The Truth, The Whole Truth & Nothing But The Truth
I am sure that you were always told by your parents to tell the truth. As the old line goes, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear by being honest and truthful. Right?
What happens however when one rule contradicts a second that you must comply with later in order to win the game – and you have to comply with both to get what you need?
Should you lie to achieve the aim of the second if the first stops you achieving the outcome the second rule requires?
What am I talking about?
Most skilled migrants need jobs to achieve the stated aims of the Government residence programme. To get jobs, employers demand that a candidate be in New Zealand. That means getting permission to enter New Zealand either before you travel or at the border.
Only trouble with that is Visitor Visa rules are not compatible with Residence Visa rules.
Many people are being stopped at the airport on arrival and if they say they are on holiday but also intend looking for work (because they are interested in the skilled migrant residence programme and with the job have enough points, they now risk being turned around, given a visa that does not allow them to change their status or they get a normal visa.
My team and I have been wrestling for some weeks now over what to advise those clients who need job offers to secure their skilled migrant visa points who can travel to New Zealand without a visa, but to enter the country must get a visa at the border. Although this is not exclusively a South African issue we are in particular concerned about South Africans…
This condundrum has arisen because about 10% of our South African clients are now being stopped at Auckland airport on arrival and questioned on the purpose of their visit.
If they tell the truth – that they are in the country both on holiday and to check the place out as a possible settlement destination (all of our clients – if they can secure skilled employment – meet the points threshold for a resident visa) then recent history tells us telling the truth can get some into trouble.
It all depends which officer stops them and questions them at the airport – not the rule, but how the rule is applied and by whom.
Most are given ‘normal’ visas which allow them to change their status to a work visa once the job is secured. Others are given limited visas which allow them entry but if they get the job they then have to leave the country and return home to apply for their work visa offshore. I am even hearing of people (not our clients; thank goodness) being turned around at the airport and denied entry.
The only thing they all have in common are their South African passports. Thereafter, it is random – no pattern to who is stopped, who gets a normal visa and who gets the limited visa. The outcomes are consistently inconsistent. The outcome is determined by an immigration officer and how they feel.
Therein lies the dilemma.
If 90% of South Africans entering New Zealand are granted ‘normal’ visas that allow a change of status, why are we seriously considering advising all to apply for Visitor Visas before they travel? If 90% don’t have a problem and 10% do, isn’t this creating an additional cost and bureaucratic burden for all when only 10% have a problem?
I guess it depends on whether you turn out to be one of the 10%.
For the record it is perfectly legal to enter New Zealand as a ‘tourist’ and if you decide you wish to stay longer or even permanently or had even entered wanting to stay subject to finding a skilled job and you find a skilled employment, you are allowed to change your status. Given the significant majority of work visas are issued within New Zealand this clearly happens a lot.
I have met with everyone from Immigration New Zealand’s head of global border security in recent weeks to try and come to some agreement on resolving this issue and eliminate the risk for those 10% highly skilled ‘wannabe’ migrants who are hassled at the airport or to get some agreement that all of our clients coming over will be granted ‘normal’ visitor visas subject to demonstrating that they are not a risk to the country.
You might think that is easy when you can demonstrate that the number of our South African clients who have overstayed their visas is as far as we know – zero.
So if our clients tell the truth at the border about their intentions, some officials at the airport hold it against them. Some don’t. These officials are the same ones employed by the Government that is encouraging skilled migration and demanding that the majority secure work.
In trying to meet the Governments permanent residence rules, the client can be damned if they tell the truth and damned if they don’t at the border.
After three weeks of discussions the outcome I always expected happened a few days ago.
The Government suggested all of our clients should apply for these Visitor Visas offshore before they travel BUT they would not guarantee the client that on arrival at the border in New Zealand they would be granted a visa that would allow them to apply for a work visa onshore. That of course completely defeats the purpose of applying for the visitor visa offshore in the first place because once such applicants find jobs (and in the case of our clients about 98% do) they have to leave the country, apply for a work visa and return a few weeks later.
In the end this refusal to come up with a solution that is geared toward my low risk clients and to manage them as a subset of some greater perceived risk is incredibly disappointing but hardly surprising. If there is one thing Immigration New Zealand is not very good at it is holding the system to account and demanding consistency of outcomes whereby similar applicants with very similar circumstances be treated the same and should be able to reasonably expect the same outcome.
It leaves me concluding that it is not always smart to tell the whole truth. Applying for visas before a South African travels isn’t going to solve any problems.
Forcing visa applicants to be less than completely truthful in order to give the Government what they want in terms of the Residence Programme is a nonsensical and stupid way of dealing with risk.
However for the time being it seems to be just what Immigration New Zealand is demanding.
The discussions continue.
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