My impression is that overstayers are not welcome in New Zealand.
Often the word ‘bludger’ is associated with the word ‘overstayer’, seen as someone who came in to New Zealand on false pretences (for example as a tourist or visiting family) and now takes from the system (health, benefits, housing etc.) without paying in.
The Collins English Dictionary’s NZ definition is:
“overstayer: one who stays beyond the end time of an immigration work permit”
This adds up to a powerful and emotive label: ‘overstayer’.
Imagine being labelled an overstayer by the immigration department and told you are going to be deported. That wouldn’t be too cool.
It might surprise you to learn that this is happening increasingly to people who came to New Zealand in good faith – offering skills, business expertise and investment – through no fault of their own.
How to become an overstayer
Skilled workers and entrepreneurs are finding that the journey to Permanent Residency in New Zealand is a lot more dangerous than it used to be.
Although it sounds obvious and simple, temporary migrant’s status in New Zealand is based on their visa. Step outside the bounds of the visa and they lose their status.
All you have to do is get pregnant, get sick, split with your partner (even as a result of domestic abuse), or be made redundant and you too could be instantly win the title of ‘overstayer’. Your kids blocked from school, blocked from working, no benefits or services to help you and vilified as a result of your new title.
It’s actually easier than that. Just find yourself surplus to requirements, get a promotion, get ripped off by a university or get stiffed by your employer. You can even be labelled an overstayer and deported because the immigration department takes too long to process your visa.
Overstayer has become a useful term. In the past immigration would listen to each situation and take a sensible, compassionate approach. This appears to have stopped with some pretty inhumane decisions being enforced, but no one will raise a cry because it’s a good thing to get rid of overstayers, right?.
Migration to New Zealand has become like a high trapeze act. The trouble is that the people flying through the process don’t realise that the safety net has been removed. Just one tiny issue can see an applicant labelled overstayer overnight and given the stark choice to leave New Zealand or be deported.
Who does this affect?
The Immigration department will tell you that temporary visas are just that, temporary and should not be expected to be anything else. But in saying this they are ignoring their own research which confirms the vital link between temporary visas and permanent status:
“More than 8 out of every 10 people approved permanent residence in New Zealand have previous experience as a temporary migrant.”
So the people affected are the ones who “add an estimated $1.9 billion to the New Zealand economy every year” according to Dr. Jonathan Coleman, the Immigration Minister.
To be taken seriously as a migrant you have to commit to your move, selling up and risking everything for a better life in New Zealand. Increasingly people who come to New Zealand in good faith are losing everything because of aggressive bureaucracy.
Most recently I have been contacted by:
- a worker who was terrified after his case-officer told him he was in serious trouble because he had taken a promotion at work – his job title was on his visa meaning he had been working illegally; and
- good friends whose parents have been told they will be deported because immigration has taken three years to process their application under the Parent Category and recently the father (an experienced engineer) lost his job due to the Canterbury earthquake.
So be aware. Anyone moving to New Zealand, working or running a business here without Permanent Residency can very easily become an overstayer literally overnight. Just one slip and they find there was no net.
When Immigration or media use the term ‘overstayer’ remember it might be a very different story than you might think.
(Note: I am not a licensed immigration adviser and this article is not tailored immigration advice).