The Minister of Immigration has finally announced that the Parent Resident Visa Category will open again in February 2020 with the first selection of lucky applicants being offered residency to take place in May 2020.
The Category was closed in 2016 pending a full review and while it was on the priority list for the current Government to reintroduce it in some form, it has taken the Government longer than expected to reach a coalition compromise on the number of residency places available and the related qualifying criteria.
While this announcement today may be seen as positive for many parents of New Zealand resident visa holders both onshore and offshore who are essentially ‘in limbo’, the criteria to qualify under the new Parent Category was always going to be made much harder given the Government was looking to reduce approval numbers. Unfortunately for many parents of New Zealand resident visa holders this means difficulty in qualifying.
Number of places and new qualifying criteria
The Government previously allocated up to 5,500 places for parents under the previous Parent Category. When the new Parent Category reopens in 2020 they are slashing the numbers down to only 1,000 parent applications per annum. That is the same total quota number for annual places for the grant of refugee status in New Zealand. This is a massive reduction.
While there will be no need for applicants to demonstrate that they have minimum settlement funds and they have a minimum guaranteed lifetime income like the old policy, the Government has decided to increase the income levels for sponsors significantly to support their parents under the new policy as follows:
|NZ sponsor/parent variables||Minimum income requirement|
|1 sponsor for 1 parent||NZD106,080|
|1 sponsor for 2 parents||NZD159,120|
|sponsor and partner (combined) for 1 parent||NZD159,120|
|sponsor and partner (combined) for 2 parents||NZD212,160|
The main point to note here is a nasty cutting edge for many sponsors and their parents due to a fine operational (technical) distinction between the old and the new policy. That being the fact that it appears for some migrants they will need to look at splitting their parents apart if they can only sponsor one parent because they don’t have enough funds to sponsor the other. In addition, it is likely (like the old policy) that if you are using one source of income to sponsor, that can only be used for the parent(s) of the sponsor in question, not their parent(s)-in-law. For example, if one New Zealand resident is earning NZD106,080 and their spouse is not earning an income, the sponsor who is earning those funds can sponsor one of their parents, they cannot sponsor their spouse’s parent because to do so they would need to combine income with their spouse and at NZD106,080 that is not enough. However, there is a fair amount of interpretation uncertainty based on what has been released so far as the policy can be viewed multiple ways. It will only be once the full policy is released that there will be some certainty on the policy and how that applies to families. What is clear based on all manner of interpreting this policy, is that there will certainly be some tough decision making where a couple may only be able to afford to sponsor one parent based on their combined income, particularly for countries like South Africa where there is significant demand for parent places.
In addition, sponsors will be required to provide proof (via Inland Revenue tax statements) that they have met the minimum incomes figures above two out of three of the last three years immediately preceding the submission date of the application, so you have to meet these figures for a minimum of two years before you can sponsor.
What happens to the existing queue?
The Expression of Interest (EOI) Pool has now been closed off so applicants are not able to tender new EOI’s at this stage. This will allow time for Immigration New Zealand to undertake an assessment of each of those existing applications to assess as to whether or not the individuals concerned can meet the new policy criteria. INZ has already started reaching out to individuals with pending EOI’s to determine whether they can stay in the Pool for selection and invitation next year. Unfortunately for many current parents who have EOI filed if their children cannot demonstrate sufficient income levels their EOI will be cancelled and the application processing fee refunded.
This will be a significant blow to many parents who have been residing in New Zealand on temporary visas for a long period of time waiting for the release of this new policy. We suspect, that there will be quite a few applications for a Special Direction to the Minister of Immigration to allow such parents to be granted residency as an exception to the policy based on their personal circumstances, however, it would be anticipated that quite significant and compelling circumstances would be required to justify ministerial intervention.
Finally, is the unknown, being how long is it going to take to obtain residency for the lucky few who can meet the criteria. There will be a number of applicants currently in the EOI process who will be able to qualify, and they will be first in line. The big question is how many of them are in there that can qualify? If of course that is over 1,000, then new applicants are not going to be able to make an application until numbers allow given the limited number of places that they are restricted to processing per annum.
For those parents who can qualify but have held off putting in an EOI until certainty is known, you will want to have your EOI submitted as soon as possible once they open the policy to gain a place in the queue.
While it is good to see this policy release as we were concerned it was not going to happen pre election due to it being blocked at Cabinet, it is far from what many expected. This is not a policy that values the social contribution that many parents provide to the successful long term settlement and contribution made by highly skilled new migrants coming here. It is a policy based on a number exercise on tax take to determine as to whether the sponsors wishing to bring in their parents can pay for the subsequent health treatment of their parents in the future.
The views therefore will be fairly polarised on what has been released here, but we suspect that would have been the case for any type of policy in this area. For us it is a curious policy; and one that you would expect from a Government more on the right side of the political spectrum, not the left. This is especially so as when this Government took office they released the New Zealand Residence Programme document that stated that reunifying the families of New Zealand residents and citizens was their second main objective. Only 1,000 places for parents does not seem to be able to meet that objective at all.
We do not think the Government is going to easily get away with such a restrictive policy so lightly in the eyes of the media, particularly so where this restrictive policy has the minority coalition partner’s fingerprints all over it.
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