Visa conditions for parents, grandparents to be revised this term - immigration minister

12:03 pm on 3 April 2024
Mixed race grandparents enjoying weekend with granddaughters in home living room. Adorable smiling hispanic girls bonding with grandmother and grandfather. Happy seniors and children sitting together.

The timing of changes will depend on other policy changes but as a coalition commitment, it will happen this term. Photo: 123rf

Immigration Minister Erica Stanford is looking at reforms to family visas this term, bringing hope of long-stay visits for overseas parents and grandparents.

She also signalled she wants changes to the partnership visa policy, describing the culturally arranged marriage visa as not fit for purpose.

But partnership changes may not happen this parliamentary term as other work, including reforming the accredited employer work visa needs to be prioritised.

National and ACT both put forward temporary, long-term visas for parents of overseas-born permanent residents and citizens at the last election.

ACT's coalition agreement commits the government to creating a five-year, renewable parent visa, conditional on families covering healthcare costs.

Erica Stanford

Immigration Minister Erica Stanford. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Aside from the residence visa, which had been on hold for six years when it was reintroduced, parents can currently stay for up to 18 months in a three-year period on a multiple-entry visitor visa.

The timing of changes will depend on other policy changes but as a coalition commitment, it will happen this term.

"We're working through that at the moment," Stanford said.

"There are some some immediate things that have taken our attention like AEWV (accredited employer work visa) and migrant exploitation that we've been working very hard on and will be announcing. Everything else at the moment we're putting into a a pipeline of work about when it will happen and what sort of changes are required."

The Association for Migration and Investment said it would be welcomed by parents of migrants and would take the pressure off parent residence visas.

The annual quota of residence visas brought in by the last government in 2022 for parents and grandparents is 2500, and it is already significantly over-subscribed.

About 13044 people in 8564 expressions of interest (EOI) have been submitted to a ballot of parent resident visas and 308 people (200 EOIs) have so far been selected. That will speed up slightly, taking the full annual 2500 quota, now that pre-2022 applications have been cleared.

The coalition document says for the renewable five-year visa, a healthcare levy might be considered.

Partnership visas

Culturally arranged marriage visas became a significant bone of contention under the Labour-led coalition in 2019, when Immigration New Zealand tightened up rules around partners who had not lived together before coming to New Zealand.

Couples in arranged marriages were among those affected.

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones was reprimanded by then prime minister Jacinda Ardern for telling members of the Indian community to 'tame down their rhetoric' when they complained about the spike in wait times and visa rejections.

"You have no legitimate expectations in my view to bring your whole village to New Zealand and if you don't like it and you're threatening to go home - catch the next flight home," Jones had said then.

Critics said the subsequent policy of culturally arranged marriage visas did not take account of other relationships where partners had not lived together, for religious or practical reasons.

Figures from 2022 show 319 such visas were approved and 275 were declined.

Between 2015 and 2021, India, Fiji and Afghanistan were the countries with the highest number of applications, followed by Pakistan, Cambodia and Iraq.

"I admit that we do have some issues with our criteria and certain visas like the culturally arranged marriage visa," Stanford said.

"Whether or not we get to that in our first term, I'm not sure yet - we've got a really, really heavy policy programme this term. And so it's certainly on my mind, because I know the culturally arranged marriage visa, for example, is not fit for purpose, we do need to turn our minds to that."

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