Election 2023: Immigration in spotlight as similar policies announced

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission

National, ACT and Labour have all launched immigration policies targeting migrant parents and grandparents, with Labour also promising amnesty for overstayers who have been in the country for 10 years or more.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins speaking at the party’s immigration announcement on 23 September, 2023. Photo: RNZ / Giles Dexter

The Labour Party promised a 10-year multiple-entry Super Visa that allows relatives to make successive visits of between 6 months and 5 years.

Those on the visa would need a written guarantee of financial support from their children or grandchildren, who must be a New Zealand citizen.

They would also need health insurance for the entirety of their stay and meet good character requirements, said the party.

Labour said the Super Visa would not count towards any pathway to residency.

Meanwhile ACT’s new visa, called the Unite Visa, would enable relatives to visit family in New Zealand for up to five years at a time, with a renewal requirement each year.

Parents and grandparents on the Unite Visa would also have to pay an annual $3500 fee to cover potential health costs.

“There’s no question that the fee is significant and there are some people who will be deterred from coming by the fee, on the other hand I don’t think the taxpayer should have to pay,” said ACT leader David Seymour.

National leader Christopher Luxon with a family from Sri Lanka while out and about in Taupō on 23 September, 2023.

National leader Christopher Luxon with a family from Sri Lanka while out and about in Taupō on 23 September, 2023. Photo: Twitter / Christopher Luxon

The National Party announced their immigration policy earlier today which would allow relatives to visit family members in New Zealand for five years, with the possibility of renewal for another five years.

National said those on the new Parent Visa Boost would need to be sponsored by their children or grandchildren, would not be eligible for NZ Super or other entitlements and would have to have health insurance.

At the moment, a general visitor visa allows a stay of up to 12 months, but it did not allow flexibility to leave the country and come back.

If someone makes multiple journeys, parents and grandparents can only visit for up to six months at a time, with a maximum total stay of 18 months in three years.

A residency visa is also available, but migrants must meet income eligibility thresholds.

When asked about the similarities between Labour, National and ACT’s policy, Chris Hipkins said:

“Well the details were in the New Zealand Herald this morning so I suspect they would have got a bit of a clue to what we were announcing.”

Labour also announced amnesty for overstayers

Labour's immigration spokesperson Andrew Little speaking about the party's new visa for parents and its one-off regularisation programme to overstayers.

Andrew Little at the announcement. Photo: RNZ / Giles Dexter

The Labour Party also announced a one-off regularisation programme for overstayers who have been in New Zealand for 10 years or more.

It said this was to honour the historic Dawn Raids apology to Pacific people by backing it up with action.

However, the programme would not be limited to any particular group, meaning people from all migrant communities will be able to apply to regularise their visa status.

“These people are part of New Zealand. In some cases they have been here for decades. They have family here, jobs and church,” said Labour’s immigration spokesperson Andrew Little.

“It’s only fair that children born in this country aren’t 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.

“About 14,000 to 20,000 people could be eligible for regularisation, including every survivor of the Dawn Raids era who has never left the country. It means they will have rights at work and access to more government services like higher education,” Little said.

Speaking at the announcement in Auckland, Hipkins said the overstayer regularisation programme was “the right thing to do” to huge applause and some tears in the crowd.

He said the party would deliver the policy within the first 100 days in office, but he admitted he did not actually know how many migrant overstayers there were.

“To be clear these are estimates, it’s not an exact science because obviously the fact that they’re not regular means that we don’t have good information on them.

“It’s our estimate on how many people might be eligible and taken up.”

But Green Party immigration spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March said he was disappointed with the requirement for people to be in Aotearoa for 10 years to be eligible for the amnesty.

“It calls into question the claim it will benefit 20,000 people. The reality is that it will leave many overstayers who still have roots here exposed to exploitative conditions,” he said.

“The Greens will ensure that an amnesty for overstayers provides accessible residency pathways to everyone, not just those who’ve been here more than 10 years.”

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