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Immigrants' Christmas Of Renewed Hope


For release: 24 December 2002


The New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment is claiming an interim, out-of-court victory in its fight to remove the retrospective operation of last month's immigration rule changes.

The NZAMI today secured agreement from the New Zealand Immigration Service not to decline applications for Long Term Business Visas, if they were lodged by 19 November and would have succeeded but for the rule changes made on that date.

This follows the Association's filing of proceedings in the High Court yesterday against the retrospective application of the new rules.

The Immigration Service also today agreed, pending the outcome of the court case, to freeze decisions on Job Search visas for "General Skills" applicants lodged by 19 November and which would have succeeded but for the rules changes.

In addition, the Immigration Service has agreed that letters it is sending to General Skills applicants advising them of the rule changes will now mention that the changes are being challenged in court and suggest they seek professional advice before deciding. The NZAMI had asked for this so as to provide applicants with essential information for deciding whether or not to withdraw their applications.

The NZAMI believes that retroactive application of the new rules has breached the principles of fairness and justice that are meant to govern the Immigration Services' activities and might also contravene the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act of 1990.

"We're delighted at the conciliatory approach the Immigration Service has shown since we lodged proceedings. It will make this a Christmas of renewed hope for many would-be New Zealanders," says the Association's Chairman, Bill Milnes.

"We look forward to early next year when the Hight Court will have the opportunity to rule against all retrospective applications of the new rules," he says.

"Depending on the High Court's decision, thousands of General Skills migrants who applied for Job Search visas under the rules pertaining before 19 November could be denied them under the new rules unless they are seeking work in one of the restricted number of fields covered by the Occupational Shortages List.

"The list is subject to constant changes and it is impossible to foretell whether a skill that is on the list when an application is filed will still be there when the application is decided. It's hard to see how we can have a credible skills immigration policy when the goal posts are being constantly moved in this way," he adds.

Mr Milnes describes the retrospective application of immigration rule changes as contrary to elementary concepts of justice and fairness.

"Under the old rules, many current applicants had good reason to expect a successful outcome to their applications. Many will have sold their homes and given up their jobs only to learn that the rules have changed and that they are now unlikely to succeed in relocating to New Zealand.

"This type of approach is not only inhumane, irresponsible and damaging to New Zealand's overseas reputation. It also fails to provide us with consistent, reliable and transparent immigration processes and outcomes, " he says

"One can imagine the outcry if the uncertainties and injustices of retro-active rule-making were applied in any other area of policy. As a country, we really have to do better in our approach to immigration with consistent, reliable, long term policies in place," Mr Milnes adds.

The New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment represents nearly 200 members nationwide, including immigration and investment consultants, banks, business specialists and financial advisors.


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