Migrants’ group warns OFWs: Silver Fern Visa doesn’t guarantee jobs in NZ

ANTIPOLO CITY, Philippines—Migrante-Aotearoa warns Filipino migrants that many foreign workers who migrated to New Zealand under the Work-to-Residence (WTR) implemented by the New Zealand government have failed to get a job when they arrived.

Apparently, the new Silver Fern Visa does not guarantee jobs in the said country despite repeated announcements that it can assist in strengthening the economy of New Zealand through the entry and contribution of highly skilled migrant workers.

The website, http://www.working-innewzealand.com/ says that the Silver Fern Visa, which will be available by April 2010, is intended to “broaden the options for applicants to make long-term contribution to New Zealand [economy] and to provide a pathway to New Zealand residency.

“The program is a part of Prime Minister John Key’s plan in overhauling the current immigration policy,” the website said.

The same website also said the visa is applicable to highly skilled migrants, whose qualifications are honored under the New Zealand’s labor laws, notwithstanding if said skills were acquired in New Zealand or from a country that has entered a visa-free agreement with New Zealand.

The new visa will also allow qualified New Zealanders and visa-free country applicants to enter or remain in the country as tourists for the meantime, while seeking permanent jobs in some areas that suffers from scarcity of skilled workers, announces the website.

Moreover, visa holders will also be allowed to legally obtain temporary work while seeking skilled employment.

In addition to this, Silver Fern Visa holders will be given a 24-month work visa that make them eligible to apply for residency in New Zealand under the Skilled Migrant Category or Work-to-Residence Scheme.

To be able to obtain such a visa, a candidate must be competent in the English language; a highly skilled worker; must meet full-time wage requirements; and possesses a tertiary qualification, including trade qualifications, from a New Zealand institution or from a country with which New Zealand has a visa-free agreement.

Countries that have visa-free agreement with the New Zealand Immigration are Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, and Vatican City.

Despite repeated announcements on the alleged benefits of having such a visa, the group says that employment in New Zealand for migrants is still hard to come by.

Migrante-Aoteaoroa said that instead of pushing for the Silver Fern Visa, it urges the national government to grant amnesty for skilled migrant workers currently in the country instead of recruiting more migrants under a new scheme.

“Why introduce a new visa scheme that may potentially increase the number of migrants that will just overstay in the future? In fact, there are already hundreds of skilled migrants who came here under the existing Work-to-Residence scheme, but failed to secure employment and residency under the economic recession,” Migante Aotearoa national coordinator Dennis Maga said.

Meanwhile, Migrante-Aotearoa and other groups of foreign workers believe that the new immigration policy will fail to attract skilled migrants if the government will not address the issue of unemployment, upgrading of skills by the locals and unhealthy competition between foreign workers and the Kiwis.

“As long as there is high rate of unemployment in the country, skilled migrants have a slim chance at getting a job according to their skills. It would also be difficult for migrants to apply for jobs given that they will unhealthily compete with Kiwis in the labor market,” he said.

He said further that the Immigration Ministry of NZ should offer an amnesty to skilled migrants who were unable to find jobs due to economic recession such as the case of those who came under the WTR scheme.

“The Silver Fern visa sounds attractive, for it promises a new pathway to residency for young skilled migrants, but we would advise people to think more than twice for it could be another scheme that will end in shattered dreams,” Maga said. (Dateline Philippines)