Parliament has unanimously passed amendments to the Immigration Bill to clarify ambiguities and correct redundancies in the Act.

The amendment removes the initial three-year limit on the issuance of permits to allow longer terms which provide greater assurance to permit holders.

Permanent residency permit holders who’ve been allowed into Fiji on the basis of investment are now only at risk of having their status revoked if there is a clear breach of the conditions applicable at the time the permit was granted.

The amendments also align the age range of a child to under 18-years in accordance with the 2013 constitution.

Immigration Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says this will be a boost of confidence for investors.

“These amendments are necessary to bring clarity to the Immigration Act and to facilitate proposed amendments to the Citizenship OF Fiji Act 2009. The Immigration Bill clarifies the Minister for Immigration powers in allowing re-entry of visitors who have overstayed their permit and amend the prescribed penalties.”

Under the new law, if a person holding a visitor permit overstays in Fiji for more than seven days, he or she will not be permitted to re-enter Fiji for 12 months under any type of permit, unless approved by the Minister.

Maximum penalties for various breaches have also been increased from $2, 000 and two years to $20,000 and five years.

Meanwhile, parliament has also unanimously passed amendments to the Citizenship Bill that amends section 23 of the Act.

An individual now needs to be lawfully present in Fiji for five out of the ten years required to make them eligible to apply for citizenship.

Bainimarama says any changes made to the permanent residence framework will not negate the citizenship criteria.

The amendment allows the Immigration Minister to make regulation and solve anomalies that exist in the granting of visas, special purpose permits as well as co-extensive permits.

He stated special purpose permits are currently granted by the department under very specific circumstances.

“Person seeking to enter Fiji for medical treatment, foreign person heavily reliant on a member of the family a Fiji citizen and person living on a yacht entering Fiji for a fixed and approved period of time. These permits are intended to be temporary in nature and thus should not be counted for the purpose of acquiring citizenship.”

The Bill also lowers the age criteria in relation to children from 21 to 18 years.

Additionally, the passed amended Passports Bill focuses on four key policy objectives.

The Bill has shortened title of the Passports Act 2002 to the Travel Document Act 2002 and changing the name of the Department of Immigration to the Fijian Immigration Department.

Bainimarama says the Bill also lowers the age criteria for children from 21 to 18 years and removes the references to ‘unmarried minor’ to be substituted by the term ‘child’.

The amended Bill also seeks to amend the Passports Act seeing an increase penalty for offenders on conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both.

In an effort to boost the efficient, effective and economical management of the Ministry, amendments have been made on managerial roles.

“Passports Bill seeks to amend the Passports act to shift the responsibility of the Director of Immigration under the Passports Act to the Permanent Secretary responsible for Immigration. This amendment is made to reflect the fact that Immigration is a highly sensitive policy area who is a Permanent Secretary must work closely with the Minister because the officer responsible to the Minister under section 1273 of the constitution.”

Bainimarama says these amendments will ensure the Department is not susceptible to any form of corruption activity.