WD1 work visas – Who’s to say what’s relevant?

Once again, I find myself faced with somewhat of an anomaly in my immigration advice practice. International students from all over to world come to New Zealand for exposure to a superior education experience, as well as to pursue brighter career prospects upon completion of their qualification. Immigration New Zealand recognises that academic knowledge in isolation is not enough to produce well-rounded professionals. In order to hone acquired skills and get real world context to the things a student learns in the classroom, it is important to gain valuable work experience. Because of this, New Zealand offers international students the opportunity to apply for graduate work experience visas, first for the purpose of finding a job and then for the purpose of gaining relevant experience so that they may eventually gain a pathway to residence in New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand’s immigration instructions for the Post Study – Employer Assisted work visa category (WD1) – state that for the grant of a visa under this category, the offer of employment must meet two key criteria:

– Be relevant to the main subject area of the qualification
– Be a key factor in the employer’s decision to offer the applicant the role

Seems fairly self-explanatory doesn’t it? We would think so, but this visa category has caused endless confusion, misinterpretation and ambiguity amongst migrants, advisers and numerous other stakeholders within the immigration industry and this has been particularly prevalent in recent months.

In the last couple of months, we have come across countless work visa applications under this category that Immigration New Zealand officers have raised concerns around ‘relevance’ between qualification gained and employment. We have submitted numerous such applications with successful outcomes for many years now. However, in the past few months we have noted a shift in the way assessment of ‘relevance’ is done. A Level 7 Business graduate with a job offer as an Assistant Manager in any retail or hospitality setting is facing an uphill battle to get assessing immigration officers to recognise relevance between their qualification and employment.

I believe that the recent VisaPak on WD1 instructions that came out a few months ago, plays a big role here. In the VisaPak, there are three examples of qualifications and job offers, categorised as relevant, maybe relevant and not relevant. The ‘maybe relevant’ example makes mention of assistant managers and supervisors with management qualifications. The ‘clearly relevant’ example points to a junior bookkeeper who has studied a diploma in accounting.

It appears that to err on the side of caution, officers are making the assumption that most business graduates with mid management roles, do not meet the relevance requirement.

The other concern that assessing officers have with WD1 applications is whether or not the qualification was a key factor in the employer’s decision to recruit the applicant. I believe there may be a flaw in the way this is being discerned in multiple dozens of PPI / decline letters we have seen recently. An employer supplementary form is the only area where an employer can state entry requirements for the role. So the question is around how assessment of whether a qualification was a key factor in an employer’s decision to recruit an applicant or not, is done.

Again, the factors outlined in the VisaPak are perhaps the issue here. It outlines various methods that can be undertaken for this assessment and I believe this approach is very narrow. I will be covering a detailed analysis of this in my presentation at the next NZAMI seminar in Auckland on 9 June.

Obviously not all job descriptions match academic transcripts down to the letter, but that doesn’t mean the qualification isn’t the primary reason for the applicant being recruited. In fact on the contrary, a job description that very closely matches with the applicant’s transcript should perhaps be questioned for authenticity and genuineness. An advertisement cannot be so skewed as to match academic transcripts paper by paper. In fact where in the instructions does it state that the qualification and job must match paper by paper.

The main requirement for this visa is that the key responsibilities utilise skills acquired in the main subject area of the qualification. An IT graduate uses a wide range of IT skills in his day to day tasks as a fibre technician, but he did not learn to be a fibre technician specifically in the course. The whole point of this visa is to provide applicants with a pathway to skilled employment, not place them directly into that skilled employment.

I believe there needs to be some close scrutiny of the WD1 instructions and assessment procedure to determine why there is such an inconsistency and ambiguity in the decision making process. Have any of you come across these issues in your practice? I invite other practitioners share their experience on this instruction to open up a discussion on this topic and get some varied views and perspectives.

Arunima Dhingra

Leave a Reply