Parent Category Reopening

October 10, 2019
Iain MacLeod

Earlier this week the government announced that they are going to reopen the category for parents that they “temporarily” closed three years ago. Our inboxes have been filling up with people excitedly thinking the door is opening again and they can bring their parents to New Zealand but sadly the truth (as usual) is not quite as exciting as the headlines.

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but there’s been a lot of expectation about what the government might do. It was my view that we might end up with something more like the Australian model but what we seem to have got is a door barely opening to a tiny minority of parents wishing to join their migrant children in New Zealand.

For starters, the government has slashed the annual quota from 2000 people a year to 1000. When you think about that it means three people a day are going to be granted residence under this category. There are already thousands sitting in the parent ‘pool’ who have filed Expressions of Interest (EOI), and have been sitting, waiting and wondering for at least the past three years what the government is going to do. Those that are in the pool are going to be given priority under the new category which will kick off in February 2020.

The first Expressions of Interest will be selected in May 2020 which suggests that there will be four pool draws a year as was historically the case. Expressions of Interest will be selected based on chronological order of filing i.e. in date order.

Parents must continue to be of good health (always a potential issue with this category) and of good character (not normally a problem).

In terms of the income that sponsors must earn, it will depend whether they are single or in a partnership and whether they are sponsoring one parent or two. The income requirements are gross i.e. before tax


Single NZ resident sponsoring a single parent – $106,080

Single NZ resident sponsoring two parents – $159,120

Married/de facto NZ resident sponsoring a single parent – $159,120

Married/de facto NZ resident sponsoring two parents – $212,160


The new rule requires the sponsor to earn this level of income for two of the three years preceding the parent filing the Expression of Interest (or Resident Visa application – which is not yet clear). That tends to suggest that the rule demanding that the sponsor holds a Resident Visa for three years before being able to sponsor their parent will remain. This will clearly add to the time that migrant children will be separated from the parent(s) they wish to sponsor.

I appreciate our clients are not necessarily representative of all skilled migrants and possibly a little wealthier than average, but still the overwhelming majority will only be able to support a parent application where both partners are working in New Zealand on much higher than the median salary (in fact three times the median) or they will never make it that $212,160 income threshold.

These income requirements are clearly designed to strictly limit entry of parents if their children are not in the top 10% or so of income earners in New Zealand. That means a lot of parents are not going to be eligible.

I always try and understand why governments do what they do and I can only interpret this as being a ‘token gesture’ policy and the Government doesn’t really want migrants bringing their parents. The economic benefit of parents coming to New Zealand and freeing up their adult children to go and work, potentially creating two tax payers because there’s now someone to look after the grandchildren, appears to not have been taken into account. Or is of no interest. The social aspects of keeping grandparents and grandchildren together have also been set aside.

I really don’t understand why the government did not adopt a policy similar to Australia where they charge an enormous application fee and then let in greater numbers with a health bond attached for the first few years, returned in the event the parents don’t use the health system in any significant way. That cost to a married couple is around A$100,000 so in some respects it also excludes the not very wealthy but is available to far more parents and I would’ve thought would have been politically palatable in New Zealand.

Those that are sitting in the pool now are going to be contacted later this year and asked whether they wish to remain in the pool or they wish to withdraw and have their application fee refunded. I imagine the significant majority will withdraw their applications because their NZ child sponsor(s) will simply not earn enough money to be able to sponsor them.

That then leads to the question of processing times. Before closing the policy in 2016 applicants were looking at 3 to 4 year timelines from when they filed the expression of interest to when they might expect to be granted a Resident Visa. I don’t believe it’ll take that long now simply because I believe so few parents will qualify and once the current pool is cleaned out of those who withdraw their applications, we may be back to talking about 12 to 24 months but that is pure speculation on my part. I have absolutely no doubt however that we’re probably going to see 90% of EOIs being withdrawn.

I can’t help but feel the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister and his anti-immigration New Zealand First Party in this. He wields power disproportionate to the 7% of the vote he got in the last election but he holds the balance of power…..and I can just imagine him saying no to every suggestion made by the much bigger Labour Party sitting around the cabinet table for something more generous to parents. I get the feeling that the NZ First tail keeps wagging this dog when it comes to immigration policy.

The message then is pretty clear to me – if you wish to move to New Zealand, most likely as a skilled migrant, you probably won’t be able to bring your parents.

Unless that is you are in the top 5-10% of wage and salary earners.

Leave a Reply

There are currently no comments. Why don't you kick things off?