Unfriendly policy tarnishes national image
New Zealand’s immigration policy sets out a pathway to gaining New Zealand residence through the skilled migrant residence category, a two-stage process.
The first stage, called ‘Expression of Interest’, is submitted by a potential migrant to Immigration New Zealand (INZ), which has the discretion to invite the applicant to the next stage of applying for residence..
If an invitation is issued, then an application for residence can be lodged.
A majority of international students converting to residence do so through the skilled migrant category.
According to Statistics New Zealand, Indians account for the third largest migrant group applying for residence. India was also the only top source country with growing numbers in the Residence Skilled Migrant Category during 2010-2011.
In November 2012, the Government issued its Internal Administrative Circular (IAC), which contained a set of documents for immigration officers. This addressed the processing of residence applications of people claiming skilled employment as café or restaurant manager, office manager and retail manager.
The IAC set a higher threshold for those positions before they could be deemed as skilled employment. The Circular required immigration officers to justify their decisions.
Applicants under this category were mainly from India and China. Having completed certain qualifications as international students and working in those managerial positions, they had lodged their residence applications under the skilled migrant category.
Is there any correlation between the release of statistics in early 2012 and the Circular issued in November that year?
One can merely speculate; but the facts say yes.
But why was the tweaking done?
Before and while this change was being implemented and release of statistics in 2012, there were no issues as to how the skilled migrant category operated.
Could it be said that this tweaking was done because those who gained residence through this route were from a particular country and that this consequence was not intended? Could it be that their qualifications and/or position were deemed to be at a low level? Or was it a combination of all or some of these factors?
INZ has not conclusively disclosed the reasoning behind the tweaking and leading to speculation among the people.
Recruitment of international students under this category continues despite this change, with New Zealand Residency dangled as a carrot. This tweaking has resulted in the closure of this residence route. However, this information does not appear to have reached the recruiters or potential students.
The applicants most affected by this change are Indian and Chinese nationals. Some of them have been in the country since 2008 working through a pathway that was once available but the plug was pulled midway and this route is no longer available.
These are people falling into the hands of the exploiters who benefit from their misfortune. They are the ones that find themselves in a bind, with their pathway rudely curtailed. They see their future as bleak.
They surely do not deserve such a treatment.
A lack of transparency and short-sightedness would have long-term implications for all concerned.
International students are major contributors to New Zealand’s economy. We therefore need to nurture this market; not risk New Zealand’s good image with our top migrant source countries by tweaking the system that has major negative consequences for them.
The treatment of international students requires attention.
New Zealanders are generally kind and well-meaning people. But this emerging immigration issue risks that image. It has the potential of damaging our image on the international stage. Do we want to be accused of being misleading and selling a lie?
I think not!