Immigration July Newsletter
- Partnership-Based Temporary Visa Applications: Stuck Between a Rock and Hard Place
- Shortage of construction staff
- Introduction to the New Zealand Real Estate Investment Trust
- Skilled staff in demand
Partnership-Based Temporary Visa Applications: Stuck Between a Rock and Hard Place
There appears to be a change in how Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is assessing partnership-based temporary visa applications where the couple has not previously lived together. We have observed INZ taking an increasingly rigid stance towards applications where couples have developed their relationship online or entered into an arranged married according to cultural custom, but not physically lived together prior to lodging a partnership-based temporary visa application.
INZ policy requires applicants to be living with their New Zealand resident, citizen or work visa holder partner in a ‘genuine and stable’ relationship before a partnership-based temporary visa can be granted to the overseas applicant. Traditionally, INZ has accepted that, if a genuine couple has not lived together because of their customs or religious beliefs, a general visitor visa can be granted to the overseas applicant. This would allow the person to enter New Zealand and start living with the New Zealand resident or work visa holder to facilitate a partnership-based visa application in due course, providing the applicant meets the basic character and health requirements. The requirement to demonstrate that the person is a genuine temporary applicant was traditionally applied in a relaxed manner if INZ was satisfied that the couple was genuine, particularly if they had entered into an arranged marriage in accordance with their cultural practices. This approach reflected recognition from INZ of the importance certain cultures place on marriage and the ‘stabilising’ consequence of marriage on a couple’s relationship.
Over the past year we have seen an increase in the number of enquiries from applicants who have had partnership-based temporary visa applications declined because they could not show they were a “genuine” visitor. To be approved, INZ expects an applicant to demonstrate, among other things, sufficient incentives to return to their home country prior to the conclusion of their visa (i.e. in the event the relationship does not work out), that outweigh the factors that might persuade a person to continue to stay in New Zealand even though the relationship has ended. This is where we are seeing applications fall over, particularly from South East Asia. This is because the ability to demonstrate a person’s incentives to return to their home country if it is a developing country can be more difficult than if you are from a western country. This is especially true for applicants who are young and do not have strong financial ties to their home country, such as a strong career or substantial property interests.
If an applicant is from a developing country, INZ’s new stance implies that it expects the New Zealand based resident/citizen or work visa holder to first relocate to the applicant’s country of origin so the couple can live together in order to meet the requirements of a partnership-based temporary visa application. This of course may not be possible because of the New Zealand-based partner’s work or family commitments. This requirement is also particularly onerous and places an unnecessary amount of stress on a couple before they have even had the opportunity to start living together.
We surmise this may be a result of INZ seeing an increased number of these types of relationships fail once the partner arrives in New Zealand. INZ’s toughened stance is something for applicants to watch out for and, in our view, highlights just how inflexible our partnership-based visa policy can be. It has been developed with a particular relationship in mind. Also, the value of marriage as a ‘marker’ of a genuine and stable relationship to certain cultures is either diminished or ignored in favour of cohabitation as being the true ‘test’ of a relationship.
In our view, this policy will only become more problematic for New Zealanders and their partners with the rise and normalisation of online dating as the primary means of starting and maintaining a relationship in the modern world.
Shortage of construction staff
Around the world following the global financial crisis of 2008-09 there has been a reduction of people entering the construction sector. This is understandable when one considers the big over-supplies of housing in many economies, the collapse of so many construction firms during the downturn, and the massive range of alternative, safer, sectors for young people to go into these days. Throw in increasing licensing requirements encouraging some older participants to leave the sector and it is unsurprising that in many countries there is a shortage of construction staff.
The United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, Australia, and New Zealand are short of staff. New Zealand is interesting in that although we did not go into 2008 with an over-supply of houses, construction nonetheless fell to its weakest level since the 1960s.
In the middle of 2011 only 13,500 consents were issued for the construction of dwelling units around New Zealand. This followed a peak of 34,000 in 2004, a previous low of 15,000 in 1982, and an all-time peak of over 40,000 in 1975.
This longer term comparison is useful for putting the current apparent “boom” in house building into perspective. New Zealand has a population of almost exactly five million people. We hit three million in 1973. So if things were to be as strong now as back in the early-1970s we would need construction of around 67,000 houses – almost double the current number of 34,700.
And it is important to note that since 2004 the country’s population has grown near 22% with Auckland ahead 34% and the rest of New Zealand 17%. There is a shortage of housing in New Zealand and the shortage of tradespeople means it is going to get worse. In fact some economists recently estimated the shortfall to be near 130,000 as opposed to the 50,000+ people were talking about five or so years ago.
This means a number of things. First, if you are a tradesperson then the world is literally your oyster. That is good. The downside however is that the locations which want you the most are probably also those with the highest level of house prices. So accommodation costs if one shifts country are likely to be high. Bargaining for subsidised housing might be a good idea for those tradespeople being sought by New Zealand companies.
At least debt-servicing costs in New Zealand are falling for those who do shift here and purchase a house to live in. A standard two year fixed interest rate on a home mortgage is now near 3.8% with potential for further decline. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand cut its official cash rate by 0.25% recently and the chances are good that they will cut again one or two times before the end of the year.
Monetary policy has also been eased in Australia, the tightening cycle has turned in the United States, and easier conditions are highly likely in the UK and Eurozone very soon. This means that while we might normally expect falling interest rates in New Zealand to produce weakness in the New Zealand dollar, scope for a decline is actually fairly limited. This is especially so when we consider the good prices being received for many New Zealand primary exports.
From a purchasing power of Kiwi earnings back home point-of-view the likely continued strength of the New Zealand dollar is a good thing. But from the point of view of getting a good quantity of Kiwi dollars from one’s home currency if shifting in the near future, thus reducing the home purchase burden, the news is not so good.
Article provided by Tony Alexander – Chief Economist, Strategy & Business Performance, BNZ.
Introduction to the New Zealand Real Estate Investment Trust
The property sector continues to feature as a dependable alternative in a late cycle market with its sustainable and reliable dividend income proving an economic trait. With a capital-gain tax off the table for now, property is unlikely to encounter political shocks in New Zealand, another desirable attribute for a market which continues to trade on record multiples. Many regard the sector as a “bond proxy” albeit with an element of equity risk given its ability to provide low-risk income with a slightly higher yield.
New Zealand property is considered a lower-risk, lower-return investment with two ways to gain exposure: First, there is direct property ownership; owning a property which you manage and rent out yourself. Second, there are the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), otherwise known as Publicly Listed Property Vehicles (LPVs), which trade on the sharemarket. A REIT is a company that invests in and manages property, paying its investors a dividend each year. By market capitalisation the NZ REITs sector is valued at over NZ$12.0 billion, around a tenth of the wider market. It is diversified across the traditional asset classes of office, industrial and retail and healthcare.
While direct property investment is suitable for some, particularly those who prefer more control and have property management skills, ownership through REITs can provide a number of benefits over direct property ownership including:
- Providing exposure to assets of a quality and scale unattainable for individual investors.
- Offering diversification across a wider range of properties across geographic locations.
- Providing access to commercial property without large upfront capital requirements.
- Offering liquidity through the ability to buy and sell shares through the NZX.
- Access to professional managers to drive occupancy rates and gain efficiencies.
- REITs are recognised by Immigration New Zealand as an active investment under the investor migrant programme (unlike bonds).
Pleasingly the sector has taken the opportunity to strengthen and it is now in better shape than prior to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) with:
1) solid underlying property fundamentals,
2) improving portfolio quality, and
3) conservative debt levels.
A low interest rate environment should continue to provide a level of support for valuations. The performance of REITs has not disappointed either. Both global and domestic indexes delivered spectacular returns over the past 12 months, with the S&P/NZX ALL Real Estate Gross index up 27% as investors have strived to find high yielding stable investments in the current low return environment.
There has been continuing significant amount of bond maturation occurring. This combined with a lack of new bond issuance and low interest rates, with RBNZ commentary indicating further reductions are likely, means retail investors are being asked one question: do you wish to adjust your lifestyle to a low returning environment or are you comfortable absorbing equity risk to retain elements of the current one?
Investors choosing to swap bonds to REITs should bear in mind that a REIT is still a type of shares, which is correlated to economic cycle, valuation and overall market performance. During GFC, NZ REITs sector was down 4.3% in 2007 and down another 20.8% in 2008 before going back to positive returns. In the same period, NZ equities were down 2% in 2007 and down 31.4% in 2008, while NZ corporate bonds were up 2.7% in 2007 and up 15.4% in 2008.
Article provided by Ally Cui – Director, Private Wealth Adviser, JBWere
Ally Cui can be contacted on Ally.Cui@jbwere.co.nz or +64 (9) 365 0888.
Skilled staff in demand
The mid-Winter blues continue here with demand for “lower skilled” staff declining. This is a traditional seasonal trend, however, for Canterbury the “hang over” post our seismic events of 2010 and 2011 seems to suggest we now have a new normal. Recent media reports on declining business confidence and a growing unemployment rate suggest career and job prospects and opportunity in New Zealand is waning.
However, all our branches across the nation still require “skilled staff” and, as such, the Governments focus on social issues (whilst good) appears to be having a negative impact on the job prospects for “low skilled” employees and employers in this market place.
Employers with “mid and higher” level skill requirements, particularly in “niche” markets, continue to have high levels of demand. There appears to be a growing lag in our ability to grow skill levels quickly enough and for the employer’s to meet market demand.
This means quality migrant candidates with strong skill sets, particularly in niche markets, continue to have strong chances of securing job offers contrary to recent economic indicators.
Article provided by Steve Baker – Enterprise Recruitment and People.
Enterprise Recruitment and People has a national presence. We remain interested in providing obligation free advice to offshore candidate’s about their chances of securing employment in New Zealand. Steve can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 00 64 3 3530680.
DIY Work Visa Workshops
Come to our “DIY Work Visa” Workshop to find out all you need to know to make a successful application without the requirement for a full immigration service.
Wellington – Tuesday 3 September 2019
Queenstown – Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Partner, Lane Neave
t +64 3 353 1063
m +64 21 222 2363
Partner, Lane Neave
t +64 3 372 6323
m +64 21 1306 540