As I have already mentioned, what the relocation TV shows don’t show you is the sheer grind of getting to grips with the bureaucracy involved. Of all the tasks so far, finding a discernible path through the labyrinthine convolutions of the immigration regulations must rank as the most frustrating. In this topsy-turvy world, rules change can and do to accommodate governmental policy changes and shifts in employment demographics, often leaving the émigré back at square one. This is a world where skilled manual trades-people and key workers rule, their tertiary qualifications and experience making them valuable assets to be encouraged and assisted. Likewise, applicants in certain high-tech professions and artistic high flyers are also keenly sought. Middle of the road folk like me, who have good solid business experience but no degree, have to plough their furrow through slightly tougher ground.
The main obstacle to migrating to any desirable destination is gaining enough points to submit an Expression Of Interest to an immigration authority’s pool. From this pool, a selection are chosen for qualification to apply for a work permit and/or permanent residence. Like their US and Canadian counterparts, the New Zealand Immigration Service is fairly strict and selective about whom they wish to welcome – too much say some, who point to the recently tightened language requirements as proof of bias. Those with family ties can apply through the Family Stream, others with significant assets can apply in the Investor Category but many seek to make the move as a Skilled Migrant, gaining entry with provable skills and experience that are in short supply in key areas. However, establishing whether one falls into any of the numerous Skilled Migrant categories requires one to navigate through a complex net of web pages and regulations. The Standard Classification of Occupations, Occupational Registration, Registration Authorities, Immediate Skill Shortage List, Long Term Skill Shortage List, Panel Doctors and the all-important Points Indicator and Expression Of Interest are just some of the documents the potential émigré must become familiar with.
Last year, after repeated calculations and rechecking of facts, we were pretty much convinced that we didn’t have enough points to qualify for the Expression Of Interest, let alone residency and came close to giving up on the idea. It was in this frame of mind that we visited a New Zealand expo in London with the intention of simply confirming that we didn’t have a chance of qualifying. My memory of that day is hazy but I recall that it seemed like a never-ending parade of glossy stands and scripted pitches. Many stands were aimed squarely at attracting the doctors, teachers, scientists and accountants most regions needed to maintain the social infrastructure. Another handful promoted particular regional development areas, drawing the crowds with enticing promotion videos and it’s-oh-so-easy seminars.
Mixed in amongst these were the battle-hardened recruitment agencies, some specialising in particular professions or business areas, others casting a broad net to find candidates for specific positions. One such recruiter took a keen interest in me and asked a great number of questions, jotting down my details and answers. Another gave me a card with a generic email and said to send my details for consideration. A third said he couldn’t help but gave me a name of a colleague in Auckland who might be interested. By the end of the day, I had handed out scores of CVs, completed many application forms and smiled at everyone I’d talked to. Tired, hungry and drained, we left the function and dragged ourselves into a TexMex restaurant nearby. Over chicken wings, fajitas and beers, we tried to make sense of the day and work out what, if anything, we had achieved – we were none the wiser we we headed home to pick up the kids. However, and to cut a long story short, from these inauspicious introductions I have now made good contacts with some leading recruiters in the major cities. With these good folks, I have been through telephone interviews to establish suitability, discussed career history to provide candidate credibility and kept regular contact to keep interest high and options open. In return, they have provided honest feedback, helpful advice and, in one case where recruiter is a recent migrant themselves, photos of their own emigration.
The general consensus is good; each is confident that they can place me in a middle management role in New Zealand. With operations management experience, documented successes in productivity improvements, not to mention training qualifications & experience, I apparently stand a good chance against local candidates. Furthermore, having experience of working in the US market as well as the European markets is apparently also in my favour. However, best of all, the recruiters have been able to allay some of my concerns over qualifying for permits and residency. It would seem that the most likely route to achieving our aims would be for me to secure a sponsored position with a large employer, enabling me to work initially under a shorter term work permit, with a view to applying for permanent residency for me and the family at a later date.
With Christmas out of the way and the southern hemisphere holiday season winding down, these recruiters fully expect to be able to generate some interest in the coming weeks and months. So the ball is now in my court, for it is highly unlikely that I’ll generate any interest, let alone secure a position, unless I show commitment and interest myself. Which is why, in exactly 28 days, I shall be enjoying a Sunday lunch with my family before heading off to Heathrow to catch that Emirates 747.