Retroactive Immigration Laws Dismissed by New Zealand Court

CIC News
Published: July 1, 2003

A court ruling has offered new hope to thousands of would-be New Zealanders anxious to put down roots in their new homeland.

The High Court in Auckland today ruled against the retrospective application of immigration rules changes introduced on 19 November last year.

These changes restricted the issuing of temporary “Job Search” visas for General Skills applicants to those with qualifications in fields covered by the Occupational Shortage List and introduced tough new English language requirements for both General Skills and Business migrants.

The judgement confirmed that ‘the immigration policy effective from 20 November 2002 is invalid for breach of section 13C of the Immigration Act to the extent that it proposes assessment under specific new policies’. The Act requires that applications be assessed under the policy applying at date of lodgement.

"This is a great day for the thousands of future New Zealanders, whose plans for a new life were jeopardised when the immigration goal posts were suddenly changed last November," says Bill Milnes, Chairman of the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment (NZAMI), which took the matter to the High Court.

"The retrospective application of the rules changes introduced a great deal of unexpected anxiety and often hardship into the lives of people who had already commenced the long, complex and expensive process of applying to settle here. Today’s High Court decision will substantially reduce such anxiety and hardship.

"This will also be a great day for all Kiwis who take pride in the fair and just operation of our government and legal systems, who value our international reputation as a country which cares about people’s rights and who appreciate the huge contribution made to our economy by business and skills-based immigration," he adds.

"It also confirms that government should not make retrospective changes in other areas such as health or education which would be detrimental to the lives of ordinary New Zealanders."

The associated challenge to the Long-term Business Visa policy was not upheld and it is now confirmed that this category is to be considered as temporary policy and that changes may be made without affecting the integrity of the base policy.

Mr Milnes noted that it took three days of hearing and over a month for Justice Randerson to consider his report. He says, "This identifies the complex nature of immigration policy and the difficulty for government to balance the intent of policy with the rights of people. It would have been a very difficult decision at a time of considerable pressure on the Minister and the Service."

The NZAMI represents nearly 200 members throughout New Zealand, including immigration and investment consultants, banks, business specialists and financial advisers. The Association seeks consistent, fair, reliable immigration policies of long-term benefit to New Zealand.

Mr Milnes says that the NZAMI is now looking forward to working more closely with the NZIS to help ensure a more balanced and consistent approach to immigration.

"We believe that this case has illustrated the importance of consultation in shaping rules which serve both New Zealand’s interests and the rights of our country’s future citizens," he says.

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