The Information Technology Association has issued more than 200 "letters of support" over the past year to experienced, but unqualified, IT workers wanting to work in New Zealand.
ITANZ executive director Jim O'Neill says immigrants need the letters to gain a work permit or sufficient points for residency from the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS), when they have the right experience but not the formal qualifications for jobs whose skills are in short supply.
Some 82 letters were sent to South Africa, 75 to Britain, 26 to Sri Lanka, 15 to the US, nine to the Phillipines, 10 to Germany and eight to India. Others went to Australia, Brazil, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and several Asian and European countries. "NZIS says these figures [for letters] reflect the numbers applying direct through them," says O'Neill.
NZIS Asia-Pacific regional director Aaron Baker confirms the links with ITANZ and the special policy concerning the letters. "The knowledge worker is fast-tracked through the system," he says. Baker says his staff aim to get immigrants "shrink-wrapped" - coming here with jobs lined up, rather than arriving and failing to get work.
O'Neill says demand for such letters is increasing and expects to issue 40% to 50% more in 2001. In recent weeks, the number of letters has reached two dozen a week. The jobs have included IT managers and business development managers, while skills needed have included Windows NT and Novell networking, Oracle project management, SQL and Java.
In the past year, 165 applicants seeking letters of support secured work in Auckland, 89 in Wellington, 13 in Christchurch and others in New Plymouth, Rotorua, Hamilton, Nelson, Taupo and Dunedin. Their salaries were typically $46,000 to $75,000, with "a few" over $140,000 and "a good deal" over $100,000, says O'Neill. They do not include those with the correct, formal qualifications, who did not need such letters. ITANZ says it can process these letters within five to seven days. If the foreign job applicants have the right skills and a job offer they should have no trouble getting here, ITANZ says.
Meanwhile, ITANZ is working with NZIS on recruitment shows in India, the UK and elsewhere. Immigration fairs in India last year led to recruits from the sub-continent and this is set to be repeated. "NZIS is keen on bringing these skills to New Zealand and we are doing our best to help them," O'Neill says.
Some 160 Indian familes a month - "a significant increase" - apply to come to New Zealand under the general skills category - which means they need tertiary qualifications. This generally takes nine months to two years to process. However, for work visas these can take three to six months for Indians and as fast as an hour for others from countries, where things can instantly be checked over the internet, phone or other means.