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Truck, Bus Drivers Residency: Calls For Removing English Test

Truck and bus drivers are required to take English language tests like IELTS.

A new campaign lobbying for truck and bus drivers to be spared the English language proficiency test while applying for residency is gaining momentum. 

New immigration rules brought in last year replaced earlier provisions that allowed an easier pathway to residence for tradespeople like drivers that did not require them to clear a test like IELTS.



The rule change in May 2023 has meant many drivers who have been working seamlessly in New Zealand are now finding their dreams of residence impacted heavily, says Shaneel Kumar, who is spearheading the campaign. 

Shaneel PhotoShaneel Lal from SNK Consultancy. (Supplied photo)

“We are trying to convince the government to waive off the English test requirement. At least 750 drivers have joined the movement over the last few weeks that we have travelled through Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch,” says Shaneel of SNK Consultancy, an Auckland-based immigration service provider. 

He points to an Indian truck driver who has been working in Aotearoa for nearly two-and-a-half years to illustrate his point.  

“Under the transport sector’s work to residence rules, this man became eligible to apply about six months back. He has taken the language test thrice in that time, and hasn’t been able to score more than 5.5, against the immigratoin requirement of 6.5.”

Shaneel says the man–in his early 40s–has more than 10 years of trucking experience in India, and has been able to work perfectly well in New Zealand with his English proficiency.

“He is faring poorly mostly in the writing section of the test. It doesn’t seem fair that someone like him who has worked hard here and has a family to support is having to face such a crisis,” Shaneel says. 

Under the previous work to residence scheme, before the Accredited Employer Work Visa was introduced, drivers and a few other categories of tradespeople didn’t have to take an English language test to apply for work to residence, Shaneel says. 

“The assumption presumably was that if they have worked smoothly for two years, they must have been reasonably proficient in English to get by. Also, bear in mind that New Zealand faces a shortage of drivers and the immigrations settings for these workers must be lucrative enough to get them interested in moving here.”

A change in the language rule will most likely have to go through the Cabinet and Parlimant. For now, Shaneel says he is helping drivers submit individual petitions to the immigration minister seeking waiver. 

“The immigration minister does have the authority to grant concessions on a case-to-case basis. While a law change could take time, we can surely request the government to consider individual cases that are genuinely authentic.”

The charity project is offering to file individual petitions free of charge, asking drivers to submit their request for help by the end of this month through this link.

“They simply have go to our Facebook page and fill a form with their name, date of birth, passport number–same details of their family if they have one. Once we get their details I prepare a statutory declaration on their behalf and send it back to them. 

“They need to print the form and sign it in front of a Justice of the Peace and send the form back to us-we will present the form to the immigration minister as the applicant's request,” Shaneel says.

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