Filed under: The Book and Website, The Family Sponsorship Saga
Hubby has reminded me just how much he loathes coding – and was only calmed down my copious amounts of Tea, Chocolate and Top Gear yesterday while he battled to do the things I wanted him to do to the blog.
Mostly it was a case of de-cluttering and tidying things up. It’s amazing how this thing has evolved, and as it does so, widgets get added, things move, I join more blog directories, and before you know it – theres no room for me to write anything anymore!
The main changes are:
- The Family Sponsorship Saga posts have all moved up to the top menu, so they aren’t taking up room on the side.
- I’ve created one picture of the Book with both Book and E-Book prices on to create more room and we have a smaller Buy Now button.
- Ive moved the Really Useful Immigration Links into the Links page, rather than having them sitting with the BlogRolls.
- Ive tidied up and shorted the list of Categories, to make it easier to find posts.
But the main alteration is that the Amazon Store is now up and running, and can be found on the top Menu. This is something I always wanted to do, because I spend so much of my own time devouring books, and this is a great way to have a list of all the books that helped me on my journey – both to emigrate and to become a budgeting freak. Ill be adding books from time to time, but theres a pretty good starting list there: both books about New Zealand and books about personal finance. And yes, I will get paid if you click through from the Amazon Store page and you buy anything during that session. It takes you through to Amazon, and you will be buying through Amazon, not through me.
The amount of paperwork generated by having to fight INZ was truly scary, and was taking up space in my filing cabinet that was better used for other things. Like Toilet Paper.
So, to say goodbye to the past 18 months, we have just had a ritual burning of all the crap. We have kept any original letters, but everything is scanned onto the computers anyway.
Blimey – it felt good!
So, unbelievably, we managed to get a meeting, not with the case officer, because there wasn’t one; but with the person in charge of all family residence applications.
I didn’t sleep much, had a migraine when i woke up, and also had a doctors appointment that morning for some tests; which ran late. SO by the time it came to our meeting; i was exhausted, in pain, and terrified. I guess that sounds a bit over dramatic if you haven’t been there, but after the way we were treated by London, I was genuinely worried about what we would be faced with.
What we were faced with, it turns out, was a lovely gentleman, who sat us down, went through the file and told us that in fact they could make a decision on whether Visitor Permits were extended, and that despite what we had been told by other staff, and a $450 an hour lawyer – it does NOT require the immigration minister to intervene.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I really didn’t.
He also looked through the file, and said that he could spend a week or so going through it, and look at whether the residence application could be processed now. I think he could see what a mess I was and took pity on me. I did tell him i hadn’t slept properly in months. It also helped that my brother was through the medical, so it basically made it an easy case to process, and i guess gets them nearer their targets.
I was gobsmacked.
Well, by the time i got home later that evening – a case officer had been assigned. He said it would take a few weeks to process the application. 2 days later, we got an email to say it had been approved in principle, and just had to be verified by management.
A few days later they asked for a letter from the prospective employer stating that the job offer was still available. This was a week after the meeting. We had to wait a few days to get that because the guy was away, but once again he came up trumps and got us a scanned copy via email, which was followed up by a letter in the post. The scan was sent to INZ on the Monday, and the original handed in on the Wednesday.
Wednesday afternoon, just as hubby was phoning me about being redundant, and just 2 weeks after our meeting – my brother opened a letter saying his residence was confirmed and could they have his passport and Migrant Levy.
Thursday morning at 9am I sat in the Wellington office, and 10 minutes later was asking a very nice man if they could possibly take the money in person and let us have the permits today. He didn’t know, but asked the case officer, who said yes, and 10 minutes later I had my brothers passport in my hand with a residence permit in it.
And somehow I did not embarrass myself by bursting into tears in the middle of Immigration in Wellington.
THE END .
We managed to enjoy a family Christmas, but during January, the panic over how to deal with my brother possibly being kicked out of New Zealand started to return. I started not sleeping again, and began to wish I’d never come here in the first place. I started writing a letter to immigration stating the reasons why it would be unreasonable to expect my brother to return to the UK, and just what effect it would have on the rest of us. I also started trying to work out how the hell we would go about selling all our properties if we had to leave. Where would we live? What would we do?If my brother had to go back, my parents would go back. And I just couldn’t bear the thought of them all having to go back when they had given up so much to come out with us.
I emailed the immigration officer who had dealt with the Visitor Permit, to ask some questions about the Job Offer, and what information the employer had to provide to prove the offer was real. The employer was getting a bit concerned, and wanted to get as much sorted out as he could ready for when immigration finally got round to asking. (This is the kinda attitude that makes coming to NZ worthwhile). After two weeks i had no reply, so had to ask again. It didn’t improve my mood.
I was told to ask the Head of the Family Residence team – something that then put me in cold sweat after dealing with the horrid woman in charge in London. But this guy answered my questions quickly and properly. He did suggest (as had the lady dealing with the visitor permit) that a work visa could be organised, but it would have to be Labour Market Tested.
I did point out that an admin job fails the labour market test.
We also decided to ask people we know for letter of support to go in with this, with the intention that all the letters would accompany a second application for a visitors permit.
In the end, I got so worked up, and started to doubt my own judgment. What scared me most was that we had been told this would require the Immigration Minister to make the decision. I shed a lot of tears over my stupidity in arguing about the Immigration Advisors Licensing bill and the fact that it would probably cost my family so much. The frustration was literally overwhelming some days.
I was so at a loss, I actually went to see an Immigration Lawyer. He confirmed that it would take ministerial intervention, and we would have to work hard at convincing him (the minister)that my brother would benefit New Zealand.
Thats when I started to get suss!
You see – the policy clearly states that my brother doesn’t have to benefit NZ. If he was a benefit – he would be able to get a work visa, or residency through the skilled migrant category. The family policy is for people who, like my brother, do not have skills or degree level education. WE are the benefit to NZ, which is how we have the right to migrate here. As a thank you, the Family Policy allows us to bring our families in because we have given three (or 5 by this point) years of our lives to the country, while being separated from our families.
He told us that it would take about three months to get anything seen by the minsiter, so we had best act now. He also told us that probably the best thing to do was for my brother to leave a week before the end of his permit, go to Australia for a week, and come back, when he would in all likelihood get another 6 months stamp in his passport.
What the hell can you say to that as a piece of “immigration advice”???
It cost us $450.
It was also complete rubbish as it turned out.
So still wondering what the hell we were going to do, we sent out emails to our friends and colleagues. People we have worked with, done business with, drank coffee with, and asked them to write letters on our behalf. I can tell you – it wasn’t easy. Most of them had offered before at one point or another, but it is quite another thing to have to go round and ask so many people for help.
We also went for a chat with our mentor. And while we filled him in on what we were doing, he suggested that we try to get in front of the Case officer at immigration. That sent me into another cold sweat, as it was basically the refusal of the London Case officer to speak to us that caused the nightmare my parents application turned into. But i thought – well – it can’t get any worse can it?
So I emailed this chap again and asked for an appointment.
And he gave us one the next day.
Filed under: NZIS & Immigration issues, The Family Sponsorship Saga
I’m sorry it has taken me so long to write this. After just over two years of dealing with the family sponsorship process, which is without a doubt much more difficult and stressful than getting residency as a skilled migrant – I’ve been knocked out with a chronic migraine.
I can only assume my mind decided to shut down for a few days.
So first, to recap:
The application went in in July 2009. We expected things to run fairly quickly – because the Adult Sibling applications require a job offer to be included. SO it was with a certain amount of shock and frustration to be told it would take 12 months for a case officer to be assigned. How on earth can you keep a job offer open for 18 months to 2 years.
I asked some questions, and got the usual crap pointless answers back. The kind of answers that mean people like me spend so much time answering peoples questions instead, because we actually give sensible answers.
And then we slapped in an application for an extension to my brothers visitor application. And then hit our next shock when immigration said they had approved it, but the permit came back dated the same day as his original permit expired.
Fortunately, the case office who had cocked this up, fixed it immediately. We went into the Wellington branch to get it sorted in person, and found out that any further extensions would require an “exception to policy” and that the only person who could do that was the Immigration Minister.
And then I started to panic.
I mean – I’ve probably not made myself too popular in the ministry. It’s a bit scary to think that my opinion of Immigration Agents could ruin my family’s chances. We were advised to put in a further application nearer the time it was needed, and with it, give as many reason as we could why my brother should be allowed to stay as a visitor while his residency was being sorted out. It was suggested that a letter to the branch manager was in order at this time.
I still cannot believe that applicants are being forced to do this. It’s nuts. It doesn’t hurt New Zealand in any way to allow long-term visitor visas for family members who are applying for residency. They cannot work; they cannot take benefits, except for ACC accident compensation, which is available to any tourist anyway. All they can do is spend money in New Zealand. Not allowing it causes a huge amount of frustration and stress for the whole family.
Anyway, we had managed to get an extension to the visitor permit, which meant that my brother could stay in New Zealand till June 2010. It also meant that I could take a few months off from panicking about the whole situation till at least the end of January.
Details of how the hell this happened to follow – because you probably won’t believe it.
As soon as I get my head round it myself, and get some sleep.
I’ve just received an email from the head of the Family Residence unit in Wellington in response to some questions. It took about 2 hours for him to reply – so things are looking up in the service department.
Back at the start of November I blogged about having to get further medical tests for my brother’s residency application.
Today, the Family Residency Manager has told us that my brother has “an acceptable standard of health”.
So we are through one major hurdle.
Unfortunatley we still have no idea how long the applciation will take before a case officer is assigned, but it does confirm that they are indeed getting the background work done prior to the CO been given the case to help timeframes along.
Filed under: Getting to New Zealand, The Family Sponsorship Saga
Lincoln Tan at the NZ Herald is running a three part series on migration trends in New Zealand. His first one interestingly looks at parent sponsorship, and shows some interesting figures.
China has now overtaken the UK as the top source of family sponsorship migration to New Zealand. One of the things that make this possible is that it’s much easier for Chinese migrants to meet the “Centre of Gravity” requirements because of the one child policy. This part of the policy has caused a huge amount of anguish for many people who have stepfamilies. It’s a bit of a blunt tool, and INZ tend to be highly inflexible over its implementation. Mind you – flexibility and INZ just don’t really go hand in hand anyway.
“The growth in Chinese immigrant numbers overall reflects the fact that increasing numbers of Chinese nationals are choosing to study here, gain recognised qualifications and then compete for and obtain skilled employment in New Zealand,” said Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman. Dr Coleman said New Zealand’s immigration policy was designed “to attract the type of migrants we want”.
(Ah yes – international students – such a lucrative source of money for New Zealand that you don’t have to be licensed to give them advice – because they might stop coming. Protecting migrants isn’t half as important as protecting the money they bring in.)
The article also shows that the UK is still the source of most of skilled migrants – with many of the Chinese migrants being younger – in their twenties, as opposed to the Brits being in their thirties and forties. This is seen as a bad thing as they are thought not to be able to provide for their aging parents. This does however ignore 2 things about the Family Sponsorship program. First you have to have a certain level of income before you can sponsor them. It’s stupidly low in my opinion – but that’s the policy. Secondly – you actually only have to be able to support them for two years – and as soon as your “aged” parents become residents -they have access to public healthcare.
We are going to be looking into the Family Sponsorship statistics ourselves over the next few weeks. I know that makes us sound like we really have no lives – but we want to try and understand just why INZ are holding back applications for 2 years.
In the mean time – I’ll be interested in what else Lincoln shows up.
Filed under: Beaches in New Zealand, Life in New Zealand, NZIS & Immigration issues, The Family Sponsorship Saga
Yep – it’s been 5 years now that we have lived here in New Zealand. According to many – I am not supposed to be a successful immigrant. I whinge too much: about sausages and bacon, about the houses, about the banks, about the politics, about the 100% pure marketing crap. I get homesick. I’m proud to be English and miss the UK, and at heart, even though I have citizenship in New Zealand, I am still English – probably will never think of myself as a Kiwi.
And yet – I’m still here, and happy to be here.
Yes – there are things that make my blood boil, things that enrage me, things about living here that frustrate me to the point of tears. But isn’t that the case anywhere? Much as I love the UK and have a huge sense of national pride (and no amount of being labelled a nasty white coloniser will change that) – there were things about living there I also didn’t like.
You simply do not have to like every single thing about the place you choose to live in order to be allowed to live there. If that were the case – we would have a world population of about 1000 people.
One day I will work on a list of my likes and dislikes – just to see which list has more items on it. What I do know is that despite the things I do not like about living in New Zealand, I love living here, and it terrifies me that Immigration New Zealand may yet be able to screw this up for me and make me go back to the UK because they are determined to keep families apart. What I have seen of New Zealand in the past year is the very worst it has to offer it’s immigrants, and if my family are not all welcome here, then in the end, I too will not stay.
Because at the end of the day, no matter how nice New Zealand’s beaches are, no matter how comparatively cheap the houses are, and that we have a pool and a big house – home for me is where the family is.
Filed under: NZIS & Immigration issues, The Family Sponsorship Saga
Finally – we come to the end of a really shitty year for me. It started with finally deciding we had enough of NZIS pissing about over the medicals, and has ended with the Ombudsman telling us to basically get stuffed.
Our letter starts off quite well, talking about our reference to the lack of published complaints process, and how they now made it accessible. So that’s a tick in the “Done” box. (lets ignore for a moment that the Ombudsman was complicit in keeping it hidden as well). Then we get to our “Concerns about delay”. This is where things get a trifle “distressing”. Basically all the ombudsman is doing is copying parts of a letter they have received from INZ about this.
No investigation, no review of the evidence I provided (and there was a LOT of it – it took 3 A4 envelopes stuffed to the brim to hand it in). Just a cut and paste of what INZ told them to say.
I’m so glad I wasted my time actually writing to the Ombudsman, let alone ensuring that the files I sent were complete and fully referenced. It seems all I had to do was ask them to ask the nice people at INZ to repeat their crap because I was too stupid to read it the first 27 times.
Importantly – INZ have once again not been completely honest and upfront – and it disturbs me that the Ombudsman – who is let’s remember supposed to be “Independent” is so easily misled.
“escalation of the complaint to the DS [deputy secretary] would have resulted in yet another person having to review the full case history and [dad] would still have needed to provide further medical information”.
Well, what a load of bollocks.
For a start – this refers to the fact that once I discovered what the complaints process actually entailed – I found that the Branch Manager should have investigated the complaint himself – not hand it off to the Head of the Family Residence team. This has nothing to do with the Deputy Secretary – it has to do with following procedures properly and doing the job properly. After all – how many times was I told rather snottily that the staff were “just following the process” and couldn’t possible be helpful by breaking the process to speed things along. They always say this when they want to get out of some screw up, and hide behind it when they don’t want to bend the rules to fix said screw up. I’m sick to death of INZ cherrypicking when to follow the rules and when to ignore them depending entirely on what suits them personally. Either the rules apply to everyone – or to no one.
Secondly – if just one single person involved had had the guts and intelligence, let alone the decency to actually go back to the Medical Assessor and ask him what the hell he thought he was doing, then we should not in fact have had to provide any further medical info.
Then INZ (via the mouthpiece of the “independent” ombudsman) says:
“[the Head of the Family Team] made a real effort to explain to [me] that the residence application was subject to her father providing medical evidence to the Medical Assessor notwithstanding the fact that [I] had her personal perception of what constituted an acceptable standard of health.”
What a load of bullshit!
She broke procedure by inferring quite clearly that Dad had an appendix 10 condition, which he did not, and it is completely outside of her job to make that call. She also could not be arsed to contact the MA to ask for clarification, and became abusive when I asked repeatedly for her to clarify what the MA wanted to know.
Further – it was not MY opinion of my father’s health. By this point he had had so many tests it was not funny – and they all said the same thing – he was in excellent health. “My opinion” – my arse!
INZ also believes
“every effort was made to resolve the situation without the need to escalate it further”.
You have got to be kidding. I’ve dealt with a number of complaints over the years – and I’m telling you – the head of the family team screwed it up big time. You do not start having a go at someone and being rude to them when they make a complaint – you fix the bloody problem. The case office refused to speak to us – how on earth is that making “every effort”? He could have sorted this out months before we even made a compalnt – he just couldn’t be bothered to take an hour out of his day to talk to us.
INZ do go on to say (via the helpful mouthpiece that is the independent ombudsman, of course):
It has duly noted [my] comments and Mr Ross Wells, Manager of the Business Improvement and Risk arm of the Department of Labour has been informed of the situation. Mr Wells proposes to raise the issues when the department outlines its Performance Improvement Action to the State Service Commission, in the near future.”
Well, blimey – that’s OK then. Just a thought – TELL ME THAT IN A LETTER TO ME YOU BLITHERING IDIOTS!
Sheesh – these people really have no clue about how to deal with a situation like this properly. I need to see some action – not a meaningless “apology” that only covers about half of what INZ staff screwed up on. Not that I understand a word of what that says mind you – sounds like “pseudo-scientific-bollocks” to me. It does however win the award for the most capitals used in a sentence that says nothing whatsoever of any importance.
The only other thing the Ombudsman tells me on this score is that she understands my dads application was approved in March. No shit Sherlock. But thanks for telling me. That was nice of you. Really.
Right – then we get on to a heading of “Recent Correspondence”, which concerns that fact that no real action was to be taken against the case officer and the FRT even though they badly mishandled the case, lied and abused us.
The Ombudsman says (No really – they actually said this themselves this time):
“I consider that the appropriateness of whether disciplinary action should be taken against a staff member is an employment issue and properly for the Chief Executive of an organisation to determine”.
So basically: bugger off and shut up.
This is something that is very disturbing about life in New Zealand. Companies and organisations can hide behind the phrase “Employment issue” and use it to slam the brakes on any complaint you have about someone working for that organisation or company. You have no right whatsoever to know the outcome. I happen to know for example that the member of staff in the Labour Whips office who so elegantly called me a “dingbat” still hasn’t been sacked – despite that fact that she has now twice sent abusive emails about people “accidentally” to those people. (I think she should be sacked for gross stupidity apart from anything else). But I was not told that by the people who oversaw the investigation – because I didn’t have a right to know.
By claiming this is an “Employment issue” – the ombudsman neatly and effectively stonewalls most of my complaint – and the far more serious elements of it: why INZ staff can get away with lying – not just to applicants and their families, but to MP’s and also it seems to the ombudsman herself.
I think that’s called a Whitewash isn’t it? Or a cover up?
And finally, the ombudsman sums up with the most unbelievably gobsmacking ending I think I ever seen in answer to a complaint:
“I am pleased that your complaint has culminated in a satisfactory outcome”
Well, after almost a week on from receiving this letter – I am still shocked by this. I really do not know what to say (and as you can see – I usually have quite a bit to say on this subject). How on earth do you answer someone telling you that you are satisfied with something when you are obviously going to be bloody furious?
The fury of that alone is still burning. How bloody dare she?
You now what: as an “immigrant” in New Zealand, I may not have the right to advise people, I may not have the right to free speech, and I may not have the right to insist that INZ treat all applicants with decency and fairness, but I damn well DO have the right to decide for myself whether I am “satisfied” with the outcome of this farce. Similarly, the ombudsman may have the right to “discontinue this matter” but there is no way in hell she has the right to determine for me and my family that this outcome is anything like satisfactory.
So, how has this process affected my feelings about having emigrated to New Zealand?
Well, I really wish I could say that it hasn’t changed my perception and view of the place. But honestly – with this and with the IALA crap – my opinion of New Zealand is not much better than my opinion of the UK. I think when you have to scratch the surface of life here, such as when faced with having to deal with obstinate and lazy INZ staff, you find a level of corruption and dishonesty which is completely at odds with New Zealand’s reputation. Much like the 100% pure label that is getting a well deserved drubbing right now – the reputation for being upfront, uncorrupt and decent isn’t actually true in many cases.
I guess what it comes down to is that if you follow the (legal) advice of our local MP and “Don’t Rock The Boat” as an immigrant – then your life here will be very pretty and lovely. But the minute you stand up for something because you have been wronged, our experience shows you will be reminded quite severely that you are an “immigrant” and told to shut up and stop making a fuss.
I personally think this shames New Zealand, and is the very reason why Mary Anne Thompson was allowed to get away with fraud and dishonestly getting residence for her family. At the very highest levels there is a huge lack of willingness to deal with the problem department that is INZ. Everyone knows its broken, and needs fixing, but no one has the guts to do it. And if you as an immigrant try and take a stand – you will it seems face a bewildering lack of concern for what is happening.
It lets down future migrants, it lets down the people of New Zealand, and it also lets down the many staff at INZ who do their jobs properly, fairly and honestly. The fact that the same person is still in cahrge of family applications in London, is still bullying applicants, still doing a crap job, and gets to carry on doing it is scary.
I know I am not the only one who faced these issues. And thankfully – it is not (yet) illegal to publicise these issues on the Internet. So for the time being – the only support immigrants will get is knowing that they are not alone.
Do I think people should complain?
Hell yes! But because I also believe that INZ will not do anything, and obviously the ombudsman doesn’t give a toss either – I also think its worth making the details available on the Internet. Start a blog, put the information up on a forum or do something else, but get the information out there. I’m happy to publish people’s stories anonymously if you do not want to be named. In many cases lately – the people who get bad decisions from INZ overturned are the ones who go to the media. That says a lot about what is going on.
On this matter, and for me though – this looks like the end of the road. I will be writing to the ombudsman to express my disgust at the pointless exercise, but it looks like no matter what INZ staff do, no matter what lies they tell – nothing will be done about it. But I still have the right to tell them what I think of them. For the moment at least.