21 Nov 2019

Cabinet considered deporting parents of departing immigrants - documents

10:12 am on 21 November 2019

Newly released documents reveal Cabinet considered whether immigrants should be forced to take their elderly parents with them if they leave the country.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The documents also show the immigration minister twice tried to introduce lower salary requirements for residents and citizens who wanted their overseas parents to join them.

The parent visa was re-introduced last month with new sponsorship criteria of an annual $106,000 salary.

Immigration Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, had called for it be set at $76,000, one and a half times the median wage.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said last month up to 31 percent of visa sponsors had left the country, leaving taxpayers to pick up the bill for parents.

Figures show that happened in 3 percent of cases.

The documents show ministers discussed whether changes to parent visas could stop them being stranded.

Officials said that would mean forcibly deporting them or adding a visa condition about their sponsor.

The immigration industry assocation, NZAMI, said it was glad the minister pushed back against higher salary criteria for sponsors.

"It is heartening to see that the minister actually was trying to take on board the humanitarian side of those people's expectations who have brought their skills here, and would then be looking to follow through to allow those migrants to bring their parents in, because that considerable increase in that salary is going to make it harder," chair June Ranson said.

"Whether Labour is going to stand up and be stronger [on immigration] we've got to wait and see, but they need to ... because they're going to lose a lot of votes out there."

Business confidence had been damaged by companies finding it hard to bring in overseas workers, she added.

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