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New Zealand election 2011: What are the parties' New Zealand immigration policies?

by Andy 22/11/2011 14:21:00
New Zealand is set to vote in a general election on Saturday 26 November and while most polls have the incumbent National Party under Prime Minister John Key safely ahead, in a democracy as robust as NZ's anything could happen.
Naturally, the various parties have slightly different approaches to immigration issues and are making different pledges to the Kiwi electorate in this key policy area.

But regardless of which party occupies the Beehive after the election, some changes to the immigration system or the direction of immigration and/or New Zealand visa policy are probable.

Visa Bureau has summarised the main immigration policies put forward by the parties contesting this election so that you can be aware of any changes before they happen.


Act New Zealand

Act New Zealand is a breakaway group from the National Party and a support partner in the current minority Government. They are a centre-right party that, like the National Party, are focused on economic growth and therefore the economic benefits of migration.

The Act Party proposes the following in its 2011 election immigration policy platform:

  • To lower administrative barriers to entering New Zealand so as to make migration a more attractive option;
  • To ensure immigration "does not become a drain on the welfare state";
  • To ensure migrant intake is focused primarily on "productive workers who will enrich our society and economy, create jobs through entrepreneurship, links to home countries, and demand for goods and services"; and
  • To improve general economic performance through reducing government spending and overregulation which will in turn make immigration to NZ more attractive.


The Green Party

The Green Party's roots are in environmental politics but they are also strong supporters of immigration. The Greens propose an immigration system that is heavily focused on human rights and humanitarian paths to migration as well as economic.

In this election, the Greens have put forward immigration policies including:

  • Increasing New Zealand's annual refugee intake from 750 to 1000;
  • Enhancing government resources for refugee resettlement programs;
  • Abolish the current "lottery" system for refugee family reunification and introduce a "fair process with published priorities and standards";
  • Prioritise skilled workers that will aid a "sustainable society and economy";
  • Ensure temporary migrants are given equal pay and conditions as co-workers with different visa status;
  • Ensure that immigration levels are reviewed regularly and based on net population change, environmental factors and international humanitarian obligations; and
  • Begin preparations for "climate change refugees".


The Labour Party

The Labour Party is the main opposition party in New Zealand currently holding 42 of the 122 seats in the Parliament's House of Representatives and was previously in Government from 1999 to 2008.

Labour has made a suite of immigration pledges this election, both threatening to repeal policies of the National Government and introduce new policies if elected. Policy ideas include:

  • A review of the Skilled Migrant Category to ensure best practice;
  • Flexible arrangements for migrants on business and investor New Zealand visas;
  • Increase opportunities for young foreign entrepreneurs to emigrate to New Zealand including the possibility of visa extensions for international students;
  • Reverse the changes to the visa system for temporary entertainment workers introduced by the Key Government and set to come into affect in March 2012;
  • Strengthen mental health services for refugees;
  • Review the refugee family reunification program;
  • Support options for refugees to enrol in tertiary education;
  • Introduce a specialist Immigration Ombudsman within the Office of the Ombudsman, to investigate system issues, complaints and immigration detention issues;
  • Establish a Residence Review Panel to assist the Immigration Minister on residency policy issues.


The Mana Party

The Mana Party is contesting a general election for the first time in 2011 and was formed by Hone Harawira MP after his expulsion from the Maori Party. The Mana Party has not released a cohesive immigration policy as of yet but recently Mana candidate for the seat of Makukau East John Minto made comments accusing the current system of "pervasive racism" against New Zealanders of Pacific Islander origin.


The Maori Party 

Formed by former Labour Minister Tariana Turia in 2004 following her resignation over the foreshore and seabed controversy - a dispute over traditional indigenous ownership of natural resources - the Maori Party is committed to keeping New Zealand's laws compliant with the Treaty of Waitangi. It is currently a support partner in the National minority government.

The Maori Party does not have an official stance on New Zealand immigration issues such as visas or intake levels but has proposed a policy to make New Zealand citizenship conditional on completion of a course in the history of the treaty. "To complete globally it is important that new citizens share our understanding of history," says the Maori Party's election policy document.


The National Party 

Should the National Party be re-elected we are likely to see a continuation of the immigration policies implemented and prioritised since coming to power in 2008. The Nats' immigration policy document explains that "immigration plays a crucial part in National's plan to build a brighter future".

The party says that if re-elected it will continue to expand and develop its current immigration policies such as the Silver Fern Visa program, residency application process for religious workers, overhaul of processes at Immigration New Zealand and changes to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

But the Nats have also flagged some new immigration policies and priorities to be implemented if John Key's team secures a second term, including:

  • Attracting more business migrants and investment capital;
  • Import skilled labour to assist with the post-earthquake rebuild of Christchurch; and
  • Implement a whole-of-government single-agency approach to refugees and asylum seekers.


United Future 

Like the Act and Maori parties, United Future has in the last Parliament entered a confidence and supply agreement with National, making it a support partner in the minority government. Immigration and population is one of the key policy interests of this party, formed in 2002 from an amalgamation of centrist and Christian democrat parties. In this election it has proposed policies including:

  • A 10-year population strategy to identify and minimise the impact of demographic changes;
  • Devise and implement comprehensive immigrant settlement programs to provide immigrants with language, social services and job placement support;
  • Establish a Business Development Agency to help migrants set up businesses;
  • Encourage "all migrants to consider themselves as New Zealanders";
  • Establish a retirement NZ visa to allow parents of permanent residents and citizens to be sponsored for migration;
  • Establish a specific employment-finding agency for refugees;
  • Create a mentor system for new migrants to help them adjust to life in New Zealand.

These various policy platforms highlight the differing views on the direction of immigration policy in New Zealand politics. Whoever forms the next government, and the amount of seats and therefore bargaining power and policy attention that each of these parties receive at this election, will impact on the opportunities for emigration to New Zealand and what you can expect when you arrive.

- Aleks Vickovich is Online Editor for the New Zealand Visa Bureau. 

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Australian Bushfires: How to Help

by Andy 09/02/2009 10:39:00

You may have read about the bushfires racing through Victoria, especially through small towns on the outskirts of Melbourne.  In Victoria, the bushfires have already claimed over one hundred lives and destroyed entire towns.

We at the Visa Bureau would like to extend our hopes for the safety of our clients, and our families and friends, who may be affected by the bushfires.

If you would like to help those affected by the fires, we would encourage you to make a donation to the Australian Red Cross.  You can learn more about the Australian Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal 2009 at this website:

Please note that the Australian Red Cross is dealing with unprecedented traffic to its website, so you may need to be patient.

UPDATE: Additionally, if you are concerned for the safety of family and friends in the areas affected by the bushfires in Victoria and have been unable to contact them directly, we advise you call the Australian Red Cross hotline on + 61 3 9328 3716.

Our hopes are with everybody in the area, and with the firefighters and soldiers working to stop the flames.

- Andy Harwood is the CEO of the Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

TRA Stalls Again on Pathway D Alternative

by Andy 26/08/2008 11:57:00

It's difficult to restrain my disappointment with The TRA: Trades Recognition Australia.  Almost a year ago, the TRA announced the closure of Skilled Pathway D, which gave skilled tradespeople without formal qualifications a pathway through the skills assessment stage of the Australian skilled migration programme.

To me, Pathway D was an integral part of the migration programme.  It met the insatiable demand for skilled tradespeople in Australia, and allowed thousands of experienced workers from the UK to make the move down under.  The closure of Pathway D, without warning or consultation, came as a body blow to industry in Australia and to thousands of families in the UK.  Australian industries lost a source of dedicated, highly skilled workers, and families saw their plans to establish themselves in Australia delayed indefinitely.

Earlier in the summer, the TRA announced that they would begin to implement a replacement to Pathway D on September 1 with their new Migration Assessment Policy (MAP).  We were extremely excited at the prospect, as it would allow thousands of families to get their visa applications back on track and to start making long-term decisions about moving to Australia.

The TRA has once again thrown these lives into disarray by delaying their implementation.  They have postponed their announcement about implementing MAP indefinitely, without any explanation or indication of when we can expect more information.

I am appalled at the TRA for its apparently blasé attitude towards the thousands of people who they have left to twist in the wind by delaying their announcement.  Families who want to make the move down under need concrete information in order make decisions that affect the rest of their lives. The TRA is making this heartbreakingly difficult.

This appalling attitude is demonstrated by the TRA's complete lack of transparency or explanation.  They did not give a concrete reason as to why they closed Pathway D and they did not give detailed information about its replacement.  Now they have delayed the implementation of a replacement without explanation or any indication of how much longer families will have to wait.

Many would-be emigrants face a difficult choice: to pursue the long road to skills qualification through a different pathway, or to wait out the TRA and hope for a positive announcement in the next few months.  The TRA is directly responsible for forcing families into this stressful situation.  The Australian Visa Bureau staff will do their best to ease the stress that this decision may place on our clients by providing as much information and help as we can.

I sincerely hope that the TRA to task for explanations and more information.  I look forward to the day when we can help the thousands of families affected by this fiasco to realise their dreams of a new life in Australia.

- Andy Harwood is the CEO of the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Flying Kiwis, breathe a sigh of relief

by Andy 17/07/2008 17:07:00

If Amanda and her team were excited about the new changes to the Australian working holiday visa last week, then it is the New Zealand Visa Bureau's turn to breathe a big sigh of relief.  After many months of consultation, the UK Government has finally decided to continue running the New Zealand ancestry visa program and allow free access for Kiwis for up to six months.  Phew!

The British Home Office are having a big clean-up of their immigration system, and have been looking at the policies of other countries, mainly Australia, to base their new "simplified" structure on.  Although they're more interested in a new "Path to Citizenship", where migrants have to "earn" their right to become a UK citizen, they were also looking to restrict access to the UK for Commonwealth citizens.

Here in the New Zealand Visa Bureau, we all feared the Home Office would listen to suggestions to restrict the six month visa-free access to three months, or cancel rights to get a five year UK ancestry visa.   Thousands of New Zealanders live, work, and play in London already - city life just wouldn't be the same without the Kiwi contingent! 

Luckily for New Zealanders, the doors have stayed open.  Those who have grandparents born in the UK can still apply for a five-year working and residency visa, and the six month visa-free access is out there for the taking. 

Apparently, PM Helen Clark has been batting for New Zealand so that young Kiwis can keep flying to the UK.  In a press release, she told the country she understands how important it is for young people to have an OE in the UK, and went directly to Gordon Brown to ask him to reconsider.  

And so she should.  The New Zealand Immigration policy has been more than welcoming to UK citizens.  UK travellers also have six month visa-free access to New Zealand, and Brits on a working holiday visa are entitled to 23 months in NZ (everybody else in the working holiday program only get 12 months!). 

Imagine having that much time to see all the breathtaking sights New Zealand has to offer, or watch the adrenaline-pumping activities in the country's adventure capital Queenstown change to match the season.  You could even catch a full live season of the Super 14s Rugby Union competition, or just chill out in a batch for six months on the Coromandel. 

It's no wonder Britons make up the second largest source of tourism for the Land of the Long White Cloud – I think they're getting a pretty good deal!

Thanks to the announcements this week from Ms Clark, it gives me great pleasure to tell our NZ and UK clients they can still go on their well-deserved holiday to the other end of the world, just as their brothers, sisters, mates, parents (even myself) have done before them.  It just wouldn't be fair if the fun stopped here!

- Andy Harwood is the CEO of the Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Alberta Needs Brits

by Andy 01/07/2008 14:46:00

Canadian FlagThe Alberta Minister of Employment and Immigration Hector Goudreau is on a mission this week to encourage thousands of UK would-be migrants to move to Alberta, Canada.  The Minister has given himself a quota of 50,000 immigrants for this year alone, and has headed straight to the UK to find them.  I think it's easy to see why.

Alberta, a province in Western Canada, is a commercial hub and proudly sustaining a steadily growing economy.  But the local population can't keep up with demand for workers, so the Minister has spearheaded a campaign to inform UK citizens how to fast-track the application process for Canadian visas so that local industries are no longer in high demand for skilled workers.  The professions at the top of the demand list include GPs, teachers, nurses, electricians, carpenters, engineers, construction workers, management consultants, cardiac specialists and diabetic specialists, although many other skilled positions are waiting to be filled.

We posted a news story on our website yesterday about the exodus of "boomerang migrants" (Australian ex-pats returning home). The thousands of Brits following them shows exactly why Mr Goudreau is targeting migrants from the UK.  The cost of living has risen again over the past four months, making the UK among the most expensive places to live in the world.  Staple food prices have risen by almost 60 per cent and fuel prices have risen by 22 per cent.  The Pound is weakening against the Australian dollar and the Canadian dollar, and more people from the UK are now deciding to make the move to better lifestyles and climates.

Canadian Immigration isn't always easy, though.  At the moment, it can take up to two years for a skilled visa application to be approved for skilled migration to Canada from the UK.  We always recommend that clients attempt to find a job offer before applying so that they can apply for a fast-tracked skilled visa.

I've often felt that there's a disconnect between the needs of employers in Canada, who need employees now; and the Canadian immigration system; which can be a slow and frustrating experience for some visa applicants.

However, this week Mr Goudreau has been putting Alberta's best foot forward to UK nationals.  He boasts of its comparatively lower cost of living, higher standard of living, matched and sometimes higher salaries in all professions, superior public services and educational services, lower business taxes than most countries, no provincial sales tax on goods, and its breathtaking scenery. 

The interest that a news story like this generates is tremendous.  I'm always happily surprised by the number of Brits who are ready to make the jump across the ocean in search of a better life.  Even the media here in the UK is getting in on the act with the BBC and GMTV calling to ask questions about Canadian immigration.  Mr Goudreau's arrival has caused quite a stir.

The UK government will have to work hard to entice overseas workers to fill their increasing skills shortages, while all the Canadian Government has to do is show Brits where to sign on the dotted line.

- Andy Harwood is the CEO of the Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Skilled Pathway D Alternative

by Andy 24/06/2008 09:26:00

We recently posted a news story about the possible opening of an alternative to Skilled Pathway D for Australian visa applicants working in skilled trades.  Any open alternative to Skilled Pathway D could renew the migration plans of literally thousands of skilled emigrants in the UK, Ireland, and all over the world, who want to make the move down under.

In September of 2007, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) closed the so-called Pathway D for skilled workers without formal qualifications.

Pathway D was a well-used route through the skills assessment stage of the Australian skilled immigration process.  It was especially popular with skilled tradespeople in the UK and Ireland, as it allowed workers without formal qualifications, but with plenty of work experience under their belts, to qualify for skilled migration to Australia.

Despite this, DEEWR closed Pathway D, without warning or consultation.

It's hard to describe the bitter disappointment that the closure of Skilled Pathway D caused for many of our clients.  Skilled workers looking to make the move to Australia suddenly found themselves unable to migrate.

We feel that that Skilled Pathway D made a positive contribution to Australia, and that its closure in September did a great deal of damage to the credibility of general skilled migration program.  Australia needed skilled tradespeople to keep up with construction, engineering and mining booms all around the country.

From all accounts, the decision was made because of a failure of the system to pick up fraudulent documents being produced from certain countries, not the UK we might add! Unfortunately perception has changed and as one colleague so eloquently put it “the message gets magnified from “you can no longer emigrate to Australia under Pathway D, to “it’s impossible to emigrate to Australia now.” Not only are clients who were in the process of emigrating caught by this sudden change, but we have seen a noticeable drop in the volume of inquiries from people expressing initial interest in emigrating.

The Migration Institute of Australia (MIA), of which the Australian Visa Bureau is a member, has been lobbying steadily for the reopening of Pathway D or the creation of an alternative.  That effort appears to finally be paying off.

On August 1 of this year, DEEWR will announce their collaboration with the MIA as part of an effort to create an alternative to Pathway D.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the news.  Any alternative for skilled tradespeople to migrate to Australia would be great news for thousands of people in the UK and Ireland.  It would give our case processing team all the pleasure in the world to call clients and prospective emigrants, with the news that we can proceed with their application.

We look forward to more news, and we’ll work to keep all of our clients up-to-date with the latest from DEEWR.

- Andy Harwood is the CEO of the Visa Bureau and a registered Australian Migration Agent.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.