Making New Zealand the ‘Right Choice’ for you - Speech to NZ Invest and Export Conference 2002Immigration
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak at this conference.
The title of my address is ‘Making New Zealand the ‘Right Choice’ for you’, and is a reference to the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) slogan, “New Zealand – the Right Choice”.
Naturally, as Minister of Immigration, I firmly believe that New Zealand is ‘the Right Choice’. However, it is not ‘the Right Choice’ for everyone. That is why I encourage anyone considering migrating to New Zealand to research all of the issues, before the final decision is made. The worst thing that can happen from an immigration perspective, is that a migrant arrives with high expectations, that are not met once he or she settles in New Zealand. I have met too many people who have ended up working outside their professional field or well below their skills and experience. This does not make for successful settlement for the migrant, nor is it good for New Zealand when talent and skills are wasted in this way.
I have been working with the Immigration Service and stakeholder groups on developing better pre-migration information, so that people do not come to New Zealand with unrealistic expectations.
We will soon be releasing a pamphlet entitled “New Zealand – let’s make it the right choice for you”.
It will contain realistic information about a number of factors:
·The first is quality advice: There have been many instances of people’s expectations being built up by people who have no interest in settlement outcomes. They are only interested in the fees they can earn. As we do not yet have a register of immigration consultants, we are advising people to look at whether they belong to a reputable organisation that has enforceable standards, including a code of conduct and ethics. We also advise people to check information with the NZIS, and to ensure that all settlement information is read in detail.
·The next matter is the fact that English language requirements for employment are higher than needed for residence. The ability to communicate in English is vital for work and everyday life in New Zealand. We are also encouraging people who met the residence IELTS standard to consider taking up English language tuition once they arrive in New Zealand, as it can assist with orientation to a new country.
·The next matter relates to job prospects for new migrants. The bottom line is that unemployment rates for recent migrants are higher than they are for the general population. Although this is something we are attempting to address through the settlement pilots funded through the Migrant Levy, it is better that people know that finding employment may not be straightforward. This is why the pamphlet also reinforces the ability to gain a 6 month work permit, where a General Skills permanent resident applicant is within 5 points of residence, in order that he or she can come and look for that all important job offer, relevant to their skills or experience. This should be seen as an investment in the future, because there is nothing worse than selling up everything in the home country and shifting the whole family here, before beginning the job search. Again, there are too many examples of people who have been bitterly disappointed as a result of such a decision.
·The pamphlet also identifies the need to have the comparability of qualifications assessed by NZQA. It also reminds potential professional migrants to check registration requirements for practice in New Zealand, (e.g. doctors must register with the Medical Council before they can be allocated points). However, it also points out that some employers insist on professional or technical registration, even though it is not a statutory requirement. English language requirements are usually higher for professional registration as well.
·The pamphlet also encourages potential migrants to consider destinations outside Auckland. There are significant opportunities in our regions, however, many migrants remain in Auckland when they arrive, and both the migrants and the regions could benefit from a wider consideration of the options.
·Finally it contains some web-site addresses that people might like to visit before making the decision to move.
New Zealand is only ‘the right choice’ for those who will settle well in New Zealand, utilising their skills and experience, for their own benefit and for the benefit of New Zealand.
Successful settlement is a two-way street, and New Zealanders need to know that the ‘new Kiwis’ are willing to integrate into their communities and contribute to New Zealand’s social and economic well-being.
So my first message that I wish to give to this Conference today is that potential migrants must be given access to reliable information on all aspects of New Zealand life before making the decision to move, so that the quality of settlement outcomes can be assured.
This is equally true of the Business Migrant Programme as well, and was one of the principal reasons behind the requirements of the Long Term Business Visa. The reason why a detailed business plan is required, is to ensure that business migrants are set up for success not for failure.
I occasionally receive correspondence from applicants who have been declined a LTBV, however, it is not a matter that I readily intervene on.
It is vital that anyone wishing to set up a business in New Zealand is well-versed in NZ business practices, and has a realistic expectation of success.
People who have successfully established a business in China for example, need to be aware of the domestic market potential of a population of 3.8 million, compared with one of 1.2 billion.
That being said, business contacts and networks established in the home country can significantly reinforce the success of an export-oriented business in New Zealand.
After two years of successfully operating a business in New Zealand under a LTBP, an application for residence may be lodged under the Entrepreneur category, and as the programme has now been in place for three years, several such approvals have already been made.
The other category is the Business Investor Category, which requires a 2 year investment to be made within New Zealand. This is an area that I believe requires further work. Depositing $1M or more into a bank account for 2 years does not add to available capital for developing New Zealand’s economic potential. Besides which I have had many investors express a desire to see something productive come of their investment. I would certainly value feedback from anyone here who has personal experience in this area, or who represent clients, who would prefer to see a more active investment opportunity being made available.
And that is the second message I want to leave you with, which is that this government is very open to receiving the views of stakeholders in all spheres of policy, immigration being no exception. Direct feedback is invaluable in assessing policy effectiveness, and I have personally instigated changes in policy as a result of anomalies being drawn to my attention by affected individuals.
Having been the Minister of Immigration for nearly two-and-a-half years now, I am able to reflect upon significant changes that have enabled more of the portfolio’s potential to be realised than ever before.
The New Zealand Immigration Service, which sits within the Department of Labour, has re-directed its focus away from border control towards facilitating entry to those entitled to do so, while managing risk in an appropriate manner.
The next logical step is for the Immigration Service to extend its objectives to include the active recruitment of talented and skilled migrants, and, with the information that we are gathering as part of the longitudinal study into migrant settlement in New Zealand, we should be in a position to identify the personal qualities and the factors that lead to successful settlement outcomes. Targeting those who will do well here, should improve the benefits of immigration, from the perspective of the migrant and New Zealand as a whole.
The Skilled & Business Migrant stream now drives the New Zealand Immigration Programme, with at least 60% of approvals allocated to that stream. However, we have remained acutely aware of just how important settlement outcomes are, and much of our attention has been focussed on this aspect of immigration policy, to the extent that we now have a settlement branch within the NZIS.
There were two particular objectives that I brought to the position, and the essence of them can be captured in an expression I used at the time:
‘That there were people in the country who had residence, but couldn’t get work, and there were people who had work, but couldn’t get residence.’
The solution to the first problem was the development of pre and post arrival settlement initiatives, to ensure that migrants had both a realistic expectation of what they could expect to find in New Zealand and mechanisms for connecting with the labour market and/or business communities after they arrived.
The solution to the second was the new work-to-residence programme, which includes the Talent Visa and a skills shortage visa based on priority occupations, which allow for a 2 year work visa followed by residence. These more stream-lined visas were introduced as a direct result of the government-business forums, which identified access to the global labour market as a key concern for NZ business.
Another recent development is the regional immigration scheme that will be piloted in Invercargill and Wellington, as announced by the Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton last week. The idea is to encourage economic growth in regions outside Auckland through the innovative use of immigration policy.
The scheme relies on a partnership between the immigration service (providing effective communication and access to information for the region) and the regions (through a commitment to settlement programmes). I am confident that the pilots will be successful and we will be able to expand the scheme to other regions.
Other aspects of immigration policy that have been improved by this government have been
·The establishment of a Ministerial Advisory Group on Immigration, to ensure that as Minister I have a touchstone for immigration policies independent of the NZIS,
·access to work permits for the spouses of work permit holders, including LTBV holders,
·re-linking points for work offers to qualifications or experience, and
·strengthening settlement issues around family reunification
There is still work to be done, however, we have achieved a lot in a relatively short period of time.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the organisers and sponsors of this conference. Such occasions provide an ideal opportunity to share information and to network with each other, which can also provide a springboard to new investment opportunities.
The NZ Immigration programme is only one component of the innovation framework, however, in the context of today’s conference it is an important one. To take full advantage of its potential, I want to repeat my two key messages:
·we must acknowledge that successful settlement outcomes are the true measure of the success of immigration policy, and, therefore, we must work to ensure that all potential migrants are able to access reliable information on all aspects of New Zealand life before making the decision to move here, and
·that providing feedback to the government is an important way of ensuring that immigration policies are relevant and effective in terms of achieving the government’s objectives.
On that note, can I repeat how much I have appreciated the opportunity to address you, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.