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Immigration Case Raises Important Legal Principles


For Release: 7 April 2003


Important legal principles and the fate of thousands of would-be New Zealanders will be in the balance this week when the High Court hears a challenge against recent immigration rules changes.

The New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment filed proceedings against retrospective application of the changes on 23 December 2002. The case is to be heard before Justice Randerson in Auckland on 7-9 April.

The changes, announced on 19 November 2001, restrict the issuing of temporary "Job Search" visas for General Skills applicants to those with qualifications in fields covered by the Occupational Shortages List. At the same time, tough new English language requirements were imposed on both General Skills and business migrants.

"The retrospective application of the new rules is having a huge and wholly unfair impact on the lives of thousands of potential citizens of our country. Many of them will have put their lives on hold whilst they underwent the long, complex and expensive process of applying to come to New Zealand permanently. They now find that the goal posts have been moved leaving them in a legal limbo," says the NZAMI's Chairman Bill Milnes.

"The Occupational Shortages List changes frequently, so that applicants who meet occupational criteria at the time of applying have no way of knowing whether they will still be eligible for visas when their applications are considered, up to 2 years later. This is an inherently unfair way to run a skills-orientated immigration policy. When applied to those who applied before the rules were changed, it is palpably unjust as well as unfair," he adds.

Mr Milnes describes the retrospective imposition of the new rules as damaging to New Zealand's reputation as a fair-minded, humane and responsible country. He says that the combined effect of the rules changes and of Immigration Service backlogs has been to bring skills and business immigration to a halt, to the detriment of our economy.

"There are also important legal principles involved in this case. The retrospective application of the new rules is contrary to the principles of fairness and justice which are meant to govern the Immigration Service's activities. There is a presumption against retrospectivity in our legal system and retrospective rule changes involve a fundamental breach of legal principle." he says.

The NZAMI represents nearly 200 members throughout New Zealand, including immigration and investment consultants, banks, business specialists and financial advisers. The Association seeks consistent, fair, reliable immigration policies of long-term benefit to New Zealand.

For further information, please contact: Bill Milnes Chairman New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment Tel: 09 577 5895

Reporters please note: The High Court in Auckland is expected to hear the NZAMI's case against the November Immigration rules changes from 10am-1pm and 2.15pm-5.00pm on April 7-9.

Released by Ian Morrison, Matter of Fact Communications Email:ianm@matfact.co.nz

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