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Last Chance For Well-Settled Overstayers

The Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, said the Government has approved a one-off measure offering long-term, "well-settled" overstayers the opportunity to regularise their status in New Zealand before tough new immigration laws take effect.

Lianne Dalziel said today Cabinet had approved transitional provisions for well-settled overstayers to make their status in New Zealand lawful.

Overstayers will have from 1 October 2000 until 30 March 2001 to lodge an application for a two-year work permit.

It is only after the two years that permanent residence can be sought. The provisions will apply only to those considered to be "well-settled" in New Zealand and who arrived before 1 October 1999.

It is expected that these provisions will affect between an estimated 5,700 and 7,700 overstayers who have been living in New Zealand continuously for five years or more. People with well-established family links such as a New Zealand spouse or New Zealand-born child will also be eligible to apply.

"We've estimated that to the end of July this year there were between 18,000 and 22,000 overstayers in New Zealand, but these provisions are likely to affect only about a third of that number," Lianne Dalziel said.

“This is a once-only opportunity for well-settled overstayers to regularise their status ahead of tough, new immigration laws,” the Minister said.

“Those overstayers who do not qualify to regularise their status must face the fact that they should not be in New Zealand, and they will have to leave immediately or be removed, facing a five-year ban on re-entering New Zealand."

She said the previous Government took only one-step towards resolving the overstayer issue with its 1991 Transitional Policy but it was not accompanied by a tougher removal regime. The Minister said, however, that the tougher removal regime must be accompanied by a consideration of well-settled overstayers.

"It is the combination of the two policies that will be effective," Lianne Dalziel said.

Lianne Dalziel said the strengthened removal provisions of the Immigration Act taking effect from 1 October, coupled with the development of further procedures to tighten compliance, would make it much less likely that large numbers of people could overstay in future.

"MPs, community and church leaders and employers who have expressed their concern at the new removal procedures could now see that the Government had listened to their concerns, but I believe they must carry some responsibility for preventing a build-up of overstayer numbers in future," she said.

"It would be unfair for well-settled people to be uprooted and tossed out of New Zealand, especially when these people have lived in and contributed to their local community for a number of years, have worked and paid taxes and have children growing up as New Zealanders."

"You have to ask whether people who are well-settled, tax-paying, law-abiding people with strong family and community connections should in fact be sent 'home' when 'home' is really New Zealand," Lianne Dalziel said.

Some people currently in New Zealand lawfully on long-term temporary permits, but who would not qualify for residence under normal policy, will also be able to take advantage of the Transitional Policy. "I know of some people who have been here for five years with work permits being renewed every year or so. Those people would also have an opportunity to apply under the new provisions." This does not apply to those on student permits.

People who are the immediate family members of overstayers and who were in New Zealand on 18 September 2000 may also apply under the transitional provisions. These family members are not required to have arrived before 1 October 1999.

"People who qualify under these transitional provisions will not be removed in the meantime nor not any point while their application is being considered," she said.

Lianne Dalziel said overstayers would be given six months to apply for a temporary permit. "There will be no need to rush into the nearest Immigration Service branch, overwhelming staff there. Contact can be made initially through the call-free numbers or the NZIS Website to obtain an application form and an information pack."

Call Free Numbers: Auckland 300 5855, or outside Auckland 0800 731 731
Or visit the NZIS website on


Q. How will these transitional provisions work?
A. This will be a two-step regularisation programme. It is for a limited time, only six months, and it is only for those people who arrived in New Zealand before 1 October 1999 and who can be considered "well settled". There will be a two-year period prior to any application for residency being accepted. It is a one-off measure to assist those who would otherwise be caught by tough, new immigration laws.

Q. What does "well-settled" mean?
A. For these transitional provisions, "well-settled" is someone who has lived in New Zealand for more than five years, has one or more New Zealand-born children or is living in a stable de facto relationship (two years duration) or marriage with a New Zealand citizen or resident.

Q. Who can be considered an overstayer?
A. Overstayers are people who are in New Zealand unlawfully because they have remained in New Zealand beyond the period specified in their permit.

Q. It seems that if you are an overstayer and manage to remain in New Zealand long enough, you will be allowed to live here.
A. It's about accepting the current situation as it is and finding a solution to it. Overstaying is a problem experienced by most democratic countries. The previous Government took only one step to resolve the issue, but we now have between an estimated 18,900 and 22,400 overstayers in New Zealand. On 1 October 2000, a tough new law takes effect that makes it easier to remove from New Zealand people who live here unlawfully through a one-step removal process.

Q. How will that improve things?
A. From 1 October, the appeal period will run until 42 days from the expiry of someone's permit to stay in New Zealand. After that time, there is no right of appeal and overstayers can be removed from New Zealand anytime after that 42 day period.

Q. What was the "one step" the previous Government did?
A. The 1991 Transitional Policy was ineffective because it was not accompanied by the removal regime that is to come into place on 1 October. But this new removal regime would be undermined by the existence of significant numbers of well-settled overstayers. It is the combination of the two that will be effective in addressing the problem of overstaying.

Q. But this policy does reward overstayers for breaking the law?
A. It recognises that removing "well-settled" people from New Zealand is not fair. Many of them have been here for a number of years, have contributed to their local communities, even have New Zealand born children who are citizens of this country.

Q. How will this policy benefit New Zealand?
A. It will help by reducing the number of people living in New Zealand unlawfully. It will alleviate social problems at both the individual and community level through removing a major source of stress and distress. It will help limit the level of exploitation from unscrupulous employers experienced by a number of overstayers. It will ensure that children of overstayers will be able to receive immediate attention from their local GP when they're sick, rather than waiting until the children need to be hospitalised because their parents are too scared to see their GP. And it will allow children to attend local schools without the fear of being removed from New Zealand.

Q. Will these extra numbers of people be a burden on society?
A. Not at all. It's not like these people are coming into the community now. Most will have been here for more than five years. But they can now contribute to their health and education needs through taxation by working legally. Not much will change for those who have been working legally and paying tax, other than the fact they will be legally allowed to stay.

Q. What if a removal order has already been served?
A. Providing an applicant meets the criteria for the provisions, their removal order will be cancelled and their application will be processed. However, anyone served with a removal order who does not meet the criteria will not be eligible to apply.


Estimates of the number and characteristics of overstayers in New Zealand as at late July 2000. These estimates were based on the detailed analysis of a sample of around 1,800 people recorded as potential overstayers in the Department of Labour’s computer system. People whose permits had been expired for less than three months were excluded for these estimates.

The first table below sets out a broad estimate of the number of overstayers, with estimates for the top nationalities separated out.
Estimated numbers of overstayers by nationality
Nationality Estimated Number
Samoa 5,500
Tonga 5,000
Rest of World 3,200
Thailand 1,800
Great Britain 1,200
Fiji 900
China 600
Malaysia 500
India 500
Indonesia 300
USA 300
South Korea 300
Philippines 200
Japan 100
Germany 100
Canada 100
France 100
Total 20,700

The second table, below, sets out the estimates of the length of time the total number of overstayers have been in New Zealand since time of last arrival in New Zealand.

Estimated total number of overstayers by duration
Length of time since last arrival in
New Zealand Estimated number of overstayers
3 months to 18 months 3,000
18 months to 5 years 10,900
5 years and over 6,800
Total 20,700

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