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Backgrounder To Immigration Act Bill

Backgrounder To Immigration Act Bill

More information, plus a summary of public submissions and the cabinet decisions can be found on the Department of Labour website. Slides for Act Review Media Conference.ppt(179 kb)


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.

There are three pillars to this:

Legislative reform, through a fundamental review of the 1987
Immigration Act

A strategic review of key aspects of New Zealand's immigration policy

Supporting service delivery within the Department of Labour.

The 1987 act has been reviewed and the government has decided on proposals to draft a new Immigration Bill.

Why do we need change?

The global immigration environment is changing, bringing both
opportunities and challenges for New Zealand, based on:

Increased mobility

Increased competition

Increased population diversity

Increased risk

Economic transformation, one of the Labour-led government's three
priorities for the next decade, seeks to develop a high-income,
knowledge-based economy that requires accelerating the pace of change and
becoming more internationally integrated.

In the next decade, immigration, permanent and temporary, is crucial for
New Zealand's economic transformation:

as a key source of talent, skills and investment for New Zealand

for raising corporate capacity, improving productivity and boosting
international networks

to increase the proportion of the working age population

for New Zealand exports, through allowing the entry of tourists and
students, two of New Zealand's top foreign exchange-earning industries

as a balance against emigration by New Zealanders as part of the
global trend of increased mobility, and

to increase our international reach and linkages through leveraging
off bilateral and regional relationships, including free trade agreements.

Immigration will continue to be an important source of talent, skills and
investment in New Zealand businesses.

The Immigration Act Review
The government reviewed the Immigration Act to ensure that New Zealand's
immigration law encourages the entry of the people we need, while
effectively protecting New Zealand's border.

Having a strong legislative foundation for New Zealand's immigration system
will allow the government to better facilitate the entry and stay of people
New Zealand wants and needs, and better manage risks to New Zealand in a
fair and balanced way.

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

These included changes 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 the immigration
system works, they have been piecemeal and resulted in increasingly complex legislation.

What was the aim of the review?

The purpose of this review was to make fundamental changes to immigration

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

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

What was the process for the review?

In March 2005, the Cabinet directed the Department of Labour to develop a
discussion paper for public consultation on the review of the act, and to
seek feedback on options.

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

During the consultation period the department held a series of meetings
with stakeholders.

This consultation provided an opportunity for immigration stakeholders and
members of the public to consider the different options and submit their

The consultation period was from Wednesday April 5 to June 14 2006, however due to significant interest, the close off date for written submissions was extended to 31 June 2006 to allow more time.

Officials held public meetings in May and June 2006, which were attended by
more than 650 people, to outline the proposals. The department received
3,985 written submissions in response to this paper, of which 360 were
unique. Submissions were received from a wide range of individuals and
organisations including employer organisations, law societies, refugee and
migrant groups and communities, immigration consultants, carriers,
government agencies, and education providers.

All submissions were considered and a summary of submissions is available

What was the feedback?

Some of the proposed changes received strong public support, for example:

Strong support for an integrated visa system and 90 per cent of 91
submitters and public meetings supported an interim visa

Two-thirds of submitters supported the change for the minister to
delegate powers to make positive exceptions to residence decisions, but
commented the minister should have the power to intervene

75 per cent of 60 organisations agreed to enabling electronic

65 per cent of 62 organisations and 80 per cent of 42 individuals
supported providing a stronger legislative basis for employer

Over three-quarters supported a flexible offences and penalties
regime for education providers

General agreement with the Ministry of Justice as the preferred
agency to support the tribunal.

Other proposals saw a mix of differing opinions, for example:

Strong reservations about health exclusion criteria

Mixed support for a move from four separate appeal bodies to one

Mixed responses to the proposal of using classified information in
visa and protection decisions

Mixed views about an instant fine system for strict liability
offences where carriers failed to meet their obligations

Approximately 40 per cent of 83 submitters supported and 40 per cent
opposed the issuing of warrants of commitment for secure immigration
detention for up to 28 days

Just under half of the 56 organisations indicated support for the
power to collect and store biometric information from non-NZ citizens,
compared to 80 per cent of 46 individual submitters.

What were the decisions?

The Cabinet agreed to a package of proposals for changes to the Immigration Act. These changes incorporated the views of the public, the results of consultation with other agencies and comparisons to international immigration legislation. The main changes are:


a clear, guiding purpose statement for the Immigration Act
a simplified visa system that provides for greater clarity and flexibility in managing non-citizens’ travel to and stay in New Zealand

providing for more responsiveness and efficiency by enabling the Minister of Immigration to delegate positive discretion in residence decision-making to officials

enabling electronic decision-making
the ability to collect and use specified biometric information to enhance visa and border processing

Human rights protection

a single protection determination procedure that incorporates New Zealand’s core immigration-related international obligations, including the Refugee Convention, the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

a robust independent appeals system, including a single appeals tribunal that replaces the existing four appeals bodies

Enhanced border security, that maintains high standards of fairness

a streamlined deportation process that is more efficient and transparent while maintaining fairness

an ability to use classified information in a limited range of decision-making situations without disclosure, balanced by a set of special safeguards

more flexible powers for compliance and enforcement to provide for integrity in the immigration system, such as an ability to require address information about people liable for deportation from a wider range of sources

more flexible and responsive monitoring and detention provisions that maintain a commitment to human rights, including access to legal aid, new alternatives to secure detention, and more discretion for the courts

the ability to collect and use specified biometric information for identity verification purposes

Provisions for third parties

employers and education providers required to take reasonable steps to check entitlement to work or study to meet their existing obligations

new provisions for information sharing to check entitlement to publicly funded services


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