'Stressed and shaken': Pregnant mum stripped of residency status after being unaware of expiry

Lincoln Tan, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 5 Aug 2022, 7:01am
INZ says the woman has been told by letter that her visa would no longer be valid if she left NZ. Photo / File
INZ says the woman has been told by letter that her visa would no longer be valid if she left NZ. Photo / File

'Stressed and shaken': Pregnant mum stripped of residency status after being unaware of expiry

Lincoln Tan, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 5 Aug 2022, 7:01am

A New Zealand resident who took her 2-year-old daughter born overseas to meet her grandparents was stopped from boarding a plane on her return as her residence visa had expired.

The woman, who is 20 weeks pregnant, says she was unaware her residence visa had an expiry date.

She was eventually granted a one-month visitor visa to resolve her status - but that meant she lost all her privileges and could no longer work at Auckland Council where she was employed.

Visitor visa holders can look for work or attend job interviews, but they are not allowed to work.

Immigration New Zealand yesterday morning approved her permanent residence visa application following queries from the Herald, but she said the ordeal had left her "stressed and shaken".

The woman, who does not want to be named, has been living in New Zealand for six years and got her residence visa two years ago.

"I have a well-established myself here; I have a house, a Kiwi husband, a job, child and [am] currently 20 weeks pregnant. I've voted, I've paid taxes and I have advocated for how amazing NZ is to live," she said.

"We took my daughter back to Canada recently to introduce her to my family - she was born in 2020 and we all know how that story goes."

The woman was stopped at the boarding gate on their way back on July 28, and told that her resident visa was invalid.

"I was stunned actually, I didn't even know there was an expiry date on the residence visa or a deadline where I had to apply for permanent residency," she said.

"There was a lot of debate whether to let me on the plane, ultimately Immigration put me on a visitor visa for 30 days."

Upon arrival in NZ, she was told by INZ to "reapply for residency and join the queue".

"The reason my RV became invalid was because I had a travel restriction on residency that expired Oct 2021," she said.

"If I left the country after this date, it renders my RV invalid. I was not aware of the clause."

The woman said that while she took full responsibility for the oversight and acknowledged her mistake, she took issue with the lack of compassion and empathy from INZ.

"The fact there is no easy fix for someone in my circumstance. In a matter of seconds immigration puts me on a visa that has left me with no rights," she said.

"I have no access to healthcare, no rights to a midwife, can't work and at this stage, I am not entitled to parental leave. The knock-on effect of this is massive as I have had to leave my job, I cannot pay my bills and so much more."

On a visitor visa, she cannot work or access any services she needs as an expectant mother.

"There is no transition visa to help me sort out my immigration status. This one-size-fits-all immigration policy does not work," she said.

The woman said the situation had caused her an enormous amount of stress.

"Stress that a pregnant person should not be experiencing," she said.

The woman said she wanted her story told "to highlight how archaic our immigration system is".

"The Government advocates for kindness and compassion, however such a huge and important governing body has shown that this is not applicable to them," she said.

The woman said her employer at Auckland Council however, had been "incredibly supportive".

Anita Furniss, Auckland Council's general manager people and culture, said the situation was distressing for the employee.

"We have been notified of this situation and have taken the appropriate steps in relation to our employee's status to allow her to address her visa issues," Furniss said.

"Before taking leave and encountering this situation, she had the correct visa requirements for employment at Auckland Council and we had no reason to believe this issue might arise.

"We are considering what wellbeing support we can provide her."

Nicola Hogg, INZ general manager border and visa operations, said people who were granted a resident visa were issued with travel conditions which allowed them to leave and enter New Zealand multiple times before the expiry date.

"After the travel conditions have expired, they can no longer enter New Zealand and they need to apply for either a variation of travel conditions or for a permanent resident visa," she said.

Hogg said the woman was granted a Resident Visa on October 8, 2019, with a travel expiry date of October 8, 2021.

"When she was granted her resident visa, she was sent an approval letter which outlined her travel conditions and the travel expiry date of 08 October, 2021," Hogg said.

"The letter also stated that if she left New Zealand after her travel conditions ended, her resident visa would expire, and she would need to apply for a permanent resident visa."

Hogg said that when the woman left New Zealand on June 25, 2022, her travel condition had already expired.

"As a remedy of her situation and to facilitate her travel to New Zealand, she was granted a one-month visitor visa to enable her to enter New Zealand and resolve her residence status from here," she said.

"An INZ official has been in touch and explained the process to her, and she has confirmed that she has submitted a PRV."

Her permanent residence visa was approved yesterday morning.