More Top Stories

Rugby Union

Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Draft immigration policy change proposal to be submitted following sector concerns

Wednesday 30 August 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Economy, National


Draft immigration policy change proposal to be submitted following sector concerns
Prime Minister Mark Brown. Photo: MELINA ETCHES /23071116

A draft Immigration policy change proposal has been endorsed by Prime Minister Mark Brown and is expected to be submitted to Cabinet, according to Te Kauono Tutara e Te Mana Tiaki – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI).

MFAI says the proposal is in response to a number of objections from the private sector in relation to components of the Immigration Regulations 2023.

The proposal will be tabled with the National Labour Advisory Board (NLAB) at their meeting next week for discussion ahead of a submission to Cabinet for approval.

On Monday, the Prime Minister who is also the Minister for Immigration endorsed the draft Immigration policy change proposal from MFAI.

Brown said the proposal drafted by MFAI responds to specific issues he raised with them following concerns raised by the private sector related to additional employment, a grace period for visitor stay, provision for retiree stay, an annual work permit and the removal of mandatory breaks and limitations on permit renewal.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) also reviewed the fees detailed in the Immigration Regulations 2023, and the recommendations proceeding from that review will also be tabled for NLAB consideration when they meet next week.

The new regulation which was approved by Cabinet on April 18, effective from June 30 this year, was to support the full implementation of the Immigration Act 2021 that would affect all current permit holders and new applications for residence, work, investment, study and visit- but the business community was not happy with some of the newly implemented provisions.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Mark Brown called for a briefing to discuss objections raised against the new immigration regulations.

It was then revealed the controversial regulations would be reviewed.

The Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council submitted a summary to the Prime Minister outlining the views of its members on the implications the new Immigration Regulations will have on the workforce.

Brown had said some practical solutions were required and that he hoped to have them addressed as quickly as possible.

Tourism Industry Council President Liana Scott earlier said that the industry was pleased that some of its concerns had been heard and a review with practical solutions was likely to be attended to. 

“The employment landscape has changed since Covid-19, not just in the Cook Islands but the world. It is essential that proper consideration on the long-term effects of the release of the latest employment Regulations on businesses, economy and people is prioritised,” said Scott, who is also the general manager of the Muri Beach Club Hotel.

In a statement from MFAI, Brown said: “Given the wider implications of the concerns raised by our private sector relating to employment relations concerning international workers, I look forward to consideration by NLAB, which comprise representatives of relevant government agencies, private sector and workers representative entities, of the proposal and recommendations that will emanate from that discussion.”

Acting Principal Immigration Officer, Chere Arthur said the proposed policy concessions are intended to provide interim relief ahead of the planned review of the Regulations in the second half of 2024. She said the Regulations were approved in April 2023.

MFAI advises employers, employees, and individuals to book one-on-one sessions with the Immigration Division to gain a better understanding of the visa and permit regime and requirements.

Arthur said this was a new process, there was a wealth of information to digest, and the team would provide support with the application process.

It is expected post NLAB consideration, a final policy proposal will be tabled with Cabinet before the end of September 2023.

The National Labour Advisory Board comprises representatives from Internal Affairs (Chair), Office of the Public Service Commissioner (PSC), MFAI, MFEM, the Chamber of Commerce, the Cook Islands Workers Federation, and a representative from the Fiji Community.