Back in November 2022 we commented on the reopening of the Parent Category. We explained that this was a lottery with 2500 places of which 2000 were dedicated to the many thousands of Parent Category Expressions of Interest (“EOI”) that had been lodged since selections were put on hold in October 2016.

Any EOIs that were received from 12 October 2022 were now to go into a ballot. Of course, for those sitting in the queue, sponsor and parent circumstances have changed dramatically since then.

Medical issues

For EOIs that are now being drawn some parents who were of good health when the EOI was submitted now have health challenges. Immigration New Zealand’s health instructions can be confusing at the best of times. For example, the ability to pay for medical treatment does not guarantee that the applicant has an acceptable standard of health. The main concern is health conditions that would be a drain on our stretched hospital and medical services. Certain health conditions are a “no go” but other conditions may be eligible for what is known as medical waiver. The process can be challenging. We have many years experience dealing with immigration health issues all the way through to appeals to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal seeking exceptions to Immigration Instructions. Contact us if this is an issue in your case.

The Queue

Selections for both new and existing EOIs under the Parent Category occur in February, May, August and November, on the second Tuesday of the relevant month. There was an extra selection in October 2023 of EOIs received before 12 October 2022.

According to Immigration New Zealand it was aiming to have selected all delayed EOIs by about now. Those lodged before 1 April 2020 which are to be selected by October 2023 and remaining backlogged EOIs, by November 2023. Immigration New Zealand had proposed that there will be 500 visas available each year for EOIs selected by ballot.

Of course, selection is only the first step in the residence process. Immigration New Zealand will then check sponsorship (different rules apply depending on when they EOI was lodged) health (see our comments above) and character and there could be a significant processing delay on top of the delay in the EOI being selected. As we explained in our last blog there are limited options while waiting: one of them is a parent/grandparent multiple entry visa that only allows for stays of up to 6 months to a maximum of 18 months out of the three-year period. Processing for these temporary visas is currently taking six months on average.

New applications

EOIs stay in the pool for two years which provides multiple opportunities to win the lottery. But the odds are still fairly long.

In October 2023, Immigration New Zealand had approximately 6000 new EOIs on hand. The first draw was in August 2023 when 200 EOIs were drawn at a supplementary draw occurred in October when another 100 were drawn. This suggests that there is approximately 5% chance of an EOI being drawn. Unlike the backlogged EOIs this is a random draw and EOIs drop out of the pool after two years. Available places may increase once the backlog is cleared. We will update this in future blogs. In the meantime, if you’d like assistance in assessing whether your sponsorship meets the requirements we’d be delighted to assist.

The tail end: sponsor obligations for 10 years

The Parent Category comes with substantial sponsor obligations. Sponsors are liable for 10 years to ensure that their sponsored parents or grandparents have accommodation and financial support and do not access any government benefits. There are low levels of knowledge that, for example accessing the Accommodation Supplement which is in fact a welfare benefit is strictly forbidden for a decade after residence is granted. We have had cases where Accommodation Supplements amounting to thousands of dollars has had to be paid back to MSD to avoid deportation liability. Contact our office for advice on sponsor obligations.

Parent Investment categories

As we mentioned in our last blog there is a temporary retirement visa for parents and grandparents which requires NZD$750,000 of funds to be invested for two years, NZD$500,000 of funds to be available for support and NZD$60,000 per year as independent income. Medical insurance is required but this can exclude pre-existing conditions. A two-year visitor visa is then available. Processing has been around 55 working days which is not too bad.

There is also a parent/grandparent retirement resident visa. This is essentially the same as the temporary visa but requires NZD$1 million dollars to be invested for four years. This category is subject to serious delays. Allocation was 18 months or more although this is improved in total processing somewhere between 24 and a whopping 57 months. Immigration New Zealand’s business team assure us that further resources are being employed to improve these timeframes.

Gifts from adult children or others can be included in both categories provided there is formal documentation and proof of origin of gifted funds.

In both categories, a strict approach is taken to the investment funds. Immigration New Zealand may require tax returns going back as far as 10 years and bank statements to show chain of custody. In some jurisdictions it can be a real challenge.

Recently we inquired about funds held in China for some of our clients where there is a foreign exchange restriction on moving funds offshore. Immigration New Zealand take a more flexible approach to funds available for support and indicated to us that offshore funds can be acceptable on a case-by-case basis.

We regularly meet with the Business Team about this and other investment categories and are well-positioned to provide advice and advocacy. Contact us for assistance.

None of the above?

In a small number of cases, we have also assisted parents who would otherwise be isolated or going back to impossible situations in their home countries to obtain residence either as an exception to instructions or on humanitarian grounds through the Immigration and Protection Tribunal.

A small number of parents have remained in New Zealand since the beginning of Covid-19 border restrictions and may in some cases no longer have a visa. A very high standard of proof is needed in these cases and the main focus is on the interests of New Zealand family members. We have extensive experience in assessing and assisting in humanitarian cases alongside our other work. Contact our office to for advice on the best option for your family.

Future possibilities

During the election campaign both the Act and National parties announced temporary parent visas. National’s Parent Boost Category will offer a five year renewable multiple entry visa which would be very welcome by many of our clients. Health insurance and guarantees of support from the sponsor are required. It seems that some movement will happen in this space but the timing depends on current coalition discussions and then other priorities of government. We will monitor and update this area. However the basic rule is that an “announcement” is not Immigration Instruction until the details are announced. It is best to plan on what is available now.

Pacific Legal has assisted hundreds of families with parent visas. Contact our friendly team for further assistance.