Government to make decision on reopening parent visa category

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Thursday, 17 January 2019, 8:24p.m.
Iain Lees-Galloway has received more advice on the subject, a spokesperson says. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Iain Lees-Galloway has received more advice on the subject, a spokesperson says. (Photo / NZ Herald)

The Government appears to be inching closer to a decision on reopening the parent visa category after it was closed to clear a backlog in late 2016.

The decision would provide some much-needed clarity for the close to 6000 people who have been in limbo on the visa wait list for more than two years.

The visa category, which enabled parents to join their adult children in New Zealand if they were a resident or citizen, was temporarily closed by then-Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse in order to clear a backlog of applications.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) officials had expected it to be re-opened in June last year, but it remains closed.

It is unclear why the category remains closed, but Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway anticipated a decision would be made in the first half of this year.

An MBIE briefing on the outcome of the parent, partnership and dependent child visa category review showed INZ officials met Lees-Galloway on December 20, 2017 to discuss "high-level findings and conclusions from the family category reviews".

The briefing, provided to National under the Official Information Act, showed the officials expected the review of the parent category visa, which was to occur while it was temporarily closed, would conclude in June, 2018.

Under a "next steps" subheading, the briefing said officials would update the Immigration Minister by the end of February, 2018 on further information which could be provided to him to help make his decision.

Almost a year later, the Government has yet to make a decision.

A spokesman for Lees-Galloway said he had received more advice on the visa category at the end of last year and "that's something that still needs to go before Cabinet".

"I anticipate that we'll be making a decision around that in the first half of this year."

The spokesman said the Minister would make no further comment until the issue had been before Cabinet.

Immigration NZ today said the backlog of people was 5730.

Before the closure, the National Government had capped the number of visas to 4000 every two years. Prior to 2015, that number was 11,000 every two years.

Woodhouse said today the stay was meant to be a temporary measure and called on Lees-Galloway to explain why the visa category was still closed.

Woodhouse said INZ was tasked with reviewing the parent visa category to determine whether the criteria and sponsorship requirements were fit for purpose while the category was temporarily closed.

"There was a concerning anecdote about the number of parents who claimed the means to live independently from the state but who didn't, who had to apply for emergency support from social welfare from the Ministry of Social Development."

He said he had wanted to take a deeper look into this issue and to make sure criteria was in place to make sure that the 2000 people per year that were granted visas were the most worthy.

Asked what he thought had caused the holdup in re-establishing the parent visa category, Woodhouse speculated New Zealand First was behind the delay.

"Winston Peters has been heavily critical of the ability of parents to come in and stay permanently in New Zealand. By whatever means, he is delaying, deferring or cancelling the return of that visa category."

In the past, Peters had been critical of the category saying it provided easy access to New Zealand's health services and its superannuation.