Immigration red tape for hiring staff 'totally absurd'
By Lincoln Tan
The New Zealand Herald
4:00AM Wednesday Sep 09, 2009
Employers wanting to hire a foreign worker must disclose to Immigration New Zealand details of all staff, including their wages and time records, and financial statements including company bank account transactions.
The agency's employer information details request form – which an employer is expected to complete when supporting either a work or residence permit application – states that the employer has to provide: positions held by existing employees, their job descriptions, copies of their wage and time records, hours of employment and remuneration or salary details.
It also added that “to demonstrate your ability to financially meet your employment contract obligation”, the employer must also supply financial statements for the last three years as prepared by a chartered accountant, PAYE certificates, GST certificates, GST return documents and company bank statements for the past three years.
Business New Zealand has slammed the request as “inefficient, cumbersome, unrealistic, poorly designed, impractical, bureaucratic, anti-migrant and anti-business”.
“With rising unemployment, there is a need to re-evaluate labour market testing across all immigration policies, but we must take care that immigration policy is taking care of real business needs,” said Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly.
“It is really difficult to see how requiring firms to provide this information supports economic growth and productivity improvement … ”
An Immigration New Zealand spokesman said it was a standard request as part of its verification process to ensure that job offers to potential migrants were genuine and met immigration policy requirements.
He said companies with information that was publicly available, or already known to the branch, might not be required to supply the details.
“The questionnaire is not new, it is designed to help facilitate the visa process by obtaining information about the employer and employment offered early in the application process.”
However, the requests were described as “farcical” and “totally absurd” by a former immigration agent, Tim Spooner, who had a client's residency permit turned down because his potential employer couldn't meet Immigration NZ's request.
“The company which had wanted to employ my client then as a machine operator has over 500 staff employed in eight locations in New Zealand and Australia. It's just preposterous that Immigration expects it to reveal every single employees' details to employ him,” said Mr Spooner.
“Three years' account of its financial statements, bank transactions, PAYE and GST documents will form a stockpile of paper that will fill a whole warehouse, and I really doubt Immigration has the resources to look through them anyway.”
A senior officer from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said in his response to a complaint by Mr Spooner lodged with the office that employers may be in breach of the Privacy Act if they disclose employees' details.
Principle 11 states: “An agency that holds personal information shall not disclose the information to a person or body or agency, unless the agency believes (there was reasonable grounds to do so).”
Immigration New Zealand said it was possible for an employer to provide the information in a way that did not breach the Privacy Act.