Parties woo voters with generous immigration offers

Amnesty for overstayers, visas for parents and grandparents

Venkat Raman
Auckland, September 25, 2023

Four political parties announced generous immigration policies to accommodate hitherto shunned on Saturday, making September 23 the Liberal Immigration Day in New Zealand.

Earlier in the day, National Party Immigration Spokesperson Erica Stanford announced a Multiple Entry Parent Visa for five years with the facility to renew for another five years. There is no income threshold for New Zealand residents and citizens to apply for this visa but we believe that there will be a stipulation when the policy is introduced.

However, those on this Visa must have appropriate health and life insurance and cannot apply for residency or citizenship- another provision, which we believe will be revised in due course.

The other parties that announced changes to their Immigration policy were Labour, ACT and the Greens- all of them targeting parents and grandparents.

Amnesty for overstayers

Labour went a step further to announce amnesty for overstayers- those without legal status for at least ten years. This announcement surprised many, for Labour has since long rejected the idea but the move is seen as another attempt at political survival.

If re-elected, Immigration Minister Andrew Little promised to legislate within 100 days of a One-Off Regularisation Programme for overstayers who ‘have settled well in New Zealand for ten years or more, saying that they are a part of the society, with families.

“It is only fair that children born in this country are not held back from making the most of their own lives, because of their parents’ irregular visa status. That is why regularisation will not be limited to any particular group, meaning people from all migrant communities will be able to apply. It is time to put past discrimination behind us and fully bring into our society all those making a contribution,” he said.

Mr Little said that between 14, 000 to 20,000 people may be eligible, including survivors of the Dawn Raids era. As reported on June 26, 2021, between 1974 and 1976, rigorous enforcement of immigration policies was applied with officials conducting targeted raids on the homes of Pacific families, often early in the morning or late at night, giving rise to the term the ‘Dawn Raids.’

Refreshers:
Pacifica people demand amnesty for overstayers
Fijians in New Zealand demand dawn raids apology

Support from Greens

The Green Party welcomed the move, with its Immigration Spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March, claiming that only his Party will ensure immigration settings actually reflect the reality of people who have been failed by our immigration system.

“Migrants deserve to be treated with dignity and respect by our immigration system. But for many in our community, our immigration system has left them behind. They have fallen through the cracks, left vulnerable to exploitation, and denied the safety and security of a visa. The Greens will ensure that an amnesty for overstayers provides accessible residency pathways to everyone, not just those who have been here more than ten years,” he said.

Parent and Grandparent Visa

Parents and grandparents, who have thus far been neglected by all political parties, have suddenly become favourites. The Labour Party, which had taken a more practical stand when Michael Wood was the Immigration Minister, has now announced that it will introduce a Super Visa which will be valid for ten years, enabling people to bring their parents and grandparents to New Zealand.

Immigration Minister Andrew Little said that his Party (now) wants migrant families to have family support and legal certainty to call New Zealand their home.

“Labour has built a balanced immigration system that strengthens our economy with decent jobs and higher wages and provides more opportunities for families today and tomorrow. A re-elected Labour government will introduce a 10-year multiple entry Super Visa that allows grandparents and parents of migrants to make successive visits of between six months and five years,” he said.

Unite Visa by ACT

The ACT Party has also announced its support to the Parent and Grandparents category with its brand of Unite Visa but with a proviso that the visa will be for a maximum of five years, renewable annually.

Party Leader David Seymour said that the Visa will be available for parents or grandparents of residents, permanent residents, and New Zealand citizens and must be sponsored by their child or grandchild.

“The sponsor would be subject to Immigration New Zealand’s existing criteria and legal obligations, which include ensuring that the parent/grandparent has the things necessary for their health and welfare (like food, clothing and healthcare) and has somewhere suitable to stay. The sponsor is also responsible for the costs of return travel to the sponsored party’s home country or the costs of deportation if they do not intend to cover the cost personally. The visa holder would not be eligible for social welfare or any other form of government-funded social assistance. The visa would include an annual fee of $3500 that would go towards a public health fund,” he said.

Mr Little went further to spell out ways and means of strengthening the immigration settings.

Productivity Commission recommendations

He said that the next Labour government will issue a Policy Statement to implement the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, which was critical of the system.

Responding to the Commission’s Report in 2021, Finance Minister Grant Robertson had said that the Inquiry will enable New Zealand to strategically optimise its immigration settings by taking a system-wide view, including the impact of immigration on the labour market, housing and associated infrastructure, and the natural environment.

Refreshers
Productivity Commission Inquiry into Immigration Settings
A balanced approach to Immigration benefits migrants and employers

Mr Litte said that the changes will include an extension of the victims of Family Violence Work Visa to people whose partners are on a temporary basis.

“We will also undertake a broader review of family and partnership immigration policy with an initial focus on culturally arranged marriages, provide asylum seekers with adequate support services while their claims are processed and implement the refugee and migrant employment action plan, continue to strive to eliminate migrant exploitation, implement the review of the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme and add a discreet rainbow subcategory to New Zealand’s existing annual refugee quota,” he said.

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