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How to solve a problem like a visa?

Have visa restrictions ever put your plans on hold? We need New Zealand volunteers to help with our project on Commonwealth visas.


Despite the intense sporting rivalry and the strong cultural ties between the UK and New Zealand, there is one aspect which has a huge deficit – visas and immigration.

The rumblings were given a voice by Prime Minister Key’s visit to see Mr. Cameron last September. The talks were unsuccessful in easing visa restrictions for New Zealanders, but Mr. Key did find a support in the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Mr. Johnson highlighted the case of Australian teacher, Sally Roycroft who struggled to remain working in the UK. He branded it “absurd discrimination”. The Mayor’s solution was the establishment of a “bilateral labour mobility zone” which in effect gives Australia and New Zealand the same rights as citizens from the EU to live and work in the UK.

I have my own personal story during my work visit to Canada last August. I was in the queue waiting to climb the CN Tower when a gentleman came up to me and asked if I wanted his 2-4-1 spare ticket. I accepted and we got chatting. It turned out that he was a highly educated New Zealander who used to live and work in the UK. He was forced leave his established life in the UK due to a lack of visa sponsorship. I am sure there are many other real life examples.

The decline in the number of New Zealanders in the UK is striking. In 2000, 18,000 New Zealander lived in the UK with the latest data from 2011 showing those numbers to have more than halved to 8,000.

We at Commonwealth Exchange (CX) are eager to explore this through a Commonwealth context in order to improve and enhance wider Commonwealth relations as a set of proposals for the Government to consider. These will range from extending the Tier 5 Youth Visa; the reintroduction of the Tier 1 two-year post-study component; more flexible Tier 2 general visas; the establishment of a  Commonwealth business visa; and a reduction in cost or elimination of tourist visas for more Commonwealth nations.

As a think tank we will do so through a research project. But we cannot do this on our own. A key pillar to the research will be via case studies. Migration is about individual people and their families; therefore, our work demands a distinctly human touch. We require the voice of New Zealanders who have valuable and interesting stories to tell about their experience in the UK. You may be concerned about being sent home if your visa is not renewed despite setting up a life in the UK. You may have experienced frustration at the Home Office over the cost, time, and delay over your visa.

But you are not alone. Hundreds if not thousands of individuals from Commonwealth nations such as South Africa, India, Jamaica, and Malaysia are disadvantaged by the current unfair system, which has a distinctly European bias. We admit that not every Commonwealth nation is the same. Our recommendations will reflect this.

New Zealanders are fortunate that they do not need a tourist visa to visit the UK, other Commonwealth nations are not so lucky, but New Zealanders still need a work visa sponsored by a UK business which is costly in terms of time and money.

We share the Mayor’s sentiment that New Zealanders should be conferred the same working rights as those from the EU. There is so much in common that it appears tragic that such arrangements are not already in place when we share the same language, legal system, customs, and Head of State. We acknowledge that a lot centres around reciprocity. New Zealand would have to also provide favourable free movement to the UK in return.

We desire even stronger relations between Britons and New Zealanders. Freedom of movement to live and work is a significant part of this. That is why we want this research paper to be about your words not ours.

So if you would like to put yourself forward and participate in our project anonymously as a case study then please contact us at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you.

Article by Tim Hewish, Executive Director & Co-Founder, Commonwealth Exchange (CX)