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Skilled Immigration policy announcements - Notes

Hon Lianne Dalziel

1 July 2003 Briefing Notes

Skilled Immigration policy announcements

Today the government has introduced two amendment Bills to the Immigration Act. The proposed changes are designed to support and strengthen our ability to attract skilled migrants to meet New Zealand’s specific skill shortages and help grow the economy. Today’s announcements follow over a year’s work reviewing skilled immigration policy and must be seen in the context of the last 3½ years’ work, which has seen the development of the New Zealand Immigration Programme and a focus on successful settlement outcomes.

In the future, instead of sitting back waiting for skilled migrants to apply to come to New Zealand, whether or not their skill is in demand in New Zealand, New Zealand will be out there actively recruiting for the people we need, prioritising those who express an interest in coming here, and selecting from those, the people who have the most to offer New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Growth and Innovation Framework recognises that immigration policy has an important role to play in building a more innovative economy. This government wants to make it easier to attract talented individuals, who can bring needed skills to, and create new opportunities for, New Zealand. Talented people are a key driver of innovation and economic growth and the market for talent has become global.

New Zealanders are actively sought off-shore, and New Zealand therefore needs to be in a position to attract talented individuals, who can contribute to building a more dynamic and innovative economy, and also to address specific skill shortages, which can be a major barrier to New Zealand businesses and industries expanding.

But there is no point bringing talented and skilled people to New Zealand only to see that talent and skill wasted through unemployment or under-employment. We want our skilled immigration policy to be a passport to success, through the active recruitment of skilled and talented migrants, who will do well here.

The Skilled/Business Stream, with its 60% share, drives the NZ Immigration Programme, and it is the General Skills Category within that stream that is the subject of today’s announcements.

The Skilled Migrant Category (which will replace the General Skills Category later this year or early next year) will in future focus on settlement outcomes, by shifting New Zealand from being a passive recipient of applications for residence under this category, to an active recruiter of the people we need and we know will do well here.

Instead of lodging applications for residence, potential migrants will, in future, register an expression of interest, based on the existing prerequisites of health, character and English language. In order to register, a minimum number of points will be required. The current points system will be expanded to include bonus points, for example by meeting a specific skill shortage or having a skilled job offer in a region outside Auckland. That does not mean Auckland misses out either. It means that Auckland’s needs drive skilled migration to Auckland, which is the whole purpose of the policy change.

Those who register their interest will be pooled, and those achieving the highest level of points will be invited to apply for residence. Where no invitation to apply has been issued by the end of the registration period, the registration will lapse. This will probably occur quarterly.

Once an application for residence is lodged, two streams will emerge.

The first stream will consist of those who have already demonstrated that they can settle and do well here.

For example, they may have successfully studied or worked in New Zealand, or they have a skilled job offer, which demonstrates that a New Zealand employer has made that assessment. People in this stream will flow through to residence.

The second stream will consist of those who have not yet demonstrated their ability to settle in New Zealand, as in the first stream. The majority of these will be managed through a two year work-to-residence programme, rather than gaining residence outright. This will enable them to demonstrate their ability to settle and gain relevant employment.

This essentially means that they carry the risk of not achieving this outcome, rather than the New Zealand welfare system that has had to meet the cost of failure until now.

I would expect a number of these applicants to be interviewed, not only to assess their potential, but also to develop an understanding of their expectations. My experience tells me that people are still coming to New Zealand with inflated expectations of their prospects here. It is for this reason, we are developing a process that will allow us to assess an applicant’s potential, and more importantly, to ensure applicants have realistic expectations.

Once the residence application is lodged a high level of verification will be undertaken. IELTS certificates, qualifications, work experience and job offers will all be scrutinised carefully, and any false or misleading information will lead to a decline, from which there will be no right of review, (even if that false or misleading information is provided by an agent).

The most significant aspect of these changes is that those potential migrants, who best meet New Zealand’s needs, will be at the top of the list for the invitation to apply, and those with the demonstrated ability to settle here, particularly those with a skilled, relevant job offer, will have a fast track to residence.

During the intervening period while the Immigration Amendment Bill is being considered, applications for residence under the Interim General Skills Category will have to be accompanied by a relevant job offer.

As with the other changes to the skilled/business stream announced in November last year, these changes are designed to ensure that migrants who are selected because of their skills and talent are set up to succeed, not destined to fail. New Zealanders do not want to see skilled migrants driving taxis, cooking hamburgers and cleaning offices.

These examples were created by a policy that brought in skilled migrants, but forgot about them the minute they arrived.

This government believes that the only true measure of success of any skilled immigration policy is the successful settlement of the migrant, who is able to ‘hit the ground running’ and make a successful contribution to New Zealand’s social and economic well-being.

This is the most significant change in immigration policy in more than a decade. It is designed to meet the objectives of the Growth and Innovation Framework, and it ensures that our skilled immigration policy produces a win-win for the skilled migrant and for New Zealand. To quote from a speech I gave in May this year to the Refugee & Immigration Sub-committee of the ADLS:

“When I was here last year I said we had to shift from a country that sits back and waits to receive applications from people who want to move here, regardless of their actual prospects, to a country which assesses what our needs are, and goes out to the world to actively recruit to meet those needs. And that is where we are heading.”

And that is where we have arrived today. I am happy to take any questions.

Appendix: Immigration Policy and Extracts from Speeches

First Term Achievements

- Developed an overreaching settlement framework, recognising the continuum- pre-arrival, initial settlement, post-settlement;

- focused on settlement outcomes, by establishing settlement programmes designed to assist orientation and linking skilled migrants with skilled jobs;

- placed stronger emphasis on meeting New Zealand’s labour market needs;

- established a Ministerial Advisory Group on Immigration;

- implemented a transitional policy to allow well-settled overstayers and others to restore their lawful status and gain residence;

- provided access to work permits for the spouses of work permit holders, including LTBV holders, recognising the role of the wider family;

- implemented the NZ Immigration Programme, which ensures that at least 60% of all migrants are skilled or business migrants.

- designed a Work-to-Residence Programme to assist employers recruiting talent off-shore (Talent Visa and Priority Occupations Work Visa);

- established two pilots to test the Regional Immigration Initiative to ensure that the benefits of immigration are shared across New Zealand;

- limited premium points for job offers to jobs that are relevant to a migrant’s qualifications or experience;

- removed anomalies, which allowed recent migrants backdoor access to benefits;

- strengthened our capacity to resolve refugee claims quickly so that NZ is not open to the abuse that occurred in the 1990s;

- disestablished the family sponsored humanitarian category, while addressing some anomalies in the family sponsored stream;

- introduced a Pacific Access Category;

- offered a bridging programme for overseas trained doctors admitted from 1991-1995 to enable them to register to practise medicine in New Zealand

Second Term Achievements

- November 2002 English language adjustments for Skilled/Business Stream

- November 2002 LTBV and Entrepreneur – focus on benefit to New Zealand

- Budget 2003 allocation for marketing and promotion

- Budget 2003 allocation for minimising adverse impacts

- 1 July 2003 Skilled immigration policy review announcements

Extracts from speeches

by Minister of Immigration, Hon Lianne Dalziel

This government believes that settlement outcomes are the true measure of the quality of immigration policy, not the mere numbers of migrants attracted to live in New Zealand. It is how well they live in New Zealand that counts, and whether or not they decide to remain. If we lose interest in migrants the minute they arrive, then the benefits of migration will not be shared by the migrants, nor the communities within which they settle.

Global Youth Symposium 18/1/02

New Zealanders are fair-minded people, and I know many have been shocked to learn of qualified professionals being unemployed or under-employed. The resources that are being built up now through the settlement pilots will hopefully see an end to this incredible waste.

Auckland New Ventures Trust 22/2/02

If we are to have an immigration policy that cares about what happens to people after they arrive here, then we must have one that is focussed on recruiting to New Zealand the people that are most likely to do well here. Prior to the Points System we had the occupational priority list, and although I am not recommending returning to the 80’s solution, I am not convinced that the 90’s solution was much better.

This government’s approach sees the development of the best of both worlds, where settlement outcomes become the measure of the success of the policy. And we know that positive settlement outcomes are driven by work commensurate with skills and experience – met or exceeded expectations.

This is why I believe the next step is to develop a recruitment function within the NZ Immigration Service. We are undertaking research on settlement outcomes (LisNZ), in order that we can identify what qualities lead to the most successful settlement outcomes. It makes sense that NZIS moves into a more pro-active role in terms of encouraging such people to consider migrating to New Zealand. ADLS Refugee & Migrant Subcommittee 5/4/02

The point that I am making is that migrant settlement and refugee resettlement is not a one-way process. It is not something that can be ‘done’ to someone, and it is not something that a migrant or refugee can ‘do’ on their own. Welcoming communities are an integral part of successful settlement and resettlement policies, in the same way as an unwelcoming environment is a barrier.

It is important therefore that New Zealanders generally are able to see the benefit if immigration, both in the economic sense, adding to our skill base and business investment, and in the social sense of strengthening communities.

Many of the adjustments that I have made to immigration policy over the past two-and-a-half years have been about ensuring that the benefits are explicit, by developing an accountability for settlement outcomes, rather than a head count of migrant entry.

Migrant Nation Series 8/5/02

It also sits well with the work to residence policy, with the Talent Visa and the Occupational priority skill shortage visa. Once the two years employment is complete with ongoing employment guaranteed, then residence is confirmed. This is a win-win for the migrant and New Zealand. The problem that we have experienced in the past has been a focus on qualifications, to the exclusion of employability. The biggest problems arise from qualified, skilled migrants unable to utilise those skills here – the scientist driving a taxi scenario is one that is distressing to the migrant, but also to fair-minded New Zealanders who see it as a waste of talent and opportunity.

HiQ Website Launch 13/6/02

As I said at the outset, I am willing to debate this issue in any forum. The NZ Immigration Programme is a well-managed, well-balanced programme, which strengthens New Zealand’s economic and social development, and meets our international obligations. However, I will stick to the facts, not the political rhetoric that has damaged New Zealand’s international reputation in the past, and could do so again.

Labour’s Immigration policy for the 2002 election builds on these gains. We will:

- Further develop NZ’s capacity to actively recruit talented and skilled migrants to NZ;

Launch of Labour’s Immigration Policy 13/7/02

The worst thing that can happen from an immigration perspective, is that a migrant arrives with high expectations, that are not met once he or she settles in New Zealand. I have met too many people who have ended up working outside their professional field or well below their skills and experience. This does not make for successful settlement for the migrant, nor is it good for New Zealand when talent and skills are wasted in this way.

Successful settlement is a two-way street, and New Zealanders need to know that ‘new Kiwis’ are willing to integrate into their communities and contribute to New Zealand’s social and economic well-being. The allegory I have used is that the migrant who is willing to engage and integrate is the key, and a welcoming community is the lock. It takes both elements to ensure successful settlement. NZAMI 2002 Annual Conference

Over the past two years, the Coalition Government has established a commitment to settlement outcomes as a key government priority in terms of immigration policy. Rather than a strict focus on numbers and targets as was the experience of the last decade, we have stated clearly that it is positive settlement and resettlement outcomes that are the correct measure of the success of the policy.

We are undertaking two significant programmes of research, one involving a longitudinal study of migrants, the other relating to refugees. We need to build a body of knowledge that helps us to know what support is needed, and how that support can be most effectively delivered, in order that we achieve positive settlement outcomes.

So with immigration policy we have re-focused the work of the NZIS so that settlement outcomes become the measure of success. We need to recruit those who we know will settle well, and work-to-residence policies are aimed at this.

Bishopdale Rotary 22/11/02

The Priority Occupations approach, which pre-dated the points-based General Skills category, was a continuation of this. We identified the labour market shortages, and ensured that our immigration programme was targeted to addressing them.

The points based General Skills category, introduced in 1991, was designed to replace known labour market shortages, with assumed employability factors – qualifications, relevant work experience, age, and settlement factors. Of course, the first cut of the policy got it all horribly wrong, and we had the ‘doctors driving taxis scenario’ on our hands. The government of the day took four years to address that particular problem, largely because there were many who did not see it as a problem. Increasing New Zealand’s ‘human capital’ was the catch-cry of the day, and it didn’t seem to matter that there was a terrible mismatch leading to a waste of skills and talent.

ADCOSS Seminar February 2003

The government’s response was to begin to explore how we shift from passively receiving applications for residence to actively recruiting skilled migrants, who New Zealand needs and who will settle well and quickly. Taiwan Business Association 2003

The next step is the development of active recruitment of migrants we need and whom we know will do well here. To achieve this we need a much more individualised approach, which ensures that prospective migrants know exactly what they are coming to. The NZIS slogan is New Zealand the Right Choice – well we want to make sure it is the right choice, and that people are not disappointed by unmet expectations.

Kiwanis 20/3/03

I’m going to quote from a letter I received from a man who is here on a Job Search Visa from India. His JSV doesn’t expire until September, but he’s already booked to go home. That is the result of the multiple job rejections he has already experienced. He speaks of meeting other Indians, 95% of whom he says he has met working in menial jobs, despite being highly qualified. He tells me that many have had to underplay their qualifications in order to get jobs they are grossly over-qualified for. He is going home, because he has pride. He is willing to take a step down, but he is not prepared to go to the bottom of the ladder and try to climb his way back to where he is now. He says:

“In my case, I am almost ruined. I left my Class-1 Engineer post in India, and I have already spent about ½ a million rupees. Even I had to ask my son in the UK to send some money meant for his studies.”

This is only one of many letters my colleagues and I receive, where people truly believed life would improve when they came to New Zealand, but they have experienced rejection and disappointment. Where are the consultants when the hopes, aspirations and dreams of these people are dashed? Some ensure that their clients arrive with realistic expectations. Some have developed post arrival settlement services for their clients. However, the vast majority see their role as ended once the visa or permit is stamped in the passport.

No government can afford such an approach to immigration policy. As I have said on more than one occasion, settlement is not a one-way street. Welcoming communities are an integral component of successful settlement, and New Zealanders cannot bear to see the waste of talent and skill that is represented by the professional migrant working as a taxi driver, forecourt attendant, cook or cleaner.

I am determined that the work that we have done and will continue to do this year will ensure that everyone who migrates to New Zealand is able to utilise their skills and talent to their full potential.

When I was here last year I said we had to shift from a country that sits back and waits to receive applications from people who want to move here, regardless of their actual prospects, to a country which assesses what our needs are, and goes out to the world to actively recruit to meet those needs. And that is where we are heading.

ADLS Refugee & Immigration Subcommittee 16/5/03


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