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Identity Bill to be introduced shortly

Identity Bill to be introduced shortly

The new Identity (Citizenship and Travel Documents) Bill to be introduced this month will not contain any reference to citizenship by birth issues, Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins says.

"The issue of citizenship by birth, for instance of babies born in this country to mothers who are not New Zealand nationals, is an issue separate to matters covered in the Identity Bill," Mr Hawkins said.

Issues around this aspect of New Zealand citizenship were still being worked on by a number of government agencies and no decisions had yet been made, Mr Hawkins said.

The Identity (Citizenship and Travel Documents) Bill will amend the Citizenship Act 1977 and the Passports Act 1992. The Bill rectifies problems with the grant of citizenship, will improve border security, and reduce the likelihood of successful forgery and misuse of New Zealand travel documents.

Under the Citizenship Act 1977 migrants can acquire a grant of citizenship after settling permanently in New Zealand and meeting a number of specified requirements.

The Bill will increase the standard period of residence in New Zealand that applicants must meet from three years to five years. In addition, time spent in the country on temporary permits, such as work or visitor’s permits, will no longer count as a period of residence for citizenship proposes. This will ensure consistency with New Zealand’s Immigration policy and provide a sufficient basis for assessments of applicant’s suitability for citizenship.

The Bill creates new offences of unlawfully issuing a citizenship document and unlawfully altering citizenship records. These offences will carry a maximum penalty of a term of imprisonment of ten years and/or a fine of $50,000.

The Bill also amends the Passports Act 1992, which provides for the issue, renewal and cancellation of New Zealand travel documents. In general, New Zealand passports are valid for ten years from the date of issue, or five years if the holder is under 16 years of age.

However, international experience shows that the ten-year period is now too long because counterfeiting techniques have become more and more sophisticated. The longer a passport has been in circulation, the greater the chance that its security features will become outdated and easily altered or duplicated. To reduce the likelihood of successful forgery of New Zealand passports, the Bill will reduce the maximum validity of new passports from ten years to five years.

The Bill will provide for the disclosure of New Zealand travel document information for the border security system known as Advance Passenger Processing (APP). APP identifies unauthorised passengers before they can depart for New Zealand by enabling airlines to check the validity of a passenger’s travel document details against an up-to-date electronic record of passport, visa and alert information.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 requires States to prevent the movement of terrorists by having controls on the issue of travel documents. The Bill amends the Passports Act to provide for the Minister of Internal Affairs to cancel or refuse to issue, a New Zealand travel document in cases where national security is threatened.

This provision contains a number of procedural safeguards. For example, the decline period will be restricted to 12 months, and the person denied the travel document may appeal the Minister’s decision to the High Court. The 12-month decline period may only be renewed by the High Court, and the Court must be satisfied that the grounds for refusal to issue the travel document still apply.

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