Category Archives: New Zealand Immigration

Do not study business

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In a previous post, I exposed the dangerous minefield called the student visa.

If you are the type of person where money is not an issue and really want to pursue further studies in New Zealand then it would be wise to select the right course that would increase your chances of securing a skilled job.

Recently, I’ve been meeting a lot of pinoys studying diploma of business here that had been sold to them by unscrupulous agents back home.

Many have paid thousands of dollars, worked in odd jobs and ended up packing their bags in debt.

Studying business is a terrible choice if you plan on permanently settling here.

After finishing your studies it is highly unlikely someone will offer you to “manage” their business.

For one, New Zealand is a tiny, isolated country in the Pacific where the average business is 1-5 people, a vast majority of which are solo operators.

Think about this – if you had a business in the Philippines would you hire a foreigner to manage your operations?

No, you would hire someone with local knowledge and that takes years of on-the-ground experience.

Not an expensive piece of paper.

Business courses do not teach a marketable trade or specific skill.

The most successful business people in the world did not study “business”, they just had an idea and learned it as they went along.

Another similar course being peddled is “Healthcare Management” to target the clueless pinoy nurses and other medical professionals.

The reason why these types of courses are being pushed are the low overhead costs of offering these programs. Whereas let’s say you offer a degree like engineering or computer networking, you would need to build the expensive infrastructure to support it.

With “Healthcare Management” or “Business,” all you need is a room, perhaps a whiteboard and a guy off the street pretending to be a “management guru.”

What it ultimately boils down to is that Kiwi employers are not looking to give any “fresh off the boat” immigrant any kind of managerial or leadership position.

Because of its size, taking in a rookie “manager” is a risky position for most New Zealand companies. Aggravating this further are the strict labour laws, making it hard to fire people who they later find unsuitable.

If you are aspiring Kiwi and want to learn a skill that will lead to jobs, the best course of action would be to look at the job sites and talk directly to employers.

How to enter New Zealand as a Filipino

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Since I started this blog, I have been asked several times about the different pathways to legally enter New Zealand. I would like to begin that all information is on the official immigration website and what I will enumerate is a mere summary of the most common pathways that Filipinos take to START living and working in New Zealand. Please note that this is not immigration advice but a bird’s eyeview of the NZ immigration system as of this date, and is subject to change anytime.

1. Skilled Migrant Category Residence Visa

This is the “ultimate end goal” among Filipinos 55 years old and under, wanting to live and work in New Zealand. It works on a points-based system based on your age, qualifications, work experience and skilled job offer. It goes without saying that you must be healthy, have no criminal convictions and fluent in English. This is a process that normally takes anywhere between 1-2 years from Expression of Interest to the stamping of your resident visa on your passport.

2. Essential Skills Work Visa

If you have the skills that New Zealand needs and your employer proves to immigration that no kiwi is available to do the job then you might be entitled to get this visa. You will undergo a process called “labour market testing” except for accredited employers authorised by immigration. Karamihan sa mga kababayan natin na nagtatrabaho sa Christchurch rebuild ay ito ang way of entry.

3. Student Visa

Contrary to what immigration advisers might say, this is the most expensive and riskiest visa to take as I explained before.  This is the option most Filipinos presently take if they don’t qualify for the points threshold of a Resident Visa. It allows you to work part time for 20 hours every week and full-time during school breaks. With this visa, you take a course to study and depending on the level you MIGHT be eligible for a Post Study Work Visa to allow you to stay in the country and look for work. But make sure you have loads of money upwards of 1 million pesos (that you might not recoup) if you decide to take this route.

4. Silver Fern Job Search Visa

For highly skilled young people (20-35 years old) wanting to come in and look for work. There is a quota of 300 slots each year so you have to get in quick. This is a better option than entering via Student Visa in my opinion.

5. Working Holiday Visa

A recent new visa for Filipinos, aged 18-30 to allow you to work 3 months for a single employer. For this reason, this is a good option only if your primary reason is tour and see the country. Nonetheless, it allows you to enter the country and legally seek work.

6. Work Visa based on partnership

Take note there is no fiance visa like in the US. A certificate of marriage wouldn’t suffice either. Ideally, you have to be living with your partner (can be a same boy or a girl) for 12 months or more before applying for this visa, and there are enough documents to prove financial interdependence (e.g. joint bank accounts, tenancy agreement, etc.) to be eligible for this visa. So searching dating sites for a kiwi boyfriend or girlfriend is a no go.

7. Visitor Visa

There are some incredible stories from Filipinos who were on a visitor visa but were able to get a job and permanent residence but these are VERY RARE, usually coming from the older crowd who arrived pre-2000. Still, getting a visitor visa is a relatively low risk move to allow you to see the country and possibly meet employers without spending heaps of cash. But at the end of the day, you would still need a work visa as above to sign and take a job offer.

8. Enterpreneur Work Visa

I haven’t met a Filipino who went via this route. In case you’re interested, you need at least $100,000 NZD or 3.5M pesos to invest and start a business here.

There you go. As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to starting your New Zealand dream. What works for Pedro will not necessarily work for Juan. But in the end, take responsibility for your own actions and not play the “victim card” when things don’t go your way. Do your own research that applies to your own situation and take that calculated risk.

Why you don’t need an Immigration Adviser

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Let me begin by saying I have nothing against licensed immigration advisers who ask for a fee for their services. All businesses in the world need to make a profit to survive. For their “assistance”, most immigration advisers are charging between $4000-5500 dollars (up to 176,000 pesos) for a Skilled Migrant Category application.

However, before using their services it is good to ask yourself “What value does an immigration adviser provide me?”

Do they have access to a secret vault of knowledge that only immigration advisers are entitled to? Any immigration adviser who tells you this is lying to you as the Official Information Act of New Zealand guarantees that all government information is free and available to the public. Consequently, all information relating to immigration matters is published online. Everything you need to know about the entire application process is found here, also known as the Operations Manual. It’s either you qualify or you don’t.

Do you gain any sort of advantage in the visa application process by using an immigration adviser? As above, Immigration New Zealand states:

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Would this immigration adviser help me find a job? The answer would probably be NO.

One time there was a dodgy immigration adviser advertising his services on Facebook when I asked him why I would need his services. To which he replied “One third of applications from Asia are declined if they do not use an immigration adviser.”

This answer is not only misleading but portrays New Zealand as a racist country so I prodded him to provide statistical evidence for his assertion, mentioning the Official Information Act.

He then refused to answer and blocked me which is a violation of his code of conduct. This adviser who I shall not name is currently licensed, so beware of scare mongering and hard sell tactics. Some even earn a big commission by placing international students in certain schools. Again, a conflict of interest and a violation of their code of conduct.

The truth is, self-managed applications actually have higher success rates than agent assisted ones.

Frankly, I would only use an immigration adviser or lawyer on two occasions – one, if I’m too lazy to do the research and paperwork myself (in one of the most important decisions of my life) OR if I  have a complex case like Section 61 requiring the intervention of the Immigration Minister.

The whole migration process is already expensive as it is. Do yourself a favor by saving your 4000 or so dollars, and use that for your move and settlement. It will go a long way.

10 Reasons NOT to migrate to New Zealand

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Forewarned is forearmed

A lot of Filipinos who move here don’t have any idea what life is like in New Zealand before taking the plunge. Spending a couple of hours on the internet does not tell you about the realities on the ground and most make their decision based on propaganda, half-truths and outright lies expounded by people with a clear financial interest of bringing people over. As you are investing heaps of your hard earned money, not to mention abandoning a secure job in the Philippines, it is imperative that you do a thorough research, perhaps make an initial visit and ask people who made similar moves to assess if the country is a right fit.  Only after spending a couple of months living here did I learned the following things about New Zealand:

1. Limited Shopping Options

As I mentioned in my first post, the country is only made up of only 4.5 million people and as such, most multinational companies shun the country because of its limited market and high cost of doing business. The country’s biggest retailer, The Warehouse sells mostly cheap quality goods reminiscent of Divisoria but exorbitantly priced. They would sell a good morning type towel for $10 NZD (around 320 pesos today) or a generic Iphone charger for $30. To combat this, I would do most of my shopping online or overseas and just bring them over.

2. No big malls and shops close early

In relation to number one, American style consumerism is non-existent here, which could be to your advantage if you are a minimalist. Aside from petrol (read: gasoline) stations and supermarkets, stores normally close between 5 to 6pm. The streets would be virtually a ghost town after this time.

3. Cold, damp Housing

Back in the Philippines, I was not rich by any means but grew up in a middle-class bungalow in Marikina, east of Manila. Our house was built of reinforced steel and concrete and the wooden parts made of solid Yakal. It was built in the 70s but survived a major earthquake, strong typhoons year in and out and severe flooding. But here in New Zealand I was quite shocked on the condition of some houses which were poorly insulated, wet and moldy considering it is a so-called “first world country”. This in turn can cause respiratory problems especially to young children. I have travelled to some of the colder and poorer parts in Europe but they had better houses. A simple google search of “New Zealand leaky homes” would provide more detail.

4.  Perennial Unemployment

Official data from Statistics New Zealand reveal that there are 146,000 people unemployed during the first quarter of 2015 and this is quite a huge number for a small economy like New Zealand. Most of these people, as well as low income families, rely on government handouts to survive. Thus, it is commonplace to see 200+ applicants per vacancy, as they need to provide proof they are looking for work (e.g. rejection letters) to continue receiving the benefit. Coming in as an immigrant poses an extreme job hunting challenge that I will discuss in a separate article.

5. Entry via Skilled Migrant Category/Job Search Visa carries a lot of risk

Immigration process is relatively fast and straightforward. However, the route that most Filipinos take which is the SMC, Work to Residence or Job Search Visa is actually a temporary visa that lets you find “skilled” work in a certain timeframe of say 6 or 9 months. If you don’t find work within a set number of parameters then you are kicked out of the country plain and simple, despite you paying thousands of dollars.

6. Geographical Isolation

New Zealand is at the bottom of the world and if you like to travel the nearest flight out would be to Australia which is 3 hours away. If you hold a Filipino passport, this would require a visa. Other options are Pacific Islands like Fiji, Samoa or Vanuatu which are visa-free but extremely expensive destinations as they are very remote and everything is imported.

7. High cost of living

Yes, the minimum wage here is around 80,000 pesos per month but the cost of everything is exponentially higher than in Manila. For example, the price of a two-piece KFC meal is twice as much as in the Philippines, and they serve no rice with it!

8. Bad weather

When it is sunny, the scenery of New Zealand is truly majestic but it is rainy and windy in most days of the month. The amount of rainfall that New Zealand gets is favourable to its agricultural industry but the same could make some people miserable and depressed especially during the winter months of June to August.

9. Few career opportunities

Data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show that 90% of all businesses in New Zealand have fewer than 5 employees while 70% have NO employees. More than half of these small enterprises close down before reaching its 4th year. This figure indicates that there are very limited opportunities for career advancement.

10. Poor public transport

If you picture mass public transport which is fast, efficient and on time like in Hongkong or Singapore, you will be disappointed with New Zealand. Because few people use it and prefer to take their own cars, the fare is hiked up to make a decent profit. So when you settle, getting a car and a driver’s license should be the first on your checklist especially in Auckland or Christchurch where everything is spread out.

In summary, you have to weigh the things above if you think these are deal breakers or the rewards greatly outweigh the downsides. I go with the latter. At the end of the day, no country is perfect and moving to a new city is all about taking the good as well as the bad.

10 reasons to migrate to New Zealand

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Photo from Otago Daily Times

People have many different motivations of migrating to a new country. Whatever the reason, taking the big leap is an expensive, time-consuming and life-altering decision so you really have to do your homework.  For myself, making the move halfway across the globe was the most sensible choice during the time I decided to migrate alone at age 29.

1. Lifestyle

In Manila, I used to work over 80 hours a week and spend an average of four hours on the road because of heavy traffic. Like most pinoys, my job required me at times to work overtime and weekends. Aside from less time with family and friends, I knew that this routine in the long run can put a serious toll on my health.

Enter New Zealand – where employers place a heavy emphasis on work-life balance and people work an average of 37 hours a week. Auckland and Wellington, two of New Zealand’s biggest cities, consistently rank high on Mercer’s”Quality of Life” index. All employees are entitled to a minimum four weeks paid annual leave on top of ten public holidays a year, and mandatory paid sick and bereavement leaves. With the radical change of pace, working in New Zealand feels almost like semi-retirement.

2. Clean and beautiful

Dubbed as the “youngest country,” New Zealand was the last large landmass on earth where human beings set foot — first by the Maoris and then the Europeans. It has almost the same land area of the Philippines but only 4.5 million people (estimated as of June 2014). Because of its low population density, it does not have the problems of pollution and congestion like most big cities in the world. In my six years of living here, I have not seen even one cockroach or rodent.

3. Less corruption and red tape

Transparency International consistently ranks New Zealand as one of the least corrupt countries in the world. Although this perception index is highly subjective, you can see that government budgets and processes are publicly published and officials are held accountable. Government services like renewing a driver’s license or passport is fast and efficient, and can be done online.

4. Adventure playground

New Zealand is also known as the “adventure capital of the world” more specifically Queenstown in the South Island. This was where commercial bungy jumping was first introduced. If you are an adrenaline junkie like myself, NZ offers all sorts of terrain from 14,000 kilometers of coastline, to mountain ranges, lush forests, caves, lakes and rivers. This is one of the few places in the world where you can go skiing in the morning and spend a day on the beach in the afternoon.

There is always something to do all year round. Thanks to its temperate climate, you don’t have extreme winters like in the States or Canada or very dry summers like in Australia or the Philippines.

5. Immigration process relatively faster and straighforward

The entire process from the first step known as the EOI or Experssion of Interest up to the issuance of permanent resident visa through the Skilled Migrant Category takes up to an average of 1-2 years. This is a lot quicker and less complicated system than similar skilled migrant intakes in the USA, Australia or even Canada which takes a whole lot longer. In the event they decline your visa, they have to cite a reason and you will be given a fair chance to respond.

I managed the whole application by myself and didn’t require the help of a costly immigration adviser. All you need is to visit here and do a job market research that I will tackle on a separate article.

6. English speaking and multi-cultural

Since most pinoys speak good English, we usually have an easy time communicating and integrating into New Zealand society as a whole. Although the Kiwi accent may take a while getting used to, it does not present a big barrier from understanding each other. NZ has in fact a long history of migration dating back to the 17th century and today, 1 out of 4 New Zealanders is already born overseas.

7. Family friendly

New Zealand is one of the best countries to raise children and I can’t emphasize this enough. There are an abundance of parks and wide open spaces where children are free to play and roam around. There are also generous paid parental leaves (16 weeks during the time of this writing) that allow parents to spend time with their baby during its early life. Primary and secondary education is free. Those in low income families are given tax credits to supplement their income.

8. Access to world-class education

When a child reaches time to enter tertiary education, they will have access to borrowing money from the government to pay for their studies whatever course they want to take. As a permanent resident of New Zealand, you also have access to this same benefit if you decide later on to upskill yourself. Most universities in New Zealand rank consistenly high in the QS World University Rankings, at par with the best universities in the west.

9. Strong consumer laws and access to credit

Remember the last time you shopped at SM and you had to return a defective electronic product? Not only was the process a pain and you were given a run around, consumer laws in the Philippines is very weak if not totally non-existent especially against big corporations. Not in New Zealand, wherein a faulty product can be returned to the shop and repaired or replaced with no questions asked. You also have bigger access to credit here which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you manage your finances.

10. “Almost Free” Healthcare

I say “almost” because there is a lot of misinformation regarding this. If you get hit by a car and you call an ambulance and then they take you to the hospital, all charges relating to your treatment and recovery is free. But what are the odds of that happening more than once in your lifetime? In most cases, children under the age of 13 pay zero fees when they get sick but older people have to pay for their doctor’s visit (called a GP or General Practitioner) while prescription medicines are subsidised but not free.

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Sign at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin

Up next, I will discuss 10 reasons NOT to choose New Zealand as most of the information found on the internet today allude only to the reasons cited above and totally dismiss the downsides of moving here.