Is Covid really to blame for our immigration problems?

It begins with name-calling. During a lockdown, migrants are hailed as ‘essential workers’. But when we are not in a lockdown I often hear them described as ‘low skilled’ workers. Though they risk their lives by going to work in supermarkets or as caregivers – while most of us isolate – still they get no resolution of their visa woes from our ‘be kind’ government. Instead, the government has used Covid as an excuse for its own abysmal handling of visa applications, and of immigration problems more generally. In March this year, for instance, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) blamed visa processing delays on Auckland lockdowns. But is Covid really the culprit for our immigration problems? Let’s review the evidence.

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A win for human rights and a warning to exploitative NZ employers

This is a real ‘good news’ story, and one I’m happy to be able to share. We are hearing a lot these days about employers unable to bring in migrant workers, and migrant workers being kept apart from their family members overseas. But – for obvious reasons – we don’t hear much about the migrant workers who are living here right now and being cynically exploited and mistreated by their employers. Many of these people live every day in fear of losing their jobs and so their right to work in New Zealand.

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Is it time for a new amnesty for overstayers?

OPINION: There’s been a lot of talk lately about an amnesty for overstayers. Do we really want to reward people with a new visa who didn’t follow their last visa’s conditions? I don’t. Amnesties just encourage more people to become unlawful, and to hang around breaking immigration law until the next amnesty comes along. I support the government showing flexibility in granting temporary visas to genuine cases with special circumstances. But the priority must always be legal visa holders.

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An immigration scam encouraged by the New Zealand government

OPINION: Most immigration scams are committed against the government – but one of the biggest immigration scams I know of has been committed by the government. The scam works like this: New Zealand government agencies encourage students from poor countries to mortgage their family’s property so they can come to New Zealand to study a business diploma. They tell them that this course will lead to a job and permanent residence in this country. Spoiler alert: it seldom does, leaving them struggling to pay

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The sad, sick joke of who we’ve allowed into New Zealand during the pandemic

OPINION: What a sad, sick joke it has become where foreigners watching the America’s Cup can be approved entry as ‘critical workers’ during the Covid-19 pandemic while actual critical workers are being refused. Stuff has revealed that more than 1000 people from overseas have been invited as ‘critical workers’ associated with the event, including representatives of more than 200 team sponsors and suppliers. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) explains that these non-workers are being approved as ‘critical workers’ because they fit within the rules INZ has to follow. This is nonsense. The rules say that an ‘other critical worker’ may be someone who is undertaking a time-critical role on a government-approved event – the America’s Cup is listed as a government-approved event.

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Why ‘fetch and fly’ is the hottest thing in immigration right now

OPINION: Desperate New Zealanders are travelling to Covid-hit countries to reunite with their overseas spouses in the hope that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will grant their loved ones a visa. INZ does not encourage this practice, dubbed ‘fetch and fly’ by one of my colleagues. It goes against government travel advice during the pandemic, and there is no guarantee it will result in a visa being approved. Nevertheless, many desperate Kiwis feel it’s their only chance to bring their loved ones a visa.

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What future for permanent migration to New Zealand?

OPINION: New Zealand will restart its refugee programme this month, allowing 210 refugees to arrive by June 2021. What chance – if any – is there for other migrants who hope to stay permanently? Since Covid-19 closed New Zealand’s borders nearly a year ago, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has stopped inviting skilled migrants and investors to apply for residence visas. These programmes are on hold until April 2021 at least – the government will decide before then whether to reopen them. In the Meantime,

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Is 2021 the year that Immigration NZ gets tough on law-breaking employers?

OPINION: In mid-2021, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will roll out a new temporary work visa which requires employers to be accredited – replacing six employer-assisted work visa categories. As well as simplifying and streamlining the process for all parties, the new system will make it much more risky for employers to exploit workers from overseas. Most employers I have dealt with have never had any compliance-related problem with INZ. And even if they had, I have managed to counsel them to

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Who should New Zealand let back first when our borders re-open?

OPINION: When New Zealand’s borders reopen next year, whom should we let in first? How we answer that will reflect New Zealand’s priorities and values as a nation. Since our border closed on 20 March, the government has only admitted New Zealand citizens, residents, and people coming for a ‘critical purpose’ – including critical health workers, other critical workers, partners and dependent children of New Zealanders, and people who have humanitarian reasons to travel here. Kiwis have had the first dibs

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The ongoing nightmare of Immigration New Zealand decision-making

OPINION: If your boss found that you made mistakes 40 per cent of the time, do you think you’d keep your job? Based on the rate of successful appeals to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) makes mistakes in more than 40 per cent of the residence applications it decides. This is in spite of residence decisions being quality checked by a second (usually senior) immigration officer before a final decision is made. Successful appeals then go back to INZ for reconsideration

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Government policy is costing high-performing migrants their jobs

OPINION: New Zealand shutting its borders on March 19 hit everyone hard. Closing the door to work visa holders, among others, has created particular problems for employers trying to recruit and retain staff. Many New Zealanders have returned since our borders closed, but only a trickle of temporary entrants have been allowed entry for ‘critical purposes’. The Immigration New Zealand (INZ) website shows that just 9,300 people have been approved since March. This has severely limited New Zealand employers'

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