Visa labels no longer needed

Immigration NZ announced today that it will no longer issue visa labels in passports from 4 July 2018.

https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/media-centre/news-notifications/visa-labels-no-longer-issued-with-visas

All successful applicants for a visa will instead receive an email with a letter of approval. The letter will be the applicant’s electronic visa (“eVisa”). Visa holders will be required to print their eVisa letter and kept it with their passport.

Although not previously announced, this change has been expected for a while and is line with other countries. For example, Australia has not used visa labels for several years now.

This change makes it very important that applicants supply a correct current email address to Immigration NZ with their application. Failure to do so means that you may not receive your visa or other important correspondence. We expect that Immigration NZ will continue to shift toward more electronic and internet-based services.

Organisations such as education providers and employers can verify the visa of a student or employee using Visa View;

https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/our-online-systems/visaview

Other organisations such as health care providers and travel agents can use the Visa Verification Service:

https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/our-online-systems/visa-verification-service

New Government proposals affecting most international travelers to New Zealand

On 15 June the Government announced proposals to change how people get permission to travel to New Zealand, what they will have to pay as visitors, and the fees and levies paid by visa applicants.

Anyone who is interested can read the proposals and give feedback to the Government before 5.00 pm on Friday 15 July 2018. The full proposals and links to submit feedback are on the MBIE website:

http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/border-changes

What are the proposals?

1. An International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy of $25 to $35 on most international visitors to NZ who plan to stay for 12 months or less. It will be collected as an extra cost on top of their visa or, for those who have a visa waiver, paid when they apply for an Electronic Travel Authority. It will not apply to:

  • Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents
  • People from Pacific Islands Forum countries, such as Tonga and Samoa
  • Those on diplomatic, military, medical and humanitarian visas
  • Those transiting NZ
  • Business Visitor visa and APEC Business Traveller Card holders
  • Children under two years old

2. The introduction of an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) similar to that employed by other countries such as Canada. Anyone who does not need to apply for a visa to come to NZ (except NZ citizens, NZ residents and Australian citizens) will fill out a simple form (similar to an arrival card) and pay a fee online (around $9) before travelling to NZ. An ETA will be valid for two years. If a traveller discloses certain criminal convictions or that they are travelling for medical care, they will require a visa.

3. A review of Immigration Fees and Levies. The Government proposes to adjust visa fees and remove the $20 discount for online applications. It also proposes to increase the employer accreditation fee.

Summary of proposed changes:

  • Work visas (excluding Recognised Seasonal Employers, Working Holiday and humanitarian work visas)   + 54%
  • Student visas – 6.5%
  • Group visitor visas    – 45%
  • Business visas     – 1%
  • Other visas   + 10%
  • Immigration levies   + 43%

If they become law, when would these changes happen?

The Government proposes to introduce the Visitor Levy and ETA in the second half of 2019. The new visa fee and levy rates are likely to come into effect in November 2018.

For further advice, please contact Shane Robinson or Scott Donaldson.

New Government proposals affecting international students and their families

On 2 June the Government announced proposals to change post-study work rights for international students. There is also a proposal to change work rights for their partners and study rights for dependent children.

Anyone who is interested can read the proposals and give feedback to the Government before 5.00 pm on Friday 29 June 2018. The full proposals and links to submit feedback are on the MBIE website:

http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/immigration/consultations/immigration-settings-for-international-students

Final changes will be announced in August 2018.

What are the proposals?

  1. To remove post-study employer assisted work visas entirely at all levels.
  2. To provide a one year post-study open work visa for non-degree courses (at or below level 7).
  3. To provide a three year post-study open work visa for degree courses (at or above level 7).
  4. To require students studying at non-degree level 7 (such as graduate diplomas) to study in New Zealand for at least two years to be entitled to post-study work visas.
  5. To change the requirements for a ‘Partner of a student’ work visa (which also allows the partner’s dependent children to qualify for fee-free compulsory schooling) to require the international student partner studying at level 8 or 9 to be studying in an area specified on the Long Term Skill Shortage List.

If the proposals become law, what will happen?

  • If you are studying a course of less than two years at non-degree level 7 or below, you won’t be able to get a post-study work visa.
  • If you are studying a course of at least two years at non-degree level 7 or below, you can get a one year post-study work visa.
  • If you are studying a course at degree level 7 or above, you can get a three year post-study work visa.
  • If you are the partner of an international student studying at level 7, 8 or 9, you will only be eligible for a ‘partner of a student work visa’ if that study is in an area specified on the Long Term Skill Shortage List. Without a ‘partner of a student work visa’, your children will not qualify as domestic students. They will have to pay international student fees unless they qualify in some other way.

What about those who are already here?

The Minister has said that any changes in work rights won’t affect those already here. They will affect students who come to NZ from 2019 onwards. That probably means that any student or post-study work visa applications from 2019 on will be affected.

For further advice, please contact Shane Robinson or Scott Donaldson.

What happens to our pets if I separate from my partner?

In most circumstances people are able to come to an agreement about who should keep the pets following a separation. However, if this is not the case then the pets are treated as family chattels and are subject to equal sharing rules under the Property (Relationships) Act. The Courts will decide on who is best suited to keep the pets, however this will depend on the particular facts of your situation.

For further advice, please make an appointment with Malcolm McKenzie or Scott Donaldson.

Update on Income Thresholds for those who have Partners or Dependent children or who have an application in the Parent Category pool

Income thresholds across a number of categories will soon increase to reflect changes to New Zealand benefits and tax credit rates.

The changes include the following:

  • On 1 June 2018, the minimum income requirements for Samoan Quota Scheme and Pacific Access Category applicants who have partners or dependent children included will increase to $38,199.20. The minimum income requirement must be derived from an acceptable offer of employment. If both the principal applicant and their partner included in their application have an acceptable offer of employment in New Zealand, both of their wages or salaries may be taken into account when determining if the minimum income requirement is met. In such cases the partner’s employment and income will only be taken into account if, at the time the application is assessed, an immigration officer is satisfied the principal applicant and partner have been living together for 12 months or more in a partnership that is genuine and stable. Where the employment (and income) of both the principal applicant and their partner is used to meet the minimum income requirement, both offers of employment must meet all requirements of immigration instructions except that only one has to meet the requirement that the offer be for full-time employment.
  • On 1 July 2018, the minimum income requirement for Essential Skills and Religious Worker work visa holders whose dependent children are in New Zealand on visitor or student visas will increase to $42,944.20. The minimum income threshold must be met and maintained wholly by the salary, wages or stipend of a parent or parents holding an Essential Skills work visa or a Religious Worker visa holder and their partner. Evidence must be provided of the work visa holder’s current salary, wage or stipend. Despite the above, if the dependent child is included in a Samoan Quota or Pacific Access Category application, the minimum income threshold is the amount specified in Samoan Quota or Pacific Access Category instructions. If a visa application is declined under these instructions and the dependent child becomes unlawful the parent(s) may become liable for deportation. If the parent(s) do not maintain the minimum income threshold for the duration of their or their dependent child’s visa, both the child and the parent(s) may become liable for deportation.
  • On 1 July 2018, the guaranteed lifetime minimum income requirements under tier one of the Parent Category will increase to $28,166 for a single applicant and $41,494 if a partner is included (note INZ is currently not selecting expressions of interest from the Parent Category pool).

 Remember – You should only take advice from a lawyer or Licensed Immigration Adviser about visa eligibility or when making plans involving your visa pathways. Contact us for an appointment today.

Immigration Policy Update 24 May 2018

Last week I attended the 16th Annual Immigration Law Conference 2018 in Auckland. The keynote speaker was the Hon. Iain Lees-Galloway, Minister of Immigration. His speech was followed by an Immigration Policy Update from Sian Roguski, who is the Manager of Immigration Policy at the Ministry of Business, Immigration and Employment. While neither the Minister nor Ms Roguski would make definite announcements on new policy, their presentations nevertheless gave us some insight into what the new coalition government is planning for immigration over the next three years.

The Minister’s speech

The Minister referred us to the Coalition Agreement between Labour and NZ First, the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Green Party and the Speech from the Throne for indicators of where the government’s immigration priorities lie. They see a need for a more agile immigration system that is more responsive to regional needs, and will therefore be taking a more regionalised approach than the current ‘one size fits all’ policies that are not working. The government is close to announcing new policy for consultation in five areas:

  1. Better matching of skills needed in NZ to the skills that migrants can bring to NZ

The government wants much closer links between immigration, education, employment and welfare, which is why it has created its ‘Future of Work” group. The government wants to build and maintain a skilled workforce through a combination of domestic training and immigration, but immigration will be focused on meeting genuine needs. The government’s priority is to put New Zealand citizens and residents first when it comes to employment. While the current unemployment rate hovers at around 4%, the rate of ‘underutilisation’ is about 12% (that is, people who could or who want to do more work – those who are underutilised).

Post study work rights are seen by this government as having had a negative impact domestically. The promise of a pathway to residence has been exploited by ‘low quality’ education providers as a way to attract students (come to NZ, study, get a job, get residence). This leads to poor outcomes for the students and for New Zealanders who would otherwise do the jobs, and does not stimulate wage growth. The government wants to see supply and demand in the labour market lead to wage rises.

The government acknowledges the importance of the overseas student market but wants it to be of a high quality, with a focus on bringing students here for an education, not to get residence. Work rights for students must therefore fit within the wider government strategy.

The success of projects such as KiwiBuild requires both immigration and investment in New Zealanders. The Minister commented that the construction industry has in the past operated on a ‘boom and bust’ model (being too busy to take on apprentices during busy times and not having the work to do so during slow times). The government expects that the constant demand generated by KiwiBuild will give the industry the opportunity to upskill its own workforce.

We can expect to see:

  • A regionalised approach to Skill Shortage Lists;
  • Strengthening of the Labour Market Tests (which already require employers to put NZers first);
  • Review and possible alterations to the Accredited Employer and Approval in Principle policies;
  • A focus on restricting the availability of Post-Study Work Visas. There is some indication that these may only be made available to students who have studied at Level 7 or above. It is likely that there will be a review of work rights to those still studying.

The Minister was asked about the currently-suspended Parent Category. His answer was encouraging and linked to the government’s view on skilled migration. The Minister believes that the Parent Category actually works well and he wants to see one in some form. He believes that it is important to skilled migrants who want to bring their families to live with them. The government is currently considering its options on the Parent Category and will need to decide soon what it is going to do.

  1. Migrant exploitation

The government wants a focus on the rights of all workers, not just migrants, but migrants are seen as particularly vulnerable. Industries reliant on migrant labour have been overrepresented in investigations done by Labour Inspectors. Doubling the current number of Labour Inspectors from 55 to 110 (and increasing their support staff) within the next few years is one way of addressing the problem. The Minister also strongly encourages migrants to join unions, as the government feels that this is one of the best ways of combatting exploitation. The government has zero tolerance for exploitation in all forms. (We also received a presentation on Combatting Migrant Exploitation from Alistair Murray, Area Manager Northern, Compliance and Investigations.)

  1. Review of Pacific migration

The government wants to reset our relationship with our Pacific neighbours. It is looking at the mobility of Pasifika people and its policy settings in areas such as the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. One concern is that the government does not wish to ‘poach’ all of the skilled people from Pacific nations.

  1. Increase in NZ’s refugee intake

It is important to this government to look at the humanitarian aspect of immigration. As previously announced, there will be an increase in refugee numbers and an increase in available housing for refugees. The refugee quote will move up to 1,500 per year as capacity increases. Refugee family resettlement numbers will increase in proportion to the increase in the refugee quota.

  1. Making improvements to Immigration NZ systems to manage national security.

The Minister did not provide any detail on this point.

The Minister concluded by stating that the government’s immigration policy was being guided by two principles above all:

  1. A better match between skills needed and skills brought into New Zealand by migrants;
  2. Zero tolerance for exploitation in all forms.

Sian Roguski’s Presentation – MBIE Immigration Policy Update

Ms Roguski spoke on INZ’s recent activities and the need to balance desired immigration outcomes. Often this means making trade-offs in immigration policy to achieve the best outcomes for NZ. Ms Roguski made some key points:

Population

  • 25% of people in New Zealand are foreign-born; 40% of those living in Auckland are foreign-born; approximately 50% of Permanent or Long Term (PLT) migrants settle in Auckland
  • Only 80% of people born in New Zealand stay here
  • Net PLT migration is one of the highest per capita in the OECD

Source countries

  • Our top 3 source countries for residence visas and temporary work visas are China, India and the UK, with a steady decline of over 50% from the UK over the past decade
  • Of the $3.94 billion invested in NZ by migrants since 2009, 58% was from China, 13% from the US, and 5% from the UK
  • 47% of visitors were from China (19%), USA (16%), and the UK (12%)

Workforce

  • 27% of the workforce are foreign born; 43% of the Auckland workforce are foreign born
  • We currently have around 50,000 international students in the country with limited work rights (usually 20 hours per week)
  • Around 20% of work visas currently require Labour Market Testing (Essential Skills and Recognised Seasonal Employment)

New residents

  • 70% of immigrants gaining residence are already in the country when they apply

Ms Roguski made some interesting comments that tie in with the Minister’s speech:

  • MBIE currently receives two or three calls per day regarding exploitation in some form. Given the known low rate of reporting, the actual number of those being exploited is far higher.
  • More students are coming to NZ but their outcomes are decreasing. Those who study undergraduate (below Level 7) qualifications have poorer outcomes (they often don’t have happy endings).
  • The share of jobs held by temporary migrants has increased over the past five years, particularly in lower-skilled, lower-paid areas such as Agriculture and Hospitality. There is mixed evidence on labour market outcomes for New Zealanders (it depends in the visa type held by migrants).
  • There has been a drop in the earnings of people applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category.

She also restated the government’s policy position that there needs to be a New Zealanders first approach to employment, while ensuring that employers can access migrant labour where there is a genuine skill or labour shortage in the short term. To that end, there will be:

  • Reviews of the Labour Market Test and the Accredited Employer Scheme.
  • Work to explore wider mechanisms to ensure work visas issued meet genuine skills shortages.
  • Monitoring of the impact of visa settings for temporary workers, which were amended in August 2017 – these will stay in place for the moment (including the existence of skills bands and remuneration thresholds).
  • A more responsive immigration, welfare and education system that addresses long term labour and skill shortages.
  • Consideration of how we can better use the immigration system to meet regional skill requirements and distribute migrants across NZ.
  • Options to develop regional skills and labour shortages lists, in consultation with regions, businesses and workers.
  • Review the post-study work rights of international students, followed by a review of in-study work rights.
  • Examine the policy settings to prevent migrant exploitation.
  • An increasing number of joint compliance operations between the Labour Inspectorate and INZ.
  • Consideration of how the immigration “pipeline” affects the vulnerability of migrants and potential for exploitation.
  • Implementation of a plan to double the annual refugee quota to 1,500.
  • A Review of the family reunification system for refugees.
  • Development of an approach to Pacific migration issues, including climate change migration
  • A Review of the immigration system’s fees and levies
  • Work across border sector agencies (for security around visa waiver arrivals in particular)
  • The Visa Services 2020 Programme (available on the INZ website)

Summary

Obviously, the next three years will be a time of rapid change in the immigration system. It will be very important for those on work and student visas to stay informed because your eligibility for a visa could change with very little warning. There will also be changes in the eligibility of people to work.

Labour Market Checks are already a necessary step for applicants for Essential Skills Work Visas. We do not yet know how these will be ‘strengthened’ by the government. It may be that employers will be required to advertise for longer or for specified periods. Employers may have to supply more detailed statements about their efforts to recruit New Zealand citizens or residents, including evidence that New Zealand applicants were unsuitable. It may also be that Work and Income will be required to play a greater role in determining the availability of NZ citizens or residents, such as reporting on those who are ‘under employed’.

The advent of regional Skill Shortage Lists is a positive step for us. Agricultural (dairy), construction, elder care, health care, hospitality and IT are all industries that have difficulty finding good staff. To ensure that they can maintain their work forces, these employers should make contributions when the government puts its proposals on policy changes out for consultation. The strong regional focus of this government should ensure that they are listened to. Professor Paul Spoonley of Massey University pointed out at the conference that the number of those aged 65+ now or will soon exceed the number of those aged 0-14 years. The number of those aged 65+ will double in the next decade. KiwiBuild is facing a shortage of at least 30,000 construction workers; the construction industry has to deal with current demand plus historical demand. Professor Spoonley concludes that growth targets will require migrants, who both create demand for infrastructure and provide the skills to meet infrastructural targets.

Possible restrictions on work rights may well have an impact on student numbers. We have already seen that the stricter approach taken by INZ has been making it harder to obtain Post-Study Employer Assisted Work Visas. This may or may not cause further problems for those looking for a pathway to residence.

We were informed today about changes to income thresholds for several visa categories. That will be dealt with in our next post.

Remember – You should only take advice from a lawyer or Licensed Immigration Adviser about visa eligibility or when making plans involving your visa pathways. Contact us for an appointment today.

 

AML Compliance Coming

From 1 July 2018 we will be required to obtain more information from you.  This is part of Hewat Galt’s compliance with the Anti Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (AML/CFT).

The purpose of this Act is to prevent money laundering or the financing of any terrorism.  By asking you for more information, we are able to have more knowledge about the transactions we are undertaking on your behalf and we are able to ensure that we are not in breach of our requirements under the Act.  If we have reason to believe suspicion we are obligated to report this.

See further information here.

Does my name change if I get married?

If you get married, you can begin using your husband’s surname or continue using your original surname. An application for a legal name change is not required in either situation. For certain things (such as driver’s licences, passports, and the electoral roll) you may need to fill out an application form to update your details if you begin using your new surname. You will often need your marriage certificate as proof when filing these applications. Again, however, a legal name change is not required.

For further advice on this matter, please make an appointment with Scott Donaldson or Malcolm McKenzie.

How many trustees do I need?

There is no minimum number of trustees required. Therefore, in theory, a trust could be created with only one trustee. However, in practice, a trust usually always has at least two trustees. This is necessary in order to keep the other trustees honest, and to provide a check on their decision making.

If you would like further advice regarding trusts, please make an appointment with Scott Donaldson or Malcolm McKenzie.