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New Returning Residents' Visa policy announced

The Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, says Cabinet has rescinded the previous Government's decision to grant indefinite Returning Residents' Visas (RRVs) to applicants from the moment residence is approved.

However, the Government will modify the current RRV policy to make it more flexible.

"The indefinite RRV as proposed gave residents an indefinite right of entry into New Zealand without having to demonstrate any commitment to New Zealand whatsoever," Lianne Dalziel said.

Residents, who are not yet New Zealand citizens but want to leave and re-enter the country, require RRVs. RRVs are necessary because all permits, including residence permits, expire when the holder leaves New Zealand.

The changes approved by Cabinet yesterday ensure migrants demonstrate a commitment to New Zealand, but they also allow for the flexibility that was missing from existing policy, the Minister said.

"The situation as it stands, is that time spent in New Zealand and/or tax residence are used to measure eligibility for indefinite RRVs. Quite often that can be confusing. I believe that demonstrated commitment to New Zealand should be the basis of the criteria," she said.

Commitment to New Zealand, and therefore eligibility for an indefinite RRV, will be characterised by:

 Time spent in New Zealand
 Holding tax residence status in New Zealand
 Maintaining an acceptable investment in New Zealand
 Establishing a business and/or
 Establishing a base in New Zealand.

RRVs valid for two years will continue to be issued to residents. At the end of that period, residents who have demonstrated a commitment to New Zealand will be issued with an indefinite RRV.

There is also additional flexibility for the New Zealand Immigration Service to issue an indefinite RRV in exceptional circumstances.

The changes will be operational by September 2000.

Lianne Dalziel said that the previous Government's proposal to remove the commitment concept from RRV policy would have meant people who were approved residence would not have been expected to even move to New Zealand to live.

"This means residence could have been used as an insurance policy in case there were adverse developments in the migrant's own country," Lianne Dalziel said.

"Another risk associated with the previous Government's policy was that rather than paying for their children as international students, parents would simply be able to apply for residence and with an indefinite RRV, would not even have to move here with the children," she said.

"Although there is little evidence of such freeloading, the indefinite RRV proposal would have significantly increased the opportunity for this to occur."

She said there was also the risk that migrants would have been able to access education, health and other Government-funded services later in life when they had spent most of their time living overseas.

"I am satisfied that the Cabinet decision has produced a much better approach than that announced by the previous Government. It provides the flexibility that was sought, without exposing New Zealand to the risks that the automatic indefinite RRVs created," Lianne Dalziel said.

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