Passport Abuse in New Zealand
New Zealand’s population is more diverse and mobile than ever. It is no wonder – New Zealand has been known as “The Best Country in the World” for the last four years according to the well-known Telegraph Travel Awards, and many of us can testify to that title.
Migrants are increasing our population by nearly 60,000 per year. But this doesn’t reflect the actual amount of traffic that is coming through our country. New Zealand sees about 400,000 people both entering the country and leaving it each year, which is a large amount for such a small population.
Right up there with our reputation as the best country in the world, is the reputation of our travel documents – the New Zealand passport. The NZ passport is “considered to be one of the most secure in the world,” and its low profile means that we are usually examined less thoroughly when boarding planes and crossing borders. According to citizenship and planning firm Henley & Partners, New Zealand passports rank 8th in the world for travel freedom,2 with the ability to travel through 171 countries worldwide visa-free. While this is great for us, it also means that this document is highly sought after among travellers from less reputable countries.
The reality is, there is mounting anecdotal evidence pointing to these intentions among a large number of recent migrants
By travellers, we are not talking about the conventional recreational type, but young professionals –consultants, sales managers, software installers – those with salaries around or above the $70,000 mark. These are people that travel all over the world for work, and having a New Zealand passport makes them incredibly more saleable. To put this into perspective, take immigrants from China, India or the Philippines – the three fastest-growing migrant groups in New Zealand. In comparison to NZ’s 171 visa-free countries, their passports only allow entry to around 50-60. Imagine what a huge advantage a New Zealand passport would give someone in that kind of competitive environment.
These young professionals know exactly what they are doing, and come to New Zealand solely to live until they are eligible for citizenship, obtain a passport and return to their own countries. We are effectively creating temporary citizens that are dependent on taxpayers’ money, and put forward no interest or contribution to the community. Moreover, because of this abnormal use, the New Zealand passport will not remain one of the safest travel documents, which directly affects the security of New Zealanders.
The reality is, there is mounting anecdotal evidence pointing to these intentions among a large number of recent migrants. The Upper Hutt Multicultural Council puts a lot of time, effort and resources into ensuring good settlement outcomes for new migrants, and they are not alone in this.
“If people are no longer thinking of New Zealand as a destination, or home, then what is the value of our volunteer contribution to migrants? We want to help people that genuinely want to settle into the community.” – UHMCC Member
There are many sincere community groups and support services catering specifically to migrants – Multicultural Councils around the country, the Newcomers Network, Citizens Advice Bureau and the Ministry of Ethnic Communities just to name a few. We want to be able to engage with ethnic communities on a level that has us coming back to our funders pushing for more, because this should be an area of growth, not stagnation. Many of these organisations are maintained largely by volunteers, and they do not and will not provide their time and energy if it is only to act as nannies. Working in the community is a unique field because so many of the people are there for more than just a job. Often we get migrants themselves offering to put in their time because they understand the struggles of moving to a new world, and strive to create better settlement outcomes than what they experienced. These people are putting their heart into their work, are sincerely invested in what they do. They deserve to feel like their efforts are making a difference.
The government needs to seriously look at revising the citizenship process. At the moment the requirements for citizenship are as follows:
- already have the right to be in New Zealand indefinitely (you’re a permanent resident of New Zealand or Australia, or you’re Australian)
- lived here for at least the last 5 years and had the right to be in New Zealand indefinitely the whole time
- intend to keep living here
- speak English, and
- of good character.
The first step is to increase the amount of time one has to stay in New Zealand before qualifying as a permanent resident. At the moment the minimum is five years, which is evidently not long enough. We propose that it is increased to seven.
It is important to note that the solution here is not in deterring migrants altogether. The solution is in creating the space for them to be willing to call New Zealand home. The UK are already on the right track in this regard. As part of their citizenship process, all applicants are required to pass a “Life in the UK” test, with general knowledge questions on UK history, culture and politics. Passing this indicates that they are at least somewhat engaged with the mainstream way of life – or, in the event that they simply studied before taking the test, are now prepared to do so. Australia also has a similar test as part of their citizenship application process.
No one can respect or love what they do not know
New Zealand needs to reflect that intention. There needs to be a stronger integration of migrants into our mainstream way of life as well, and this must be incorporated into our immigration policies. What we need is an induction programme to New Zealand values including Tikanga Maori, cultural practices, and the history of Aotearoa. We cannot provide migrants with practical instructions for making a life in New Zealand without also providing support for the other areas of their hauora.
The bottom line is, as one of the council members put it, “no one can respect or love what they do not know”. We need to give migrants the space to really become New Zealanders, to take their understanding of Aotearoa below the surface. This does not mean shunning or oppressing their own cultural heritage. We want to welcome their diversity, to see it enrich our culture, and to see them enrich ours as they find a home with us.