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New Bill protects NZ passport and border security

17 June 2004

New Bill protects NZ passport and border security

The new Identity (Citizenship and Travel Documents) Bill introduced today will increase security around New Zealand passports and tighten citizenship criteria and vetting processes, Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins says.

The impact of September 11 and other terrorist incidents, together with increasing levels of international identity fraud, had highlighted international border security and travel document integrity, he said.

New Zealanders could be proud of having one of the most secure and highly respected passports in the world.

"Our passport also includes visa free arrangements with 53 countries which has the effect of making it highly sought after by fraudsters and other criminals.

"To counter this, the Bill contains a number of key changes to ensure New Zealanders continue to have a highly secure, world-class passport," Mr Hawkins said.

The Government was committed to ensuring New Zealanders could travel freely with a secure passport. To ensure this, the Bill would reduce the validity of the New Zealand passport from ten years to five years.

"As counterfeiting techniques continue to become more sophisticated, a shorter validity period will help New Zealand retain a technological edge over fraudsters, " Mr Hawkins said.

Other measures in the Bill to enhance security included:
disclosure of New Zealand travel document information for the APP (Advance Passenger Processing) border security system. This system identified unauthorised passengers before they departed for New Zealand by enabling airlines to check the validity of passenger’s travel document details against passport and visa information; and

provision of specific grounds for cancelling or refusing to issue a New Zealand travel document where national security was threatened.

The Bill would also ensure the country's citizenship laws addressed security issues while maintaining fairness for applicants, Mr Hawkins said.

“The Bill will therefore increase the standard period of residence in New Zealand to qualify for citizenship from three years to five years. In addition, time spent in the country on temporary permits will no longer count as a qualifying period of residence for citizenship purposes,” he said.

Following increased penalties for passport offences provided in the 2002 Passports Amendment Act, the Bill would create new offences for unlawfully issuing a citizenship document and unlawfully altering citizenship records. Such offences would be liable for a term of imprisonment of up to ten years and/or a fine up to $50,000.

“The Identity (Citizenship Travel Documents) Bill underlines this Government’s commitment to ensuring our border control systems and processes remain among the best in the world.

"This will mean that Kiwis can continue to travel on one of the best passports in the world, backed up by a robust citizenship process,” Mr Hawkins said.

ENDS

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