6 Oct 2016

UK High Commission assures NZers OEs should be OK

10:26 am on 6 October 2016

New Zealanders planning their OE to Britain are being reassured they are unlikely to be affected by a crackdown on foreign workers.

The proposal was least popular in Britain, where only 58 percent of those surveyed backed the idea.

The proposal was least popular in Britain, where only 58 percent of those surveyed backed the idea. Photo: 123RF

At a Conservative Party conference yesterday the home secretary signalled the British government is about to make it a lot harder to get work as a foreigner in the United Kingdom.

But the First Secretary of the British High Commission in New Zealand Joel Watson said he was confident New Zealanders were not the target of the crackdown.

"We understand why this might be a concern but it's important to look at the fact that Amber Rudd's speech at the Conservative Party conference really just announced a consultation process to look at the next steps that are needed to control immigration into the UK."

"What this doesn't mean is the immigration laws have changed overnight, but it is the launch of a consultation process and I think as far as how it will impact New Zealanders, I'm confident the impact will be low."

In her speech, Ms Rudd outlined that it should be harder for UK companies to recruit foreign workers to ensure people were filling gaps in the labour market rather than "taking jobs British people could do".

Students on "low-quality courses" could also face tougher entry rules, Ms Rudd said.

Mr Watson said 165,000 New Zealanders travel to Britain every year, and 97 percent entered without the need for a visa.

His personal view was that New Zealanders would have to wait and see whether the Brexit would affect their access to Britain or not, he said.

"I think the key thing is that we have to wait and see what is included in the consultation, then we'll see what it looks like after that."

However, he did not think it was naive to assume New Zealand still had a special relationship with the UK.

"I think on the wider question of access to the UK for New Zealanders, New Zealand has one of the most preferential access regimes of all our friends and partners around the world.

"Over the last couple of years we've made it easier for New Zealanders to travel to the UK.

He said New Zealanders did not need a visa for a stay of six months or less, and for those who did need one the UK had increased the number of spots available for New Zealanders.

"But at the moment only about 4500 out of 12,000 places are being taken up. For me, the message for Kiwis who are 18 to 30 is that they should continue with their plans to go to Europe on their OE and they should take advantage of the strong exchange rate while they can.

The British government had introduced changes to its tier-2 visa, but Mr Watson said a low rate of only 610 New Zealanders had used it to enter the country in 2015.

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