Time and time again we are seeing people in trouble with their immigration and status in New Zealand in connection with criminal convictions, new and old. This is especially true of people completing their online working holiday applications.
Declaring the past
It is vitally important that you declare any convictions, charges or trouble that you have had with the police in the past. Immigration New Zealand are very clear on their application forms (paper and online) that you tell them about any convictions, charges or investigations that have been conducted against you. You must do this even if you are unsure of whether it “counts” – if you don’t, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of trouble down the line.
I have heard lots and lots of different excuses as to why “I didn’t think I had to tell them” including:
- “The conviction is not on my police certificate or has been stepped down or expunged”
- Were you convicted of an offence? – Yes – then declare it. Even convictions that are no longer counted in your home country must be declared to INZ.
- “I thought it only counted if you went to prison”
- Were you convicted of an offence? – Yes – then declare it. A conviction is a conviction regardless of whether you had to pay a fine, undertook community service or were given a suspended sentence.
- “The charges were dropped”
- Were you charged with an offence? – Yes – then declare it. Regardless of the outcome, be honest and declare that it happened.
- “I thought drink driving was a traffic offence”
- Is driving over the limit illegal in your home country? – Yes – then declare it. In most case you would have appeared in a court. It counts!
As a general rule: Declare everything, no matter how small, and let INZ make the decision as to whether it “counts” or not.
Read the questions asked of you and respond truthfully.
Although convictions do not automatically exclude you from being able to obtain a visa for New Zealand, there are some for which you will have to provide an explanation and ask for a character waiver. For temporary visas this is generally any conviction for which you were sentenced to prison or an offence committed in New Zealand for which you “can” be sentenced to 3 months in prison (regardless of the actual sentence given).
The big problem – Drink Driving
We are seeing a major problem with people coming to us for help after being convicted of drink driving here in New Zealand, especially those in construction.
I have seen many people ask me how it affects their next visa application or more recently have come to our office for help after being issued with a deportation liability notice.
Let me make the facts around this clear:
- Drink Driving is a criminal offence in New Zealand;
- It is punishable by a maximum sentence of 3 months imprisonment;
- It is considered by Immigration New Zealand as a “community offence” and can be considered to make you a public risk;
Unless you do have extreme mitigating circumstances for the offence, be prepared for your next visa to be declined or for you to have to leave New Zealand promptly before deportation takes place.