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Cautious Welcome For Immigration Changes

Cautious Welcome For Immigration Changes

The umbrella body for New Zealand's immigration consultants has given a cautious welcome to the new points system for skilled migrants announced yesterday.

But the New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment has also sharply criticised the sudden closure of the Interim General Skills Category (IGSC) for migrants.

The NZAMI earlier this year won a court action against the government over retrospective application of previous immigration rule changes. It describes yesterday's unheralded closure of the IGSC as "peremptory" and as harmful to New Zealand's international reputation..

"There are undoubtedly good things about the new points system. For example, the way points are allocated should make residence easier to achieve for many who are strong on practical experience but short on tertiary qualifications. Our economy can only benefit from this more flexible approach," says the NZAMI's Chairman, Bill Milnes.

"We also welcome aspects of the new system which will encourage settlement outside Auckland, although we're disappointed that no additional points will go to those who have family members already in New Zealand. This omission is surprising given Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel's oft-repeated concern over settlement outcomes and the importance of family networks in facilitating settlement.

"Despite reservations over specifics, we believe the new points system can help meet some of New Zealand's immediate economic needs. We also hope the system's adoption will mark the start of a new era of stability in immigration policy after many years of rapid-fire and often politically-driven policy turnarounds, which have dented our overseas reputation," he adds.

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Mr Milnes says, however, that large numbers of would-be immigrants will now be left in the lurch by the sudden closure of the IGSC.

"We understand from the Minister that those who lodged applications before mid-day yesterday will still be considered under the IGSC rules. But there will be many others who have devoted considerable amounts of time and money to achieving the medical and other types of certification required for lodging an application, albeit that their applications have not yet been received by the relevant offices of the New Zealand Immigration Service. Most of these people will now join the long list of disappointed would-be New Zealanders caught in the backwash of peremptory and over-hasty policy change" he says.

Bill Milnes describes as "simply not good enough", the Minister's explanation that no warning was given of the IGSC category closure, because she was anxious to prevent a sudden rush of applications under the old rules.

"Administrative convenience is not a sufficient reason for denying people their rights or for failing to meet legitimate and reasonable expectations. The Minister is certainly aware of the huge costs that can be required for medical examinations, let alone for other steps required before applying to come here. She should have allowed for this by providing adequate notice to potential applicants.

"The IGSC category was introduced when the government announced its comprehensive immigration policy revamp in July this year. Despite its temporary status it was firmly part of our country's immigration policy and thousands have pursued their goal of relocating here in good faith on the basis of this policy," he says.

"The sudden manner of the IGSC's disappearance will boost the perception that our government lacks humanity, probity and reliability in immigration matters. Whether or not that perception is justified, its existence cannot be good for New Zealand," he says.

The New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment represents more than 150 members, including immigration and investment consultants, banks, business specialists and financial advisers. The Association seeks consistent, fair, reliable immigration policies of long-term benefit to New Zealand.

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