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More Action Needed To Help Young Migrants

20th April 2005

More Action Needed To Help Young Migrants

A leading Auckland consultant has welcomed changes to immigration rules for overseas students but says more must be done to plug policy gaps affecting young migrants.

Bill Milnes, Director of Access Immigration and Immediate Past Chairman of the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment, says that our current regulations deny the right to work to many young people from immigrant families, once they leave school.

“Not only does this deprive our labour-short economy of a useful source of additional workers. It also condemns an entire category of young people to idleness and to the kind of purposeless existence which can lead to grave social problems,” he says.

Mr Milnes’ comments follow yesterday’s announcement of a series of rules changes by Immigration Minister, the Hon. Paul Swain. These allow for six-month open work visas for international students, who have graduated from a course that would gain them residence points.

A further change announced by the Minister allows Year 12 and 13 school students and some English language students to work part-time.

Other moves include an extension of the hours per week during which eligible students can work and a provision that anyone undertaking a course of 12 months or more will be able to apply for full-time work over the summer holidays. The changes also make it easier for the partners of students to gain work permits.

“The Immigration Minister should be applauded for easing restrictions on overseas students. These latest moves will certainly help some of our most promising future citizens to feel at home in New Zealand and may even play a role in reviving our now largely moribund export education industry. In addition, they will help increase the size of our potential work force and skills base, at a time of severe staff and skill shortages,” says Mr Milne.

“We know from experience that there is always resistance in some parts of the population to any loosening of immigration restrictions. Mr Swain has shown a degree of political courage to have taken these steps during an election year.

“Even so, by concentrating solely on students, the Minister has ignored the plight of young people from immigrant families, once they leave school. Very often, their parents cannot afford the quite hefty fees required to provide them with tertiary education.

“This occurs, all too frequently, when parents are here on long-term work permits or business visas and have plans to achieve residence and put down roots in New Zealand. Until residence is granted, the children of such families will not normally have the right to work.

“Not only can this be a huge problem for the immigrant families themselves, particularly if they come from cultures with a very strong work ethic. It is also a problem for New Zealand, as experience shows how enforced idleness, alienation and purposelessness can lead young people down the wrong paths. The issue needs to be addressed now by government, if we are not to bequeath totally unnecessary social problems to the next generation,” he says.

Mr Milnes adds that further immigration rule changes are needed to make the system more transparent and predictable. He recommends that residence criteria be amended to recognise work experience gained under the changes just announced.


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