11 May 2012

Union speaks out against New Zealand visa surplus

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The decision to grant a New Zealand visa to over 300 applicants despite a computer error has sparked outrage from a national trade union.

New Zealand visa

First Union has accused the government of irresponsibility over the decision to grant an extra 306 New Zealand visas.

First Union, which represents workers in a variety of industries, has criticised the government's decision to uphold over 300 New Zealand visa approvals mistakenly granted due to an IT error when there are local workers, as well as migrant workers already in the country on a visa, who are out of work.

Immigration authorities yesterday decided to grant 306 visas to applicants who were mistakenly informed that their applications through the Silver Fern visa programme had been granted, despite the 300 allocation having already been filled.

The Silver Fern programme allows migrant workers aged between 20 and 35 to enter New Zealand for nine months to seek work in a skilled occupation. Once employed, they are granted another two year visa and allowed to apply for permanent residency. The programme is a relatively new addition to New Zealand immigration options, having only been implemented in 2010, but has proved extremely popular.

Over 4,000 applications were received within half an hour of the 2012 programme opening, with the 300 spaces available being filled almost immediately. However, a computer error mistakenly informed a further 306 people their applications had been successful.

Immigration New Zealand originally tried to reject the applications, informing the 306 surplus applicants of the mistake and advising them to try again next year.

However, after an outcry from several immigration professionals, the decision was taken to grant the visas to all 606 people; Immigration Minister Nathan Guy expressed his disappointment and ordered an inquiry into how the error occurred.

While the decision to grant the visas was appreciated by rejected applicants and their immigration advisors, First Union has claimed it is irresponsible for Immigration New Zealand to allow surplus workers into the country when there are native New Zealanders, as well as previous Silver Fern applicants in New Zealand who are out of work.

"We are concerned at the current level of employment and the fact that the government is not providing training for locals and those already here to fill in the skills gap," said First Union's support co-ordinator, Dennis Maga.

"We should not be giving out hundreds of Silver Fern visas to foreigners when there is no counter programme to up-skill those in New Zealand."

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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