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Tips For It Professionals Intending To Emigrate To New Zealand By Pablo Matamoros

I've lived in New Zealand since 2004. Since I decided to leave my homeland, Argentina, I've been bombarded with all sort of questions: why New Zealand?, how is life here?, is it easy to adapt?, what is the cost of living?, ....and the list goes on. This article intends to answer some of those questions. I will leave the economic, geographical, political and other characteristics for your own research. There is no need to write about the beauty of this country, there is plenty documented about it, in articles, books and films.
Before you continue, I want to make one point clear. The following lines might sound a bit harsh, especially if you are a Kiwi. It is not my intention. I love this country; I don't regret choosing New Zealand as my adoptive home. But sometimes immigration agencies are a bit too positive. I'm trying to be more realistic.
Don't believe in everything you read in the brochures
As happens in many other countries it isn't easy to find a place in the professional world. So, my first advice is to be realistic. Ignore any document that promises a sort of "New American Dream" (well New Zealand dream in any case). You could find yourselfing back home with an unfair view of the country. Immigration consultants and governmental agencies are to a great extent responsible for it.
Although the unemployment rate is at an all time low - as I write this article it is one of the lowest in the developed world - it doesn't mean that you will easily get a similar professional position to the one you have now. This is particularly difficult for those whose native language is not English. I will return to this point later.
Do your homework
Most countries in the world have requirements to allow visitors to work permanently and temporally. New Zealand is no exception. You are required to have a work permit or to be resident. Let's take a brief look at some of the permits that the New Zealand immigration service concedes:
Visitor visa: purely for tourism. Working under this permit is illegal. Although there are illegal workers in New Zealand, it is not worth the risk, especially if you have an IT qualification. You can stille as visitor and apply for a work permit while you are in the country as long as you are not actually working. We will discuss this situation later. Working holiday visa: this is granted to people from certain countries aged between 18 and 30 toe to New Zealand to travel and undertake temporary work. The duration and conditions of this visa vary with the nationality of the applicant. It is normally granted to a limited number of people per country. Hispanic countries that are granted this visa are: Argentina, Chile and Mexico. Visas for seasonal work in horticulture and viniculture: you can apply for this visa once in New Zealand. It allows working in tasks such as pruning and fruit picking for a maximum period of six weeks. You are not allowed to extend this permit. Holders of this permit are only allowed to work in specific regions of the country in the activities mentioned above. Student permits: you are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week. To be granted this permit you need to be a fulltime student of a New Zealand institution. Since fees are not cheap for international students, in order to pay your fees and your expenses you are likely to need more than 20 hours of work. Work Permit: this is the type of visa that is needed to work in general. It allows working fulltime for a limited period of time. There are several categories, requirements and limitations They are always changing. However, as IT professionals we are only interested in the Immediate Skill Shortage List category. IT is in high demand and almost all the streams of IT skills are included in the Shortage List. Nevertheless, you need to have an employment offer from a valid employer (here lies one of the biggest problems of this system). Also, if you quit your job, you have to leave the country, unless you have another legitimate job offer. Residence - Skilled Migrant Category: the main difference from the Work permit is that is not tied to a particular employer. Not only does it give freedom of choice, it also opens doors to the same possibilities that citizens have: bank credits, student fees at local rates (under any of the other schemes students pay international fees), student loans, business credits, mortgages, etc. This permit is granted through a pool system in which an applicant fills a form called expression of interest (EOI). The applicant claims a score according with age, English level, skill set, etc. This score is used in the pool. If the applicant claimed 100 points or more, the EOI goes into the Pool. Every fortnight, all EOIs over 140 points are automatically selected for an invitation to apply for residence. After this, lower scoring EOIs with certain factors, such as skilled employment in New Zealand, are selected. Therefore the time it takes to be invited to apply varies considerably from case to case.
Other permits: there are many other ways to stay in New Zealand to work. Immigration laws change rapidly.
As you can see, it isn't easy. I recommend reading the New Zealand immigration service website carefully before making a decision. If I had done that beforeing to the country I could have saved lots of money and time. I took my chances and came under a Working Holiday Scheme. Things were neither easy nor cheap for me.
My recommendation
As an IT professional I wouldn't considering with a Visitor, Seasonal or Working Holiday Visa. As I mentioned before, there is a catch. Although there is no law that stops you from looking for a job offer under any of these visas, the reality is that local businesses don't want to deal with the paper work that a proper work permit involves. If you take a brief look to any job search site from New Zealand (for example, seek ) you will see that the vast majority of the advertisments state "Only people with the right to work in New Zealand may apply for this position". Which is a polite way of saying: "Hey mate, don't bother if you are not resident, citizen or have a work permit"
So you would wonder, how do I get a job if I need a work permit and to get a work permit I need a contract? Also, manypanies require you to be in New Zealand for the interviews (although some are starting to use videoconferencing).
You can stille and work with a WHV (assuming youply with the requirements) or a seasonal permit. In the case of seasonal permits, you are likely to be granted a permit on the condition of working away from the main cities (where most of IT work can be found). The main issue with both permits is that you will spend your money and energy working in other activities not related with your area of expertise. You will need to have a very strong mind and be very patient. In many cases people lie in their first contact with a prospective employer, telling them that they have a proper work permit and then applying for it once they have a contract. Unfortunately for them, Kiwis are not as naive as they use to be in this regard, many employers require you to show your passport in the first interview or check your details with immigration.
I recommend to forget about these options and to go for a Work Permit or a Residence. It will save you the stress and humiliation of infinite number of applications and interviews with no results, and far away from your own country.
We are down to three options: Student, Working and Resident permit.
The student permit is only suitable for those with extremely good incomes in their own countries. Or if you are willing to bend the rules and work beyond the 20 hours allowed by the permit. The problem is that you are required to be fulltime student, so institutions take care of the attendance numbers. You are also likely to fail any study that you undertake due to lack of preparation. Not to mention that you can get in trouble with Immigration. As a lecturer, I've seen this a couple of times.
The Work permit option requires of lots of patience and perseverance. Although there are employers willing to interview through Skype or similar technologies, this is notmon yet. The trick is to avoid the middle man: human recruitment agencies and human resources departments. I would advise some of the following: make contacts through forums or social media (Linkedin, Facebook, etc.) or offer to do some work for them from your own country to showcase your skills (this is easier if you are involved with the development of web solutions).
Finally, the best option on my view: applying for residence from your own country. It is not easy nor a cheap option but it is cheaper than travelling with no results. If you have the right qualifications and experience in IT and a good level of English supported by an EILTS or TOEFL exam, you might gain enough points to get into the pool. Then you need to wait to be invited to apply for residence. Once you are granted residence your chances of getting a job will multiply, even if you apply from outside New Zealand.
Paper work you might need
This is a list of paperwork that you are likely to be asked if you apply for a Work Permit or a Residence Permit:
Passport and certified copies Certified copy of birth certificate Certified copies of qualifications (and certified translation if it is not in English) Proof of your level of English (if you are not an English speaker): TOEFL, EILTS, etc. In some cases you might be required to have your qualifications evaluated through NZQA (New Zealand Qualification Authority) Any proof of your work experience. Medical certificate (this requirement radically changes according with nationality of applicant) Police declaration of good conduct. No convictions
The documentation will vary on your particular situation. I recommend you read the New Zealand Immigration Service website in detail.
English skills
So far we hardly spoke about one very important issue:munication skills. If English is your native language you can skip this section.
Many people believe that it is possible to learn a language on the streets. That is absolute nonsense, especially if you are planning to work in IT. When looking for a professional role you not only need to be able to buy your groceries, it is mandatory to have reasonably good writing skills. Can you imagine an analyst conducting an interview or writing the requirements of a system with little knowledge of English? What about a programmer exchanging emails with a client regarding critical errors in a system?
If you are planning toe to New Zealand with little or no English, be ready to have a hard time and eventuallye back home empty handed. I've seen many South American professionals going back home after months and even years of working in low paid jobs, in some cases illegally.
If you are a Spanish speaker, we aware that New Zealand is not the US, the Latinmunity is very small. The ITmunity of Spanish speakers even smaller. I can count with the fingers of one hand the number of IT professionals from Hispanic origins. You wouldn't be able to find a Hispanic ITpany, like you could, for example, in Miami or Los Angeles.
My point is, that any language - English is no exception - should be formally learned. You could still do it in New Zealand though. It is actually one way to be granted a Student permit as long the course you take is intensive (around 20 hours a week).
Having good English skills doesn't warrant success either. My experience (and that of many other immigrants that I know), is that local employers prefer to hire professionals whose native language is English. It makes sense to hire someone who shares your culture, doesn't it? A strong accent can be a barrier when searching for jobs. Besides, Kiwis speak fast and have a very peculiar accent.
Be prepared to do any kind of work
If you areing without a job offer, be ready to work doing anything: cleaning, picking fruits, painting, barista, etc. Brush up other skills that you might have learned or that are your hobby. Good carpenters, electricians or mechanics earn good money in New Zealand. In some cases they earn the same or more than white collar professionals.
Some professionals studied IT in their native countries because it was a way of earning better money than working as a tradesman. But they maybe would have preferred to work as a carpenter, mechanic, hairdresser...whatever. For example, I met a Russian programmer that prefers to work as builder in New Zealand. He is still cutting software just as a hobby.
IT skills in demand - what business say and what they actually do
Every year, the New Zealand Immigration Service writes lists of Immediate and Long Term shortage skills. These lists are based on surveys done in collaboration with local businesses. However, what they say and what they actually look for differs or changes rapidly. For example, businesses could say today that they need ABAP programmers but then they could advertise for programmers.
Most of New Zealand employers are very selective (even picky). Theyplain about the shortage of IT professionals but they are not willing to give a prospective employee the chance to catch up with a particular technology. It is not enough to be a Software Engineer, you have to be a Software Engineer with knowledge in X, Z, N and M technologies. Ah, and with at least 3 years of experience!
There is a reason for this selectiveness. Kiwis are used to changing jobs and moving homes often. Many of them "cross the ditch" to Australia. Then employers don't want to take the risk of hiring somebody who spends a couple of months to learn a technology and after only a year moves to the nextpany. Also the local economy is small, businesses are smaller, panies can't or don't want to spend money on this type of "on the job training".
The Jack-of-all-trades approach doesn't pay off in New Zealand. You have to be specialist in a particular technology. My experience as an IT professional in South America was quite different. I wasn't an expert in any of the languages I was hired to work with. I learned the ins and outs of them on the job.
A finalment
Immigrating into any country is never easy. No matter what degrees, qualification or skills you have, the more different the culture of the country you are choosing as your new home is from your own culture, the harder it is to find a job and to integrate in general.
Pablo Matamoros
IT and Translation consultant
Founder of codespanish CodeSpanish Ltd.
Pablo_Matamoros Pablo_Matamoros
height="70" width="65" Pablo-Matamoros_152473 Pablo Matamoros -

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