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Hawkins: NZ "citizenship that's worth the wait"

A passport worth protecting and citizenship that's worth the wait

Prospective New Zealand citizens will be asked to prove their commitment to this country by waiting a bit longer for citizenship while New Zealand passports will be better protected under legislation passed in Parliament last night.

"The Passports Amendment Act ensures New Zealanders can continue to travel on one of the best and most secure passports in the world, while the Citizenship Amendment Act tightens the criteria and vetting processes for New Zealand citizenship," said Internal Affairs Minister, George Hawkins.

“The standard period of residence in New Zealand to qualify for citizenship will increase 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.”

Mr Hawkins said another important change is the requirement that citizenship be registered at birth. The change comes in order to limit New Zealand citizenship to the offspring of parents who are committed to this country.

Changes have also been made to enhance passport and border security.

"New Zealand has one of the best passports in the world, providing visa free arrangements with 53 countries," said Mr Hawkins. "Unfortunately, that means it is highly sought after by fraudsters.

“With increasing levels of international identity fraud it is crucial that New Zealand remains to the forefront of international border security and travel document security.

"A key provision of the new legislations is the reduction of passport validity from ten years to five years. A shorter validity period will help New Zealand keep ahead of fraudsters by retaining a leading edge in technology."

The five-year validity period only applies to newly issued passports. Existing passports can be used until their expiry date.

Mr Hawkins said the legislation will also enhance passport and border security by providing for the disclosure of New Zealand travel document information for the APP (Advanced Passenger Processing) border security system.

The APP system helps airlines to identify persons carrying unauthorised and stolen travel documents before they depart for New Zealand.

A separate provision will provide specific grounds for cancelling or refusing to issue a New Zealand passport where New Zealand security is threatened.

"This legislation will ensure that Kiwis can continue to travel on one of the best passports in the world, backed up by a robust and fair citizenship process and enhanced border security,” Mr Hawkins said.

The legislative provisions will come into effect immediately after Royal Assent while the citizenship by birth provisions will come into effect on 1 January, 2006.

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