Industry welcomes loosening of IT&T immigration rules

IT industry leaders and employers have welcomed government moves to make it easier for IT firms to recruit people from overseas with much needed specialist skills.

IT industry leaders and employers have welcomed government moves to make it easier for IT firms to recruit people from overseas with much needed specialist skills.

The Immigration Service has cemented into place a trial policy introduced last year abolishing the “labour market test”, meaning firms no longer have to prove no New Zealanders are available to perform certain roles.

Now, firms seeking rare skills should be able to see visas approved for various positions almost automatically if the jobs are on a regional government “occupational shortages list”.

At present within the IT and telecommunications industry Auckland is short of IT personnel (which excludes sales and administration type positions) and qualified telecomms engineers, Waikato needs IT personnel and qualified telecomms engineers, Manawatu, Wellington and Canterbury need IT specialists and Otago has a shortage of qualified IT specialists.

In addition, the government announced a Talent (Accredited Employers) Work Policy, formerly known as the “Talent Visa” option, which is aimed at employers who often recruit staff overseas. Migrants with job offers from accredited employers gain a more streamlined approvals process for work permits and visas. Accreditation will cost $1500 in the first year and $400 annually afterwards. Employers would have to reapply for accreditation every year and would need to meet certain criteria concerning their work practices and commercial viability. A related Work-to-Residence programme also allows eligible people to become residents after two years.

Both the Talent Work Policy and the Priority Occupations Work Policy require a minimum salary of $45,000 a year and an ongoing job offer.

ITANZ chief executive Jim O’Neill says the moves follow much pressure from ITANZ and others. In addition, setting a $45,000 salary minimum should prevent abuses of the new policies. The changes should also show New Zealand is interested in gaining global skills and should help Kiwi firms beat overseas rivals in securing staff, he says.

ITANZ is working with the NZIS on producing guidelines for immigration officials to assess more easily which skills are in particularly short supply, to help them identify who might qualify for a talent visa.

O’Neill believes that for candidates with the right skills and with all the paperwork in order there should be no excuse for permits taking more than a few weeks to be issued. These have taken several months previously.

TelstraClear spokesman Ralph Little welcomed the new measures, saying telcos have needed to search globally for specialist staff, particularly in programming, software and development applications. This includes its own ISP needing to recruit staff from as far away as Easter Europe, he says.

While TelstraClear prefers to build its own workforce, Little says, the country needs “practical schemes” like this to help the economy grow and prosper.

Paul Osborne, who recently recruited two Belorussians for his Auckland software company, RPK New Zealand, also welcomed the policy changes. He says they would help remove any uncertainties that existed in the old system and speed processes up.

The government plans a nationwide series of seminars on the measures this month. Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel also plans to write to employers outlining the policies. Details can be found at www.immigration.govt.nz.

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