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Sweeping review of immigration laws unveiled

5 April 2006 Media Statement

Sweeping review of immigration laws unveiled

Immigration Minister David Cunliffe has unveiled the most comprehensive review of immigration laws since the present Immigration Act was passed in 1987.

Mr Cunliffe today released the Immigration Act Review Discussion Paper 2006 for public consultation, with the aim of incorporating feedback into a new Immigration Bill at a later date.

"This review aims to simplify and streamline the law to facilitate the entry of those migrants we want, and to enhance border security and tighten the law against those we don't want in New Zealand," he said.

The Immigration Act review is part of a wider approach to reviewing New Zealand's immigration system.

"The three pillars of our approach are legislative reform, a strategic review of key aspects of immigration policy, and supporting operational and process changes within the Department of Labour.

"These will be ongoing, complementary changes to ensure we have an integrated immigration system that is designed for the 21st Century."

The Immigration Act is the legislation that guides and drives immigration policies and processes. It has a huge impact on people from overseas who visit, study, work and live in New Zealand, and on the lives of New Zealanders.

"Major shifts in the international environment and New Zealand's priorities since the current act was passed in 1987 mean it's important to review the law.

"To remain internationally competitive while protecting our borders and way of life, we need legislation which is understandable and efficient - and allows us to make firm, fast and fair decisions.

"The options in the paper are only proposals, and are not yet government policy," the minister said.

"Cabinet will carefully consider the feedback from submissions in framing legislation later this year."


A programme of immigration change is underway to ensure New Zealand continues to attract skilled people who can successfully settle and contribute, while maintaining the security of our borders and our way of life.

There are three pillars to this approach:

- Legislative reform, through:
o The Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill
o A fundamental review of the Immigration Act 1987
- A strategic review of key aspects of New Zealand's immigration policy
- Supporting service delivery within the Department of Labour.

What is starting now is a public consultation on the fundamental review of the Immigration Act 1987. The Immigration Act Review discussion paper outlines different proposals for changes to the legislation.


The global immigration environment is changing - bringing both opportunities and challenges for New Zealand.

Increased mobility

People are increasingly mobile around the world - resulting in an increase temporary migration.

On any one day, there are between 225,000-250,000 people in New Zealand temporarily as students, workers or visitors.

In 2004/05, nearly 90% of principal applicants approved for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category had previously been in New Zealand on temporary permits.

In addition, people who settle here don't always choose to settle permanently, a trend which is mirrored in countries such as Australia and Canada, with their similar migration systems.

Increasing competition

There is increased competition between countries for talent and skills, against a background of an aging workforce and falling fertility rates.

Increased competition means that many countries such as Australia, the UK and Canada are changing their immigration systems and increasing their marketing to attract skilled people.

Increasing population diversity

There is growing diversity in the make-up of New Zealand's population. For example, during the 1990s the Asian population in New Zealand grew by 138 percent, and the Pacific Island population grew by 39 percent.

This means settlement is increasingly important to make sure people are able to establish their families quickly and successfully in local communities, and to contribute fully to our nation's social and economic life.

Increasing risk

The greater movement of people, an increased focus on international security and more sophisticated and complex illegal activity means New Zealand has to protect its border.


The Government is reviewing the Immigration Act to ensure that New Zealand's immigration legislation encourages the entry of the people we need, while effectively protecting New Zealand's border.

Since the Immigration Act came into force in 1987, various amendments have been made to the legislation.

These include improvements to the removal regime for people unlawfully in New Zealand and strengthened provisions to prevent migrant smuggling and trafficking. A major change took place in 2003 with the introduction of the "expression of interest' approach to selection of skilled migrants.

While these changes have all led to improvements in the way New Zealand's immigration system works, they have been piecemeal and resulted in increasingly complex legislation.

What does the review aim to achieve?

The purpose of this review is to make fundamental changes to immigration legislation.

This review aims to provide New Zealand with a strong legislative foundation, to allow us develop future focused policies and encourage economic growth.

To achieve this, immigration legislation needs to be clear, comprehensive and appropriate to New Zealand's needs. With this in mind, the objectives of the review are to:

- Ensure New Zealand's interests are protected and advanced
- Ensure compliance with international obligations
- Establish fair, firm and fast decision-making processes
- Modernise and simplify the legislation.

What does the review cover?

This is a review of immigration legislation, rather than a direct review of policy or operational procedures.

Possible changes outlined in the discussion document include:

- A clear, guiding purpose statement for the Immigration Act;
- Simplifying the visa/permit system;
- Increasing the delegation of the Minister of Immigration's powers to officials;
- More comprehensive grounds for excluding non-citizens from entering NZ, and a streamlined approach to the expulsion of non-citizens;
- Clarifying and simplifying systems of review and appeal of decisions;
- Using classified information in decision-making;
- Strengthening compliance, enforcement and detention provisions, including the ability to obtain biometric information where necessary;
- Strengthening obligations on third parties (such as sponsors, employers, carriers and education providers);
- Establishing a single procedure that assesses all international obligations to protect a person, rather than considering obligations individually.

What is the timeline and process for the review?

In March 2005, Cabinet directed the Department of Labour to develop a discussion paper for public consultation on the review of the Act. The purpose of the paper is to seek feedback on options for changing the Immigration Act.

The discussion paper is available at Hard copies can also be ordered from or freephone 0508 558 855

The discussion paper looks at the current legislation and outlines options for change - including discussion of costs and benefits, and comparisons with other countries' immigration legislation.

The Department of Labour is holding a series of meetings with stakeholders during the consultation period. This provides an opportunity for immigration stakeholders and members of the public to consider the different options and submit their views.

The consultation period starts on Wednesday April 5. Written submissions are due by June 14 2006.

Written submissions can be made via, posted to Immigration Act review, PO Box 3705, Wellington, or emailed to

All submissions will be considered, and the Minister of Immigration will submit finalised proposals to Cabinet later in the year and a Bill to Parliament in 2007. At Select Committee stage there will be opportunity for further feedback.


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