Points System Resumption Pushed Back
Buried very deeply last week in what appeared to be an unrelated press release from New Zealand’s Minister of Immigration was something of a bombshell. Or, if not a bombshell, a minor explosion. And if not a minor explosion possibly only a firecracker going off. Typically for our government it left the industry wondering what the Minister was actually trying to signal.
He said that the Government was continuing to review the skilled migrant pathways and would release more information ‘in coming months’.
For the past 18 months or so the government had indicated that the skilled migrant (points) system which seeks to attract highly skilled migrants would resume in July 2022. That was then changed to signals that the policy would be released in July with a view to kicking off shortly thereafter, or depending on which press statement you believed, possibly in September.
July 2022 resumption of points applications
It appears the government has kicked for touch now on when it will resume its “points” system and there are several schools of thought as to why.
At its most simple is the fact that the New Zealand border opened to all comers who wish to visit, work or study on a temporary basis on Monday of this week. That means thousands of Visa applications will be coming in and needing to be processed.
At the same time, the immigration department is struggling to deliver on promises of processing times on Work Visas under the new system that kicked off at the end of May. The new three-step process to obtain a Work Visa came with quoted processing times of 10 working days per step i.e. around two weeks to get employer accreditation, two weeks to conclude the job check and two weeks for the Work Visa application itself. No one who works closely with the immigration department believed a word of this and so it has turned out to be. As of a few days ago Government had received over 3300 job check applications since applications could be filed in late June and only around one-third have been finalised. A 33% clearance rate in over five weeks. So much for ten days. We don’t expect Work Visas will take any less time than a month to process for some time, if ever.
The immigration department continues to make decisions on the RV2021 cohort of applications. Processing times are slow and although we were advised that these applications would be allocated strictly in the order of the earliest temporary Visa expiry dates, even that simple piece of advice seems wrong. There seems no rhyme nor reason as to why cases are allocated and processed ahead of others who have earlier temporary Visa expiry dates.
All of this points to what I’ve been saying for months. The immigration department lacks the capacity to process applications and as the border opens up the number of applications is simply increasing stretching these bureaucrats even more.
INZ deflection on their ‘enhanced’ online platform
Nicola Hogg, the ranking INZ Manager and the person whose designation should be ’Chief Apologiser’ was quoted yesterday as saying:
‘…all AEWV (Accredited Employer Work Visa) applications are being made on a new, enhanced immigration online platform.
“Not only are our customers learning how to navigate the new technology and visa policy, our staff are also learning how to process this new category in a live environment while helping to educate employers on what is needed.
“The Employer Accreditation process is working well, but we acknowledge there have been some initial issues and that this has caused some frustration,” Hogg said.
At the same time their comms people are wearing out their keyboards blaming everyone but themselves. What business blames their customers?
Only this morning the Comms people blamed delays in processing Work Visas because:
“We are also seeing job check applications which do not meet requirements because the job advertisement did not run for 14 days and/or did not include the salary range.”
Earth to INZ…. in NZ it has never been common to advertise the salary let alone the salary range so why would employers do it?
The government announced in its policy a few weeks ago a requirement that no employer has historically followed and then blamed the employers for not getting the process right. Priceless. And more than a little arrogant.
Blaming their customers
The ability of INZ managers to deflect is legendary. Nicola Hogg, the rankng Operations Manager stated publicly this week that INZ has a ‘new enhanced’ processing system, she admits she has a lot of new staff who do not know what they are doing so are in effect practicing on migrants and their employers. She went on to say INZ needs to ‘educate employers’ on how to use the technology (computers and online applications for services are hardly new to most employers in 2022) and the ‘system’ which is not only more than a little patronising but which strikes me as odd when every press release lauds this new ‘enhanced’ online visa system as providing a ‘simpler, easier and more transparent’ process. If it is so easy to navigate and use why can’t INZ make decisions within the ten days they promised everyone?
Of 442 Work Visa applications received since 4 July, seven Work Visas have been granted.
When will we see the points system?
That all brings me back to the points system. I have zero doubt that this delay is little more than the immigration department begging their political masters not to add to the workload. The politicians will agree because in October 2021 the then Minister promised 200,000 people sitting in New Zealand, ‘fast track’ to residency. For many that ‘fast track’ process is going to end in late 2023. Hardly my definition of fast track. INZ simply does not have the capacity to take on more work. I also understand that there are IT issues preventing the government from going live with an electronic Residence Visa platform even if Immigration New Zealand had the capacity and capability to process the visas – which they don’t.
Dumping the points system altogether?
In terms of the other scenarios, which I don’t believe, some are suggesting there will be no points system at all. Some suggest the government will simply have a list of occupations and then that way they can micromanage which is something this government appears to want to do in all spheres of life in New Zealand. I don’t subscribe to those theories.
If they are true to form the ‘points’ system will as I have speculated before look very much like the one we had when the border closed and they shut the system down in March 2020. Virtually every so-called piece of “new” immigration policy that has been released so far this year has been old policy repackaged. The points system was not broken in terms of the criteria and the types of people New Zealand desperately needed and still does, the immigration department is broken and while they are pretty good at breaking whatever they touch themselves, the Government cutting RV numbers back in 2017 but not increasing the pass mark to get into the country is what created the backlog they’ve been trying to fix since December 2021. Not very successfully.
The advice we are giving all our clients who need jobs to get into NZ who may not be eligible for Green List residence or work to residency through earning twice the median salary is to proceed with caution. Coming to New Zealand and securing employment comes now with some elevated risk until we know exactly what pathway might be available to those who will not qualify under one of the existing pathways.
I’m certainly looking forward to the government making clear what their intention is in the tightest labour market in my 32 years of practice where 69% of employers are still telling the government the hardest part about doing business in New Zealand is not inflation, supply chain issues and Covid, it is not being able to fill vacancies whether they be for unskilled, semi-skilled or highly skilled workers.
I just hope the politicians are listening.
Until next week
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