New Zealand Targets Wealthy Business Migrants

NZ targets wealthy business migrants

ABC Radio Australia
Updated March 30, 2009 13:12:02

In tough economic times, governments are under pressure to reduce the intake of migrants – but at least one is bucking the trend. New Zealand hopes an open door policy for business migrants will pay off. It's targetting cashed up business people in the same markets Australia sources many of its investment migrants from.

Presenter: Karon Snowdon
Speakers: Jonathan Coleman, New Zealand Immigration Minister; Chris Evans, Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

KARON SNOWDON: Fast disappearing jobs due to the recession means governments all over the world are under pressure to cut migration numbers. In Australia, and against some business objections, skilled migrants have been cut by 14 per cent this year. In other places unskilled workers fare worse as Asia's millions of low-skilled migrants are finding out. It's a form of protectionism that's tolerated where trade sanctions are not and even in New Zealand's case the wealthy are preferred. But as Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman explains, in these tough times adjustments are needed.

JONATHAN COLEMAN: There were 28 approvals under that policy in 2007 and 2008 and 10 people approved so far this year. So we're talking about changes to a policy to attract wealthy individuals who are going to invest capital here and we're saying – look, the current policy's not working.

KARON SNOWDON: The plan is to lower the age, capital requirements and most significantly English language standards for business people applying for investment visas of up to four years.

JONATHAN COLEMAN: Very importantly, the level of English required has been too high and we're not talking about flooding New Zealand with people who are unable to speak English, we're talking about a relatively small number of people, probably a few hundred, very wealthy individuals who have no real need to be speaking English on a daily basis. They're not going to be working in jobs where they're going to be interfacing with the public.

KARON SNOWDON: All skilled categories are being maintained while the unskilled is the tap that gets turned on and off as the economic circumstances demand. In contrast, Australia announced recently a cut of 14 per cent or 18,000 to the skilled migrant numbers for this year. That follows a big increase in the previous year. The decision has attracted some criticism from the business lobby, which says there's still a skills shortage. But the Immigration Minister Chris Evans says at 115,000, the skilled intake remains the highest for 25 years.

CHRIS EVANS: It remains at 13,000 people more than the previous government's last intake. It's still one of the largest intakes ever and the media reporting of it hasn't been terribly accurate in a sense that we continue to run a very large migration program. And what we've said is we only want to bring people in who are going to go straight into employment. We don't want people adding to the unemployment queues which are lengthening.

KARON SNOWDON: Construction jobs have been removed from the allowable list but medical, engineering and IT professionals are still on it and Chris Evans says business complaints are misplaced.

CHRIS EVANS: There's no diminishment of an employer's capacity to bring people in. We certainly think we'll need more people with higher skills as the economy starts to pick up again and we're definitely leaving the flexibility there to make sure that can happen.

KARON SNOWDON: New Zealand's skilled migrant target is staying at about 45,000 says Jonathan Coleman.

JONATHAN COLEMAN: We're short of these skills, recession or no recession and we will need these people certainly to keep the economy going after the recession as well.

KARON SNOWDON: And competition for the right migrant is hotting up.

JONATHAN COLEMAN: We have to, as a smaller country, be smarter than you guys to make sure that we can win the war for some of these skills and some of this capital. So we're going to have to be innovative because we know Australia wants migrants as well.

KARON SNOWDON: In Australia, Chris Evans says visas for students and working holidays are booming and he's encouraging business migrants.

CHRIS EVANS: We have a lot of people coming from South East Asia, in particular, in the business areas from China and India. And as I say, we get many more applicants than we need under most of the categories.