Poor migrants who speak little or no English are to be subject to stricter immigration laws under a review that will create a "two-tier" system to favour the wealthy, a leaked Cabinet paper shows.
Immigration categories are to be changed in an effort to "reduce the number of unskilled migrants who find it difficult to get jobs and are more likely to get benefit payments".
Applications from parents seeking residency to be with children already in New Zealand will be placed in the slow processing lane if their children-sponsors are not "high-income" people.
Parents will no longer be able to bring in dependent children and applicants who are poor in English will be required to pre-pay for language lessons.
The changes are outlined in a Cabinet paper obtained by the Labour Party, which says the plan creates a divide between the rich and famous and ordinary migrants wanting to move to New Zealand.
The paper, titled "Issues and decisions for the first 100 days - Immigration" is directed at the new Immigration Minister Nathan Guy and Associate Minister Kate Wilkinson, and shows the decision to make changes to family categories was made by the Cabinet last May.
It says that under "a new two-tier process", applications from parents who are sponsored by higher-income sponsors, or who bring guaranteed income or funds, will be processed more quickly than those from other parents.
"Tier-one parents will be eligible regardless of what country their other adult children live in, while the criteria for tier-two parents will be tightened so that only those who had no adult children living in their home country will be eligible."
The paper does not say how the wealth of parent sponsors will be assessed.
The sibling and adult category will be closed soon after the Department of Labour - which oversees Immigration NZ - provides further details on implementation and changes to the parent category to be introduced from July, the paper says.
The changes are aimed at reducing costs incurred through the benefit system and to attract and retain skilled and productive migrants, it says.
Last year, 36 per cent (or 14,826) of all New Zealand residence approvals were family-sponsored migrants.
Of these, 4036 were approved under the parent policy and 1186 under the sibling and adult child category.
China and India have been the main source countries for immigrants under the two categories in the past three years.
Labour's immigration spokeswoman, Darien Fenton, said the proposed changes showed National's true values - that "money is all that matters".
"This will come as a shock for the thousands of people in New Zealand looking to reunite their families, especially given the special treatment handed out to millionaires such as Kim Dotcom," she said.
"We are becoming a country where only those with money are welcome."
Immigration expert Paul Spoonley said some of the proposed changes, such as stopping parents bringing in dependent children "seem harsh and unusual".
A spokesman for Mr Guy said the minister was unavailable for comment yesterday, but would "get on to this" today.