New Zealand: Clearer rules for immigration sponsors

Immigration New Zealand head Nigel Bickel says sponsors will need to meet more specific eligibility criteria and be willing to take real responsibility for ensuring people they sponsor don’t become a burden to New Zealand taxpayers.

More specific rules for people sponsoring family and friends to visit or live in New Zealand come into effect from the end of this month. The changes are about ensuring that New Zealand citizens and residents who sponsor friends and family to come here are fully aware of their obligations.

From 29 November, sponsors will be required to sign an undertaking that they will be responsible for all aspects of ‘maintenance, accommodation and repatriation’ (or deportation if required) of the sponsored person – rather than being able to choose just one aspect. This includes responsibility for all ‘third party’ costs, such as health costs. More specific criteria for sponsors are also being introduced.

For temporary entry visas, this broader obligation will be in place for the whole time the sponsored person is in New Zealand. For resident visas, the obligation will be in place for a specific period.

Another change allows organizations (companies, charitable trusts and societies) and government agencies to sponsor individuals in some circumstances. These new categories of sponsors will be eligible to support visitor visas and also work-to-residence and residence-from–work visas under the ‘talent’ category (arts, culture and sports). The new sponsorship rules are part of changes related to the Immigration Act 2009, which come into effect from 29 November this year.

“The Act creates a new, strengthened framework for sponsorship that better protects sponsored individuals and New Zealand taxpayers by ensuring sponsorship requirements and obligations are applied consistently across different categories,” Mr Bickle says.

The new Act does not make any changes to the categories under which people apply to come to New Zealand to visit, study, work or live. Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs Chief Executive Dr Colin Tukuitonga says it is important for sponsors to understand the new rules.

“Many Pacific families sponsor relatives to come to New Zealand. The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs will be working alongside Immigration New Zealand to help our Pacific communities understand the minimum criteria to be a sponsor and the associated obligations,” Dr Tukuitonga says.