People who are thinking of sponsoring their brothers and sisters for Residence may have only days or weeks to get the application in before they lose the chance forever.

The Labour Party recently discovered and leaked a briefing paper for the new Minister of Immigration which spells out a dramatic change in Family Residence Visa policy.  The Ministerial paper can be viewed here for anyone who is interested (see page 19).  It was produced in December 2011.

What it amounts to for NZ Residents and Citizens is that:

  • They will no longer be able to sponsor their adult brothers and sisters for Residence.
  • Those who have high incomes will find it much easier to sponsor their parents for Residence, including priority processing.  Parents of poorer sponsors will have to pre-purchase English tuition before they are allowed in.

Most of this will be in place by July 2012.  The Sibling Category could be shut down any day, and with no prior warning.  The Minister still hasn’t officially announced these dramatic changes to policies which have been in place since the 1990s.

In some sense this move was not a total surprise. The previous Minister made one or two comments, just before the Election, that the Government was not happy that a lot of Family Residence Visa holders were now on the dole or otherwise costing the State a lot of money.  A 2009 report claimed that although Partner Residents made an overall positive contribution to the economy, parents and siblings did not.

The 2009 report does mention that the Family category was not intended to provide an economic return.  However:

economic considerations still play a key role in deciding the number and the type of family migrants New Zealand can afford.

This view clearly dominated the rest of the paper – and Government’s thinking.

This is despite the fact that, statistically, skilled and business migrants clearly see sponsoring family members as important to their ability to become “well settled”.  It also sidesteps the key Family Residence Objective to “strengthen families”.  The 2009 paper acknowledged that such benefits are difficult to quantify, and I believe that the problem was simply put to one side in favour of focusing on the numbers.

Some of us in the industry have put forward alternatives to the current policy in order to solve the problem.  One of those, for instance, was to give siblings who applied for Residence a Work Visa so that they could locate a job while they were waiting for Residence to be approved.  They would not get Residence unless they could prove that they had been paid a regular wage in a real job.

However, by making its decision behind the scenes and without seeking any kind of feedback, the Government has defeated any possibility of working out an alternative solution.  This is unfortunately an increasing trend in the immigration field, and it is consistent with the Government’s practice of passing new laws under urgency.

The culture of government and of the public service seems to be changing to a more forceful and aggressive model.  Personally, I am not a great fan of the politically correct notion of only doing something after slow, inefficient and sometimes hypocritical “consultation”.  But I am getting uneasy about the present Government’s methods which look more and more like a form of dictatorship.  In the present case of Family Visa policy I believe that Department of Labour civil servants have driven rough-shod over the needs and expectations of Residents and Citizens – who, after all, pay their salaries with their tax.