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Minister of Immigration Has Panicked

Minister of Immigration Has Panicked

The Government's overnight changes to immigration criteria appear to be a panic reaction to Winston Peters' inflammatory remarks, ACT Leader Richard Prebble said today.

"As we've studied what the Government is proposing, it appears to be an absurd over-reaction. Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel has conceded her changes two months ago are unworkable, which indicates a need for careful analysis before making criteria changes.

"A language test that says that every migrant must have university-level English just can't be right. To apply a test that forty percent of all school graduates would fail is extraordinary. If the Government really does believe that everyone needs university-level English, then it should be applied to migrants from English language countries. The prospect of migrants from Britain with needed trade skills being turned down because they don't speak university English - even Mr Peters would think that was absurd. But that's exactly what the Government is doing to migrants from other parts of the world.

"The Government's statements regarding the long-term business visa also don't stand up to analysis. The long-term business visa is an innovative policy whereby businesspeople can get a temporary three-year visa. They are required under the visa to set up a business in this country and to register for tax purposes with the New Zealand Inland Revenue Department. It was always understood that such business people may well continue with their business interests overseas, and for that reason were granted multiple entry visas, and for the Government to suddenly say it is surprised that a substantial number at any one time are overseas would indicate they don't understand their own scheme.

"From a taxpayer's point of view, the important thing is that these visa holders have to set up a business in New Zealand, and have to pay tax. The business visa holders are not entitled to permanent residence unless their business is a success which is an objective test. The reality is that just like all other businesses, a proportion fail and those who do have to leave.

"Previous governments have not been concerned about the English level of this category of visa holder because it is the visa holder and not the New Zealand taxpayer taking the risk.

"It may well be that long-term business visa holders who have good English do better, but as this category of visa holder can only get permanent residence if they succeed in business, it is over to the Minister to explain why any English language test is required.

"What she has conceded is that lifting the points level to thirty has meant that skilled tradesmen - something the country has a critical shortage of - no longer qualify.

"I do think that the level of English competency is a relevant factor to be included in any immigration system. But a test that I'm told that half the New Zealand-born population would fail does seem to be a panicked reaction," Mr Prebble said.

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