The Minister of Immigration (Minister) previously indicated that the Government was looking at the possibility of releasing a new residence policy aimed at supporting those affected by the terrorist attacks that took place at the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch on 15 March 2019.
New policy summary
The Minister and Immigration New Zealand (INZ) have now released the Christchurch Response (2019) Category to allow for the grant of permanent residency to the surviving victims of the attacks, certain immediate family members of those victims, and also family members of the deceased victims.
Victims considered to be directly affected by the attacks who are now eligible to apply for permanent residency are individuals who:
- On 15 March 2019 were considered based in New Zealand;
- Held any temporary class visa; except a visitor visa, working holiday visa, a limited visa or an interim visa (issued to an applicant applying for a visitor or limited visa); and
- Were injured in the attacks or were present at either mosque during the attacks.
Certain family members of both the deceased and surviving victims of the attacks (who meet the above criteria) can now also apply for permanent residency. For victims who were/are dependent children, the following immediate family members can apply:
- Grandparents; and
- Siblings who are also dependent children.
For victims who were/are adults, the following immediate family members can apply:
- Dependent children;
- Partner’s dependent children;
- Parents; and
- Partner’s parents.
The process for applying for residence is two-staged. An applicant must first submit an Expression of Interest to INZ. Once INZ has reviewed that to confirm potential eligibility the individual(s) concerned will then be invited to apply for permanent residency; and following submission of a formal application (subject to health and character checks) will be granted a permanent resident visa.
It should be noted that this is not an open-ended policy. Any applications for residence under this category must be lodged with INZ on or before 23 April 2021.
Our initial view is that this is a welcome policy for many of the surviving victims, their families, and the families of the deceased.
However, based on our experience with the families of the victims, certain parts of this policy will be difficult to apply in practice, such as the subjective based in New Zealand test and accepting limited evidence to establish the relationship between the victims and applying family member.
In addition, many emergency temporary visas were issued to family members to come in and support the victims who are not considered immediate family members under this new policy. While the position of INZ will be that those visas were issued to those people to provide immediate support after the attacks and were always intended to be time limited, in reality this will be a difficult outcome to accept for many of the surviving victims who are now relying on that family support, especially so where the family members who have come in to support them are their closest family members.
We suspect therefore that the Minister will most likely be receiving a large number of special direction applications for the consideration of the grant of residency for family members outside the standard criteria published here, because under a two-staged residence process an applicant cannot be invited to apply unless they appear to meet the eligibility criteria. This means they are not provided an avenue to file an application and appeal a declined decision on the grounds that they have special circumstances that would warrant an exception being made; their only avenue for a hearing is a discretionary decision made on the papers by the Minister.
This new policy is not definitive in our view, far from it. There will be a large number of applications made outside these policy criteria, so for us, where the Minister chooses to draw the line on those will either make or break this gesture of goodwill and support.
For further information or assistance, please contact Lane Neave on +64 3 379 3720 or email email@example.com