Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

London Mayor: Open Britain's door to Kiwis

'Disgraceful' rules on migrants a betrayal of Commonwealth relationship, says Johnson.

Boris Johnson wants Britain to open its doors to Kiwis. Photo / AP
Boris Johnson wants Britain to open its doors to Kiwis. Photo / AP

London's Mayor has called for the United Kingdom to open its doors to an unlimited number of New Zealanders, saying current restrictions on them are "disgraceful".

The public appeal by Boris Johnson, tipped by some as a future Prime Minister, comes as the New Zealand Government surveys New Zealanders about their experiences with UK work visas.

Reports say recent changes have restricted work opportunities for Kiwis, and the survey results will be used in talks with the British government on the issue.

Statistics NZ figures show 4578 New Zealanders moved to the United Kingdom permanently or for the long-term last year - down from 12,416 in 2000.

Writing in the national Telegraph newspaper, Mr Johnson said Britain had betrayed its relationships with Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand and Australia.

He said the government should open its doors to an unlimited number of immigrants from such countries through "bilateral free labour mobility zones".

Mr Johnson said that during a visit to Australia, he met a teacher who had taught in London but had to leave because of "disgraceful" immigration rules.

"She isn't a citizen of any of the 27 countries of the European Union," Mr Johnson wrote. "She has been told to bog off by the authorities in our country because it was, they said, too much of a palaver to go through the business of 'sponsoring' her to stay."

Any citizen of a European member state can live and work in the UK.

New Zealanders can obtain a two-year working holiday visa.

If they wish to stay longer, they must qualify for an ancestry visa, or be classed as a skilled worker.

University of Auckland economics professor Tim Hazledine said that if Britain's doors were opened, it was possible highly-skilled workers would leave New Zealand.

But there was no real evidence of New Zealand suffering significantly from such a "brain drain".

"New Zealanders do well overseas. They earn good money, on the whole. And they often come back with some savings, and maybe start a business with experience and knowledge that they wouldn't have perhaps got in New Zealand."

University of Canterbury researcher Rosemary Baird, said she felt Kiwis' attitude to Britain was different to their view of Australia.

"I think England is more an experience - you go for two years and travel around Europe as much as you can in your weekends and holidays.

"Whereas Australia is more to get on with life and change your fortune a bit more."

Just over 20,000 skilled workers a year are let into Britain from outside the EU, but they must be sponsored by an employer and pass a points-based assessment.

Elisha Eason wanted to stay in Britain ... but she drew the line at using the only option.
Elisha Eason wanted to stay in Britain ... but she drew the line at using the only option.

Desperate ... but 'I do' is a step too far

As Elisha Eason's time in London drew to a close she wanted to stay on - but couldn't bring herself to take the only available option.

"I had a two-year visa. I desperately wanted to stay and tried to find out the ways to do it," said the 25-year-old, who worked as a nanny in London.

"A friend said, 'we'll just get married'. Friends of mine have got married so they can stay, which is a huge deal, and it shouldn't be that hard for us."

Ms Eason is now studying part-time and working in retail in Dunedin. She believed many New Zealanders would settle for four or five years in the UK, given the chance, and both countries would benefit.

- NZ Herald

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