MEDIA RELEASE 3/2020

RAROTONGA, COOK ISLANDS Tuesday 07 July, 2020 By Margret Numanga, Committee Secretary IMMIGRATION BILL 2020

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Prepared by the Immigration Bill Select Committee 2020, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

Quick glossary:
Bill – Immigration Bill 2020
Immigration Bill – Immigration Bill 2020

Explanatory note – a document that explains the intention of the bill and its provisions

What is this Immigration Bill about?
This Bill is about who can enter the Cook Islands, conditions that must be fulfilled to reside in the Cook Islands and departure requirements.

This Immigration Bill has no bearing on land, voting rights or otherwise. Those legal rights and conditions are covered under their own relevant legislations. The Immigration Bill is about the rights of entry and departure from the Cook Islands.

Where can I access the Immigration Bill?
You can access the Bill from the Cook Islands Parliament Website: https://parliament.gov.ck/
There are two documents available, the Immigration Bill itself as well as an Explanatory Note. The Explanatory Note is a Cook Islands Parliamentary process in which a document is also provided with a Bill to explain the clauses within it.

You can access the Immigration Bill from the Parliament of the Cook Islands website: https://parliament.gov.ck/ or more specifically:

https://2ea1d92bczhh11rmgm1rcot6-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Immigration-Bill-2020.pdf

You can access the Explanatory Notes for the Immigration Bill from the Parliament of the Cook Islands Website: https://parliament.gov.ck/ Or more specifically: https://2ea1d92bczhh11rmgm1rcot6-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/XN-Immigration-Bill-2020-VT.pdf

Definition of a Cook Islander
The definition provided in the Immigration Bill has been cut and pasted from the Entry Residence and Departures Act 1972/72 and has been in existence since it was enacted. This definition is required so we can identify those who have rights of entry into the Cook Islands for Immigration purposes only.

It was recognized earlier in the drafting stage that the definition of a Cook Islander was a matter of National importance and it may well be that a bigger discussion should take place. The current definition was not changed as this has worked for Immigration purposes for the last 49 years. The definition has been added to so as to accommodate children who have been adopted by Cook Islanders.

Why is the Adoption provision clause included in the Cook Islander definition?
When a Cook Islander adopts a child, that Cook Islander permanently takes over the legal parental responsibility for the child and that adopted child should be treated as it they were born to the adopter. This means that, for the purpose of immigration, any child adopted by a Cook Islander should be treated as if they have descended from that Cook Islander. Ultimately this recognition enables a Cook Islander’s adopted child to enter and depart freely, and live here, as if they were Cook Islanders. It provides them with the same rights as all Cook Islanders to depart and enter the Cook Islands freely.

This adoption provision within the Immigration Bill is new does not have scope to impact the life of your adopted child, or your families, outside of their free rights to depart, enter, live and work in the Cook Islands as if they were a Cook Islander. Any impacts pertaining to culture, land or otherwise is at the discretion of your family choices and other Acts that may be in place. In particular, the Cook Islands Act 1915 has specific provisions that deal with the issue of land rights in respect of an adopted child and these continue to apply.

What are the Permanent Resident clauses in the Immigration Bill about?
There are different categories of Permanent Residents (PR). Criteria for Permanent Resident is set out in Regulations.

One category is when Permanent Residency of a person is obtained in their own right. It is approved when a person has lived in the Cook Islands for a certain period of time and undertakes the PR application process for approval. For New Zealand passport holders, a person must have lived consecutively in the Cook Islands for five years and have undergone the application process for approval. For other passport holders they must have lived in the Cook Islands for ten consecutive years and have undergone the application process for approval.

Another category of Permanent Resident status is that through marriage to a Cook Islander, or in partnership or marriage with, or to, a Permanent Resident. This category of PR status also requires an approval process to be undertaken. This was enacted in 2008 in the Entry, Residence and Departures Act 1971/72 The grounds on which Permanent Resident Status can be revoked is set out in the Immigration Bill.

The Minister can revoke Permanent Residence if the person has been absent from the Cook Islands for at least 3 years. However, Immigration can go to Court to get Permanent Resident revoked sooner. The Bill sets out what should be taken into account when considering whether or not a person lives here as we know, from experience, there are a number of reasons why someone might be absent from the Country but still have the Cook Islands as their home.

What is Permanent Residency by descent?
This is in the Cook Islands Constitution and has been included in the Immigration Bill as is for the purposes of ensuring operationalizing this provision. When a child is born in the Cook Islands to a Permanent Resident that child is automatically an approved Permanent Resident. If that child then grows up and has a child or children of their own, these children or child is not automatically approved as a Permanent Resident unless their child is also born in the Cook Islands.

If a Permanent Resident gives birth to their child or children outside of the Cook Islands at their own choice, their child or children is not able qualify for PR status by descent.

If a Permanent Resident gives birth to their child outside of the Cook Islands due to a medical referral then their child does quality for PR status by descent, as the choice of country of safe birth is a medical necessity.

By permitting PR status by descent, this allows for the child to depart and enter back into the Cook Islands freely. This also provides the child with a home as required by the Cook Islands under the Convention of the Rights of the Child. We are obligated to provide the child with a state to avoid the child from being stateless.

What is an Honorary Permanent Resident?
Honorary PR is a special privilege awarded to people that have a skill set unavailable in the Cook Islands, and they share that with the Cook Islands for our benefit at little or no compensation. Under this Immigration Bill the Honorary PR status is gazetted and advertised for transparency.
This Honorary PR status is a gift to acknowledge the contributions made to our Cook Islands society and is normally awarded to someone who does not live in the Cook Islands. It is not automatically passed on to their child or children or to their partner or spouse.

Over the past 25 years there have been 34 Honorary Permanent Residents awarded, the majority have been Chief Justices, Medical Specialist/Doctors who give their time and skills at little or no cost to our people. The Minister receives nominations from the nomination for consideration of conferment of this very special recognition.

Why is a stamp officially recognizing a Cook Islander as such being recommended in our Passport?
At present, Cook Islanders born overseas are the only ones that are required to get an endorsement in their passport, however the Bill extends this to all Cook Islanders (regardless of where you are born).

As we do not have a Cook Islands passport there needs to be a mechanism for airlines and border control to recognize that you are a Cook Islander and have an entitlement to travel here on a one-way ticket. This helps address operational issues, allowing for a smoother process for Cook Islanders to travel into the Cook Islands freely. As New Zealand Passport holders we are officially recognized as New Zealanders at any international border we may travel to, or from. Having an official stamp verifying that you are a Cook Islander demonstrates to the airline or border control that you have the right to free entry into the Cook Islands without a return ticket. It helps reduce confusion at the port of departure into the Cook Islands.

If you are born in the Cook Islands, and it states as such in your passport bio-data, that does not automatically verify you as a Cook Islander with right to free entry. Permit holders also give birth in the Cook Islands but it does not give them the same rights as Cook Islanders to enter, live and work in the Cook Islands

How often to do I have to get the Stamp.
You do not need to have the stamp in your passport on an annual basis, but only for the lifespan of your current passport. The stamp will cost NZD $25 and can be accessed, based upon approval with required documentation from the Immigration Office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration of the Cook Islands. Once your passport current passport expires, it becomes evidence of your status for endorsement in a new passport and you don’t have to go through the process of providing other documents to renew. If you have no plans to travel internationally, then you may choose not to have the stamp in your passport.

Why is there Ministerial discretion to award Permanent Residency status in the Immigration Bill?
As with any Ministerial discretion, the aim is to provide a safety net for those cases where the legislative regime may produce an unintended result. Having the discretion with the Minister means that the Government cannot shy away from the decisions made under this discretion and are accountable to the public for it.

Why have I not heard about the Immigration Bill before?
Various public consultations and consultations with stakeholder groups were conducted along the key steps of developing the Immigration Bill.

In 2017 before drafting the Immigration Bill, a round of consultations was undertaken with the various groups of stakeholders and the community to seek input as to what people wanted to see in the Immigration Bill.

These were all widely advertised in the different forms of media in the Cook Islands. In 2018 the Immigration Bill was drafted based on the feedback from the first round of consultations, another set of consultations were held on the Drafting Instructions to check key concerns were included.

These were all widely advertised in the different forms of media in the Cook Islands.
In 2019, time was spent on further development of the Immigration Bill and to ensure consistency with the Constitution, other national legislation, relevant international obligations, as well as being operation with stakeholders including Airlines and related Government Agencies such as Customs, Police etc. We are now in 2020 undertaking the range of consultations for the Immigration Bill as directed by Parliament. This phase of consultation has also been advertised widely in the different forms of media in the Cook Islands.

How can I make a submission on the Immigration Bill to the Parliamentary Select Committee?
A public notice was made by the Parliament of the Cook Islands announcing the Parliamentary Select Committee. This Committee consists of Chairperson Hon Min Mac Mokoroa, Deputy Chairperson Hon MP Vaitoti Tupa, Hon MP Tai Tura, Hon MP Tina Browne, Hon MP Te-Hani Brown, Hon MP Patrick Arioka and Hon MP Tamaiva Tuavera.

Expression of interest for submissions on the Immigration bill can be emailed or delivered to the Committee Secretary, Margret Numanga, email contact – margret@cookislands.gov.ck or Address your submission to:

Committee Secretary
Immigration Bill Select Committee Parliament of the Cook Islands Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
Please note the closing date for submissions is Friday 31st July 2020.

Meitaki maata.