23 July 2008

NZ Immigration Bill changes to ensure immigration is "vital ingredient"

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Clayton Cosgrove, Minister for Immigration, delivered a speech this week to the Immigration Law Conference in Auckland about the future of immigration in New Zealand. According to the Minister, changes to the immigration law to be introduced over the next few years will be the biggest amendments in decades.

As is the case in many developing countries, New Zealand’s population is ageing in sync with an increasing demand for workers.  Every year, approximately 50,000 new jobs are created in New Zealand, and by 2050 the country’s population aged over 65 will double.  Mr Cosgrove believes skilled migration is an essential tool to ensure these jobs are being filled, and is working hard to maintain New Zealand’s immigration service at a world-class standard.

In New Zealand, migrants contribute to 60 per cent of the country’s workforce growth over the past five years, and the number of temporary work permits has increased by nearly 20 per cent every year, reaching around 100,000 permits.  During the 2006-07, 67,147 foreigners lived in the country on student work permits.  The Immigration Department also receive around 25,000 applications for permanent residency every year, with nearly 90 per cent of these applicants first sampling New Zealand’s lifestyle on temporary work permits.

"Immigration is a vital ingredient in New Zealand’s ongoing economic development.  Migrants drive innovation, give our businesses international connections, and provide a range of skills to transform our economic landscape," Mr Cosgrove said.

The Immigration Change Programme involves three vital changes to immigration strategy.  Firstly, the Minister has promised to ensure the right applicants are granted visas, and that those chosen migrants are supported by settlement programmes in the community.

"Immigration is also about opening the door to the people we want and need.  The government recognises it must offer a world-class immigration service in order to keep attracting these migrants, as well as maintaining secure borders and fulfilling our immigration-related international obligations," he added.

The Government also introduced new policies, including the Essential Skills policy and the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.  The Essential Skills policy is designed to encourage highly skilled migrants to the country while protecting the rights of lower-skilled workers already in New Zealand.  The RSE scheme is a highly successful guest-workers scheme for workers in the horticultural and viticultural industries (which the Australian Government is basing their proposed Pacific Islander guest-worker scheme).

Immigration legislation is also undergoing change; by May 2009 all New Zealand- based immigration advisors will need to have a licence to provide migration advice so that the rights of would-be immigrants can be protected from fraud and misrepresentation.

Also, all persons entering New Zealand, except for nationals from countries part of the visa-free programme, will need to have a visa.  The "permits" will no longer exist under the Bill, but instead "entry permission" will specify the terms and conditions of the person’s stay in New Zealand.  This means that all persons visiting New Zealand will now be monitored at the border by the Government to ensure they comply with the conditions of their stay. 

The power to make exceptions in the application process for residency is also part of the changes to the Bill.  The Department of Labour will now be able to take on more responsibility for granting a resident visa in cases where applications should be rejected by technicality .  If the person is deemed to be beneficial to New Zealand, the Department is empowered to exercise discretionary decision-making and approve residency visas to those who would normally be rejected.

The Immigration Minister is positive the changes to the Bill will retain New Zealand’s position in the globally competitive arena.

"New Zealand has to stay in the race with modern immigration legislation which allows us to build a modern immigration system, and that can protect our borders from the people that may be a risk," he said. 

"It provides the right balance between allowing us to choose the migrants we want and need… It also enables us to successfully fulfil our immigration-related international obligations."


The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people emigrate to New Zealand.

Article by Jessica Bird, New Zealand Visa Bureau.


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