Recently we have seen a number of people who did not know their immigration status despite living in New Zealand for nearly 50 years. Those individuals believed they held New Zealand resident visas or citizenship because they had arrived in New Zealand with their families before the 1970s. However, without evidence that you have held a resident visa status or New Zealand citizenship, you cannot prove your New Zealand immigration status. There is a provision in the current Immigration Act 2009 that recognises those who arrived lawfully in New Zealand before 2 April 1974 to have held a resident visa if they met certain criteria.

Migrating to New Zealand before 2 April 1974

In 1947, the government “introduced an assisted-passage scheme for British and Irish citizens“. Then in the 1950s, there was an increase in immigrants from the Netherlands and Hungary who settled in New Zealand. Migration to New Zealand during those years was via boats. People travelled together as a family; some children were included in their parents’ passports.

The Immigration Act 1964 required all persons entering New Zealand to hold a permit. However, British, Canadian and Irish citizens were exempted until 1974. A special Samoa immigration quota was also introduced in 1970. In response to the labour shortage, an assisted passage scheme attracted many immigrants, mainly from the Pacific Islands. Then, in 1974, the government started to review the Immigration policies and placed tighter regulations in place. The criteria for entry to New Zealand shifted its focus to merit and skills. It also ended unrestricted access for British immigrants. It affirmed free access to those born in the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau. Australians continued to have free access to New Zealand. Still, other migrants had to apply for residence under one of the categories such as family, humanitarian, refugee and general category.

According to a research paper published on the New Zealand parliament webpage, by 1975 the assisted immigration schemes had ended. There were over 82,000 migrants who arrived in New Zealand, and the majority were British. In 1976, the government opened a register to allow illegal immigrants to legalise their status without penalty. The Citizenship Act 1977 imposed the same requirements on all people who applied for citizenship by grant based on the length of residence in New Zealand, character, and knowledge of the English language. The Immigration policy was reviewed again in 1986 with an increased focus on skilled migrants, leading to the Immigration Act 1987. Under the 1987 Act, there was transitional provision s 44 which allowed the grant of residence to those who arrived in New Zealand lawfully at any time before the 2 April 1974 but who didn’t have a permit granted under the 1964 Act, and who had then lived in New Zealand continuously until 1987. Those people were deemed to be the holders of a resident visa.

We have seen those who arrived in New Zealand in the 1970s but were not issued a visa, and some had lost the original passport they used when they first entered New Zealand. When people arrived by boat on their parents’ passports, it was not easy to determine their initial arrival date or the visa they had obtained at the time, particularly if they had never left New Zealand. Therefore, those individuals need to have their resident visas confirmed by Immigration New Zealand. This brings me to our recent case of an individual who encountered difficulties establishing his New Zealand status.

Recent case example

Our client migrated to New Zealand with his family in the 1960s. He was a child then and was included in his father’s passport. The family all arrived in New Zealand on a boat from the UK. Our client lived his entire life in New Zealand. However, he did not know what his immigration status was because he had never travelled out of New Zealand, apart from a short trip to Australia, where no passport was required to travel between the two countries at the time. Because he had not travelled overseas, there was no record of him with Immigration NZ. We also contacted the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) to check if he was granted New Zealand citizenship. The DIA also advised there was no record of him as a New Zealand citizen.

Given the date he arrived in New Zealand, i.e. before April 1974, and having lived in New Zealand since then, we identified that our client could be deemed a New Zealand resident under s 44 of the Immigration Act 1987 and s 415 of the Immigration Act 2009. Our client would then be able to have his resident visa status confirmed by Immigration NZ.

To meet the criteria set out under s 44 of the 1987 Act and s 415 of the 2009 Act was not a walk in the park. We needed to demonstrate and provide evidence of the following:

• He arrived in New Zealand before 2 April 1974 for the purposes of permanent residence and did not receive a permit under the Immigration Act 1964.
• He had been in New Zealand continuously from 2 April 1974 until 31 October 1987.
• He was not exempt under the Immigration Act 1987 from having to hold a residence permit.

To meet the above requirements, our client managed to secure records from NZ archives which confirmed the arrival date of the boat he and his family arrived in, which also lists the names of the passengers on this boat. We had to provide evidence of his school records from nearly 40-50 years ago, vaccination records, etc. We successfully managed to convince Immigration NZ to issue a confirmation of resident status to our client.

How can we help?

As you have noticed, there are provisions in the Immigration Act 2009 that are not used often or not many people know. So, if you or someone you know is unaware of their immigration status, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Even if you don’t fall under the policy discussed above, there may be alternative options to confirm your immigration status. You could even try to regularise it under s 61 of the Immigration Act 2009 if we believe that is the best solution – see our blog on making “section 61 requests“.

Feel free to contact us by visiting our website or booking a consultation.