When the whole world is affected by the coronavirus, it may seem a little trivial to talk about temporary visa holders. However, when we read, listen, and try to understand and feel these temporary visa holders' situations, it seems as if they are the ones most affected. A beautiful newly married couple, Singh and Kaur, is one example of these affected temporary visa holders. Both initially came to New Zealand to study in 2011-12 and obtained a work visa after completing their studies. After working in New Zealand for about 7-8 years, they decided to take a short break and have a cultural wedding ceremony in India. With a lot of excitement and dream of beautiful married life, they went to India in Feb 2020 for the cultural wedding. They had their returned flight booked to New Zealand for 20th March, but border restrictions got placed beforehand. Now they are stuck. Imagine! How they are passing every moment and if they are not allowed back in New Zealand, they would regret their decision for the whole life. Singh said, "their jobs are secure in New Zealand, and they have full employer support."
Until Feb 2020, Singh worked in an Italian restaurant as Restaurant Manager, and Kaur was the Checkout operator in PaknSave in Taranaki. Their appeal to the New Zealand government is "to allow them to return to New Zealand, a place where they spent the precious time of their life, worked hard and paid taxes with the dream to settle."
The first case of coronavirus in New Zealand recorded on February 28, was taken very seriously. The Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Arden took timely decisions realizing the seriousness of the virus. When the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus an epidemic on 11th March, the New Zealand government took it seriously and, on 19th March, imposed a border ban on all non-citizens and non-permanent residents entering New Zealand. Many temporary visa holders who were currently on holiday or overseas for various reasons could not return to New Zealand due to the border restrictions.
At that time, it was expected that the Government would consider these temporary visa holders as a part of five million New Zealanders, and there will be an announcement made for them. Sadly, nothing happened so far.
New Zealand Immigration divided the temporary visa holders into two categories; the ones in the country as "onshore temporary visa holders" and those who got stuck overseas as "offshore temporary visa holders." "Onshore temporary visa holders" have some advantages, including an extension of their visa. Since they are in the country, they may try for different work or study options. The biggest thing is that they have hope that maybe something good will happen in the future.
On 7th July, the Government announced extending all existing employer-assisted temporary work visas for people in New Zealand and whose visas are due to expire before the end of 2020 by six months. As a result, a particular category of open work visa holders is affected.
Venkatesh Sakthivadivel said, "In 2018, he took advantage of the government policy of changing their employer-assisted visa to open work visa. Since the Government has not considered this category, his open work visa will not extend under this announcement. He regrets and feels helpless now because he is disadvantaged. His appeal to the New Zealand government is to include open work visa category in the 'relief for temporary migrants, employers and New Zealanders who need work.'
Regarding the "offshore temporary visa holders - "The government has put them in the broad category as "offshore temporary visa holders," which I think is a misfortune. There are various sub-divisions in this category, which are still not considered. Whenever there is an update from the Minister of Immigration, it is usually summed up by saying", "Unfortunately, due to the border restrictions, no decision can be made about offshore temporary visa holders, and we feel sorry for them." However, no update has given until now.
Who are these "offshore temporary visa holders"? These mainly include Open Work Visa Holders, Essential Skill Visa Holders, and Work to Resident Visa Holders. These temporary visa holders have invested the precious time of their lives in New Zealand, and they must have come here hoping for a better future like everyone else.
Manpreet Kaur went to India to attend a family function along with her newly born baby. She could not come back because of the border restrictions. She says, "I feel depressed at all times. Being a hair-dresser, I had a good job. I had planned to stay in India for three weeks only but now I am stuck. I was very comfortable with my GP but things got upset. I cannot wait to go back home." She sounded disturbed while talking to me over the phone.
While studying the cases, I have come across Harpreet Singh, who has granted a resident visa and still not allowed to return to New Zealand. Harpreet Singh has been working at a senior position with Chorus New Zealand. His resident visa was approved when he visited India. He said, "this was the outcome of his years of hard work, but he is not allowed to return to New Zealand. Previously he applied for the exemption as his job falls under essential worker, but the request got declined." It is reasonable for him to seek a response from the Government.
From Pakistan, Beenish Hameed says, "I have invested a lot to gain residency under SMC. I planned to migrate to New Zealand in April 2020, but borders got closed beforehand. The last date for my entry to New Zealand was 14th July 2020, which is now expired. I feel helpless as I sold my property to take money to New Zealand with me. My children and I am very stressed as and waiting to hear an update from the Government."
Just imagine, these "offshore temporary visa holders" have been waiting for nearly five months, hoping that maybe an update will come for them. Nevertheless, there is no answer. How difficult must it have been to pass each day? They are indeed in their own country, but we need to remember that they have spent years of their lives here in New Zealand hoping for a better future. They decided to come to New Zealand; they came here and worked hard for a better future. Whenever there is information about immigration or a live conversation, this category of people becomes more active and asks questions, but unfortunately, they never get any answer. It is difficult to understand the pain of those who are in trouble. Some ruthless people write negative comments about them. "Offshore temporary visa holders" should be rewarded for their hard work; "The same hard work, which we have all gone through to become New Zealanders today." No matter where we are today, we must remember our duty to be human.
It is now vital that the Government consider their situation carefully under humanitarian grounds and come up with a plan for them.