Anyone living here could have told you this, but New Zealand is a great place to live.  In spite of complaints about Government, about low wages, about the high cost of living in Auckland, it is (by world standards) safe, clean and quiet.  This is apparently being recognised by people from Europe – and from Ireland and Italy in particular – who come here as “recession refugees“.  That is, they have headed across the world to get away from the tough times in the Northern Hemisphere.  An Irish accountant was quoted in the Wellington Dominion Post as saying:

“In Wellington everybody seems to have extra cash and enjoy themselves … At home [in Ireland] it’s hard to get people out at the moment; people are losing their jobs and taking pay cuts.”

What we see in our office every day is confirmed by statistics: the inflow of migrants continues apace, and there has been a dramatic upswing in the number of people from India applying to stay here.  Often the path to Residence is:

  • Come to study here at Graduate Diploma or Degree Level (Level 6 or 7).  The Levels are set by the NZ Qualifications Authority.  Anything less than a 2-year course at Level 6 is not worth much if you want to stay longer;
  • After graduation, get a 1-year Job Search Work Visa to allow time to find a job;
  • If you find a position that is “relevant” to your NZ qualification, apply for a 2-year Work Experience Visa; OR
  • If your job offer is strong enough, and in an area where there is a real shortage of trained New Zealanders, go for an Essential Skills Work Visa;
  • Put in a Skilled Migrant Residence application which is based on a points system.  In almost all cases, you cannot score enough points unless you are working in New Zealand in what is called a “skilled occupation”.

This is an established pathway set up by Immigration for this purpose.  In the current economic climate it doesn’t always work so smoothly.  The job market is not as tight as in Spain or the UK, but it is still not easy.  People are taking jobs that are too basic to be recognised down the track as “skilled employment”.  We see MBA graduates working as Assistant Managers at Burger King or “Office Manager” at a gas station.

And they are also accepting salaries that are well below the average because they are desperate to get a job.  If the pay is too low then Immigration is likely to think that the job is not what the Employment Agreement says it is.  When we get these cases we research the job market to find out what salaries are actually being offered out there.  However, Immigration is working with statistics about salaries which are sometimes several years out of date, and often taken from before the global recession.

Getting Work and Residence Visas is a hard slog for the many migrants who are competing to stay in New Zealand.  It’s certainly keeping us busy.  Even more so than a couple of years ago, we find ourselves fighting battles and using every trick in the book to make applications work for our clients.  I can’t see that landscape changing for the better any time this year.