• Max Bradford

The Immigration Amendment Bill, introduced in Parliament today, is designed to tighten up on immigration scams, Immigration Minister Max Bradford says.

"The Bill reinforces the fact that New Zealand has a right to decide who is allowed to come to and stay in our country, while ensuring a fair balance is struck between this, our international obligations and the rights of individuals affected," Mr Bradford said.

"This is an important piece of legislation because it will make our system less open to exploitation and scams. The Bill is all about fast and fair processes which encourage legitimate visitors and new migrants to come to New Zealand, give certainty to genuine refugees that they can stay here, and provide for the quick removal of illegal immigrants.

"It is important to have a quick and fair refugee status process because the large and increasing number of claims cost New Zealand taxpayers millions and millions of dollars each year when you consider the legal, social welfare, health and education services claimants and their families are entitled to - yet only about a third of applicants are determined to be genuine refugees."

Mr Bradford said the New Zealand-based representative of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had welcomed the Bill as an "overall positive development" and an "important contribution" to the constructive role New Zealand plays in support of international protection of refugees.

The key measures in the bill are:

  • a faster system for removing people who overstay their permit and remain in New Zealand unlawfully;
  • financial flexibility, for example, to allow for variable application fees that reflect processing costs;
  • a statutory basis for establishing the functions, powers and jurisdiction of the refugee determination and appeal bodies;
  • legal aid for refugee status claimants at all stages of determination (currently only available at the appeal stage);
  • special security provisions to protect sensitive security information that is relevant to immigration matters;
  • a new "limited purpose permit" for high risk markets in order to open up, for example, more opportunities for overseas fee-paying students who might otherwise be declined a visa because of the high risk of them not being genuine students intending to return home after their studies are completed;
  • streamline immigration related judicial review proceedings.