New Zealand unveils proposed Immigration Act changes: New Zealand Visa Bureau

The proposed changes to the Immigration Act were outlined in a public consultation document put out for feedback earlier this year, and the Government plans to put the new legislation for approval before Parliament next year.

Increased competition amongst countries such as Australia, the UK and Canada has seen those countries change their immigration systems and increase their marketing to attract skilled people, and now New Zealand has announced its intention to follow suit.

"We are very short of labour and particularly short of skilled labourers in some high demand areas of the economy; ICT, medical services, education and some of the basic trades," said Immigration Minister David Cunliffe. "We are crying out for people but so is the rest of the world, so we are going to have to compete harder with other countries to get the skills we want.

"We're going to have to be sharper about identifying the particular migrants that can best assist New Zealand and we're going to have to be more competitive about going out and finding and recruiting people we need."

Included in the poposed legislation were plans that called for:

  • A single document system based around visas will replace the current two-tier visa and permit system.
  • A single immigration and refugee appeals tribunal will be set up to replace the four existing bodies - the Residence Review Board, the Removal Review Authority, the Deportation Tribunal and the Refugee Status Appeals Authority - for appeals. This will limit the avenues for appeal to one and shorten the appeal process.
  • Immigration officials will have the power to require the collection, storage, and use of biometric information from non-citizens engaged with the immigration process. Biometric information can include electronic fingerprints and iris scans, and could include anyone applying for a tourist, temporary or residency visa.
  • Classified information will be able to be used without disclosure when considering immigration applications.
  • Plans for excluding immigrants on health grounds have been dropped.
  • The Minister would have the ability to designate to officials decisions on residence approvals. At present more thna 4,000 cases are referred to his desk every year.
  • The establishment of an internal decision-making team for tricky residence cases within clear and limited guidelines, while the Minister retains the ability to make positive decisions.
  • The ability to deport new New Zealand citizens with fewer than five years' residency

The announcement was the first part of the Immigration Act review, with further policy on operational changes and the settlement of immigrants to follow next year.