Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Realistic Expectations - Migrate and Work in New Zealand

Creating Realistic Expectations

For most migrants the key to making the right decisions are realistic expectations in areas such as employability, salaries and immigration. Too many professionals and officials will paint a rosy picture, but you need to build a clear and true view before committing to avoid disappointment.
The first thing you should know is that the New Zealand job market is pretty tough right now. The recession and higher unemployment rates mean that jobs can be hard to find even for migrants with good skills, qualifications, experience and the right to work in NZ.
As a minimum any potential migrants should have a clear idea of how employable they are before even thinking of travelling to New Zealand.
Many of the people asking about work in NZ and thinking of jumping straight on a plane are unaware that they lack the skills needed and have little chance of being offered work in New Zealand or of getting a visa!
Unfortunately I am not legally allowed to tell anyone when it's a terrible idea that will never work because that could be viewed as immigration advice meaning that they must either pay a licensed adviser to get this bad news or find out the hard way in New Zealand.

Immigration streams and requirements

The requirements for working and employing staff in New Zealand are deeply affected by the rules of the immigration stream you are using to obtain a visa. All of the information is available online in the immigration department's website and operations manual.
For example those on open work visas and working holiday schemes can take up pretty much any job making it easy for employers to hire them. Family members being sponsored for Residency can also apply for most roles, however between being offered the job and starting work is likely to be around 2 years due to processing delays which has become a hidden barrier for most people.
The vast majority of migrants need a skilled job offer to apply for a permanent or temporary work visa and there are a series of questions they should ask if they are thinking of going down this route.
  1. Are you 'skilled'?
    What is a 'skilled' job? You can check by looking through the Skill Shortage Lists and also the immigration department's list of 'Skilled' occupations.

    Bear in mind that to be considered 'skilled' you will need to have the qualifications and/or experience stipulated in the shortage lists or the ANZSCO (Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations).

  2. Are you qualified?
    Yes you may have a certificate, but is it accepted in New Zealand? There are two tests for your qualifications, passing both is vital.

    1. Is your qualification accepted by immigration?
      The NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) assesses overseas qualifications for suitability. You can check whether your qualifications need to be assessed and if so apply to NZQA for assessment.

    2. Is your qualification accepted by employers?
      Only an employer who might hire you (and some specialist recruitement companies) can tell you whether your qualifications are acceptable. This means the best way to find out if your qualifications are okay is to get on the phone and ask - don't leave it until you are in NZ to find out!
      Note: some courses in NZ will provide you with qualifications that are not accepted anywhere! See page 6 of this newsletter

  3. Are your skills rare?
    An added barrier to those who have found an employer who wants to hire them is Labour Market Testing. Basically if an NZ employer wants to hire skilled overseas staff they have to show the immigration department that:
    • they have made a genuine effort to attract NZ citizens and residents to do the job; and
    • there are no NZ citizens and residents available.

    Often immigration will ask for a check of the Work and Income (WINZ) database to confirm there are no suitable unemployed citizens or residents in your field. The problem for you (and any potential employer) is that this takes around three months during which time you cannot start work. This can raise a barrier to stop you getting the job and can also add signifant extra costs as you sit and wait.

    If enough hits are found the employer's request to hire you is likely to be declined. This means that only applications for roles involving a high level of skill, experience and training is likely to pass a labour market test.

    To avoid cost and maybe disappointment it's a good idea to run your own test through this database before committing yourself.
    Note: although the immigration department's website states that if your job is listed on one of the Skills Shortage Lists they accept there are no New Zealanders to do the job this does not meant they will not carry out a labour market test!

    You can see from this list that there is no mention of main applicants being able to pick up unskilled or semi-skilled jobs in New Zealand for temporary work or residency. There are simply too many unemployed people here to make this an option as New Zealanders do (and should) come first.

    Occupational Registration

    Do you need to be registered with an official group or body to work in New Zealand? If so the immigration department will require you to be registered if you want a visa.
  4. List of occupations requiring registration
  5. Registration bodies


Finding out what you are likely to be paid in New Zealand is vital for most people to get their sums right. You can use PayScale to get a free personalised salary report. PayScale This will give you a scale of salaries to expect but remember - you're new and may well have to prove your abilities. As a result you may start on a lower salary in the beginning and have to work your way up so don't assume you'll be getting top dollar unless employers tell you so.

Using Recruitment Companies

Recruitment companies can be a useful tool for you but will generally only work with migrants with the legal right to work in New Zealand. Although a useful tool never rely solely on recruiters to find you a job. Networking and contacts is the key to finding work in New Zealand so stay in control of your search, keep looking on your own behalf, and never sign anything which restricts your right to use as many methods as possible to find work (such as an exclusive contracts).

Paying for a job

As looking for work is now that much harder in New Zealand many companies (including immigration professionals) are springing up offering to help you find a job for a fee. Is using one of these companies a good idea?

Where to look for work

The good news is that many migrants find it tough because New Zealand is unlike pretty much anywhere else and so people make mistakes like looking in the wrong places. Luckily I've written a number of articles on where and how to look for work that you should find helpful including A guide to searching for work in New Zealand Most people use websites and then email their CV through, or rely on recruitment companies to look for them. Based on my experiences of working with thousands of migrants the best method in NZ is always to contact employers direct as many jobs are never advertised and only an employer can really tell you how employable you are!
To search job opportunities online (and remember I recommend approaching employers direct, especially if you don't yet have the legal right to work in New Zealand) there is an excellent list of links put together by the immigration department you can look through.

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