having said that, Immigration NZ has learnt its lesson, and it won’t happen in future. 

On co-ethnic exploitation of migrants: We take this very seriously. We need to educate employers on workers rights in NZ. And when somebody breaks the law, we need to point that person out. It’s up to the community itself.   

On entrepreneur and other business visas: The take-up rate in itself is an indication that these are clearly not working. Not at the very top of my list, but we will come to that definitely. But I can’t give a specific time-line.      


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