5 Aug 2020

Income criteria 'far too high' for residents' parents, Lees-Galloway says

12:25 pm on 5 August 2020

The outgoing immigration minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, has told MPs income criteria imposed on residents who want their parents to join them are "far too high".

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Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The immigration parent category was suspended by National in 2016 and re-opened under new rules in February.

Many of the 6000 people who applied for parent visas were shocked to learn their adult children would have to earn twice the median wage to qualify.

A single person's salary must be more than $106,080 to bring over one parent or $159,120 for two. A couple need a combined income of $159,120 or $212,160 respectively.

In his valedictory speech to Parliament yesterday, Lees-Galloway alluded to long negotiations with New Zealand First over the policy and admitted excessive income thresholds had been set.

"One thing I was determined to do as immigration minister was to re-open the parent category," he said. "It took time to get consensus and the income thresholds are far too high. But we got the category re-opened and that is a good start."

At the time he announced the new parent category last year, Lees-Galloway defended the new restrictions.

Immigration officials estimated about 85 percent of those on the waiting list would not be eligible under the new income requirements.

A police officer who emigrated in 2009 said being joined by parents was now only something the elite could aspire to and a widowed mother described the move as "heartbreaking".

Meanwhile selections of applications for the 1000 visas available per year were scheduled to start in May but that has been delayed.

The government cited coronavirus as one of the reasons it had to suspend selections and has not given an indication of when they will resume.

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