Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi
New Zealand warmly welcomes all migrants, including those from India, regardless of whether they are here to work, study or visit.
The Indian market is extremely important for us and we have recently seen an increase in the number of Indians choosing to come to New Zealand.
And it is easy to see why – our economy is growing, lots of jobs are being created and we have a world class international education sector.
The changes announced last month are aimed at improving the skill composition of the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) and ensuring that we attract migrants who bring economic benefits to New Zealand.
The changes absolutely do not discriminate on the grounds of race or ethnicity.
Introducing two remuneration thresholds will complement the current qualifications and occupation framework and help improve the overall quality of both our temporary and permanent migrants.
The government acknowledges that the changes mean anyone earning less than the New Zealand median income of around $49,000 a year will no longer be classified as highly-skilled and therefore have no pathway to residence.
No apology, please
But we make no apology for this – immigration policy, under successive governments, has been about making medium-term settings and accepting that there are fluctuations in migration around that. And that’s why these changes are necessary. At a time when demand is growing, we need to ensure a) control around the number and skill mix of migrants that are coming here, b) clarity around the conditions under which migrants are coming, and c) that Kiwis are given first priority where there are jobs available.
I reject the assertion by some immigration advisors that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has been mounting a campaign against Indian students.
The government has zero tolerance against fraud and has invested heavily in intelligence gathering and verification support resources for immigration officers in India.
Because of the complexity of the market and the high incidence of fraud, the student visa approval rates for India have traditionally been lower than elsewhere.
But, as a result of the firm and decisive action taken to tackle fraud, we are now seeing an increase in the number of quality visa applications from students.
For example, in the last six months, the approval rate for student visa applications decided in Mumbai for Indian students has risen to an average of around 70%. The number of applications has dropped because we have tackled the fraud and English language concerns, but while we are seeing fewer applications, they are of better quality and more are being approved.
There are some practical issues around regulating offshore student agents that some scaremongering agents fail to mention and to go down this route could see New Zealand being disadvantaged as many of our competitor countries do not regulate them.
It is important to note that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has been notifying all education providers in New Zealand when fraud has been identified in any application to study with them from Indian agents.
This allows providers to review their relationships with agents who have at any time lodged an application with fraudulent documentation in it.
As a consequence, the burden is on education providers to ensure that they are dealing with education agents of repute, as failure to do so may result in fewer international students being enrolled.
INZ has also offered an agent vetting service for the Indian market for the last 12 months so that providers know the performance of the agents they wish to contract.
In addition, any students who feel they have been misled by their agents are strongly encouraged to lodge complaints with the Indian Police.
No commitment to PR
Finally, I want to reiterate that any suggestion of a guaranteed pathway to residence for students is not a commitment that has been made by the New Zealand government. The INZ website makes it very clear to students that there is no guarantee whatsoever of them being able to transition onto work or resident visas. Instead, it details the options that may be available and the requirements that they would need to meet.
As a Member of Parliament and as a migrant myself, I can write confidently that this National-led government values immigrants and cherishes the social, economic and cultural contributions that immigrants have made and continue to make to our country.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi has been Member of Parliament on the National Party List. He is also Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Law and Order and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Police Minister. Please read our Editorial, ‘Immigration faucet needs safety valves’ under Viewlink.