5 Mar 2012

Wealthy immigrants to get priority under changes

11:03 pm on 5 March 2012

Wealthy immigrants who want to their parents to live in New Zealand will move to the front of the queue under immigration changes planned by the Government.

The Immigration Minister is defending the changes, saying the Government wants to attract people who are able to contribute to the economy.


Nathan Guy was forced to confirm the changes on Monday after the Labour Party released a briefing paper written for the minister.

In the last financial year, about 5000 people entered the country under provisions that allow immigrants to sponsor their brothers, sisters, adult children or parents and bring them to New Zealand.

The biggest group affected by the changes outlined in the ministerial briefing paper will be the parents of New Zealand residents.

In future, there will be a two-tier system and those with higher incomes will have their applications processed faster. Sponsors will have to be able to support their parents for 10 years, rather than five.

Parents moving to New Zealand under this category will no longer be able to bring dependent children with them.

As well as tightening the Parents Category, there are plans to scrap the Sibling and Adult Child category.

Mr Guy says about 1400 people have been entering New Zealand under this category every year.

"Despite the fact that they needed to have a job offer to come into New Zealand, after the first 18 months about a third of them ended up being on a benefit.

"So we want to ensure that people coming into New Zealand can perform in our modern economy and not be reliant on the taxpayer."

The Government says it is in talks the Samoan government over the changes.

Nathan Guy acknowledges it could be harder for some groups, including people from the Pacific, to make it into the top tier of high income earners.

"That comes back to their sponsor, depending whether they have their cashflow. It might be that indeed they do have the cashflow to support an adult parent or a sibling coming in.

"But, also, we need to ensure that these people aren't a burden on the taxpayer."

Mr Guy says the changes will result in welfare savings of about $40 million a year and there will be further consultation before a final announcement is made.

Changes criticised

The Labour Party says the proposed changes will come as a shock for thousands of people wanting to reunite their families.

Immigration spokesperson Darien Fenton says it appears New Zealand is becoming a country where only those with pot loads of money are welcome.

Ms Fenton says the parent category is already tough enough.

"Children have to sponsor their parents and they have to support them for at least five years. So we're not talking about a category where you get people in that have to go on a benefit; we're talking about quite a tight policy already.

"What I'm concerned about is this seems to be saying, good settlement outcomes with family reunification should be based entirely on how wealthy the parent is."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says trying to attract wealthier immigrants has not always worked in the past.

"There's been an enormous amount of misrepresentation in making such applications, the money hasn't materialised and the benefits haven't materialised.

"So this is not a cohesive, sensible policy - it's just sort of making policy on the hoof, and in this case, keeping it secret."

The Green Party's immigration spokesperson, Jan Logie, says the changes are mean-spirited.

"It'll be easier for wealthier people to bring in their parents, whereas for everyone else it's going to be tougher and it's going to take longer. And that seems contrary to our New Zealand sense of openness and community."