Part 1: Introduction

Immigration New Zealand: Supporting new migrants to settle and work

In this Part, we describe:

Why we did our audit

We carried out a performance audit to look at how effectively Immigration New Zealand supports new migrants to settle and work in the two to five years after they arrive. Settling effectively allows people to successfully contribute to New Zealand's future economic growth and prosperity.

The importance of new migrants to the economy and our future needs

New Zealand has relied on labour migration to support the economy for many years. Compared with other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, New Zealand has high inflows and outflows of people. One in four people in New Zealand's workforce was born overseas. In 2010, about one in seven people born in New Zealand lived overseas. Most of these people had migrated permanently to Australia. Since the late 1990s, a loss of about 259,000 New Zealanders has been offset by a gain of 384,000 migrants, to produce a net gain of 125,000 people.

Research by Immigration New Zealand's Migration Research, Evaluation and Analysis Team shows that most new migrants who gain residency under the Skilled Migrant Category successfully gain employment and settle well. However, some new migrants struggle to find work and find some aspects of settlement challenging. Appendix 1 describes the various visa categories for people to migrate to New Zealand, including the Skilled Migrant Category.

In 2012/13, we carried out a series of performance audits under the theme of Our future needs – is the public sector ready? This theme focused on how public entities prioritise their work, acquire necessary capabilities and skills, and use information to address future needs. This audit's focus on the importance of new migrants to the future of the economy supports this theme.

The scope of our audit

Immigration New Zealand is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). It has been responsible for leading and co-ordinating efforts throughout government to support the settlement of new migrants since 2004.

We looked at how effectively Immigration New Zealand has led, co-ordinated, and worked together with government agencies to deliver settlement services that support new migrants to settle and work in New Zealand. Our audit focused on efforts to support new migrants (principal and secondary1 skilled migrants and holders of temporary work visas) to settle and work during the initial settlement period (two years for Immigration New Zealand's settlement work and up to five years for other departmental settlement programmes).

We looked at the effectiveness of the settlement support services and programmes that Immigration New Zealand purchases.

Our specific lines of enquiry were:

  • How effectively does Immigration New Zealand lead the whole-of-government approach to support new migrants to settle and work by collaborating with and co-ordinating other agencies?
  • How effectively has Immigration New Zealand assessed settlement outcomes through evaluation, monitoring, and reporting?
  • How effectively does Immigration New Zealand use the information it has to prioritise resources to support new migrants to settle and work in New Zealand and fully contribute to the economy?

Continual organisational change

When assessing performance towards intended outcomes, we consider changes that may affect the context of the work under way.

The former Department of Labour and Immigration New Zealand now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) worked in a context of substantial change and flux during the years that they led work helping new migrants to settle. This is important to consider because the extent and nature of change that the organisation has undergone might have contributed to some of the matters raised in this report, especially the loss of momentum and direction for the New Zealand Settlement Strategy (Settlement Strategy) and action plans.

Since 2009, the organisational context continued to be marked by changes focusing on improvements for Immigration New Zealand, beginning with the work on an Immigration New Zealand change programme. An immigration service delivery change model was officially launched in March 2012. Immigration New Zealand's Vision 2015 is focused on better service delivery and includes the following three main objectives:

  • ensure that New Zealand has the skills it needs for economic transformation;
  • provide confidence that New Zealand's borders are secure; and
  • ensure that the settlement of migrants and refugees is fast, effective, and co-ordinated.

The Immigration New Zealand change programme is already making headway in the improvements needed for better migrant settlement support.

What we did not cover

Our audit focused on the post-arrival support for new migrants during the initial settlement period. We did not look in any detail at services to attract migrants. However, where relevant, we refer to pre-arrival information that Immigration New Zealand provides to migrants, specifically information that ensures that new migrants have realistic expectations of life in New Zealand.

Although we do not focus specifically on holders of temporary visas, our audit considered that many aim to gain permanent residency through the Skilled Migrant Category and that barriers to settlement might affect this group during and after the transition from temporary work visa holder to skilled migrant.

Settlement support services and programmes for new migrants who are refugees and for family-sponsored migrants were outside the scope of our audit.

Our audit does not include international comparisons. Global comparisons of skilled migration outcomes are rare because of the inherent challenges of securing matched data.

How we carried out our audit

We reviewed documents and files that MBIE (Immigration New Zealand, the Migrant Research, Evaluation and Analysis Team, and other relevant parts of MBIE) and other public entities involved in settlement support provided to us.

We interviewed nearly 100 stakeholders from other public entities that support settlement of new migrants; settlement service providers from Wellington, Auckland, Whangarei, Dunedin, and Invercargill; and others (university faculty members and staff at the OECD in Paris) researching new migrant settlement. We interviewed MBIE staff in Wellington and Auckland.

We asked MBIE staff and their service providers to work with us to set up workshops with new migrants to inform our audit work. We held workshops with new migrants in Wellington, Lower Hutt, and Auckland to gain an understanding of migrants' experiences in settling and working in New Zealand and in receiving settlement services. Forty-two new migrants attended these workshops. Although we recognise that this is a small sample and it is not intended to be representative of new migrants throughout New Zealand, we used these comments, along with other research and evidence gathered in the audit, to prepare our findings. We acknowledge that a range of factors might affect the opinions expressed in these workshops.

Structure of this report

Part 2 sets out some of the indicators of how well migrants settle and work in New Zealand.

Part 3 describes Immigration New Zealand's settlement support role, how those activities are funded, and settlement support activities.

Part 4 looks at Immigration New Zealand's effectiveness in leading and co-ordinating governance for settlement work throughout government to achieve the intended objectives of the Settlement Strategy.

Part 5 assesses Immigration New Zealand's responsibilities for evaluating and reporting on settlement outcomes.

Part 6 looks at how effectively Immigration New Zealand has targeted resources to address the known barriers to settlement.

Throughout the report, we include short quotes from a selection of people who we spoke to during our audit.

1: Secondary skilled migrants are the partners and dependent children of principal skilled migrants (see Appendix 1). However, for the purposes of this report, references to secondary skilled migrants are references to secondary skilled migrants of working age.

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