December 11, 2006
Migration gathers speed
BBC News: "Almost one in 10 British citizens are living overseas... The number of British citizens who chose to go permanently abroad doubled from 53,000 in 2001 to 107,000 last year - some 2,000 people a day... the number hoping to leave in the near future [has] doubled since 2003."
February 14, 2006
ID cards: this time it's personal
The Register: "Cards will be imposed on anyone who renews their passport - the voluntary element supposedly being that people could choose not to carry a passport."
It's not voluntary for all of us.
I'm pledged to refuse to carry an ID card, and to go to court if necessary in support of that pledge. That means I won't be able to renew my UK passport, or will have to fight an expensive and complicated court battle on the other side of the world to do so.
But hist! Under New Zealand immigration law, I don't become eligible for NZ citizenship until I've been a permanent resident for five years, i.e. April 2010. But my passport expires in September 2008. I don't mind not being able to leave New Zealand for a couple of years, but my passport contains my residence permit. If my passport expires, what's the status of my permit? We, like the Smothers Brothers, got trouble right here in River City, with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for passport.
Now I may have got lucky. Under the previous NZ law, one was eligible for citizenship three years after entering the country, which in my case would be January 2008. The new law was passed on 14 April 2005. My residence permit was issued on 12 April 2005, and the Citizenship Office indicated at the time that the new regulations would not be made retrospective, as was apparently the initial plan.
If the Citizenship Office's promise is good, I've escaped becoming an international test case by two days. If not, I have a choice of accepting a 'voluntary' British ID card, or being deported for not carrying a 'voluntary' British ID card... deported to Britain, which would refuse me entry because I couldn't renew my passport because of the requirement to accept a 'voluntary' British ID card.
Hey, Tony, explain again about the 'voluntary' bit?
May 08, 2005
Looking for work in New Zealand
TimB reminds me that I have been awfully dilatory about posting on my NZ migration experiences. Many apologies. I've been jotting down notes, both on the general migration process and the specific experience of job hunting in the software development field, but not got around to posting them. Hope this is useful, Tim.
My experience is that the NZ IT job market is extremely buoyant at the moment. I started looking for work in mid-February: within two weeks, I had my first offer, and another week after that, I had three more.
You can therefore usually ignore the big warnings on many job adverts which say, "Only people legally entitled to work in NZ may apply for this job." I panicked a bit when I saw how many jobs seemed to rule me out in this way. It turns out, however, that this is only intended to discourage dilettante types who haven't considered what's involved in migration and merely think NZ might be amusing this week. If you're in country, and you don't have to go back to settle your affairs, and you can persuade them that you're committed to immigrating (the phrase "My permanent residence application went in on Friday" works really well here), most employers will forget that clause as quickly as you can say "Priority Occupations List."
In fact, if the advert doesn't say "Only people legally entitled to work in NZ," then feel free to apply from out of country. One of my colleagues got his job by phone, and was therefore able to get a work permit before entering the country, and I've heard of UK nurses and teachers getting offers the same way.
Be warned that just being in country is not enough. Employers are aware of the "LSD trip" -- Look, See, Decide -- where someone turns up thinking NZ might be fun, gets a job to see whether it is, and then bails after a few months when they decide it's not. You need to demonstrate more commitment than just a return ticket. Expect to get asked "Why do you want to come to New Zealand?" at every interview. Try to work a derogatory remark about Australians into your answer: it will prove you have bought into the mainstay of Kiwi culture.
Once you get a job, expect the employer to be keen for you to start asap. It will depend on the employer, but do not plan to land your job offer and then take your holiday. If you want to see the country before starting work, enter as a visitor, go sightseeing first, and then start looking for work.
I realise these are contradictory messages. Some employers are so keen they will offer you jobs from the other side of the world; others will be deeply dubious unless all four grandparents were native-born Kiwis. So it goes. Kiwi companies are small, and individuals' personal experiences count for a lot. If a manager or HR bod has had one bad experience with a LSD immigrant, they may be prejudiced against all immigrants; if not, they may be so keen to get the talent in that they'll take even speculative enquiries. I've been told that looking for work while being in country is the "sweet spot," and it worked well for me, but obviously I haven't tried any other routes!
Some other observations:
* Because travel in NZ is slow, applying for jobs away from your current location is more painful than in the UK. Travel times between the main centres (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) mean air travel is the only option -- Auckland to Wellington by car is a full day -- and that is a barrier for some employers. You'll have to live somewhere while looking, and wherever you happen to choose will affect who is willing to talk to you.
* From my experience, although most companies and jobs are in Auckland, Wellington companies are more responsive. If your focus is on finding and starting work quickly, you may want to base yourself near Wellington rather than near Auckland. However, many companies have branches in both cities and will happily do preliminary interviews at the 'other' location. In fact for the job I accepted I interviewed only in the 'other' location and spoke to my future boss only by phone.
* Kiwi companies regard culture and getting on with people as very important. (Sometimes they take this to extremes. One interview process I went through involved only one technical question; the rest of it was entirely cultural, and consisted primarily of them relating incidents of transvestitism in the office. Remarkably, they felt they'd got enough from this to make me an offer.) Almost every company will ask you to give an example of an interpersonal conflict and how you resolved it. So if you haven't got a fight with a co-worker under your belt, go off and have one quick.
* Kiwi companies will require, and take up, technical references. I was asked not just for my provided 'human resources' type references but also for a colleague who had worked with me, and someone who had worked for me during my management era. (Royston and Matt, thank you for your patience: I owe you both beers next time I'm in the UK.)
* If you want to get out of the big cities, you can do, but do think ahead. The reduced salaries (by 30%+, compared to Auckland and Wellington) are not necessarily an issue -- nobody comes to NZ for the money -- but (a) in popular centres like Queenstown, salaries may be down compared to the cities but living costs may be up; and (b) smaller towns will rarely support multiple IT employers, so if the job doesn't work out, or when you outgrow it, you will probably have to move to find something new. A friend also warns that, when you move on, you may encounter the question, 'If you're so smart, why did you have to go to Stewart Island to find a job?' The obvious response to this is to leap across the desk, smash your interviewer's face into his desk and yell, 'It's all about lifestyle, you clod!" But I haven't really tested whether interviewers find this a convincing response.
* Related to the LSD issue, I was told that I would find employers more responsive if I had a NZ email address. I don't think this made any difference, as my normal email address is not recognisably country-specific, and I was able to give a NZ postal address as well, but it's probably not a great idea to present UK addresses for both postal and electronic mail. Apart from the usual generic email providers, you can get a free NZ address from Orcon, including free POP3 access.
* If you come to NZ without a job in hand, don't plan to job-hunt any time from mid-December to mid-February. Because Christmas/New Year coincides with the summer holidays in this hemisphere, companies tend not to be interested during this period. (I'm passing on advice here, and can't confirm it from personal experience. For example, I received one warning that things might stay tough right through till May, when budgets had been finalised, but for me that worry never materialised.)
Final cautionary note: at the time of writing, according to local news, the economic mood is becoming pessimistic. At the moment, things are good, but an increasing number of employers are doubtful about prospects for the near future. I suspect this primarily reflects the manufacturing and agricultural industries, and that the technology sector will remain an employee's market, but no warranties express or implied, etc. I know my company, for one, is still recruiting like a thing possessed.
Best NZ IT job site: Seek. By such a distance that there's no point mentioning any others.
February 01, 2005
Moving to New Zealand
My old nemesis Harvey G Pengwyn takes me to task for leaping straight from having my EOI selected to buying a car. Is there an episode missing?
Well, not particularly. Because NZ will let in pretty much anyone these days, there is something of a glut of permanent residence applications. The immigration service is prioritising those with job offers, which means that us shiftless reprobates are scarcely getting a look in. I'm told that my PR application finally arrived on my agent's desk a few days before I flew out. Therefore, I've mostly been twiddling my thumbs.
The only real insights I can offer into the waiting process are:
- Get your police clearance request in early: it really does take a long time (though not as long as I was warned it might be)
- Britannia Movers seem to offer reasonable rates, though their sending a 17-tonne lorry to collect a relatively small amount of stuff from a very small street does not bode well for their ability to deliver it to the arse end of South Island -- we shall see
- Do not put important immigration documents (in my case, birth certificate and degree certificate) in a filing cabinet where you won't forget them, and then allow the movers to put the filing cabinet into storage
- Singapore Airlines are pretty congenial as cattle-movers go, particularly when it comes to turning a blind eye to excess baggage
- Don't be tempted to throw out all your sterling at Heathrow in a grand symbolic gesture, unless your plane goes to Auckland with no stopovers. No airport cafe or bar in the world takes NZ dollars, but sterling stands at least a chance
- The Post Office does not send foreign redirection renewal notices in time for you to actually renew, so it's worth taking out a redirection that is longer than you can possibly need
- The Inland Revenue form for leaving the country is the P85, but this is kind of moot because most of the questions are stupid ones to which the only possible answer is "I don't know" ("Will you be returning to the UK within the next four years?" "Uh, try asking Mystic Meg.")
- It takes longer than you expect to say goodbye to your friends
I also wish to subject the Reverend Harvey to a tirade about banks but that will have to do for the time being.
January 26, 2005
Buying and driving a car in New Zealand
Buying a car in New Zealand is fairly cheap and fairly similar to the UK. My 11-year old Toyota Corona set me back about $4500, roughly £1800. Cars need two documents, the warrant of fitness (which corresponds roughly to the MOT) and the registration (which corresponds roughly to a combination of the V5 ownership document and the car tax disc). I wasn't required to provide any special paperwork to buy a car, only my UK driving licence.
Most cars available to buy in NZ are Japanese, often recent imports. Most cars are automatics: be prepared for limited choice if you insist on a manual.
Kiwis drive on the correct side of the road, usually, so it is possible to import your vehicle from the UK. This is fine is you have a Japanese car, but you may find it hard to service and maintain European cars. Also of course it will take time to get the car over here, and you won't want to send it immediately as you have to pay import duty if you don't have at least a work permit.
At any given time, 70% of New Zealand's roads are being resurfaced. You should therefore regard windscreens and paintwork as consumables rather than permanent fixtures.
NZ takes a long time to get around. The speed limit is 100 kph, but this is rarely sustainable due to sharp bends, steep climbs, sheep in the road, and having to read all the posters exhorting you to slow down. Towns slow you down too: there are no bypasses, largely because NZ is not wide enough to fit a town and a road side by side. Atlases and maps therefore tend to provide distances in hours, not kilometers.
New Zealand has many interesting driving innovations. One is a right-hand turn give-way rule which defies clear explanation. Another is the propensity on the South Island for one-lane bridges. These save a few dollars' worth of concrete at the expense of risking bringing traffic to a total halt whenever anything comes the other way. This is known as "Kiwi ingenuity," because the only other traffic on South Island is a tuberculotic Nissan Bluebird and a small boy being towed by a sheep, and you are stuck behind them anyway. On occasion the one-lane idea is also applied to winding stretches of road cut into cliffs, so that the direction with priority cannot see whether anybody is already on the one-land section and can only proceed on faith. This is the one time you will see traffic on South Island other than the aforementioned Nissan and small boy, namely a brief final glimpse of an oncoming 18-wheel articulated lorry as it pulverises your car and hurls it into the gorge fathoms below. This is known as "classic Kiwi ingenuity."
November 04, 2004
Under Bush's thumb
I am so glad I'm getting out of the 51st state.
September 03, 2004
Haere ra, Blighty
I've had my "expression of interest" in emigrating to New Zealand selected by the NZ Immigration Service.
This does not in itself entitle me to live in New Zealand. What it means is that once they have verified my details they will invite me to lodge a permanent residence application. I can't actually gain permanent residence until I have a job there, but once I do have a job offer, I should be able to obtain residence pretty quickly. I'll be flying out in January of next year and taking a couple of months' holiday with the Kiwis before starting the job search in March.
From the people I've talked to about my decision to emigrate, I'm not the only one wanting to leave the UK, so I'll try to record my experiences here for what it's worth, in case anyone else finds them useful.
I am what the Americans would call "super excited" about this. I have to admit, though, I am also "super scared witless" about it and "super turned off" by all the tedious paperwork and logistics involved in shutting down my life here and restarting the important bits in New Zealand. It's going to be a big break, there's going to be a lot of crap, and I know there's no guarantee it will work out. No matter. It's worth the try.
Ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea.