Te Kauono Tutara e Te Mana Tiaki – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) continues to roll out its awareness campaign for immigration clients, interest groups, and the general public to support migration of visa and permit processes to the new Immigration regulations approved by Cabinet on 18 April.
A full information release went live on the MFAI website www.mfai.gov.ck on 1 June 2023. The information includes the 2021 legislation, 2023 regulations and policy, downloadable visa and permit application forms, FAQs, and a visa and permit selector tool to help users navigate the information on the site.
MFAI will continue to add content and make enhancements, including an online application portal via the immigration border management system ASYPX for the submission and monitoring of online applications.
The policy and regulations approved in April are an outcome of extensive and sustained consultations over the last five years with Government, business, and the wider community that supports economic growth and community development.
Among the key changes to the immigration regulations are the following:
- The need to apply and be approved to be a sponsor of a person without continuing rights who may be coming to the Cook Islands to reside, work, invest, study, or visit.
- Immigration visa and permits can be approved for up to 1 to 3 years for work and investment and up to 5-years for residency.
- Potential permit fee savings, for example - previously, work permits were renewed annually for a fee of $500 per annum, with a 3-year work permit costing $1500. Under the 2023 regulations, new work permits can be approved for up to 3-years for a fee of $960 – a fee reduction of $540 for a 3-year work permit.
- Previously, the residence fee for a spouse of a Cook Islander or a spouse of a Permanent Resident holder was $500 for year one and $60 per year for each of the subsequent 4-years, equating to $740 for a 5-year residence permit for a spouse. Under the 2023 regulations, the Residence fee for a Spouse for 5-years is $470, a fee reduction of $270
- Flexibility for short term permit holders. A Specialist permit provides for staying in the Cook Islands for no longer than 31 days at any one time and six months in any one year over the course of 3-years.
- Ability for visitors to apply for an extended stay ahead of their travel to Rarotonga.
- Where there is a material change in circumstance that will affect permit conditions, the holder and sponsor of continuing rights permit holder is obligated to report this change to the Immigration Office at the earliest. Examples include where there is a change in marital status (for spouse residence permits), employment, character, and health, including where a birth or death occurs.
- Where a permit holder gives birth in the Cook Islands, that birth must be registered with both the Ministry of Justice (Birth, Death, and Marriage Division) and the Immigration Office shortly after birth.
- Administrative fines and penalties regime
The Immigration division continues to schedule and run one-to-one sessions with employers and interest groups to discuss the regulatory changes and provide further clarifications as might be sought. MFAI have prioritised sessions for employer groups with larger numbers of migrant workers and interest groups.
“We recognise that the public notice issued on 31 May 2023 regarding the new regulations caused confusion, and we apologise if that is the case,” said Acting Principal Immigration Officer, Chere Arthur.
“We are prioritising support for current permit holders to successfully migrate to the most appropriate permit under the new regime – working closely with employers and their migrant employees. At the same time, we are processing all new visa and permit applications so they’re compliant with the regulations approved in April.
“Within our resource constraints, much planning and preparation has gone into the transition management for the Immigration Regulations 2023. We anticipate it may take up to 12 - 18 months to fully migrate all current permit holders to the new regime.”
The public is encouraged to first seek clarification from the MFAI website at www.mfai.gov.ck and thereafter liaise directly with the Immigration Division on 29347 or email [email protected] so the clarification is accurate.