End of the OE?

The last year or so has seen a significant uptick in the number of young kiwi lawyers embarking on that most traditional of adventures, the OE. The majority of whom still head to the bright lights (and easy access to Europe!) offered by London town. So it is with great interest that those already over there and those planning their own odyssey in next little while have read about the proposed new measures designed to curb the UK’s immigration levels. Never has a Conservative Party Conference been so closely followed from literally the other side of the world.

With net immigration running at over 300,000 per year, and the message the British public sent with their Brexit vote earlier this year, it was obviously not an issue the sitting government could remain silent on. British Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said that companies had been ‘getting away’ with not training British workers and that in some instances recruiting overseas staff had become little more than a box ticking exercise. There have been vague immigration targets for the last six years to reduce immigration to ‘sustainable’ levels. Sustainable has been taken by many to mean less than 100,000 per year.

At this stage it is worth noting that it is not yet policy, but simply subject to consultation. It also seems to refer to those on sponsored work visas, which typically accounts for less than 200 New Zealanders each year. Most of those heading over on their OE do so under the Youth Mobility Scheme, some 4500 each year, so they are unlikely to be in the firing line. It is also worth remembering that the UK immigration system has long been a shifting and volatile beast – the most recent changes affecting Kiwis happened just a few months ago with little fan fair.

It is well worth keeping an eye on for many reasons and, if implemented, it is probably unwise to rely on any romanticised view of the old colonial relationship and expect any special treatment for New Zealanders.