11 September 2012

Business complaints over New Zealand visa process grow

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A number of small business owners have added their voices to the growing complaints that the poorly handled New Zealand visa process hinders business.

New Zealand visa

Small businesses claim New Zealand policy is poorly executed

Last week, New Zealand's largest business advocacy group, BusinessNZ, said further steps needed to be taken to attract more migrants to New Zealand as current immigration policy makes the process difficult.

The group's complaints are now being echoed by small business owners who typically have to tackle the process of bringing in workers themselves.

One Wellington restaurant owner said his manager's New Zealand visa expired and struggled to secure a renewed visa due to Work and Income New Zealand's (WINZ) insistence that local labour be sought first.

"We put an ad on TradeMe specifically for [the manager] role, we monitored it for two weeks and had maybe 40 applicants. None of them was suitable," said Leonardo Bresolin, owner of the Wellington eatery.

"We went to WINZ with the information and WINZ said it didn't have anyone who could fill the position. Finally, she got a letter from Immigration saying she'd been declined."

Mr Bresolin's manager eventually obtained a new visa just days before she would have to leave the country but Mr Bresolin says the lack of specialist knowledge within Immigration New Zealand (INZ) means that little discretion is allowed for.

"It would be good to have a case manager dedicated to hospitality, with more of a finger on the pulse."

BusinessNZ's complaints did not centre on policy but rather execution of policy and Bennett Medary, chair of the New Zealand Information and Communications Technologies Group (NZICT), agrees.

"The government does research and creates policy but the policy outcomes fall far short of the goal or are in contradiction because there are so many layers of obstruction between policy making, execution and reality," said Mr Medary.

One former immigration minister, Aussie Malcolm, said immigration officials and case managers are now too preoccupied with detecting abuse of the immigration system whereas during his tenure, in the 1980s, officials were better experienced.

"They were able to exercise discretion because they had a wealth of experience," said Mr Malcolm.

"Immigration sees the exploitative employers, bent recruitment agents, fraudulent immigration advisors. What it doesn't seem to have is the ability to see that, for the most part, those are aberrations to the general rule."


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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