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The new Act modernises New Zealand’s immigration laws. However, it does not make major changes to the criteria under which people apply to travel to and stay in New Zealand.
Key changes are outlined as follows:
The new Act uses the single term ‘visa’ for authority to travel to and stay in New Zealand. The terms ‘permit’ and ‘exemption’ are no longer used.
Immigration ‘policy’ is now known as immigration ‘instructions’. This more clearly distinguishes the difference between high-level government policy and the criteria for determining immigration applications (‘instructions’).
The terms ‘residence permits’, ‘residence visas’ and ‘returning resident’s visas are replaced by ‘resident visas’ and ‘permanent resident visas’ – but there is no change to existing categories or criteria for people wishing to settle in New Zealand.
For more information see the New terminology and concepts factsheet.
Sponsors of people coming to New Zealand are responsible for all aspects of maintenance, accommodation and repatriation (or deportation) of the sponsored person. More specific criteria for sponsors are also introduced.
For temporary entry visas, this broader obligation is in place for the whole time the sponsored person is in New Zealand. For resident visas, this obligation is in place for a specific period.
Another change allows organisations (companies, charitable trusts and societies) and government agencies to sponsor individuals in some circumstances. These new categories of sponsors are eligible to support visitor visas and also work-to-residence and residence-from-work visas under the ‘talent’ category (arts, culture and sports).
For more information see the Sponsorship factsheet.
Successful residence applicants are generally granted a ‘resident visa’ with two years of ‘travel conditions’. This allows: travel to New Zealand (if the holder is offshore); indefinite stay in New Zealand; and multiple re-entry to New Zealand within the validity of the resident visa travel conditions. The term ‘returning resident’s visa’ (RRV) is no longer used, however, current RRV holders do not need to do anything other than follow the conditions of their current visa or permit.
‘Permanent resident visas’ replace indefinite RRVs and allow the holder indefinite right to enter New Zealand.
The requirements to progress from a ‘resident visa’ to a ‘permanent resident visa’ are similar to the current requirements to progress from a ‘non-indefinite RRV’ to an ‘indefinite RRV’.
People who hold ‘residence visas’, ‘residence permits’ and ‘non-indefinite RRVs’ on 29 November 2010 are automatically deemed to hold ‘resident visas’ with the appropriate travel conditions.
People who hold ‘indefinite RRVs’ on 29 November 2010 are automatically deemed to hold ‘permanent resident visas’ with indefinite rights to enter New Zealand.
For more information see the Residence factsheet.
‘Endorsements’ replace ‘returning resident’s visas’ for New Zealand citizens who wish to travel on a foreign passport.
For more information see the Endorsements in foreign passports for New Zealand citizens factsheet.
The 2009 Act retains New Zealand’s commitment to the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
In addition, the Act incorporates New Zealand's immigration-related obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This means ‘protected person’ claims under the CAT and ICCPR are determined alongside refugee status claims.
There are also new provisions to manage potential abuses of New Zealand’s asylum process. These include declining to consider refugee status claims from people who create grounds for their claim by acting other than in good faith. Individuals may appeal this decision.
For more information see the Refugee and protection status determinations factsheet.
The 2009 Act maintains existing appeal rights and sets up one independent body to hear appeals – the Immigration and Protection Tribunal (IPT), which is administered by the Ministry of Justice. The IPT replaces the current Removal Review Authority, Residence Review Board, Refugee Status Appeals Authority and Deportation Review Tribunal.
Where there is more than one ground for appeal, for example, on facts and humanitarian grounds, both grounds must be lodged together.
For more information about the Immigration and Protection Tribunal see the IPT factsheet.
For more information see the Appeals factsheet.
Classified information relating to security or criminal conduct can now be used in decision making, if agreed by the Minister of Immigration. Special safeguards balance the right of the Government to use all available information in deciding who may travel to, enter and stay in New Zealand, and the rights of foreign nationals.
For more information see the Classified information factsheet.
The deportation process has been simplified to better balance efficiency with fairness. The terms ‘removal’ and ‘revocation’ are no longer used, and instead, the single term ‘deportation’ is used.
People who are deported are prohibited from re-entering New Zealand for two years, five years or permanently, depending on the seriousness of the situation.
For more information see the Deportation factsheet.
The 2009 Act establishes a flexible approach to monitoring and detaining foreign nationals who are considered to be a threat to the integrity of the immigration system or the security and safety of New Zealand. This includes arrest and detention by police for up to 96 hours and detention under a court-issued ‘warrant of commitment’ for up to 28 days.
The new Act provides immigration officers with powers that could previously only be carried out by Police or Customs officers on behalf of Immigration, for example, to enter and search planes or ships.
Where the powers are new for immigration officers, they are brought into force only when Cabinet is satisfied that the appropriate training and operating instructions have been developed, and that appropriate safeguards are in place.
For more information see the Powers of immigration officers factsheet.
The 2009 Act enables specific biometric information to be collected, stored and used – for example, photographs, fingerprints and iris scans – to verify a foreign national’s identity.
The Act also allows foreign nationals' (not New Zealand citizens') personal information, including biometric information, to be shared with some other agencies nationally and internationally to address immigration and identity fraud; and manage the safety and security of New Zealand. In addition, foreign national’s personal information can be shared with other New Zealand agencies to check eligibility for publicly-funded services (such as health services).
The relevant provisions will only come into force once Cabinet is satisfied that robust procedures and processes are in place and that there is appropriate protection for individuals, consistent with the Privacy Act 1993.
For more information see the Collection, storage and use of biometric information factsheet.
The 2009 Act narrows the ‘reasonable excuse’ defence for employing a foreign national not entitled to work in New Zealand. Employers therefore need to check an individual's work entitlement more carefully than previously.
To help speed up the employment process, the Department of Labour has set up an online system – called VisaView – to allow employers to check a job applicant’s entitlement to work and any conditions. The system is designed to be quick and easy to use, and to protect individual privacy.
For more information see the Employer obligations factsheet and VisaView pages.
The 2009 Act increases penalties against education providers who fail to comply with their immigration obligations. However, providers of compulsory education will not be prosecuted for enrolling a child who is unlawfully in New Zealand.
For more information see the Education provisions factsheet.
The 2009 Act creates an infringement system for airlines that fail to meet their immigration obligations. This is similar to the Australian system, where airline compliance has increased. This provision is due to come into effect at a later date.
The 2009 Act introduces a new ‘interim visa’. These may be granted if a foreign national who holds a current temporary visa has applied for a further temporary visa. This maintains the individual's lawful status in New Zealand while his or her application is being considered. This provision is due to come into effect on 7 February 2011.
For more information see the Interim visas factsheet.