Migrants will be entitled to bring their parents to live with them in New Zealand for the first time for in years, the Government has announced.

But the policy is returning with a cap and significantly higher income requirements for children.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has confirmed immigration authorities will from 2020 again begin taking applications under the Parent Category visa programme, which allows parents to join adult children who have become residents or citizens and earn over a certain amount.

The National Government in late 2016 temporarily closed the category, citing a growing cost to taxpayers and a need for a review. Immigration New Zealand has not considered applicants from the category since.

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Lees-Galloway on Monday announced the current scheme would end and be replaced from February.

"Skilled migrants and their parents have been in limbo … This created unnecessary and unfair uncertainty for people," he said.

However, the Government will only allow about 1000 parents to join their children each year, significantly fewer than the 5500 coming over before the scheme was paused.

And children will have to earn significantly more as well.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says migrants and their parents have been left in limbo by the current policy. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says migrants and their parents have been left in limbo by the current policy. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Where previously a single earner had to make $65,000 a year to bring over a parent, they'll now need to earn $106,000 and about $159,000 if they want to bring two parents. A couple will have to earn over $159,000 to be joined by one parent and $212,000 by two.

Despite the previous Government's halt in 2016, about 2000 people have applied for the parent visa anyway, paying close to a $1 million in fees by the start of this year.

Lees-Galloway said those on the expression of interest list could update their applications based on the new criteria and keep their list in the queue. Those who no longer qualified could get a full refund, he said.

The return of the policy comes after reports it was caught up in negotiations with NZ First.

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It also comes just days after the Government announced it would be scrapping a controversial policy requiring African and Middle Eastern refugees to have family already living in New Zealand to be resettled.

The rule had been described as "racist and discriminatory" by new Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.