Immigration health screening changes

Monday, April 02, 2012
The Minister of Immigration announced on 2 April 2012 that changes are being made to immigration health screening in late July 2012. The details of the changes are still being developed and more information will be made available closer to the implementation of these changes.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will be implementing the following changes.

  • All visa applicants may re-use previously submitted medical certificates, provided the certificates are less than 36 months old, unless there are health risk factors identified.
  • International fee-paying students will be required to hold acceptable insurance as a condition of their visa. INZ is currently consulting with the education sector on how best to operationalise this requirement.
  • Immigration health screening for international fee paying students will be reduced to screening for tuberculosis (TB) only, unless there other health risk factors.
  • Visa applicants who have spent six consecutive months in a high risk TB country since their previous visa application will be re-screened for TB.
  • Immigration health screening for the partners and dependent children of New Zealand citizens and residents; and for successful asylum claimants will be limited to screening for those conditions which disqualify them from consideration for a medical waiver.
  • Health tests and requirements will be updated to ensure that the latest developments in high-cost health conditions are taken into account.

Questions and answers

Why are changes being made to immigration health screening?

New Zealand is competing with other developed countries for the same pool of potential migrants, students and visitors. Our economic future depends in part on the continued success of our education, tourism and other export sectors. These changes are designed to make it easier for low-risk, high-value migrants to come to New Zealand. Export education is our fifth largest export industry, worth $2.3 billion to the economy, and these changes will make it easier for students to come here. 

When will the changes happen?

Changes to immigration health screening will be made in late July 2012. This means that visa applications lodged up until the changes are made will be subject to the current immigration instructions.

What are the health changes for international students?

International fee paying students will not need to provide full medical certificates, unless there are reasons that INZ may require them to, regardless of the length of their stay. We will continue to screen for TB. This is a major change and a positive move that will benefit students and the education sector.  To mitigate any impact on health services, INZ will require the student to hold appropriate medical insurance. This will be a visa condition. 

What are the reasons that INZ may request a student to provide a full medical certificate?

Reasons may include INZ being aware of an applicant’s medical condition through prior interactions or the applicant self-declaring a medical condition.  

How will international students be able to afford health insurance?

International students are already required by the Ministry of Education's Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students to have appropriate insurance. INZ will merely be reflecting this in our immigration instructions. 

What will INZ’s insurance requirements be for students?

INZ is currently consulting with the education sector on the implementation of this requirement. Further detail has yet to be developed. 

Why are you reducing health screening for international students?

Students are generally young and because they are ineligible for publicly funded health care, the risk of them imposing health costs on New Zealand is low.  INZ wants to support the growth of the export education industry in New Zealand, and reducing health screening for fee paying international students does this.  Screening for TB will still be undertaken and INZ will retain the ability to request medical certificates from students where risk factors indicate this is appropriate.  Requiring students to hold acceptable insurance will also mitigate costs on the public health system.

Will students who are deemed ‘domestic’, such as PhD students or dependents of workers, still have to complete full medical certificates if they intend a stay in New Zealand for 12 months or more?

Yes. This is because they are not covered by the Ministry of Education's Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students and are not required to hold medical insurance. Many of them may also be eligible for publicly-funded health services. However, these types of students still benefit from an extension in the validity of their medical certificates. Instead of being valid for 24 months, from July their medical certificates will be valid for 36 months,

What about the changes for other visa categories?

All other temporary entry visa applicants which includes; domestic students, visitors, workers, limited visa and resident visa applicants, will be able to re-use medical certificates which have been submitted within 36 months of their latest application. This is a change from the current validity period of 24 months for temporary entry visa applicants and 3 months for resident visa applicants.

Can I re-use my medical certificate that was submitted within the last 36 months before these changes take effect?

Changes to immigration health screening will not be implemented until late July 2012.  Until that time the current rules apply around the validity of medical certificates. 

Aren’t there health risks for New Zealand if medical certificates are allowed to be 36 months old?

Evidence suggests that migrant’s health outcomes are generally good and that immigration has a positive fiscal impact.  Updated medical certificates can still be requested where risk factors indicate this is necessary.  A regular data-matching and analysis exercise with the Ministry of Health is also being established to review the take-up of health services by temporary and permanent migrants.

How can New Zealand afford to pay the cost of treating partners and dependent children of New Zealanders and successful asylum claimants who do not have an acceptable standard of health?

Partners and dependent children of New Zealanders have strong links to New Zealand via their partner or parent. Asylum claimants have met a high threshold of proof in order to have been recognised as a refugee or protected person by New Zealand. The number of people who benefit from this change is expected to be small.

I am the partner or dependent child of a New Zealander – what conditions will I be screened for?

We are currently reviewing the tests and requirements of INZ’s health screening process.  Once this review is complete there will be more detail available. The conditions that currently disqualify a partner or dependent child from consideration of a medical waiver, are those where the applicant:

  • requires dialysis treatment, or an INZ medical assessor has indicated that such treatment will be required within a period of four years from the date of the medical assessment; or
  • has active TB; or
  • has severe haemophilia; or
  • has a physical incapacity that requires full time care.