Two more countries joined Australia in an effort to provide more opportunities for local workers by tightening the visa applications. Donald Trump signed an executive order to restrict the visa program H-1B, used widely be tech companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google, while New Zealand’s immigration minister cooled off thousands of skilled workers by announcing his new “Kiwis-first approach to immigration”.
Donald Trump’s H-1B restriction is part of his wildly proclaimed “Hire American, buy American” policy, which he is trying to impose by altering the various aspects of immigration regulations in the country. The now targeted visa H-1B is a permit given for a maximum of 6 years (usually 3 years) to foreign employees of American companies and specialists in certain fields such as mathematics, physical science, technology, engineering, law, education, arts, medicine and chemistry. According to the immigration office, every year about 85,000 people use the programme. The First Lady Melania Trump was once a holder of 1-HB while working as model in New York City, although being citizen of Slovenia as other Eastern European countries, she was only allowed to stay in the country for a year.
Donald Trump’s intention is to stop the programme, but his executive order has come too late for this year campaign which was launched at the beginning of the month. “Instead, the executive order will look for administrative changes, including an overhaul of the lottery system used to determine which companies can sponsor the visas,” a White House official said. The lottery principle allocates 65,000 visas every year and the applications for it are submitted within six months before 1 April. For this year, the applications are 200,000 which is 15% less than the year before, and according to analysts, this is due to the expected scrutiny of the program by the Trump administration.
Prior to the signing of the order, President Trump said that his aim is to stop “importing low-wage workers on H-1B visas to take jobs from young college-trained Americans.” However according to Stephen Yale-Loehr, a law professor and expert on immigration at Cornell University, the Order on its own, has more of a recommendable function and has to be confirmed through a proposal agreed between the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labour and the Secretary of Homeland Security. The proposal then has be legislated by Congress. “The administration has to be careful because if they go too far they could be hurting the U.S. economy by accelerating the existing problem of off-shoring work and talent to other countries,” the professor also warned.
As “striking the right balance” described the changes in New Zealand’s policy the immigration minister Michael Woodhouse on announcing the reform yesterday. Suggestions include a new three-year residency limit for skilled workers, followed by a stand-down period before they will be able to apply again, plus more restrictions for seasonal workers, who mainly enter the country for fruit picking jobs. Until now, visas were issued for a period of 6 months. Woodhouse’s proposal will see that period shorten to only the duration of their work.
The minister explained the measurements are an effort to control the high-level of migration to the country, particularly for major cities such as Auckland, which currently has a population of 1,5 million people. According to last year’s statistics, 70,000 emigrants arrived in New Zealand, mainly from the UK, India, China, South Africa and the Philippines.
The reform was criticised by members of the opposition parties, despite Woodhouse’s claim that it will “improve the quality of migrants coming to New Zealand.” They called it a move “to show they’re doing something,” and according to Andrew Little, leader of the NZ Labour party. “We need to take a breather and catch up…this is a typical Bill English move. No vision, no leadership, no fix for the problem,” he added.
The visa restrictions in New Zealand also come only after two months the country’s capital Wellington widely advertised its LookSee initiative, which aimed to attract technology experts from around the world to live and work in the country. Free tickets to New Zealand and free accommodation were promised to the applicants in order to seal the deal. Projects like this, show that the issues are not with the migrants, but also the skilled potential in the country itself. “They [the government] are fiddling with the issue while the plain fact is foreign workers will still be able to come here when employers claim they can’t get Kiwis.” Winston Peters, leader of the centre populist party New Zealand First said.
With its beautiful nature, peaceful life, good health care and social system, New Zealand is one of the favourite migration destinations for the Brits. Following last year’s Brexit vote, there was surge of interest towards the country, with 10,647 UK applications being submitted just seven weeks after the referendum. That number doubled the applications from the year before and was labelled as the “British invasion”. Currently 6% of the population of the Pacific state are from the UK.