Woodhouse unveils 'Kiwis first' immigration policy with new work visa rules

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse

NBR's Rob Hosking says today's immigration press announcement was "more about the packaging than the substance"

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The government is committed to a "Kiwis first" immigration policy, making it harder for firms to hire overseas with new restrictions on temporary work visas for anyone earning less than the median wage, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says.

New Zealand plans to categorise high- and low-skilled temporary work visas depending on how much a person earns, introduce a three-year limit for how long low-skilled workers can stay and impose a one-year stand-down period, Woodhouse announced at a speech in Queenstown. The crackdown on temporary work visas comes six months after the government raised the bar on the skilled migrant visa and comes as rising immigration gets blamed for inflaming property markets.

"The government has a Kiwis first approach to immigration and these changes are designed to strike the right balance between reinforcing the temporary nature of essential skills work visas and encouraging employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them," Woodhouse said in a statement. "We have always said that we constantly review our immigration policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and today's announcement is another example of this government's responsible, pragmatic approach to managing immigration."

The announcement follows the footsteps of tighter work visa policies unveiled in the US and Australia. US President Donald Trump is reviewing a temporary visa programme to place high-skilled workers, while Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull removed pathways to permanent residency for low-skilled workers.

Some 31,766 people arrived in New Zealand on the essential skills visa in 2015/16, up 11 percent from a year earlier, while 31,519 were skilled migrants in the same year, the most since the 2008/09 year.

New Zealand has been experiencing record levels of net migration in recent years as economic growth outpaced Australia's, meaning fewer locals moved across the Tasman. That's kept a lid on wage growth as the number of new jobs was largely filled by an expanding population, although firms have been complaining about the growing difficulty of attracting new labour. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research's quarterly survey of business opinion showed a net 41 percent found it hard to find skilled workers and a net 24 percent struggled with unskilled staff.

Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope said the changes should limit the ability of migrants to undercut local wages, and that it was appropriate to adjust the policy settings.

"Employers have faced real difficulties in getting higher skilled workers and today's changes will help get more focus on actively-sought skills," Hope said in a statement. "At the same time, proposed stand-down rules for lower-skilled migrants will reduce the potential for residence applications to be dominated by lower-skilled workers."

Woodhouse's changes would also drop the eligibility for families of lower-skilled essential skills visa holders, requiring partners and children to travel on their own separate visas.

The remuneration bands - $48,859 for low-skilled and $73,299 for high-skilled - to categorise the temporary work visa aimed to attract higher-skilled workers, who could then be allowed to claim points when applying for permanent residency, Woodhouse said.

The government is seeking submissions on the proposals, with a view to implementing them in August, a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment discussion document said. Business NZ said it would participate in the consultation, which closes on May 21.

The proposals would also line up temporary work visas in seasonal jobs to the season rather than for 12 months as is currently the case.

Woodhouse also announced a pathway for some 4,000 South Island-based lower-skilled temporary migrants to become permanent residents, requiring them to stay for two more years in the same industry and region.

(BusinessDesk)


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So after years of saying it was all ok, and that they could not do anything, six months from the election they come up with some ideas. No surprises there as that is the way this government operates - never shows any real leadership. The greatest pity for NZ is the opposition does not present a credible solution either.

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Actually you exaggerate greatly. If you recall correctly the initial part of National's tenure the media was saturated with hand-wringing headlines all about "brain-drain" and the skills exodus. A problem left behind by Labour has been turned around so successfully, they have a new set of hand-wringing headlines to deliver, just in time for the election coincidentally.

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National appear so weak at the moment. Sounds desperate.
But wait...what's that sound? Oh, just the sound of my Mt Eden property gaining another $100K.

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We do not live in isollation but a global village. New people , new cultures and new ideas enrich us if we focus on the right people. Govt should also initiate a research to establish which group of immigrants and work visa holders are contributing industriously and meaningfully to the economic growth of this country and who are becoming burden on the taxpayers. This will help determine whom to bring in.

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Good luck to you. This is the price one pays to live in the country's largest metropolitan city. This applies to all countries in the world. Its by peoples choice not imposition. House prices have rapidly grown in Auckland and not much in all other parts of New Zealand so its not fair for us to blame real estate market all over the country. We cannot hold onto prices of the last century. That will mean NZ has not made any progress economically. We should be proud we are comparable in this global village. Let us be part of it. Thanks.

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Is this National's attempt to stop the growing support for NZ First? It's going to be a National-NZ First government anyway so the two of them fighting is going to be a waste.

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Cynical tinkering around the edges in the run up to an election.

Sounds about right. My goodness, this lot has proven inept.

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Strong immigration is a sign of a vital growing economy, it is a badge of honor that people want to live and work here. The most tangible sign of success there is. Well done NZ keep it coming....

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But the problem is...it's not that "strong" of immigration. NZ is NOT out-competing Silicon Valley, New York, London etc. for the cream of the crop. All the government(s) have done is throw open the doors to the third world.

I have a few friends who have gone through the scam-heavy PTE sector here. My god, the stories they can tell of those the government is welcoming in to prop up GDP.

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Agreed. To add to that, the scandalous and exploitative hospitality and retail sector where ground-low wages have become the new normal. It seems the government had for long lost all hope of attracting high skilled migrants to NZ and settled for whatever we could get our hands on.
Less than 1 in 6 residence approvals goes to a technology, medical or engineering worker. Most skill shortage visas are handed out to chefs, restaurant and retail managers which is a trainable skill for a not so technically challenging job. Lack of cheap labour will raise wages in these industries to acceptable levels and bring Kiwis back into the workforce.

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More of John Key type policy. Just tinker around the edges without doing very little.

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Whom ever reintroduces the early repayment discount on student loans has my vote

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We are a crane truck company working for big name companies like Carters, Mitre 10, Steel and Tube, Brilliance Steel, Croft Poles and several others. We are always struggling to find qualified and skillful drver/operators. We regard them as highly skilled people.
I ask the Hon Minister and Director of NZIS to define these kind of employees on work visas. Are they treated as highly skilled? How are they measured against other normal workers and drivers. Only drivers with Unit Standard 1754, which has been revised recently, and the skill can operate a truck mounted crane and negotiate frames/trusses/steel/steel beams/ roof tiles etc to hard to reach places in very tight situations. Please make me understand.

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You say the job is highly skilled, so are you paying well to attract the optimum number of local applicants?
How frequent is staff turn over in your company? Are you continually needing to recruit staff or are they content and staying long term?
Do you have a way in which younger locals can be trained in house or supported to reach the desired qualifications?

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Yes we do pay excellently well upto $30 an hr. Our staff turn over is low and staff are content and are staying on. As the company is growing we are always in search of new staff. We regularly advertiise for jobs and OUR YOUNG PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS WELCOME TO JOIN PROVIDED THEY HAVE THE BASICS OF THIS JOB. We are not a driver training school but are willing to take them through on the job traing and we do so. Impunctuality, irregularity, attitude, irresponsibility are few issues which taint the company's image through some.

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I believe migrants have driven down wages across all jobs, as why would an emoyer hire a local boy for 80k per year when he can hire 3 filipinos for that. Only employera benefit from them, they earn money and send it back to there familys so they contribute very little to our community in reality they are stealing from us. We as kiwis should take a stand kiwis first we have our own people atarving living in cars so no i say send them home, train our own people get back our community spirit

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Let's not blame the migrants when we can't compete with them. We have been here since birth and what have we done that you claim people are sleeping in cars?? Its a shame on us. Migrants are contributing immensely to our countries economical growth. Com'on get off your bums and compete with them. Dont you take things for granted. No migrants steal from us...in turn we do...look at all the robberies going around.... I m ashamed of myself!!!

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Let me open up on my views about the proposed "kiwi first" policy. First, I will state that I am a migrant currently doing a research degree in the south island. Based on my opinion, it will be very difficult to attract such an euphoric "highly skilled" workforce in NZ. There could be a number of reasons. First, NZ is an isolated island that is very far away from all the major civilizations in the world except Australia. I've been in NZ for close to 2 years now but I am yet to see the reason why someone of desirable skills will want to come to NZ instead of going to the US, western Europe or even Australia where the pay is much better. Though there could be some companies exporting some high tech services, however, with the exception of foodstuff, the majority of goods, gadgets, toys and other high tech equipment sold in NZ are mostly made in China, Japan and some in Australia. Now ask yourself, if you are a highly skilled electronics engineer or programmer that has what it takes to be in Silicon valley, what will make you choose NZ? Of course not many will want to come to a place you have to spend hugely to simply catch a flight to the outside world.
In addition, NZ is a highly conservative society mainly as a result of its isolated geographical location. Believe me, most Kiwis have not left the shores of NZ with their definition of the world narrowed down to NZ, Maori and Australia - that's all. Being majority white, most of NZ populace have this early 20th century perspective when almost all those forms of innovations, civilization and wealth concentrated mainly within Europe and white population. Don't you feel there could be a little bit of bias for a Kiwi CEO to hire an Indian tech expert requiring of payment of 100K? The world is now very much global and people have access to news much better nowadays . Such stories will instantly discourage that Indian tech expert from migrating. Maybe, the average Kiwi person should be educated that the world is quite large and diverse. They may also need to be told that people are living in other countries and they produce and sustain themselves in their own might.
Another reason has to do with access to justice and fairness within the society. I studied in the UK and can happily tell you that although I don't like the fact there are so many migrants going to Europe, but when it comes to justice for everyone irrespective a person's citizenship, UK can be considered high up the ladder - maybe it is bcos of their colonial past having encountered so many diversities. When it comes to justice and some right and fairness in dealing with migrants and foreigners, I can only describe NZ and Australia as developed 3rd world countries - imagine the refugee issue in AUS. When one knows that he won't get any fair and speedy justice in a society, one will always look the other way. What is the possibility of even suing this government decision and wining it? How can you even be expecting a migrant to earn 48K and above and be tagged as "low skilled" when on average, most Kiwis that are citizens don't even earn up to that. It is very easy to blame migrants for every form of problems - but it will be good to think of the contribution they make whether skilled or unskilled. Though a student, I also work part time as a cleaner where I wake up each morning as early as 4 am to work for 3 hours each day of the week. The total money earned for the whole week is less than $230. To my knowledge based on estimate, up to 80% of more than 100 cleaning positions are migrants. Now ask yourself, how many Kiwis will want to do that kind of job, taking your sleep and earning such pay. They will rather prefer to earn job seekers benefit rather than doing such a job. On top of that, these migrants pay a fair amount of tax on the meager income.
Having said all these, I will state the nature of migrants that will likely choose NZ.
1. International Students: Of course student's are not expected to be highly skilled. The predominant of students that will be coming to NZ will likely be PhD students and others on external funded scholarships. The PhD students are attracted bcos of the domestic tuition fee that international students pay. Of course with this policy, expect to see less of these international students and the money they might bring.
2. Partners of students: Of course we all know how difficult and emotionally strong you have to be to be a migrant all alone in NZ. Most people will want to bring their partners. Most times, these partners are not likely to be "lowly" or "highly" skilled.
3. Chinese rich men: Well, there money is never made here. They may be earning from corrupt means and want a safe haven for their ill gotten wealth. Buying properties in NZ can be a good way of hiding wealth.
4. Chinese entrepreneurs: These are already made entrepreneurs. They are already very rich and will want to expand. They are very unlikely invest in high tech sector or in areas that will bring economic glory to NZ. They will rather invest in areas like tourism, hospitality and build expensive hotels to get more money. Anyway, they will just pay tax but just note that hospitality and tourism sectors are notorious for employing low skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled work force.
5. People from 3rd world countries: You may also have the very lucky ones that come from very poor regions in Asia or Africa. To them, the minimum wage when earned can be sent home to families. So the work "highly skilled" is an alien to these set of people.

If you have read all these my long epistle, just note that these government policies may not really do what it is intended unless maybe, there is another purpose for this policy shift (e.g. upcoming election). NZ may be better off by
1. Having a more open policy to migrants that even when not highly skilled, are potentially trainable to acquire better skills. There is nothing wrong with bonding a migrant for a training in a particular needed area. Do you think that an average Kiwi will crack his head in very uncomfortable situation to learn IT skills when he can eat, drink beer and go to clubs based on the current socialist system? It is obvious that a migrant will have more motivation and zeal especially when there is a good reward at the end.
2. NZ should do more to make the country better known and as well improve access to justice and fairness to everyone. More has to be done to curtail institutional racism - These days people don't want you to see that they hate another person but they will always be happy to reject a person's application for job based on where they come from.

Thanks for reading all these.

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Is anyone actually policing and enforcing these new rules? Doesn't appear so down in Queenstown, check out this latest advertisement on seek
http://m.seek.co.nz/job/33772086
Why do you need to be able to speak fluent Chinese to work in an internet cafe? Obviously they are just wanting to renew a working holiday visa of their current Chinese staff member so they can continue to pay them minimum wage. This is just one of many job advertisements that side lines kiwi workers down in Queenstown and everyone seems to keep getting away with it.

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