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New law clarifies benefit for non-resident spouses

22 May 2001 Media Statement

New law clarifies benefit entitlement for non-resident spouses

Legislation to remove a loophole in New Zealand's social security rules affecting couples where one partner is temporarily in New Zealand got its first reading in Parliament today by Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

The Social Security (Residence of Spouses) Amendment Bill provides that where a person applies for a benefit and his or her spouse or partner does not have permanent residency the benefit will be paid at the unmarried rate. At present individuals who are unlawfully or temporarily in New Zealand are not entitled to a benefit. Similarly a New Zealand resident with a partner who is unlawfully in New Zealand cannot get a married couple benefit rate. However a loophole in current law has meant that New Zealand residents with partners who are temporarily in New Zealand have been able to qualify for the married couple rate, meaning that spouses or partners temporarily in New Zealand indirectly receive part of their partner's benefit.

"New Zealand's welfare system is intended to provide social security for people living permanently in this country. This amendment, which comes into force on 1 July 2001, will ensure that temporary residents do not get covered by taxpayer funded social security benefits.

"The legislation debated in Parliament today will bring New Zealand law into line with Australian rules.

"Persons lawfully in New Zealand who have or are applying for refugee status, and applicants for residence permits compelled to remain in New Zealand for unforseen circumstances will not be affected. The bill will only apply to applicants for benefits after it is passed into law," Steve Maharey said.

ENDS

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