Posts Tagged ‘work visa’

90 day rules and existing workers

September 24, 2014

Interesting story today in The Press:

Christchurch rebuild manager unfairly sacked
A piling manager recruited from England and sacked in his first 90 days has won nearly $40,000 from his Christchurch employer.
source

Basically the employee started work in January 2014 but didn’t sign his employment contract until February 2014.

Hickey ruled the 90-day clause was invalid because the Employment Contracts Act said such provisions could not be imposed on existing employees. Hall and Smith Crane had not signed the individual employment contract before Hall began his job. By the time he signed the contract, he was an existing employee.

90 day clauses cannot be applied to existing employees – including those who have completed a free trial – and this sets an interesting precedent of what is an ‘existing employee’.

Of course this situation should never have occurred:

  1. It is illegal for an employer to start you in the job without a signed contract.
  2. To get a work visa to work for a specific employer (like an essential skills work visa) the migrant has to prove Immigration New Zealand (INZ) with a signed employment contract, it’s a mandatory requirement and the INZ have to be satisfied that the employer meets all New Zealand employment and immigration laws. .

Mind you, I had a migrant come in to see me the other day for advice who already had a work visa but hadn’t signed his contract yet – the immigration case officer processing his visa application hadn’t noticed. Government plans to automate the granting of work visas soon through online applications, I wonder if that will improve quality control.

There are a couple of things to take out of this article:

  1. The Employment Relations Authority – www.era.govt.nz
    This organisation is there for you (even if you are on a work visa) to protect your employment rights.
  2. Employment law
    Migrants coming in to NZ to work for a specific employer need to understand the employment laws here, for example:
    – the 90-day trial period and what is means;
    – Unpaid trial periods are illegal and risk your visa application;
    – You must have an employment agreement from day one;
    – This must have clauses which protect you (such as holidays);
    – You must have a minimum of 30 paid hours pw guaranteed.

The immigration and employment laws around this area are in place protect you and are there for a reason ;o).

Mike Bell
Migrant advocate | Licensed Immigration Adviser

Migrants accessing health care in New Zealand

November 30, 2013

Getting information about what healthcare migrants can access in New Zealand is a bit of a problem which is starting to cause issues – I saw the following article in the paper today:

Migrants ‘clogging’ hospital

Christchurch Hospital’s emergency department (ED) is the busiest it has ever been and foreign rebuild workers have been pinpointed as the likely main cause.

Migrant workers with illnesses as minor as colds are “clogging up” ED because they are not enrolling with GPs in Christchurch, a business leader says.

The city’s health sector is calling for the workers to enrol at medical practices to take pressure off the hospital.

You can read the whole article here

Christchurch rebuild

This is not a new problem at all, I’ve seen these issues in Christchurch since 2006 when move2nz launched our migrant centre as a dedicated resource to help skilled migrants.

Now working as a licensed immigration adviser in the centre of Christchurch with rebuild workers every day I see this problem close up. This problem is growing more apparent simply because of the number of people coming in to help with the rebuild.

Rebuild workers fall into two main groups:

  1. Young people on Working Holiday Visas
    These generally cover only a year and the workers are required to hold medical and comprehensive hospitalisation insurance for the length of their stay.

    The exception is the UK scheme where the visa can be for up to 23 months and no medical insurance is required because there is a reciprocal agreement between New Zealand and the UK.

  2. Skilled workers on work visas
    These visas can be for up to three years although many (especially for lower skilled job like truck and digger drivers, and scaffolders) are just for one year.

So how do these workers access healthcare and what differences are there between them?

Accidents

Many rebuild workers are in hard physical jobs where accidents can happen. Luckily New Zealand has an accident compensation scheme: ACC.

This is a ‘no fault’ universal accident insurance scheme which covers treatment costs for accidental injuries whether you are a citizen or just a visitor, whether you had an accident at work or cycling up in the hills.

Anyone having an accident can access hospital so there is no difference between our two groups except that as ‘part charges’ may apply medical insurance could be useful.

One thing to be aware of however is that while ACC covers injury-related treatment it does not cover repatriation expenses. It is a good idea to have comprehensive travel insurance to cover this.

Warning: Check the small-print on your medical insurance. This year a migrant who had come to me for immigration advice sadly died in a climbing accident. Due to a technicality in his medical insurance the company refused to fly his body home (on the basis he hadn’t been resident in the UK for six months before he took out the policy).

Make sure you don’t encounter the same problem by checking the small-print on your policy.

In an emergency dial 111 and ask for an ambulance

Public healthcare

This falls into two areas and there can be important differences for migrants:

  1. General Practitioner (GP)
    These handle all general medical and wellness issues and should be your first port of call if you are unwell. Registering with a GP is recommended, you can search for  a GP near you using the interactive map.
  2. Hospital Care
    There is a strong drive to keep hospitals free to stop them getting bogged down and for this reason before heading to a hospital you should try:

Importantly there can be costs accessing any medical services.

Free Public Health Care
For those who qualify for free public health care you can access:

  • free public hospital treatment
  • free treatment at public hospital 24-hour accident and emergency (A&E) clinics
  • subsidies on prescription items
  • subsidised fees for visits to GPs.
  • subsidised fees for specialist care (such as physiotherapists) when referred by a GP for an accident case
  • free or subsidised health care if suffering from acute or chronic medical conditions
  • no charge for most laboratory tests and x-rays, except at privately operated clinics
  • no charge for public health care during pregnancy and childbirth
  • no charge for GP referrals to a public hospital for treatment
  • subsidies for children under six for visits to the doctor and prescriptions (most visits to the doctor  and prescribed medicines for small children are free)
  • free breast screening for women aged between 45 and 69.

Your can check your eligibility for free healthcare – if you have a work visa lasting at least two years for example or come from the UK or Australia you are covered.

The Problem

The real problems here then are that:

  • Many migrants do not register with a GP and do not know where to go for medical help, for this reason they end up at the hospital which doesn’t have the resources to cope.
    • Solution:
      Register with a GP and follow the links in this article to find out more about health services in Christchurch. Go to the appropriate medical service if you need care, leaving the hospital as a last resort.
  • Some people on Working Holiday Visas do not have the comprehensive medical insurance they are required to have, making them vulnerable to mishap.
    • Solution:
      Make sure you have comprehensive medical insurance and check the small-print to make sure you are covered right through your stay in New Zealand, not just the first 6 months. Repatriation in case of serious mishap is an important inclusion.
  • There is a small group that fall outside health provisions: people on a one year work visa. This group do not have access to free healthcare and often do not have medical insurance. This makes them highly vulnerable and often they will not realise until something goes wrong. People in this situation can end up with large and unexpected medical bills.
    • Solution:
      Take out comprehensive medical insurance!

So if you are in Christchurch get searching for a GP near you and register. Find out where your local medical services are (there is a handy interactive map here including GPs and pharmacies) and take care of yourself.

If you are having difficulties access medical care let us know by posting about your experiences below ;o).

Mike Bell


Mike is architect of migrant community move2nz.com, a migrant advocate, and a qualified and licensed immigration adviser.

 

Useful links for Christchurch:

Too fat to live in NZ?

July 27, 2013

Mike BellIt’s been a while since I wrote a blog but spotted this it today’s Press newspaper.

I often get asked about medical issues affecting immigration applications – especially grey areas like obesity. While most immigration requirements are quite clear this is can be a very uncertain area.

This article is intended to help migrants prepare for success ;o).

 

Too fat to live here?

A medically obese South African man has been told he is too fat for New Zealand, despite losing 30 kilograms since he moved to Christchurch six years ago.Albert Buitenhuis and his wife, Marthie, are now facing deportation after their work visas were declined because of his 130kg weight.

Immigration authorities cited the demands his obesity could place on New Zealand health services.

source

Immigration medicals
When you are making immigration applications you will be asked for a medical for any visa which will take you over 12 months in New Zealand. This is to test if you have an acceptable standard of health.

What they’re actually looking at is any likely cost to New Zealand. If you are applying for residence this is classified as $41,000 over the next five years (A4.10.2).

The process is:

  1. Case officer
    your application goes in to the department and is allocated out to a case officer. As they are not medically trained they send any medical issue to an external expert to be assessed
  2. Medical assessor
    This expert checks the papers and makes a decision on how much you are likely to cost NZ. The important point is that they can only go by the papers provided as they will never meet you
  3. Decision
    The case then goes back to the case-officer who makes a decision on your application

If you do have a medical condition (or your children will need educational support at school due to a learning difficulty or condition) it is vital to:

  • Provide as much documentary evidence as possible; and
  • clearly quantify any cost

If you have not provided clear evidence about the costs of your condition the medical assessor has to make a judgement call on your long term prognosis – they will be looking at the next 5 years.

You do not want that because the medical assessor has limited information. Much better to give them reports from experts who have examined you to ensure the medical assessor has really good information. This also means you have a reasonable idea of your chances of success before you lodge the application which is vital.

This is an area where it can be a good idea to get a professional opinion, calling on previous case knowledge to give you a sound idea of whether you are likely to be successful.

Summary
Please take medical issues seriously. Any application submitted to the immigration department (whether entered by you or with professional help) that includes a medical issue (or even the possibility of one) should leave nothing to chance.

Careful research and preparation to ensure the medical assessor has everything they need to agree you have an acceptable standard of health is a minimum.

If you find through this research that you may not have an acceptable standard of health at least you will know the risk you are taking before you start out.

Mike Bell


Mike is architect of migrant community move2nz.com, a migrant advocate, and a qualified and licensed immigration adviser.

Brash supports hiring illegal migrants?!

January 21, 2013

This week we saw an bizarre call from Don Brash, a man who has been a “centre-right”‘ politician (leader of New Zealand’s National Party while in opposition, and the ACT party) and also Governor of New Zealand’s Reserve Bank.

According to media reports Mr Brash said

“I want local and central government to show more urgency on the rebuild of Christchurch and if that means taking a lenient attitude toward people whose immigration status might not be up to scratch, in the peculiar situation which Christchurch faces, I would be all in favour of that,”

Looking at Mr Brash’s comments I am struck by two questions:

  1. What does Mr Brash know of the rebuild from his vantage point 1,000 kilometres away?
  2. What does Mr Brash know about New Zealand’s immigration system and the potential effects of his idea?

The answer to both questions is clearly “not much”.

The rebuild speed

The amount of work to be done in Canterbury and Christchurch is certainly immense. After nearly 1,000 buildings large and small have been demolished there is still quite a way to go. I look out at this every day as Christchurch is my home and I work in the CBD, but what I see are people working incredible hours – New Zealanders and people coming from around the world to do amazing things.

Hiring illegal immigrants is hardly likely to speed up Gerry Brownlee or improve anything at all.

Yes it would be nice if it could all be finished tomorrow, but those of us who live on planet earth know we are here for the long-haul. Personally I prefer quality work which will last (and perhaps one or two buildings which aren’t tilt-slab construction) over ‘get it over quickly’.

New Zealand’s immigration system

New Zealand has a highly robust immigration system which has served this country well, ensuring that migrants coming to New Zealand add more to this country than they take from it. The last census for example in 2006 confirmed that migrants added $3.3 billion profit to the New Zealand economy after all costs.

Our immigration system ensures people coming to work here are healthy, can speak English, are of good character and have skills New Zealand really needs.

What does this say about illegal immigrants?

Some skilled migrants can unexpectedly and unfortunately become unlawful in New Zealand (and a good part of my work is in restoring skilled workers to lawful status) but in my experience these migrants play by the rules. If they can provide a good reason why they should be allowed to stay they are allowed to regain legal status by trained immigration officials who weigh all aspects of the case before making a decision.

Mr Brash’s idea would remove this protection for New Zealand, hamstringing officials and forcing them to turn a blind eye to people likely to cause loss.

Pros and Cons

I guess in fairness we should weigh the pros and cons of Mr Brash’s “idea”:

Cons – this would

  • completely undermine New Zealand’s immigration system, put in place to protect this nation;
  • encourage many more people to come to New Zealand illegally;
  • discourage highly skilled migrants from coming here to help with the rebuild;
  • reduce the number of jobs available to New Zealanders;
  • reduce training options for New Zealand workers;
  • reduce the quality of work being carried out;
  • increase health and safety risks as well as ACC costs to the New Zealand taxpayer;
  • undermine employment laws and protection for employees;
  • reduce the amount of tax being paid to the New Zealand government;
  • reduce wages in the region for semi and skilled workers;
  • increase the cost to the New Zealand taxpayer who would pick up the tab for health, police and other costs;
  • create breeding grounds for the exploitation of foreign workers;
  • welcome an underclass of people into Christchurch who put nothing into the system but take from it.

Pros – this would

  • increase profits for a small number of companies, CEOs and shareholders.

Summary

Christchurch needs highly skilled and experienced workers to train locals and work in jobs there are no locals available to fill. The rebuild is going well and things are coming together. Yes we could do with better planning and drive at the top, but hiring illegal migrants is hardly like to affect this.

Our current immigration system is providing a huge economic boost to not only the rebuild but the country as a whole and will continue to do so if left alone.

There may have been whispers of illegal workers in Christchurch, but as a licensed immigration adviser based right in the heart of the Garden City I have seen no sign of this.

What I have seen is a majority of employers doing a great job shadowed by a tiny minority of employers trying to manipulate the system to increase profits.

Taking this into consideration I believe the only way to read Brash’s call is that either he is a fool with no idea of what he is saying, or this is a ‘dog-whistle’ for his private agenda, raising fears about immigration. As Mr Brash has shown in the past that ‘dog-whistle’ politics is a specialty I question the motives behind this call which clearly are not in New Zealand’s best interests.

New Work Visa Requirement for Canterbury Employers

January 15, 2013

Employers in Canterbury hiring migrants should be aware of a rule change notified by Immigration New Zealand (INZ), an additional requirement on employers hiring foreign workers to be implemented from 28 January 2013.

Hiring workers who do not have New Zealand citizenship or a residence class visa is relatively straight-forward, however to ensure New Zealand jobs and wages are protected there are a number of checks to be made first.

For example, when offering work for occupations not listed by the immigration department as being ‘in shortage’ employers must be able to show they have made a genuine effort to recruit New Zealand workers first.

January 2013 changes
Previously it has been a useful step in the process of hiring foreign workers to check with Work and Income who undertake a labour market test for the immigration department to ensure there are no suitable or trainable New Zealanders before visa applications are granted.

In addition to current requirements which include advertising vacancies to check there are no suitable or trainable New Zealanders before offering work to applicants requiring a Work Visa this change will make it mandatory for employers in the Canterbury, Selwyn and Waimakiriri regions to register most vacancies with the new Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub (CSEH).

Exceptions to this rule include the most highly skilled occupations and those already listed by the immigration department on the Long Term, Immediate or Canterbury Skill Shortage Lists.

Occupations are categorised into five ‘skill levels’ by the immigration department and this requirement affects any offer of work for an occupation classified at skill level 3,4 or 5 – the majority of occupations. As examples these occupations include:

  • Level 3: welders, secretaries and motor mechanics;
  • Level 4: truck drivers, clerical workers and receptionists;
  • Level 5: Labourers, hospitality and retail workers.

CSEH is a joint initiative by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, the Ministry of Social Development and the Tertiary Education Commission intended to link employers with job seekers more quickly.

Details of this change can be found on the INZ website here: Visa rule helps streamline process for employers and ensures Kiwis first in line for jobs


I hope this move will speed up processing, but am concerned.

When labour market testing through Work and Income was introduced in 2008/09 processing times for Work Visas significantly increased (from as little as one day to as much as 70 working days).

The system has now settled down very well and over recent months the Work Visa applications I have lodged with the Christchurch immigration office have been processed in between one and three working days.

Hopefully the CSEH will be fully resourced so that it can keep up with the workload and heavy demand so that it does not slow what is currently a good process down.

Mike

– site architect, move2nz.com
– licensed immigration adviser, New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services

Canterbury Skills Shortage List

January 12, 2013

This article from move2nz is a little out of date now, relating to a November 2012 change, but is worth adding here as it affects a large number of people I see every day in Christchurch.

The idea of the Canterbury Skills Shortage List (CSSL) is to highlight occupations in which Canterbury employers are struggling to find skilled and experienced staff.

It is one of three Essential Skills In Demand lists, the others of which are the Immediate Skill Shortage List and the Long Term Skill Shortage List.

As the Canterbury rebuild progresses the kind of skills needed will change and the list is reviewed and updated every three months to keep up with this. Initially skills most in demand were in engineering, surveying and planning, but following the November update there is clearly an increasing need for trades staff with the following additions:

  • Solid Plasterer (333212)
  • Painting Trades Worker (332211)
  • Wall and Floor Tiler (333411)
  • Fibrous Plasterer (333211)
  • Brick layer (333111)
  • Carpenter (331212)
  • Roof Tiler (333311)
  • Joiner (331213)
  • Glazier (333111)
  • Floor Finisher (332111)
  • Stonemason (331112)
  • Drainlayer (334113)
  • Carpenter and Joiner (331211)

I have certainly seen a lot more trades workers coming through and have been busy all month advising people about requirements, helping them get all of the paperwork they need and putting together their Work Visa applications.

How does this affect me?

There is a ‘New Zealanders first’ process in New Zealand meaning that foreign workers can only be considered for jobs if there are no NZ citizens and residents available. Getting good information on your employability before getting on a plane is very important – imagine arriving only to find that there are dozens of unemployed people in your field meaning your chances of getting hired are close to nil.

The CSSL helps to create some certainty as it flags occupations where there is a real shortage of local workers. Not only does it mean that if your occupation is on the list and you meet the requirements (see below) you are very likely to find work, it also means you should not face the usual barriers in getting a Work Visa.

The main barrier in getting a Work Visa is the Labour Market Test – basically any employer wanting to hire you has to prove they have made a genuine effort to check for New Zealanders before offering you the job – for example by advertising the role, checking with the unemployment office (Work and Income) and providing evidence any kiwis who applied were unsuitable. This can add a lot of paperwork to your Work Visa application, delays for you as an applicant, and increases costs for the employer.

The good news is that if your occupation is on the CSSL and you are suitably qualified (see below) the employer should not need to check for New Zealanders first before offering you a job – making the whole process more transparent, predictable and safer.

Qualified and experienced

Before assuming you can use the CSSL to get work in Canterbury it is vital to check that Immigration New Zealand consider you to be ‘skilled’. This is a specific definition which relates to your occupation and also your ability to work in that occupation.

The information you need is held in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations or ANZSCO. This defines:

  1. The skill rating of each occupation – between 5(low) and 1 (high); and
  2. How experienced you need to be to do the job competently.

The example I always use is brain surgery: yes it’s a skilled job, but they won’t let me do it without the right qualification. Luckily for most occupations a number of years experience can be substituted for formal qualifications.

For example for ‘Joiner’ the requirement in New Zealand is:

  • NZ Register Level 4 qualification (for example a trade apprenticeship); or
  • At least three years of relevant experience.

It is important to confirm at this stage that the second point refers to relevant work experience you can prove as you will need to include that proof with your application.

All of the requirements for the CSSL are shown in a downloadable PDF you can find hereand may need to be looked up on the ANZSCO website. Just type the reference code (for example 331213 for ‘Joiner’) in the search box and click on the resulting link. You’ll see the ANZSCO requirement under “Indicative Skill Level”.

Watch for additional requirements
It is important to note that some of the occupations listed on the CSSL have additional requirements above those listed in ANZSCO.

For example Glazier (333111) starts with the ANZSCO requirement (which is the same as for joiner) but then adds:

… AND evidence that the work will be done under the supervision of an appropriately Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) who is licensed to supervise relevant Restricted Building Work (RBW) OR that the duties of the Glazier will not include RBW.

Knowing what these requirements are in advance is important so that you won’t be caught out and declined a visa application.

Work Visas

You have probably noted that I have been talking about the CSSL in respect of Work Visas rather than residency. That’s because the CSSL only helps with applications for temporary Work Visas. It doesn’t give you any additional benefit for residency beyond helping you get a skilled job in New Zealand.

Once you have a Work Visa you may well be able to apply for residency if that’s what you want to do, but be aware the requirements are more strict and you will need ongoing employment, not just a short term contract.

I hope this information is useful and will help many people assess their eligibility before looking for work in New Zealand.

Mike Bell

– site architect, move2nz.com
– licensed immigration adviser, New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services


This article was posted in the move2nz.com December 2012 newsletter and is reproduced here by permission.

Fighting an unjust deportation

September 16, 2012

Cherie Vermaak - copyright Dean Kozniac, Fairfax Media

(Click for enlargement)

As our regular members will know, move2nz is a lot more than just move2nz.com and through our history we have fought many times to ensure migrants acting in good faith are given a fair go by the immigration system.

Through move2nz we have been working to highlight the kind of risks faced by migrants on temporary visas while in New Zealand to help ensure people are prepared and protected against what can be serious risks.

Despite our best efforts sometimes people can quickly find themselves in terrible situations and this is exactly what happened to the Vermaak family from South Africa.

A deportation nightmare

On 12th May 2012 we first found out about a terrible situation, reading in the Christchurch Press newspaper. A family – Cherie and children aged 16 and 19 – were in desperate fear of being deported and having to move in to a garage as they were losing their home.

We immediately contacted to offer support as we have with many others in the past and found they were long-standing members of move2nz. What was brilliant this time was that we were also able to review the immigration decision being made because Mike is now a licensed immigration adviser.

The situation

Cherie had been working in New Zealand for four years in an important and skilled job. She tried to renew her work visa in March and the immigration department (INZ) first confirmed they had everything they needed, but just two days before her visa was due to expire INZ insisted she produce a police clearance certificate from South Africa.

These certificates take months to obtain and Cherie’s licensed immigration adviser had failed to remind her to get one. INZ refused to accept a declaration that Cherie had applied for the certificate which was strange as they had let her do so before, Cherie had not been back to SA since 2007 and her previous certificates had been completely clean.

This decision not to allow a declaration created a situation where two days later Cherie found herself with no visa, unlawful in New Zealand and subject to deportation. Of course this also meant that Cherie immediately lost her job as she no longer had the legal right to work in NZ. Cherie’s 16 year old daughter also no longer had the right to go to school and was forced to stay home half-way through her year 12 studies.

The family was now without a source of income and, as temporary visa holders, were not entitled to financial assistance. When the money ran out they started selling furniture to buy food.

When Cherie needed them most I am ashamed to say that her immigration adviser of four years refused to help because Cherie could not afford to pay the fees. On her own Cherie appealed the decision and then put in another visa application as she still had a full-time offer of skilled work. Both actions were declined.

By mid May the family were in serious trouble being kicked out of their home and soon to be kicked out of New Zealand.

Saving this situation

Mike put his Licensed Immigration Adviser hat on and waded through a foot-high pile of papers to find out what had happened. I worked with the Ministry of Education to successfully get Cherie’s daughter back to school.

The Press newspaper ran a story about the Vermaak family and the Christchurch community responded with incredible generosity offering food, help with immigration costs and help with rent.

It very quickly became clear to Mike reading this file that a mistake was being made by INZ and he negotiated for time to enable Cherie, a skilled worker, to find another job. INZ offered 6 weeks and said Cherie would have to leave if she did not have a job by this time.

Bizarrely, after having made a decision which effectively lost Cherie her job, INZ reversed it and agreed she could now enter a declaration relating to her police certificate if she found another job. Mike argued successfully for an extra month to give the 17 employers Cherie had applied to time to evaluate her application, but if Cherie did not have a job offer by 30th July she would have to leave New Zealand.

A chance to stay

Our own new immigration business was opening an office on August 13th and we were in the process of advertising for an Office Manager. Cherie applied for the job and, despite a month of advertising, was the only applicant with the skills we needed so we suddenly found ourselves able to offer her employment. This complicated things a bit but we submitted a Work Visa application which met every requirement on 23rd July.

The weeks ticked by with no news until 29th August when Mike received a letter from INZ. Cherie’s application was again declined and she had to leave New Zealand immediately or be deported.

We were absolutely gutted, especially as no reason for declining was given. As we covered back in March INZ directs staff not to record the reasons for decisions on cases like this. Cherie was left with no right of appeal waiting for a deportation order to be issued which would send her and her children back to South Africa with nothing. Potentially living on the streets in South Africa was suddenly a terrifying but very real possibility.

A final roll of the dice

Mike immediately wrote a letter to the Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson asking if she would review this decision.

The minister can simply refuse to intervene and so Mike put together 8 pages of reasons why this situation was unfair to slow the deportation.

In the meantime Mike began pulling together hundreds of pages of documented proof to back this request up. It was our only chance and absolutely final hope. If the minister refused to look at the case it was all over.

On 8th September the Vermaak family were finally forced out of their home.

We couldn’t see them living on the streets and so offered space in our own home, turning move2nz’s office into a room that Cherie and her children could share. This was not ideal but the only option we had – Mike and I couldn’t have lived with ourselves if we didn’t do everything in our power to support this family.

Of course this wasn’t the first time we have been in this position – long term members will remember we opened our home to the Smith family of 4 back in June 2009, supporting them for 6 months while their appeal was heard, giving them the chance to gain residency and get back on their feet which they have successfully done.

The Ministers decision – Thursday 13th September

On Thursday the decision came. This was much quicker than we had expected and Mike was only half-way through getting the documented proof ready. After putting over 400 hours of pro-bono work into this we thought this might be the end.

What we were delighted to read was that Kate Wilkinson had overturned the INZ’s decision, granting each of the Vermaaks a 12 month visa to sort out their situation.

Mike, Cherie and Tammy - copyright Dean Kozniac, Fairfax Media

(Click for enlargement)

This is all they ever needed and we are so happy for this family. They will be staying with us for the time being, but we are now looking forward to watching them get back on their feet. As soon as Cherie has her visa she will be starting work as our Office Manager and helping us set up the New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services office to be the best immigration consultancy in New Zealand.

From a personal view this decision also means that Mike’s 100% success rate on applications and appeals is reinstated and is a fantastic result for move2nz which will continue to help supporting this family.

I hope you will join with us in wishing this brave family the very best for the future.

A few words from Mike

New Zealand’s immigration system is built to be open, fair and help attract great people who have a lot to offer this country, but sometimes migrants who are acting in good faith fall between the cracks. In cases like this the Associate Minister of Immigration Kate Wilkinson is the only ‘safety net’ to ensure decisions being made are fair and in New Zealand’s best interests.

Ms Vermaak’s case is a perfect example where decisions made by other people combined to create a situation where, though no fault of her own, a valued worker in an important job was suddenly catapulted along with her children into a nightmare of losing her job, her home and everything she had worked for years to build.

In situations like this the Associate Minister acts as a vital safety net to ensure fair and just decisions are made, upholding the integrity of what is an excellent immigration system and protecting New Zealand’s international reputation.

On receiving our cry for help Kate Wilkinson moved swiftly to get to the bottom of what had happened, recognise the terrible mistake being made, save New Zealand many thousands of dollars and end a nightmare which was likely to end with the family being returned with nothing to live on the violent streets of South Africa.

I have already written to express my appreciation and thanks for the help on this case: a big win for New Zealand. I would also like to express our thanks to The Press who alerted us to this situation and have faithfully followed this story all of the way through and also move2nz members who supported our facebook campaign.

News stories

This story has been followed through the media, here are a number of the news stories written.