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`High cost` parent visa could deter skilled migrants

Source: RNZ, 07/03/2020

An immigrant and their partner are now required to have a minimum
combined income of $212,160, which is four times the median
salary, to sponsor their parents move to New Zealand.
Under the previous National government, the income threshold was
set at $90,000.
For Gourav Sharma, who was invited to apply for residency under
the Identified Future Growth Area Visa, the new income standards
are impossible to meet.
`In this country there are just only a few professions where you
can earn over $100,000, otherwise most of the professions your
income would be just around the $60,000 to $70,000 mark.`
Mr Sharma said the visa is culturally insensitive.
`In our culture parents do not stay in like old age homes, they
always stay with their kids and as I am the only son of my
parents, the onus of the responsibility in there later phase of
their life is on me.`
Mr Sharma said comments that immigrant parents coming to New
Zealand are a significant burden on infrastructure and health
system are false.
A government report by the Education and Workforce Committee in
July said, `There is no evidence that parent category visa holder
are taking up social assistance in significant numbers.`
It goes on to say that 0 percent of a sample cohort of parent visa
holders were on benefits within their first two years in New
Zealand. The figure slightly rose to 1 percent after 2 to 5 years.
Mr Sharma said if more New Zealanders were aware of these numbers
it would placate fears that immigrant parents would come to New
Zealand and become a drain on taxpayers.
He said skilled migrants should definitely reconsider moving to
New Zealand and instead consider other countries such as Australia
and Canada which had more favourable parent visa laws.
Without a roadmap to bring his parents to New Zealand, Mr Sharma
said he, and many of his friends who were in similar situations,
were looking to relocate.
`I have spoken to at least a dozen people who say [their] number
one contender they are intending to move to is Canada.`
Rajni Garg, who moved to New Zealand nearly 5 years ago, was
devastated when she learnt she would be unable to have her parents
come live with her and her husband in their four bedroom house.
While they lived comfortably, the $200,000 income threshold was
beyond her and her partners means.
She said she would be willing to pay for her parents private
medical insurance if it meant they could live in New Zealand.
`The New Zealand government should not be giving [my parents] any
free health or other services, [my husband and I] should be
responsible for it. Based on their age, they may need good health
services which could be costly and we are happy to pay for it.`
When asked if she would recommend New Zealand to a skilled migrant
looking for somewhere else to live, she was unwavering in her
answer.
`Definitely not.`
Ms Garg and her husband are now considering a move to Australia
next year.
Business consultant and recruitment industry specialist, James
Walker, said the new category could deter some migrants. However,
he thought that for a small percentage of New Zealand Immigrants
the income threshold could be a great motivator.
`There will be some of those in the New Zealand marketplace who do
want to bring their parents over and it may work as a motivator
and incentive for them to invest more, do more, and grow
opportunities financially to be able to enable them to bring their
parents over.`
He said the new parent visa category and other changes to
immigration policies, such as the new $79,000 threshold for the
talent visa category, will make it harder for businesses to employ
skilled migrants who can step into the office and `hit the ground
running`.
But he said people needed to consider counter arguments, as it
appears that the new changes were targeted at the underemployed.
`There are hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders in the
workplace who are underemployed at the moment. What that means is
they possess a great level of competency, a great level of skill.
They might not have the past work experience that actually shows
that, but they`re more than capable performing some of these roles
that migrant workers come here to do.`
He said the onus will now go onto businesses to invest in the
training and recruitment of staff who are possibly outside the
industry. But he acknowledges it would be tougher for small
businesses who do not have the capital to invest in staff
development.
He said the government may need to look at a way to support small
to medium sized organisations to train under-utilised workers in
the marketplace.
The Minister for Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway, said all
cultures want to ensure that their parents are looked after.
He said the government reopened the parent category after the last
government closed it indefinitely after being concerned about the
costs of the programme. But he said the closure of the category
had put people`s lives into limbo and was unfair.
`We have reopened the parent category, but with tighter criteria
to ensure that parents will be fully supported by their children.
This is a category of residency specifically for highly skilled
migrants parents only, and hence the income levels match our new
skilled migrant category income thresholds.`
He said the previous settings for financial eligibility needed to
be updated.
`The new thresholds are indexed to the median New Zealand salary
and are now consistent with other residence categories. The median
wage [applies for] each person involved - ie 1 child sponsors 2
parents = 3 people to support, so 3 x the median wage.
`I understand some people will be disappointed, however we need to
give people clarity after being left in limbo by the previous
government, and also be sure that parents are well supported once
they get here.
`New Zealand has a strong economy and is full of opportunities.
Record numbers of people are applying to come to our country and
re-opening the parent category is only going to make us even more
attractive to people who want to work and live in Aotearoa.`
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