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Understanding sex industry rights and legal obligations - Immigration NZ

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Immigration New Zealand is taking a proactive approach to better understanding issues within the sex industry as part of wider work on exploitation.

Addressing the exploitation of migrants is a priority for Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 (PRA) states that only New Zealand citizens and residents can legally work in the sex industry.

The sex industry is one element of wider Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment work to combat migrant exploitation. This work aims to support wider cross-Government work on combatting migrant exploitation, to provide medium and longer term responses to this issue.

"We recognise that temporary migrants, who breach their visa conditions by working in the New Zealand sex industry, are vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers and clients. They are less likely to be aware of their rights and entitlements than their New Zealand colleagues," says Peter Devoy, INZ Assistant General Manager Compliance.

This programme of work is in the early stages. It includes gathering information to better understand the particular challenges within this industry. It also includes educating the sex industry to ensure employers, facilitators of service and workers understand their rights and legal obligations. As with other industries, there will continue to be regulatory activity in this industry.

"Immigration New Zealand doesn’t grant either residence or temporary entry visas to a person who has provided or intends to provide commercial sexual services. This is in line with the Prostitution Reform Act, which states that only New Zealand citizens and residents can legally work in the sex industry," Mr Devoy says.

INZ continues to undertake compliance work to identify and refuse entry to foreign sex workers seeking to enter New Zealand and address any complaints concerning the breaches of minimum employment standards, or the maltreatment or exploitation of foreign sex workers.

"While temporary migrants are unable to work in the sex industry, migrant workers have the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand," Mr Devoy says.

"We encourage anyone currently being forced to work in the sex industry New Zealand illegally to contact Immigration New Zealand on 0508 558 855 or the Labour Inspectorate on 0800 20 90 20, where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment. People can also contact CrimeStoppers anonymously through our website."


Section 19 of the PRA sets out immigration-related restrictions on the provision of, operation of and investment in commercial sexual services, and associated businesses by holders of certain visas. There are three restrictions:

o Visas cannot be granted on the basis of the provision of sexual services, or on the basis of investment in or operation of a prostitution business.

o It is a condition of every temporary entry class visa that the holder may not provide commercial sexual services, or operate or invest in a New Zealand prostitution business, while in New Zealand.

o Resident visa holders may not operate or invest in a New Zealand prostitution business. However, they may themselves provide commercial sexual services.

If a person is believed on reasonable grounds to have undertaken such prohibited actions as above, then they are liable for deportation.

Compliance officers may enter any premises - whether a brothel or a private property - without a warrant in order to serve or execute a deportation liability notice or deportation order, as long as there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person named in the notice or order is present and they are providing commercial sexual services.

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