Monday, May 15, 2006

Marriage and citizenship

Last year, the government passed the Identity (Citizenship and Travel Documents) Bill, which made draconian changes to our citizenship and passport laws to make it more difficult for long-term residents to gain New Zealand citizenship, strip the automatic right of citizenship by birth from children of non-resident parents, and allow the government to seize any New Zealander's passport and prevent them from travelling on national security grounds (just imagine what Jenny Shipley would have done with that power). However, it also made other changes, notably removing the traditional shortcut to citizenship through marriage, on the basis that this was discriminatory.

Today, while researching the previous post, I came across the Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, Article 3 of which states:

Each Contracting State agrees that the alien wife of one of its nationals may, at her request, acquire the nationality of her husband through specially privileged naturalization procedures; the grant of such nationality may be subject to such limitations as may be imposed in the interests of national security or public policy.

We ratified this convention on the 17th of December, 1958. And while its a bit archaic in talking only of marriage and only of women, we now appear to be in breach of it. I wonder if the government or the select committee which examined the bill even noticed?

As for the general issue, yes, the marriage shortcut was prima facie inconsistent with s21 (1) (b) of the Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the grounds of marital status. But rather than being removed, it should have been broadened to include civil union and de facto partners (at least, those who met the same two-year threshold used elsewhere in New Zealand law) - the reason being that shacking up with a Kiwi does seem to be a valid signifier of commitment to New Zealand, and hence a valid reason for drawing a distinction. But as with their laughable decision on student allowances, the government chose to use human rights law to narrow existing rights rather than broaden them...


You're clearly much better informed than I am.
Does this mean that there's no provision for a legal partner to gain citizenship in the country?

Sorry the question is probably answered in the above, I thought I'd check.

Posted by Confusion : 5/16/2006 10:54:00 PM

Well, there's the usual method of living here for five years and applying. Previously, partners of citizens got a year off the normal waiting time (which was only three years).

I think partners of citizens may find it easier to get residency, but I'm not sure.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2006 11:40:00 PM

Easier than ...?? "Partner of a citizen" is one of the four(?) categories under which permanent residency can be applied for. I wouldn't describe it as particularly easy ... extensive documentation of the relationship (to prove its "genuineness") as well as police records, medical records, copies of both parties' birth certificates, etc. are required. And a hefty fee well over $1000.

So it's not simply a case of, say, presenting a marriage certificate, and Bob's your uncle.

The case of Dean Kenny last year (
seemed to turn in part on insufficient supporting documentation being provided to prove his marriage to a British citizen was genuine (despite its apparent longevity and production of two children).

Posted by dc_red : 5/17/2006 08:21:00 AM

Hey, I didn't say that Immigration would be sane or reasonable about it...

This is an area where we want to be very careful to avoid making cruel or inhuman decisions. Unfortunately, we seem to have a large demographic who want our immigration system to be cruel and inhuman - except when it affects British people, of course.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/17/2006 08:49:00 AM

Yes, I do wonder if there is some sort of popular "racial pyramid" with white brits at the top (still). I'm guessing the "significant demographic" of which you speak views black and Asian brits somewhat differently. I wonder where white Australians, Americans, South Africans, Canadians etc. fit in the hierarchy. In light of some popular hostility towards anyone with a "North American" accent I'm guessing the Canadians and Americans, at least, are further down the order.

Posted by dc_red : 5/17/2006 09:41:00 AM