Visa proposals could leave migrants isolated - advisers

3:50 pm on 24 May 2017

Proposed visa changes will strip workers' rights for their children and could leave a cohort of dislocated young men with no family support, immigration advisers say.

Stack of plates on shelf in commercial kitchen

'One consequence of this approach must be a preponderance of young, dislocated men, away from the steadying influence of family, partners and children' - immigration adviser Bill Milnes. Photo: AFP / PhotoAlto

The proposed changes will limit essential skills visas to one year, and after a maximum of three years, immigrants would have to leave New Zealand for at least 12 months before applying for another work visa.

New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment (NZAMI) chair June Ranson said the changes would result in disadvantages and possibly harsh treatment of immigrants, by limiting the duration of employment; requiring stand down periods; and by preventing them from sponsoring work visas for partners and student visas for their children, who will have to pay international student fees.

In its submission to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on the Essential Skills visa settings proposals, the association said the changes could impose social isolation on immigrants.

"We are also concerned that aspect of the proposals will limit the ability of employers to access the best international candidates," it said.

"For example, in the aged care sector it may lead suitably qualified workers to prefer other western countries and lead to a drop in the standards of aged care overall by reducing availability and experience levels of workers in the industry."

Senior immigration consultant Bill Milnes said the changes to visas for the partners and children of workers would have an effect on immigrants.

"One consequence of this approach must be a preponderance of young, dislocated men, away from the steadying influence of family, partners and children, trying to get ahead in a foreign culture with minimal, if any support," he said.

NZAMI also said the rationale behind the proposals - to enhance the employment prospects of New Zealanders, ensure increased efforts by businesses to train New Zealanders and encourage wage growth - was flawed.

Ms Ranson said the tight labour supply was already a brake on economic growth for a significant number of New Zealand businesses.

"Our members' experience is that there simply is an insufficient domestic labour supply for many of the industries most affected by the proposals such as healthcare and aged care, agriculture, tourism and hospitality, retail, transport, and construction," she said.

"The unemployment rate is low [4.9 percent], and tracking down. Conversely, in the March 2017 quarter, the number of 'employed people' was up 5.7 percent from a year ago.

"Personal factors and limited mobility prevent unemployed New Zealanders from benefiting from existing employment opportunities."