Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Journey to New Zealand

New Zealand Migrants Journey
Written by: A. Boiser


Unlike Australia, Canada, and USA, New Zealand (NZ) isn’t famous as a migrant destination in the Philippines. It was year 2005 when our friend gave us an idea of migrating to NZ, followed by another friend who settled in Christchurch.

My main reasons for migration, which are probably similar to most people who took their chances, are my children’s future, my desire to earn a decent income and to explore a different country. During the information-gathering-stage, the education system of New Zealand got me interested and of course the free education for primary and secondary school (elementary and high school) that New Zealand was providing was also a bonus.


On top of that, I also saw several advantages on my children’s behalf if I can successfully settle in NZ. Aside from the country’s high educational standard, which would benefit my children if they will finish their schooling in NZ, I can also save money for the cost of their (supposedly) elementary and high school education (as this is free as mentioned above) which is very expensive in the Philippines. Well, in the Philippines I have the option of sending my children to public school but I’m not really planning to do so.

During that time, we were looking for some place to migrate and one of our options was Canada. We went to one of the agencies located in Baclaran and attended to few of their seminars and evaluations. However, the agency and immigration fee didn't seem to be practical. It was estimated that we will be spending more than one million pesos for the whole process so I decided not to pursue our Canada application and just try my luck in NZ.

EOI(Expression of Interest)

After I decided to pursue our family’s application to NZ, I started browsing through the website of NZ immigration to gather facts about new Zealand and the application process. I checked the online assessment to see if I can qualify under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMS) based on the points they are requiring to be selected. During our time, the points needed to be qualified were 100. But the policy changed and as far as I know, they are currently requiring 110 to 140 points. (Please see latest poll section here, www.immigration.govt.nz)

I submitted my EOI on February 2005 with the following point values; Education = 50 points (4-5 years degree), Work experience = 25 points (2 to 10 years experience) and age = 25 points (30 to 39 years old).

My EOI was selected three months later and it was assigned to Bangkok office, so any communication with regards to the application was to be made to Bangkok office. A start of my journey, I would say. I received my first letter from my Visa Officer (VO) on October 2005, stating that my school Saint Mary’s College, Tagum City is not included in the list of NZ accredited schools.

Because of this, I still had to apply for an assessment to the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA), a body that assesses ones qualifications. This was my first fault because I was not paying much attention to the step by step procedure of application. Because of my insufficient knowledge regarding the NZQA process, I ended up seeking help from an Immigration consultant, which was a huge help in terms of furthering my knowledge regarding the application but likewise meant an additional expense. I wouldn't have gone through this situation if only I have done the following tips below.

TIP:
1. Do your research, read information on the website before filling up the EOI form.

2. Enter information on EOI form CORRECTLY (follow instructions!!) and HONESTLY (false statement is a NO NO!) to avoid problems in the future. Your VO will contact your employer, your references and your school (and if you think they don't give much attention to this. You are wrong).

3. Collect as many supporting documents as you can that has got something to do with your work e.g. employment certifications, tax records, promotion letters, SSS contributions, etc. Have it handy just in case your VO needs it. (Remember: The faster you provide the VO these documentations, the faster the progress of your application will be.)

4. Educate yourself, sign-up to egroup (online groups) regarding NZ and learn from them. Ask questions. Remember: “there’s no stupid question only stupid answers”. You DONT need a consultant if you know the step by step procedure.


NZQA (New Zealand Qualification Authority)

I prepared all the documents needed for NZQA like diploma, transcript of records, S.O, (original and certified true copy) and handed all these paperwork to the consultant to be submitted to the VO. The assessment result was good and my ‘migrant application’ was reconsidered. My 5-year full time, Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineer was assessed as level 6 Diploma of Engineering equivalent in NZ (OMG! That was a bad call on my behalf.
My 5-year of hard-work, only came down to a DIPLOMA based on the NZ standard? You gotta be kidding me!!! ). But anyway, my feelings towards this was the least of my priorities at that time, all I was thinking of is the continuity of my application process.

After passing the NZQA assessment, I had a constant contact with my VO regarding my work experiences. Here, I encountered a lot of problems especially around contacting the company that I worked with, which have already closed/shutdown. I was asked to provide information such as SSS contribution, tax records and etc. Bottom line is, I had to support/justify (in any way possible) the work experiences I have written down and declared on my EOI.
That’s why, when entering data on your EOI you have to make sure that you can supply genuine documents supporting your claimed/declared job experience. And this is not limited to job experiences, it also applies to school credentials, birth certificate, marriage contract, etc.


IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

On top of these paperwork, I was also required to take IELTS exam, which could be a hurdle for most (well it was for me!). NZ immigration is requiring a band score/total average score (averaging the four elements included in IELTS: reading, writing, listening, and speaking) of 6.5 and not one of these elements can have a score below 5.0.
To prepare for the exam, I enrolled to ERLI review center in Pasay to improve my English language skill. I find that this review center is really helpful as their method of teaching is more focused on practical tests rather than English theories per se. The secret of passing IELTS is to constantly go through the work materials, handbooks that the center is providing (if for instance you chose not to attend a formal review classes, going through the over-the-counter IELTS handbooks/practice tests is also helpful).
In the review, we took tests that were similar to the actual IELTS. In this way, you will know which part/s of the test you are weak at and concentrate on it. Once the scores in the practice tests you are taking are passing, you’ll gain the confidence to take the actual test.
To tell you a little bit about my own IELTS experience, ‘Speaking’ was the element among those four that I find the scariest. I can still remember, I was sitting on the hallway with the other examinees, we were all waiting for our names to be called. As soon as my name was called, I entered the room, and there is saw the examiner, who was happily waiting, and a tape recorder, which was immediately turned on as soon as the interrogation-like scenario started. It was pretty scary but as I have mentioned earlier, as long as you have prepared, there is no reason for you to fail the test.

TIP:
1. Listen to BBC news. Watch movies like Harry Potter and/or other British accent movies. Imitate the way they speak (I know this is sounds weird but you have to familiarize yourself with their accent, which is a little too different from an American accent, which, (we )Filipinos have always learnt).
This is very helpful in IELTS Listening exam. This will also come very handy when you arrive in NZ as you must be understood by the local people when you speak and vice versa to create a sensible conversation. In fact, communication barrier is one of the few reasons why some migrants cannot get an employment. Even if you’re skills/experiences/knowledge are excellent, if you can’t communicate, all these credentials are useless.
2. Enroll in call center trainings to improve your English speaking skills. This will boost and build up your confidence to speak in English.
3. Motivate yourself to speak English if you have the chance. If you’re not comfortable talking to your peers in English, look in the mirror and talk to yourself, or find someone you can comfortably talk to. The main point is practice every day.


MEDICAL Test

Another step is to do the medical exam for the whole family. We didn't encounter any difficulties in regards to this apart from the medical fee which costs us Php20,000 for the whole family.


ITA (Invitation To Apply)

After a year processing the EOI application, we lodged our ITA application on February 2006. And it was the same old story. My papers had to undergo another series of verification, exchange of emails to my VO regarding employment and other bits and pieces that was required.
During this stage, I was asked to submit tax records, SSS summary contribution, letter from employer, etc. Each of these documents was asked simultaneously, so you could only imagine how much time the completion of these paperwork has taken. Instead of complaining about the ‘wait’ , I devoted my time revising my Resume/Curriculum Vitae (CV), and cover letter, searching and applying for possible jobs. However, the replies were all the same “please let us know when you arrived in NZ for personal interview, blah blah”. But hey! These applications were not useless at all.
As a matter of fact, the company that gave me a job when I arrived in NZ is one of those companies I have applied for two years before my arrival in NZ. So I have to say, pushing you’re luck is not a bad thing at all!

PERSONAL INTERVIEW

Another year has passed and our family received the personal interview invitation. At this stage, it was almost crystal clear that our application for skilled migrant was going to be approved in due time because this interview is only a ‘formality’, wherein your VO will see to it that you’re ready for migration. I don't think anyone fails in this interview (I’m not sure though).
This part is the most exciting yet the most nerve-wracking experience. The principal applicant (that was myself), together with his/her partner(husband/wife) was to have a face-to-face interview with the VO (most migrants will consider this as the most expensive part because at the time, the interviews were usually held in Bangkok, Thailand). In our case, the interview was held in Manila.
The interview was held in NZ immigration office in Ayala, Makati. We were scheduled to attend a 2pm session but we arrived earlier than asked to keep ourselves relaxed and focused. There were a few people who were also attending the interview, but I would say there wasn't much tension around compared to what I felt when I was about to take the IELTS examination. The interview turned out good despite of some difficulties around her Chinese-British accent.
TIP:
1. Do your homework. Search on questions that your VO might ask. You may start composing your answer and practice it seriously. Some of the basic questions are, “Why did you choose NZ as a place of migration?” “What preparations have you made in regards to your migration to NZ?”
2. Be motivated in developing your English speaking, writing, and listening skills. I couldn't emphasize more how crucial this is. If your VO is not satisfied with your English skills, s/he might decline your application. Ask your partner (wife/husband) to practice English as well because there are some parts of the interview that is intended for her/him.
3. When you get nervous, take couple of deep breaths and notice the tingling fading away. Please remember that the more you resist nervousness, the more it persists in your mind.

WTR (Work To Residence)

Seven months from the date of our personal interview, (took awhile aye?) we received the WTR invitation. After receiving this, we needed to provide them the completed application form, application fee and show money (pocket money you will be using when you are already in New Zealand). In terms of the financial requirement of this process, It would be safe to say that without the necessary funding, this stage could be a little bit challenging.
The show money that we needed was a minimum of NZ$3000/head or Php96,000/head as per immigration requirement. Since we are four in the family, we needed around Php 400,000 (ouch!) and because of our insufficient funding, we had to borrow money to our family and friends to suffice the said amount. Some people choose to borrow money from the bank. But be extra mindful that a loan goes with an interest. The faster you return the money you borrowed, the lower the interest you’ll be paying. Keep in mind that it is important that you are dealing with the bank itself or from someone you know and can be trusted!!!
While waiting for the result of our WTR application, I took a 10-day training in Tekla Structures (steel detailing) and Revit (3D modeling).

TIP:
1. Upgrade your skills based on the advertised roles in NZ jobs website (e.g. trademe jobs, www.seek.com ). Anticipate the skills that you need most (eg. for engineers, CAD skills is a big advantage). Perhaps try shifting or doing CAD works upon starting your EOI, I know it’s a downgrade to most of the engineers in Philippines and you cannot afford to do CAD because of your pride (ego). But I tell you, most of the engineers here that has CAD skills has great chances of getting a job (It’s worth it, I tell ya!)
Another five months passed and we finally received the WTR approval after a total of THREE YEARS waiting period (Thank God). Meaning; our skilled migrant application was approved and we were issued a WTR visa. Depending on the immigration policy, WTR visa entitles you to work in NZ with a given deferral period.
In our case, we were granted a 6-month period but the policy (as of 2009) usually provides migrants with a 9-month. Within this deferral period, the principal applicant must work in NZ with relevant job for at least 3 months to qualify for the permanent residency application. I have to say, this is where most migrants are struggling.
If one can’t find a relevant job within this period, he/she may apply for a work visa or go home with shattered dreams (this statement is not to scare you, but the unfortunate truth is, it happens to some). That’s why preparation while in your country is very crucial, specifically around employment and English skills.

I had a little drama during this stage. Everything was all sorted--Visa was on hand, all the paperwork were ready—apart from one of the most important things as a migrant--MONEY. I needed at least Php 100,000 on top of my airfare, and as I have mentioned we were short of funding.
I tried to ask for help from my close relatives and friends, but everyone seemed to be on the same boat-everyone was short of funds. But God was (and still is) really good to us, there was a certain amount of money expected from my wife’s job separation, so I decided to wait for that to be made available.

While waiting for the money, I again started to search for NZ companies operating in Manila to try my luck. And Yes it blew my way! I found two companies, which is in line with my profession--civil/structural engineering. I immediately emailed my CV, stating my interest to work for their company as a trainee while in the Philippines and transfer to NZ branch when everything is sorted.
After my appeal, I was offered a three month trial period and the possibility of being sent to NZ by the company (all expenses paid by them) if I satisfy them with my work performance. I took the offer and resigned on my present job at the time.

I wouldn't say this was the best move because I was well aware that I was putting my chances of getting a ‘real’ job in NZ, that might better fit the requirement of the NZ system in regards to the approval of residency, in jeopardy. The fact is, once you’ve been issued a WTR visa, your deferral period starts on the date of WTR visa issuance.
Hence, by accepting the three-month training I was at the same time using up the three months of my (6-month) visa. But I was left with no other choice but to put my trust in God.

I have completed the three-month trial, unfortunate and oddly enough, the company didn’t pursue my application. I can’t believe what they’ve done, I could only think of the recession and the company’s financial crisis as the reason why they dropped my application.
And in all honesty, I still believe it would have been more helpful if they advised me about their decision earlier as they are aware that I did not have the luxury of time to mock around.

I was really shocked about the decision because I was confident that I performed well enough to get the job. In fact, the manager even announced during our team meeting that they will be sending me not long after the meeting was held.

I would admit that was one of the sad days of my life. With 3 months left on our deferral period, I couldn’t help but to think of the 3-years processing time, the money, could just possibly go to nothing. I was filled with pessimism, thinking about some of those who had been granted a two year deferral period are still unsuccessful with their relevant-job search.
But I already left my job, I already gambled who knows how much money that was, most of our belongings were already sold, some were given to our families and friends. So from then I knew—there was no turning back. Instead of focusing on the things that had already happen, I focused on my NZ journey.
I thought about going to NZ without my family and use the remaining 3 months of my visa to find a job (the reason why I didn't want us to go altogether is because I wanted to provide my family a sense of security when they arrive in NZ).

As soon as we have received the long-awaited, final pay of my wife, which I used to purchase my airfare and the rest as my pocket money, I flew to NZ. Realizing that everything in my life has already been planned by God, that my path has already been laid before I was born, and that someone higher than ourselves was in control, I waved HELLO to NZ!

HEADING TO NZ

My wife and I discussed about my plan of going ahead of them to NZ and they will follow as soon as I get a job. Sounds easy—but as we always say—its far easier said than done. There was an enormous pressure of getting a job within a short time frame.

I flew to NZ via Cathay Pacific and arrived on the 15th of June 2008 (Sunday 6am-middle of winter, whew!). Coming from a tropical country, you could only imagine how the weather stimulated every single follicle of my body. I felt like I was put in a freezer. Sampang referred me to a Filipino couple who can provide me a temporary shelter.

The wonderful Obnial family guided me on my first month in NZ and. They didn't only provide me with physical security (shelter) but most importantly a spiritual security by introducing and guiding me to get to know more our creator (God the almighty).


The following day (Monday) was the start of my job hunting. I started contacting the companies and people who I had applied for while in Philippines. I advised them that I was already in NZ and was able to attend interviews. Some of them responded and I immediately had my first interview the next morning, and then another in the afternoon after my arrival. While waiting for my interview, I maximized my time by opening a bank account (remember: opening a bank account is important as all salaries/wages are deposited through a bank.


Plus, having a bank account helps you monitor your available balances, bills that are coming through, etc) . Despite of the heavy rain (not to mention, occasional nasty hail shower) and undoubtedly freezing temperature, I was able to finish 7 scheduleed interview in a week (4 of these was arranged while I was in Manila).

TIP:

1. As soon as you receive your WTR visa, start sending applications and provide a specific date of your arrival in NZ to the employer so they can arrange a personal interview with you.

2. Again, practice speaking English, this is your tool to get the job.

3. Revise your CV (Have someone to check it too) suiting the role you are applying for, be specific on what you’re good at. CATER your specialty! They don’t admire jack-of-all-trade kind of guy. (I will post a sample CV and cover letter soon).

4. During the interview, address the interviewer in her/his first name, NOT SIR/MA’AM


On my second week I attended “seconds” of my initial interviews from previous week. Fortunately, I received two job offers related to my skills. BUT, I didn’t stop there, I still attended the set of interviews scheduled for the second week. Thursday that week, I received another job offer.

But I still have a remaining interview the next day (Friday), I gave it another go despite of the bad weather and transportation issues. (its better to have more options. You are given a certain amount of time to decide. Make use of that). Id like to play safe!—nothing wrong with that.


I received my fourth job offer in the afternoon of Friday. I had four options. And guess what? The very last interview I had, where I was offered a job as well had the highest salary among the four. But most importantly, It is one of the biggest construction companies in NZ. With a complete package like that, I accepted the offer and started working for them on my third week of stay in NZ. What a wonderful blessing from God despite of the trials that I had been through.


My family was very happy when I told them the good news. They immediately arranged the airline tickets, bought some winter clothes at Greenhills and Tagaytay (Ukay-Ukay) and prepared themselves to fly to NZ.

Preparation for my family arrival

On my fourth week in NZ I started looking for a two-bedroom house for my family (again, all made possible with the help of the Obnial family, who has generously driven me from houses to houses). After a mission of house-searching, I I finally found a 2-bedroom house in Birkdale. A block with a 4 separate door/access for each tenant.

The location is not that good because it was a bit far from the mall and the church but its distance from the school, where I enrolled my children to, wasn't too bad. The rent was $300/week or $1200/month (Php38,000). (REMINDER: NZ houses/rents are a little too pricey). Wow! I felt as though I was paying a posh-owned condo or a decent house in Manila. But nope, it’s just the typical Auckland weekly rental.


So it would be safe to say that If your salary is within the minimum range, say $15/hour and you’re working full time (40hrs/week), half of your salary will go to your house rent and half of it will go towards your other family expenses. If your goal is to acquire money like what I was aiming before, it will probably take longer than you thought to attain that goal. But of course with some exceptions like if you’re doing business or living alone.

There is also an option of doubling or tripling your job if you want to earn more, but the your tax increases along with your income. Needless to say, it could well mean an effort wasted and/or lesser time spent with your family.


Back to my preparation, I bought several second hand items like bed, mattresses and other stuff with the help of some friends. I also received some free items from them like rice cooker, small TV, plates and many more. In other words, settling here in NZ is not that difficult because of our good old tradition of bayanihan (helping each other).

Finally, my family arrived exactly a month after my arrival and started a brand new life here in. Please read adjustment period to learn more how we cope some of the difficulties here in NZ.


PERMANENT RESIDENCY

Acquiring the permanent residency was not really hard for me because of the support I got from the company I am working for and the relevancy of my work to my skills. All I did was extended my WTR visa after a month of employment (this is to avoid the possibility of my visa being expired while waiting for the pending result of our permanent residency application)before getting a 3-month pay slip.

My visa was extended for another 3months (allowing me to have 5 months leeway= 2 months left from the initial visa granted to us plus another 3 month extension) while the wait for my 3-monthly payslip as per requirement for the approval of the residency continues. (NB: Everyone who holds a 6month WTR will be granted a 3 month extension if they get a relevant job within their deferral period.)


TIP:

1. Constantly communicate with your visa officer, update your status and follow-up.


After the completion of my 3-month payslip, I sent it to my visa officer and received the Approval of Principle in October 2008. From then, we just submitted the migrant levy of $1200 and our family’s passport, an that was it.

We received our residency the following month (November 2008) and it was the happy ending of my struggle to get here in NZ. Thank God.

Although my NZ permanent residency experience was not as dramatic as some of the stories you might have heard or yet to hear. I would still consider this stage as the most crucial of all.


I hope that my story and the other stories in this blog will help you in your journey to NZ or anywhere in the world. May this serve as an inspiration and motivation for you to carry on.


Don’t give up. Keep your self esteem intact! KEEP your faith in HIM at hand!

7 comments:

Arvind said...

Good great story. I like your patience and your strong will to fight till end and always concentrate on your goal. Wish u a very good luck for ur future.

jhen_ingua said...

Hi there! Your story is very informative for those Pinoy's who are trying to migrate in NZ. Thank you! Hope that outs will be successful too! :D

Arvind said...

Can You please send us the copy of CV and resume?

a.boiser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
a.boiser said...

Hi Arvind,

Please email me at andre.boiser@gmail.com and I will send you the CV format.

Cheers

kristine cuer said...

Hi! Thank you for sharing this inspiring story of yours. My auntie from NZ wants me to migrate there and I was searching for articles regarding EOI and glad to stumble upon your blog. I will still enroll my self in IELTs review as well as learn driving. Hopefully, I'll get through as well. :)

a.boiser said...

Hi Kristine, glad to know that I helped you in some way. Good luck in your journey to NZ. This is the best place to live.

Guess what, just got our Citizenship last month, very very happy.

Best of luck and keep me posted.

Kind Regards,
Andre