Identity (Citizenship And Travel Documents) Bill:
FIRST READING SPEECH PARLIAMENT HOUSE ……………………………………… 29 July 2004 HON GEORGE HAWKINS, MINISTER OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS
Mr Speaker, I move that the Identity (Citizenship and Travel Documents) Bill be now read a first time.
I intend to move the Bill be referred to the Government Administration Committee, with the instruction the Committee presents its final report to the House on or before 8 November 2004.
New Zealand’s citizenship and passport legislation has been reviewed to ensure there are no preventable risks to national security. This Bill, amends the Citizenship Act 1977 and the Passports Act 1992. The Bill is not inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.
Part 1 of the Bill amends the Citizenship Act, which provides for the acquisition and loss of New Zealand citizenship. Under this Act, migrants can acquire a grant of citizenship after settling permanently in New Zealand and meeting specified requirements. The grant enables migrants committed to New Zealand to receive the benefits of citizenship, including a New Zealand passport. Approximately 20,000 people receive New Zealand citizenship each year.
One of the standard requirements for a grant is that the applicant must have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in New Zealand for the three years before application.
This is short by international standards, and can include time spent here on temporary permits, such as work or student permits. This is insufficient for assessments of applicants’ suitability for citizenship.
It is also inconsistent with New Zealand immigration policy, which distinguishes residents from temporary permit holders.
To rectify this, the Bill increases the period of residence in New Zealand applicants must meet from three to five years.
From 1 January 2005, applicants will need to have been in the country for approximately three-quarters of the five years before application, including eight months in each year.
Accommodating some absences from New Zealand during the residence period acknowledges the frequency of international travel, while restrictions on absences ensures a person has to live in New Zealand throughout the residence period to receive citizenship.
In addition, time spent in the country on temporary permits will no longer count as a period of residence for citizenship purposes, and any requirements imposed under the Immigration Act on an applicant’s residence must be met at the time of application for citizenship. This will ensure consistency with New Zealand’s immigration policy.
Another standard requirement for the grant of citizenship is that an applicant be of ‘good character’. This Bill amends the Act to ensure applicants with serious criminal convictions cannot receive a grant, and those with less serious convictions cannot receive a grant for a period following conviction.
The Bill also removes distinctions on the basis of age and marital status inconsistent with the Human Rights Act. Currently, spouses and ex-spouses of New Zealand citizens who apply for the grant have to be ordinarily resident in New Zealand for only two years prior to application, and do not have to intend to continue to live here.
After the Bill comes into force, grant applicants who have married New Zealand citizens will have to meet the same requirements as other applicants. The Citizenship Act lists offences relating to citizenship, including making a false statement on a grant application. However, these offences do not cover all aspects of citizenship fraud. This Bill creates new offences of unlawfully issuing a citizenship document and unlawfully altering citizenship records.
These offences will carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a $50,000 fine. Mr Speaker, this Bill makes no changes to the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982. The Bill does however, address a situation unique to Tokelau, which the Citizenship Act defines as part of New Zealand.
A person born in Tokelau is a New Zealand citizen. However, as a result of limited medical facilities on Tokelau, approximately five to ten women a year travel to Samoa to give birth for medical safety.
These children are born outside New Zealand and therefore do not acquire the citizenship status they would have acquired if they had been born in Tokelau.
To meet New Zealand’s obligations to these people, the Bill amends the citizenship by birth provisions so that these people are New Zealand citizens by birth.
Part 2 of the Bill amends the Passports Act, which provides for the issue, renewal and cancellation of New Zealand travel documents. The Department of Internal Affairs issues 320,000 to 340,000 travel documents each year. There are approximately 2.5 million valid New Zealand passports.
In general, these are valid for ten years from the date of issue, or five years if the holder is under 16.
International experience shows that the ten-year period is now too long because of sophisticated counterfeiting techniques.
To reduce the likelihood of forgery, the Bill reduces the maximum validity of new passports from ten years to five. Passports that have already been issued will continue to be valid for the period for which they were issued.
Currently, the Passports Act provides for the disclosure of New Zealand travel document information to the New Zealand Customs Service and Australian immigration for border security and the processing of passengers.
However, New Zealand travel document information cannot be disclosed for the border security system known as Advance Passenger Processing, or APP.
APP identifies unauthorised passengers before departing for New Zealand by enabling airlines to check the validity of travel document details against an up-to-date electronic record of passport, visa and alert information held by the New Zealand Immigration Service.
To allow the disclosure of information for APP, the Bill amends the Passports Act to allow disclosure of New Zealand travel document information to an appropriate agency to aid border security, facilitate passenger processing, and to verify travel document holders' identity.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 requires States to prevent the movement of terrorists by having controls on the issue of travel documents.
The Bill provides for the Minister of Internal Affairs to cancel or refuse to issue, a New Zealand travel document in cases where national security is threatened.
This provision contains a number of procedural safeguards. For example, the decline period is restricted to 12 months, and the person denied the travel document may appeal the Minister’s decision to the High Court.
The 12-month decline period may only be renewed by the High Court, and the Court must be satisfied that the grounds for refusal to issue the travel document still apply.
The Bill also provides for a Court, when sentencing a person for a terrorism related offence, to make an order forbidding the issue of a passport to that person for a specified period not exceeding fifteen years.
Another facet of the Bill concerns refugee travel documents. The Passports Office issues approximately 30 refugee travel documents a month as part of New Zealand’s obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. To formalise this practice, the Bill amends the Passports Act to provide for the issue, renewal and cancellation of New Zealand Refugee Travel Documents.
Mr Speaker, this Bill rectifies problems with the grant of New Zealand citizenship, will improve border security, and will reduce the likelihood of successful forgery and misuse of New Zealand travel documents.
I intend to introduce a supplementary order paper to the Bill to restrict citizenship by birth in New Zealand to the children of New Zealand citizens and residents.
Currently, with few exceptions, people born in New Zealand are New Zealand citizens.
Some people have come to New Zealand on temporary permits solely to give birth so that their New Zealand-born children are citizens. Under current law, these children are entitled to access publicly funded services such as health care and education.
Restricting citizenship by birth will ensure that citizenship, and its benefits, are limited to people who have a genuine and ongoing link to New Zealand.
I hope that many people will make submissions to the Committee for further debate particularly regarding the provisions that increase the standard period of residence in New Zealand from three years to five years.
Mr Speaker, I commend this Bill to the House.