Job Rule For Migrants Not Working, Carter Admits

Job rule for migrants not working Carter admits (New Zealand)

Tuesday January 23, 2007
By Simon Collins
The New Zealand Herald

Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter has conceded a policy requiring borderline skilled immigrants to get jobs within six months appears to be failing.

He discussed the issue with Immigration Minister David Cunliffe yesterday after earlier planning to bring it up at the Cabinet table before today's first Cabinet meeting of the year.

The Filipino Society has sent a 1300-name petition to Mr Carter, Mr Cunliffe and Prime Minister Helen Clark seeking a reinstatement of the former policy that gave skilled immigrants two-year work permits to find jobs which they could then use to apply for permanent residence.

The permits were reduced to six months from December 21, 2005. Migrants must now hold a job in their skilled field for at least three months in that six-month period to qualify for permanent residence.

The Herald reported last week that 617 people were granted six-month work-to-residence permits in the first six months after the new policy took effect. But only 19 (3 per cent) had gained permanent residence by the end of June.

Mr Carter said several people raised the issue with him at a Filipino festival attended by 4000 in Mangere at the weekend, and he agreed to take it to the Cabinet.

“If the statistics are right … then clearly it's not working,” he said.

Filipino Society president Agnes Granada said the Labour Department's own website advised immigrants that “even well-qualified migrants may take six or more months to find suitable employment”, so a six-month permit was not realistic.

One migrant who was a senior executive in his home country told the Herald by email he received his six-month permit on September 15 but had to give three months' notice to leave his job and arrived with his wife during New Zealand's summer shutdown.

“This means that we barely have two months to go before our visa expires! With no job in hand, even though both of us were serving in senior executive positions back home, have we made the blunder of our lives?” he asked.

The Labour Department told interest groups late last year that the new policy was under review, and the Association for Migration and Investment has recommended extending the six-month permits to one year.

Association chairman Bernard Walsh said yesterday that the latest business opinion survey showing a net 29 per cent of firms finding it harder to recruit skilled labour reinforced the case for easing the path for skilled migrants.

Mr Cunliffe said he told Mr Carter the issue was within the scope of an officials' review of the skilled migrant category and the Filipino petition had “sharpened the focus on that particular issue”.

Officials were due to report back by about March.

How the scheme operates

* Most people granted permanent residence under the skilled migrant category get it immediately through points for their qualifications, work experience, age and current work or a job offer in New Zealand.

* Borderline cases may be given work-to-residence permits allowing them to work for six months, then gain residence if they have held a skilled job for at least three months.

* Of the 617 work-to-residence permits issued in the first six months after the policy took effect on December 21, 2005, just 19 were given permanent residence by last June 30.