COVID19 and Immigration – Looking beyond the storm- written by Arunima Dhingra

Covid19. Coronavirus. SARS-CoV-2. Call it whatever, but one thing everyone can agree on – it’s an invisible enemy that has created a storm of disruption ripping through the economic fabric of society. But is the storm clearing? Can we look beyond it? For some, yes.

As New Zealand enters Alert 3, everyone’s attention now is on how to revert to a sense of normality in this unknown landscape? How do we go back to achieving the goals we had set for ourselves when so many variables have changed?

If you are a migrant worker or partner of a temporary visa holder, or an international student that came to NZ excited about pursuing a bright future but Covid19 has turned your future plans upside down, keep reading. You are within NZ borders so the closure of our borders does not impact you, but what happens here, will.

The first blow came at 23:59pm on 19th March 2020 – our borders were effectively closed to all foreign nationals. In the days that followed, some very limited exceptions for partners of New Zealanders, as well as some key temporary visa holders were announced, but the bar was set very high and the process to be cleared to travel to NZ complex.

For those within NZ borders on various types of work visas tied into a specific employer, the current situation is panning out to be stressful. Business after business is closing its doors. Whether you’ve lost your job or are facing a reduction in hours or uncertainty about how your pathway to residence is looking, this downturn may have its silver lining. When the present is uncontrollable, we must look to the future and take proactive measures to insulate ourselves in whatever way possible. There is a light at the end of every tunnel – no matter how dark things may look right now.

There are so many questions.
– What will happen to the hundreds of visa holders that may have been impacted – redundancies, reduced hours, employers shutting down, unimaginable extensive delays in processing of applications once INZ is back up and running.
– What happens to your dream to settle in NZ – work here and eventually make NZ your home by gaining residence.
– What happens to jobs for migrants with tightening of labour market testing to encourage local labour to get back into workforce?
We don’t claim to have all the answers but we’d like to encourage you to think beyond the current and adapt. In times of turmoil only those who plan ahead and remain resilient come out on the other side.

Alternative Pathways:

If your current career trajectory has taken an unexpected turn, now may be the perfect time to upskill yourself, explore alternative pathways and adapt your goals and plans to fit the post-COVID19 landscape. The NZ labour market is going to change drastically – which means pockets of labour market where there are ongoing skill shortages will remain whereas many others would have suitable New Zealanders looking for work.

Getting back to studies to upskill yourself in areas where the local labour market cannot meet demand, should be a starting point for migrants who may be disenfranchised by the COVID19 crisis.
Occupations like health, teaching, trades, construction and infrastructure, high level IT are proven areas where NZ residents/ citizens are just not available to work. The COVID19 crisis will not necessarily mean more New Zealanders will be available to take up these types of roles, and this is a key opportunity for the skilled migrant workforce to explore. If you have experience or interest in one of these high demand industries, now is the perfect time to undergo further training and education to gain the requisite skills to fill these labour gaps and secure your pathway to residence in NZ .

This storm is hitting all of us – but if you can take pre-emptive action you can use this time to steer things in a new direction to ensure you remain as protected as possible. When the familiar world we know completely changes, the best way to not just survive, but thrive, is to change with it.

A few obvious pathways and industries that are worth looking into:

Nursing & Health care – if you have an academic background from your home country, now is the perfect time to study toward registration in NZ for nursing or take up other health care studies. Our labour market does not have enough nurses, and being in the midst of a global pandemic has only exacerbated this demand. Now is the time to take the next step in your health care career.
Teaching – whether early childhood, primary or secondary, teachers are in high demand and short supply all across NZ. Now is the time to take up the appropriate course of study to secure your pathway to registration with the Teaching Council and an eventual pathway to residence.
Trades, construction and infrastructure – this is another industry which has such great demand, INZ has a specific skill shortage list for it. The local labour market simply does not have the right skills and with many government funded infrastructure projects in the pipeline along with the increasing population and subsequent demand for housing, now is the perfect time to gain the skills and knowledge to take a step up in this industry.

With unemployment predicted to rise, businesses under threat and key areas of the labour market opening up – it is a smart choice to align oneself. To facilitate this, INZ is also prioritising the processing of onshore student visa applications for full fee-paying students. So use this time to get ahead of the game, rather than waiting for things to get even more dire – look beyond the Covid19 storm. The goal for many will still remain the same – residence – but the pathway to get there may now need to change.

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach. It’s the end you’re after.” – Anthony Robbins

The Aims Global team has vast experience with serving international students – whether you are within NZ borders or outside – from course selection, admission and enrolment and student visa applications.

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