17 July 2006

New Zealand minister defends medical waivers

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The New Zealand Government has defended their decision to accept some migrants with existing medical conditions into the country, provided they have skills in high demand.

Immigration minister David Cunliffe came under pressure to justify the actions of his department after the Sunday Star-Times reported over the weekend how a Pacific Island overstayer from Kiribati will not have to pay for a $500,000 liver transplant after being granted permanent residency.

The paper also revealed that foreigners in New Zealand had run up $10 million in unpaid health bills since 2003.

Mr Cunliffe said that immigrants were not accepted into the country if they had a pre-existing medical condition that would see them become a burden on the health system, but admitted medical waivers were granted where the immigrant's contribution to New Zealand was deemed to be significant.

"In general, we do not accept people into this country if their condition is likely to place heavy demands on our healthcare system or require major funding. That is not fair to New Zealand or New Zealanders," Mr Cunliffe said.

"There are exceptional circumstances. Sometimes we grant medical waivers to people who can show that their contribution to New Zealand will be significant.

"Medical waivers are relatively rare. The Immigration Service needs to be convinced that the benefits outweigh the costs."

All immigrants to New Zealand entering under the Skilled Migration route have their health assessed as part of the application process, and this includes their families.

If a family member included in the application does not meet the required standard of health, the application will be declined unless a medical waiver is granted. Medical waivers will only be accepted if all other application requirements have been met.

Medical waivers will not be granted to people who:

For more information on the health and character requirements for skilled migrants to New Zealand, click here.

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