Searching for experience
When young couple Ali Far and Mana Ahmadi got visas allowing them to come to New Zealand to look for work they thought their luck was in.
But the luck is turning sour after seven months of fruitless searching.
Hopes of gaining valuable work experience in New Zealand has been dashed for the Iranian couple, both 26, who have been unable to get jobs despite their qualifications.
They are in New Zealand on Silver Fern job seeking visas which allow them to look for skilled work for a period of nine months.
But heading into the last two months of their time here the pair, who both hold Masters degrees, are still on the job hunt and relying on savings and family support to keep them going.
Both are recent graduates of the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus.
Mr Far has a Masters degree in banking and finance, and Ms Ahmadi in communications.
But despite their qualifications they are lacking something most employers look for - work experience.
Without it they find themselves in a "Catch-22" situation - no experience, no job, no job, no experience - and it makes them wonder why they were granted the visa at all.
Only 300 Silver Fern job search visas are issued each year on a first-come first-served basis to those who meet its criteria.
Applicants must have a degree to at least bachelor level, be between 20 and 35, and have $4200 in the bank.
If they can find skilled work a job search visa holder may then apply for a Silver Fern Practical Experience visa which allows for two years' employment.
"The main problem is employers are looking for work experience, especially New Zealand work experience," Mr Far says.
"I don't have that.
"I don't expect to be a finance manager, I'm happy to start as a teller in a bank but it's not skilled."
Ms Ahmadi is in the same boat.
"Three days after my Masters defence I came here and attended a workshop at the Auckland Region Migrant Services with the Chamber of Commerce," she says.
At the workshop she heard "the first thing that counts is experience".
"But I have no experience, and they still gave me a job search visa for nine months".
The pair are living off savings and with support from family in Iran.
With the exchange rate between Iran and New Zealand not favourable they had hoped to be standing on their own months ago.
The couple has been supported in their search by Auckland Region Migrant Services employment co-ordinator Lulette Carnie who says they are both great candidates who need someone to take a punt on them.
Ms Carnie says most people coming into New Zealand on skilled visas pick up work quite easily, particularly in the IT, engineering, banking and finance and hospitality sectors.
"It's a big battle, [Mr Far] needs an employer to give him a chance to prove that his knowledge can be put into practice," she says.
"Immigration New Zealand knew they had no experience. I don't know if they explained how hard it would be."